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Hummer H3 to be built in SA

Broadcast date : 30th April 2006

Creating an instant icon is no easy task. Ask the legions of now defunct automakers who have tried to build the next ultimate supercar and youíll realize that heritage counts for an awful lot, especially when it comes to the recreational side of the automobile business.

Yet thatís what General Motors has done with the Hummer.

Jeep and Land Rover may be recognized in deserts and jungles from the Namib to Peru, but the Hummer, which didnít even exist until the 1990s, is now almost as well known as Levis and Coca-Cola amongst the brand-conscious set.

Later this year the new Hummer H3 will go into full production in General Motorís factory in Port Elizabeth. 

The reason for the Hummer success story is that it cut its teeth in a situation of extreme duress.

Like the Jeep did in World War Two, the military version of the Hummer proved itself half a century later in the Gulf War in 1990.

The civilian Hummer H2 has become a cult vehicle in the US, but also in other parts of the world. And that cult is set to grow enormously with the advent of the new H3, which combines all the H2ís Schwarzenegger swagger with a smaller size that enables it to slot into a conventional parking bay.

Automotive luminary Bob Lutz recently visited PE to explain the background to this move. The visit by the world famous Lutz, who has done wonders for companies like BMW, Ford and Chrysler in a career spanning half a century, drew a massive media response in PE.

The Lutz visit also gave motoring scribes a chance to visit the GM plant at Struandale, where Hummer production is scheduled to go on stream in October.

Initially the H3 will be produced in left-hand-drive form for all markets outside the US.
In early 2007 right-hand-drive Hummer production will commence, to supply countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, South Africa.

The Struandale plant is currently producing Corsas and the acclaimed Corsa pick-up.

The facility also houses the GM paint shop for all South African-produced products.

The big question right now is how to accommodate the planned volumes of the Hummer H3. Itís estimated that export output will be at around the 10000 units per annum level, and that will grow when the take-off in right-hand-drive markets increases.

But fans of the very popular Corsa car and pick-up ranges can rest assured that these vehicles will continue to be produced in Port Elizabeth.

And the Kempston Road plant, which was established in 1926, will continue to produce Isuzu bakkies and trucks.

Itís all great news for the East Coast economy. What the Hummer production means for the South African car-buying public is the export credits will enable all manner of exciting world-wide GM product to be imported at competitive prices.

Talking of excitement, the Hummer H3 made its debut in this years Dakar Rally.

Built in conjunction with the famous Robbie Gordon Motorsport concern in the US, and driven by Robbie himself, the Hummer was surprisingly competitive in its first Dakar, and was even rated as a possible winner.

The amazing suspension travel of the vehicle was thanks to Gordonís vast experience in off-road events, like the Baja desert race in Central America.

The competition Hummer used six-litre V8 engine and a complete space-frame chassis.

It was only an altercation with a solid piece of African desert foliage that robbed Robbie and the Hummer of a possible top-ten finish on their Dakar debut.

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