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Q&A: Hummer’s Jim Taylor

How do you translate, “The brand environmentalists love to hate,” into Chinese?

by on Jun.02, 2009

Hummer at the crossorads.  GM has signed a preliminary deal with a Chinese maker which hopes to take over the controversial SUV brand later this year.

Hummer at the crossroads: GM has signed a deal with Chinese maker Tengzhong. It hopes to take over the controversial SUV brand later this year.

Life — and business — can take some strange turns.  Jim Taylor is a great example.  He was trained as an engineer, yet somehow wound up taking over General Motors’ flagship Cadillac division and, as general manager, leading it through its “renaissance” project, with the launch of products like the well-acclaimed CTS sedan.

But a year ago, Taylor was unexpectedly reassigned to GM’s Hummer brand, a division that serves as public enemy number one for environmentalists.  Taylor’s primary job was to oversee the spinoff of the once-popular brand, one of the four divisions GM will shed as part of his Chapter 11 reorganization.

Early Tuesday morning, the automaker announced it had found a buyer.  Initial intentions to keep details secret didn’t last long, as the folks at Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., Ltd, in Chengdu, China, were quick to start crowing about their new acquisition.  From one of the symbols of American prowess to the latest Chinese toy, Jim Taylor talked with TheDetroitBureau.com’s Bureau Chief Paul A. Eisenstein about the sale and what’s to come at Hummer, which he has agreed to stay on with when the sale is formalized, in the coming months.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comTDB: Hummer’s sale surprised some folks, who thought the brand was damaged beyond repair.

Taylor: The first thing investors look at it is cash: does it make money?  We’re peddling an asset capable of turning a profit.  We had to find someone willing to make a serious investment.  This is not for the faint-of-heart.  This is an expensive date and goes on for a long time.  In the auto industry, as we’ve all seen, you can chew through a lot of cash, fast, so we were looking for a select group of investors with very deep pockets and a long-term vision. (more…)