Posts Tagged ‘Hummer’

I’ve always has a revulsion to the Hummer H2; but I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.

When General Motors introduced the Hummer brand and the H2 SUV in 2003, everyone knew its fuel economy sucked. But I like plenty of cars that are at the bottom of that list — think Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley or Rolls Royce.  And I have nothing against big trucks or SUVs, per se, I just don’t like it when someone drives a gigantic barge that is completely unnecessary given the size of their family and cargo needs.  Frankly, a minivan has better people and cargo capacity than a Hummer. So big isn’t necessarily bad. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to personal transportation.

2009 (last year) Hummer H2 Black Chrome Edition

If I had to pinpoint one thing that gave me pause, I think it was the Incredible Hulk size with the matching cartoonish styling cues.  It just wasn’t authentic.  Heavy fake body armor was applied to a heavily-modified Chevy Suburban platform to make it look like the original Desert Storm military vehicle, the AM General Humvee H1. Add a $50,000 + price tag and you have an expensive exercise in faux masculinity.

GM touted the H2’s prestigious off-road credentials; however, the H2s I’ve seen are more likely to drive over a curb or across a center median than they are to actually go off road.  You know, the sand and dirt would decimate those 30″ DUB chrome wheels with low-profile tires and acres of aftermarket chrome bling.

The military H1 used in both Operation Desert Storm (the first Gulf War) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq).

After the H2 hit the roads of LA, in addition to my initial dislike of the size and design, I gained a jaundiced perception of the people who drove these monsters. Lanes were hogged. Turn signals remained unused.  Side mirrors weren’t checked for a lane change – you just got out of their way.  Parking took two spots.  Some didn’t fit into underground parking structures. If you were behind one, all forward visibility was obliterated.   Hell, you couldn’t even see the Ferarris parked in front of Sunset Plaza restaurants when an H2 with a celebrity occupant got front placement.

The H2 was much better suited for large suburban tract homes and extra-urban locations configured for travel trailers or mobile homes. Think Wal-Mart Super Centers.  Six-lane wide open roads with center medians.  Large box stores and shopping malls with acres of outdoor parking.  Paranoid survivalists in Idaho or Texas.

But what most people didn’t realize is just how heavy these things were. In fact, its curb weight (take a deep breath) of 6,614 lbs blasted it out of the requirement to be tested by the EPA for fuel economy!  The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) was a staggering, Hulk-size 8,600 lbs.  The EPA didn’t think that any “passenger” car or SUV would ever weigh that much. Vehicles that heavy were usually  large commercial trucks, farm or heavy construction equipment or special-purpose vehicles like an electric utility vehicle or a tow truck.  Bottom line: GM never published official fuel economy estimates for the H2.

Over its production life (2003 – 2009), the H2 was tested by most car/truck magazines and consumer websites – all with dismal fuel economy results (although consumers tended to give the vehicles overall high ratings). In 2008, Car & Driver observed fuel economy of 10 mpg while found a 2007 H2 was worse at 9.2 mpg.  Let’s be charitable and call it an even 10 mpg.

In 2008, when the first great gas panic hit, people couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.  People do tend to vote with their pocket books.

Where I live in LA, you rarely see them anymore.  As fast as the H2 gained popularity with certain subcultures (think Rap Artists and aftermarket accessory retailers), they disappeared even faster. It was like a fashion trend changed overnight.  Although most H2 owners could probably afford to fill the 32 gallon gas tank with $4.50 gallon gas, the poison darts of derision and scorn shot by pious Prius owners was probably too much to bear.

I still see them on a regular basis in the Coachella Valley. The roads are wide, traffic is nothing compared to LA and parking is plentiful. Last weekend, I found this Black H2 towing a beautiful boat parked over six empty parking spaces at the Palm Springs Home Depot.  Good thing the whole row was empty, because you aren’t going to parallel park that combination.  I’m willing to bet that with the added extra heft of that boat, that thing sucks gas faster than Dean Martin sloshed down martinis at the Sunset Boulevard Hamburger Hamlet.

The H2 can tow up to 8,000 lbs. That boat isn’t that heavy, but it’s probably at least two tons.   My guess is that with the boat and a family of four, that thing gets no better than 5 mpg.  What do you think the fuel costs are for a fun boating weekend in Laughlin, Nevada? I hope the family credit card isn’t maxed out.

The Hummer H2 looks like a brick compared with that slick speed boat. It does look nice against the background of the San Jacinto mountains.

I'm a bit closer here, but with something that long, it's hard to get a close up and still get everything in the picture.

The sunlight conspired to make the front of the H2 look like a Darth Vader helmet.


Thieves may not want your Prius or your Volvo; but if you have a big, blinged-out SUV, watch out – they want your ride.

