The debut of the GMC Hummer EV, the automaker claims, was the most-watched product introduction in automotive history. One thing you might not have realized, however, was the fact that all those images of Hummers racing through forests and across deserts were about as real as watching Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, and created much the same way.
Only now, it turns out, barely half a year from the all-electric pickup’s production launch, are the first Hummers finally rolling out of the computer and into the real world. A “series” of prototypes are now beginning testing at the General Motors Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan and other test sites.
“They’re going through some pretty rough and severe testing,” said Duncan Aldred, the head of the GMC brand, during a Tuesday morning media roundtable.
The reality is that the Hummer project may lay claim to being the fastest product development effort in modern times for parent GM.
‘We reduced the development time of the vehicle by about 50%” compared to what the typical project takes, said Aldred. Where it might take four years or more to bring out a ground-up new product, the Hummer EV will reach showrooms next year barely two years from when work began, according to GMC officials.
That’s all the more significant considering this isn’t just another new truck but one that relies on an entirely new, all-electric drivetrain. Hummer will use the brand-new GM Ultium electric vehicle platform, powered by the new Ultium batteries. Those will be produced at a new factory going up near Lordstown, Ohio. Meanwhile, the truck itself will be assembled at “Factory Zero,” the GM plant in Detroit going through a complete, billion-dollar makeover.
According to GMC, the Hummer debut drew more “eyeballs” than the launches of other new products such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E and, significantly, the Tesla Cybertruck, with 1.3 billion “impressions.”
The truck division also claims to have sold out the Hummer First Edition model within 10 minutes of opening its order bank following the electric vehicle’s October debut. How many First Edition models it will build, however, is something GMC isn’t saying.
While tight-lipped about some Hummer details, GMC officials were far more effusive about the successes of the brand in other areas. And for good reason, as it turns out GMC has been largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic that has hammered the overall industry this year. It certainly has helped that demand for light trucks, pickups in particular, saw strong demand even during the spring lockdown. Pickups have made up about 15% of the U.S. retail market so far this year, up from 13% “historically,” noted Aldred.
For GMC, that helped make September the best month of the year. More significantly, it actually saw sales surge to 19.6% above those of a year earlier, officials noted.
Meanwhile, the brand’s buyers are opting for higher trim levels and substantially more features. Overall, GMC’s average transaction price, or ATP, has been topping $50,000 for the first time, 40% above the market average of $36,755, according to industry tracking data. The typical GMC product now rolls off the showroom floor with an ATP of about what Audi customers are paying, noted Aldred.
Much of the credit now goes to GMC’s two highline sub-brands, Denali and the newer AT4. Denali models, in particular, now account for 28% of the brand’s overall volume, and Aldred expects that to soon reach 30%. By comparison, Denalis made up just 20% of GMC sales as recently as 2014.
That works out to a lot of additional revenues. Customers are paying an average $73,547 for the newly redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon, but the ATP jumps to $78,742 for the Denali edition.
GMC isn’t the only brand seeing a big surge in truck prices. Ford has continued offering more and more up-market versions of its F-Series and the Super Duty Limited model now can nudge just short of $100,000 when fully loaded – and top the six-figure mark with added dealer-installed accessories.
‘We have probably not found the top of what our customers want, yet,” GMC chief Aldred said on Tuesday. Asked if a $100,000 Sierra pickup is coming, he cautioned that, “I don’t see that as a near-term thing.” Nonetheless, he added, breaking that barrier “is inevitable.”
Indeed, the Hummer will be the first GMC to reach into that rare territory when it launches next year, the First Edition model coming in at around $113,000.