Autos

GM killed the Hummer, then SUV sales surged

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Here's why the Hummer disappeared from America

An unprecedented, strong and sustained surge in sales of sport utility vehicles and trucks has automakers scrambling for new ideas.

And sometimes the best new ideas are old ones. As Ford and Fiat-Chrysler bring out new products marketed under old brand names, fellow Detroit automaker General Motors is reportedly mulling a second life for the Hummer, a street-legal adaptation of a military truck initially made famous in the first Gulf War. The plan could involve creating a hybrid or electric version, in keeping with GM's previously stated goal to create an "all-electric future." GM did not comment on the reports to CNBC.

The Hummer, produced by U.S. defense contractor AM General, was brought to the United States thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator actor saw a convoy of extremely rugged and capable military trucks called Humvees while filming a movie in the 1990s and immediately wanted one, according to the book "High and Mighty: the Dangerous Rise of the SUV."

AM General was convinced to produce a civilian facsimile of the Humvee and called it the Hummer.

The vehicle made a splash in popular culture, and also reportedly was a high-margin product for AM General, even as it courted controversy for being a gas-guzzling status symbol. GM bought the Hummer brand in the late 1990s, and broadened the lineup with more smaller, more affordable versions. But the automaker axed the brand as it descended into bankruptcy in 2009 and watched truck sales flag in the face of high fuel prices.

Bringing it back would give GM a more direct competitor to the immensely popular Jeep Wrangler, and the upcoming Ford Bronco. Bringing it back as an electric would help take the sting out of the vehicle as a gas-guzzling symbol of excess.