I woke up Tuesday morning to learn that General Motors had finally found a buyer for Hummer, the company that brought you the cleverly named H1, H2 and H3, the gas-guzzling behemoths that have come to symbolize all that is wrong with the American auto industry.
The story I read said the buyer wished to remain anonymous for the time being, so I spent the day in suspense. That night I said to a co-worker, “Whoever the buyer is, you can bet it’s a company with a really small penis.”
I was making a joke, obviously, about the stereotype Hummer buyers have of being men trying to make up for their shortcomings by driving massive cars. I didn’t invent that stereotype, and my co-worker laughed at the joke because he was aware of the stereotype and had heard it before.
Keep that in mind as I tell you what happened next.
I got off work that night still unaware of who the buyer was, and when I got home I went on the Internet to see if there was any news. I have to confess to being a bad person, because I laughed a little when I found out it was a Chinese company.
(I didn’t make up the stereotype about Asian men either, and I couldn’t care less about how endowed they are. I’m just saying I thought it was kind of a funny coincidence. Plus, I always like to throw in a penis joke or two because some of my relatives think I throw in too many penis jokes.)
It turns out the prospective buyer is a company called the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., a manufacturer of plastics, resins and other industrial products. This will be the company’s first foray into the automotive business, and it seems like it could be a risky one.
In the wake of all the bailouts and bankruptcy talk swirling around the American auto industry, there have been countless Top-10 lists of the cars that sank Detroit and the worst American cars of all time. The Hummer H2, to my knowledge, has never failed to appear on one of those lists.
Even before the U.S. economy went down the tubes last year, Hummers had become a bit of a joke. Despite their reputation for being rugged off-road vehicles, most Hummers you saw on the street seemed to be driven by suburban housewives on their way to the grocery store. And while the stereotypical Hummer buyer may have been a man with an inferiority complex, the only actual buyers I ever heard about were pro athletes who never left the paved confines of major metropolitan areas. (You can draw your own conclusions as to what this says about pro athletes.)
To paraphrase one of my favorite TV ads of all time: “They call this thing a truck, but a real man knows a station wagon when he sees one. The only time this thing’ll go off road is when they accidentally back it over the neighbor’s flower bed.”
With that sort of stigma dogging it, is there hope for the future of the Hummer brand? I would say no, and I think GM would probably agree with me. Hummer sales for the first five months of this year are down a whopping 64 percent over last year, and I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which those numbers would improve, given the world’s new collective attitude toward environmental friendliness.
Still, Sichuan Tengzhong is banking on its ability to remake Hummers into something Americans will want to drive. The company’s chief executive, Yang Yi, claimed they would invest in research and development to “allow Hummer to better meet demand for new products such as more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
Having a hard time imagining something so oxymoronic as a fuel-efficient Hummer? Yeah, me too.
So what does the sale of Hummer say about the Chinese? To me it’s a clear indication that China sees itself as the world’s new economic superpower, and it needs to own the biggest, most obnoxious passenger vehicles on the planet to prove to everyone how big and virile it is, even though Americans already know that owning a Hummer supposedly means exactly the opposite.
And what does it say about me that I seem to constantly be making penis jokes? Well, clearly it means that I have an inferiority complex as well. I just can’t afford that Hummer I’ve always dreamed of.