With Super Bowl LIV less than four weeks away, we’re already hearing about some big plans for game time ads, many of them sponsored by the auto industry. One spot has yet to be considered – but it’s already kicking up plenty of buzz.
If new reports prove accurate, the 54th championship football game will see General Motors announce plans to build an all-electric pickup truck carrying the Hummer badge.
GM has laid out plans for what it promises will be an all-electric future, with a score of battery-electric vehicles set to come to market over the next three years, starting with a Cadillac SUV also set to be announced in the months ahead. But using the Hummer badge on a zero-emission vehicle would stand things on its head considering the original brand was known for its oversized, gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles.
The largest of the Detroit Big Three has already confirmed plans for a battery-powered pickup, as TheDetroitBureau.com first reported late last winter. But it was unclear whether it would be sold through the Chevrolet brand, possibly as a version of the full-size Silverado, or as a variant of the GMC Sierra.
While specific details have yet to be revealed, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the pickup will be sold through GMC dealerships but carry the Hummer name. A well-placed source told TheDetroitBureau.com that the BEV pickup will likely be a one-off. There are no plans, at least for now, to revive the Hummer brand itself.
Hummer was originally the nickname for a huge military SUV, a civilian version initially produced by manufacturer AM General. GM subsequently acquired the rights to the name and eventually produced a line-up of products, starting with the original H1 and then smaller H2 and H3 models.
But the brand was one of four the Detroit automaker was forced to abandon – along with Pontiac, Saab and Saturn, as part of its federal bail-out bill digging it out of its 2009 bankruptcy. The automaker may have ended production a year later but it maintained the rights to the name.
If the reports prove accurate, there would be “a beautiful irony in the return of Hummer,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst and publisher with Kelley Blue Book.
“In 2010, as gas prices spiked, the Dow plunged and environmentalists vandalized the vehicles on dealer lots it seemed Hummer was a brand well behind the times,” Brauer said. “Ten years later, gas is relatively cheap, the Dow is hitting new records and 70% of new vehicle sales are trucks and SUVs. Even better, the ongoing evolution of battery and electric motor technology is making high-torque, emissions-free drivetrains easier and cheaper. Apparently, Hummer was a brand ahead of its time.”
With pickups and SUVs now accounting for more than two-thirds of the U.S. motor vehicle market, automakers are focusing more and more on the light truck segment as they begin rolling out new, long-range battery-electric vehicles. Tesla, for example, believes it could see demand for its Model Y SUV run twice as high as for its current Model 3 sedan. And the California EV maker claims to have received over 250,000 advance reservations for its Cybertruck pickup within barely a week after its November 2019 unveiling.
If anything, the electric pickup market could soon get extremely crowded. GM’s arch-rival Ford has confirmed it will have its own electric truck ready about the same time as the reborn Hummer, late 2021. So will start-ups including Rivian and Bollinger. In all, there could be as many as nine different electric pickups coming to market within the next few years, according to Sam Fiorani, head of Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions.
GM’s Hummer is expected to be produced at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant that, under the automaker’s new contract with the United Auto Workers Union will undergo a $3 billion renovation to handle EV production. The automaker has not, however, confirmed that the Hummer pickup will be part of that plan.
Struggling to show they can compete with Tesla, the only EV manufacturer to develop significant volume, conventional automakers are looking for ways to heighten consumer interest. In Ford’s case, it turned to one of its own popular names for its first long-range battery vehicle. The Mustang Mach-E SUV will start rolling into showrooms next autumn.
To further ensure public attention, GM is expected to turn to what is typically the broadcast with the highest ratings on television. But it won’t come cheap, :30-second ads on the 54th Super Bowl expected to run about $5 million.