General Motors' world-renowned mud-plugging brand Hummer has officially opened its door for business in the UK. The first factory-approved dealership opened on Friday on Albion Street in Manchester's city centre; it'll be run by specialist importer Bauer Millett, an outfit that has extensive experience in importing, selling and servicing left-hand-drive Hummers.A further four dealers, in Birmingham, London, Belfast and Scotland, will open before the end of this year. It is hoped that, between them, around 500 combined UK sales of H2 and H3 models can be generated annually.
Humming to a road near you
The first right-hand drive Hummer H3s will arrive with their owners in August. They will range in price between £30,000 and £33,000, very close to the price of the left-hand drive models imported independently from the US. UK H3s will be built in South Africa, however, as will cars exported elsewhere in the globe.GM Vice President Bob Lutz, himself the owner of an H3, flew into Manchester to open the dealership on Friday. “We’re really proud of Hummer," he told Autocar. "It's one of GM’s fastest-growing brands worldwide, and we’re expecting a certain type of UK buyer to really appreciate the Hummer’s strong points."“We think we’re going to surprise ourselves with how many we sell,” said Bill Parfitt, GM’s UK managing director.Around 1000 Hummers are thought to have been sold in the UK so far, around half of them grey imports and the other half supplied by Bauer Millett, which has held a licence to import the cars from the US for five years.As the network of five official dealers takes shape, Hummer expects sales of grey imports to dwindle. “We can’t control the market,” said Parfitt, “but we expect tight pricing, around eight per cent above grey prices, to make an officially imported car (which will be factory-warranted and cheaper to insure) more attractive.”
Dodging the green backlash
Pre-empting inevitable criticisms from environmentalists, Lutz defended the H3 by saying “it’s actually smaller than many other mid-size 4x4s, and the fuel economy is better than others with petrol engines.”To begin with, all UK H3s will be powered by a 3.7-litre 244bhp five-cylinder petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The manual version is expected to return around 25mpg on the EU combined fuel economy cycle.A diesel is coming in 2009, the engine likely to be sourced from an outside supplier. However, Lutz said that the 250bhp 2.9-litre V6 diesel, earmarked for Cadillac's range of European cars and revealed at Geneva, would definitely not find its way into the H3. “That’s been developed for passenger cars and isn’t suited to SUVs,” he said.The bigger H2 model and military spin-off H1 will be made available through the official UK supply chain, but only in left-hand-drive, as GM is predicting very modest demand for both.Hummer's fourth model, the even smaller H4, will also be sold in the UK, but Lutz wouldn't be drawn on a date for its arrival.