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General Motors playing to its strengths with the GMC Hummer EV pickup

DETROIT – General Motors is playing to its strengths from a profitability and product standpoint by resurrecting Hummer as an all-electric vehicle under its GMC truck and SUV brand, according to officials.

The automaker is attempting to cash-in on the reputation of an already-established brand while removing any “negative baggage” of the gas-guzzling, environment-harming Hummers of the past. It’s also providing GMC with its first all-electric vehicle for the brand’s growing, affluent customer base.

“Every time we talk to GMC customers, they tell us we want more,” Phil Brook, vice president of GMC marketing, told CNBC. “We just think it has real potential. I think when people see GMC Hummer EV, they’ll be very clear about what it is. It just seemed like a very good fit for the brand.”

GM hasn’t announced pricing for the Hummer EV, however the company has said its next-generation EVs will be profitable, meaning the new Hummer “super truck” will likely help the brand’s pricing and profits. The company reports the average price paid for a GMC vehicle last year was $44,382, 32% over the industry average. That was led by the brand’s top-end Denali models at nearly $56,000 – higher than many luxury brands.

“I think the GMC brand is a great fit,” said Paul Waatti, industry analyst at auto research firm Autopacific. “As we’ve seen recently, they’ve done a great job of positioning their vehicles as both capable and premium, all while commanding high transaction prices. That fits the Hummer EV-bill perfectly.”

The vehicle, which the company confirmed Thursday ahead of a Super Bowl ad for the Hummer EV with NBA star LeBron James, will feature 1,000 horsepower; 0 to 60 mph acceleration of three seconds; and 11,500-pound feet of torque.

GM, according to Brook, decided to put Hummer under the GMC brand last year. The move is expected to save the automaker substantial capital compared with launching it again as a stand-alone brand, including utilizing its existing dealership network.

Brook said GM has no plans to build a gas-powered Hummer with an internal combustion engine.

Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit, said resurrecting the Hummer name under GMC is a “natural home for it,” however she believes resurrecting the nameplate wasn’t the only way for GM to successfully bring such a vehicle to market.

“I don’t know it had to be a Hummer in order to be a terrific electric pickup truck, but having decided to go down this route, I do think it will be a terrific product,” Brinley said. “The benefits of doing so is that Hummer is an incredibly recognized brand.”

GM, Brinley said, could have created a new nameplate under the GMC brand. “The Hummer brand certainly wasn’t one that worried that much about efficiency, so you definitely are re-making the brand,” she said, adding it’s “certainly possible” with today’s more open-minded customer base for EVs.

The Hummer EV pickup is expected to go into production in the fall of 2021 at a plant in Detroit, followed by sales starting toward the end of the year. It will be part of a new lineup of all-electric pickups and SUVs for GM that will extend across brands and price ranges, according to the company.

The Hummer name, according to Waatti, may still have some negative preconceived notions, however he believes “in the long run, it’s going to prove to be a smart move” and assist GM in standing out against other highly-anticipated competitors.

The vehicle is expected to be part of a surge of new all-electric pickups to enter the U.S. market in the coming years. Ford Motor, Tesla and Amazon-backed EV start-up Rivian are expected to release pickups through next year.

GM’s previous Hummer line included an SUV and a short-lived pickup variant. The design was based on the military vehicle known as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or “Humvee.” During the early 2000s, the Hummer was a popular vehicle but also a source of criticism because of its size and poor gas mileage at around 15 mpg.

The Hummer brand was discontinued as part of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy amid stalling sales, high gas prices and a sour reputation for polluting the planet. The automaker stopped production of the vehicles in 2010.

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