The annual Highway Loss Data Institute’s report on the most and least stolen cars is out again. The HLDI is an insurance-funded group that aggregates loss data from the participating insurance companies. The latest results are for the 2007-2009 model years.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade is a thief's favorite

As in the past, the most stolen vehicle is the Cadillac Escalade. The Escalade has an average loss of a whopping $11,934. I’m sure the insurance rates are adjusted accordingly. It’s interesting to note that General Motors’ vehicles account for six of the Top Ten.

  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06
  • Hummer H2 (the gigantic one)
  • Chevrolet Avalanche
  • Chevrolet Silverado -1500 crew cab
  • GMC Yukon

I can see the interest in the Corvette; but you have to have a taste for gigantic trucks for the others. The work trucks listed probably have valuable tools on board in addition to the parts.

2009 Corvette Z06. Love the exterior look, don't love the interior

Oddly, Nissan has two entries in the top ten too: The Infiniti G37 coupe (based on the Nissan 370Z) and the Nissan Pathfinder/Armada large SUVs. Who knew anyone was buying the Armada let alone stealing it?

The Infiniti G37 coupe is a low volume luxury coupe – something you don’t normally see on a list like this. I have no idea why car thieves want it. Maybe it is modified for drifting or street racing.

The 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe is sleek - but not a drifter

The Ford F-250 crew cab pickup Dodge Charger (with the Hemi V8) round off the Top Ten.

There are a couple common links here. First most of the cars and trucks have large engines that can be ripped out and resold. Ditto for the seats, and other parts. The second link is that many of these cars and trucks are often blinged out with lots of chrome aftermarket parts and gigantic, expensive wheel and tire upgrades. Those things are easy to strip out of a stolen car and sell the on the car parts black market.

Your friendly auto body repair place is supposed to use new parts on your car; however, many cut costs and buy the black market parts while still charging you or your insurance company for the new parts. This practice is commonly referred to as “insurance fraud.”

The thieves and chop shops are getting pretty sophisticated. Even though modern vehicles have complex, multifaceted anti-theft devices, smart keys, and engine immobilizers, the thieves and their accomplices just pull the whole vehicle up on the back of a flatbed truck. They even know how to thwart the electronic lockout devices and reprogram the code when necessary.

All of the listed GM vehicles have OnStar, the two-way communication and emergency service GM owns and has promoted in its vehicles for more than a decade. OnStar is GPS-equipped and can be used to locate a stolen car. So the first thing the law-breakers need to do is disable the OnStar system or do the snatch, strip and dump so fast that the owner doesn’t have time to call OnStar to locate the vehicle.

In the past, some of the most common family sedans were at the top of the list. Cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Impala. Those were stolen because there were a gazillion of them on the road that the demand for repair parts, particularly cheap black market parts, was quite high.

The shift to more profitable horsepower and bling has been developing over the past decade, and this latest list confirms that.

So how about the cars that the thieves don’t want? The Volvo S80 tops the list. The average loss on an S80 is only $619. Volvo must have very cautious, conservative drivers. The sad part is that Volvo had to defend it’s flagship by attributing the low loss rate to its excellent security system. Right.

The 2009 Volvo S80 - not very exciting for a "flagship"

Volvo sold only 4,190 S80 units for the first six months of 2010 and sales are falling as customers wait and see that happens once the Chinese car company, Geely, takes control of Volvo from Ford.  Volvo S80 owners don’t adorn their cars with large wheels and lots of bling. In short, they are anonymous.

There is also good news for the thousands of smug Prius owners in LA. Sure you bought the car to express your love of the environment and to prove your “green” bona fides. Sure it sounds like and is as dull as a refrigerator to drive. But it seems that thieves don’t like it. The complex parallel hybrid drive system and monolithic dashboard make it a nightmare to steal and chop up. And as the battery packs get older, they become worthless.

A 2009 Toyoa Prius. I'm sick of seeing them everywhere in LA

The Japanese dominate the lower echelon, picking up seven of the bottom ten. I guess no one wants the Toyota Sienna minivan, the Toyota Tacoma small pickup, the Subaru Impreza wagon, the Nissan Murano midsize SUV or the Honda Pilot midsize SUV.

I’d forgotten about the Saturn Vue small SUV. It seems that the thieves have too. The Vue accounts for two models (front drive and four-wheel drive) of the Bottom Ten.

The Bottom Ten is rounded out by the MINI Cooper. As an owner of a MINI, I’m glad to hear it. It may be that there are so few on the road (you wouldn’t know it by driving in LA) that the parts aren’t in demand on the black market. It also could be that a thief would have as much trouble getting it to unlock as I do.

A 2009 Subaru Impreza - It doesn't inspire theft, does it?

My philosophy on stolen cars is simple: Fully-insure your vehicle, don’t leave any valuables inside or visible, park in a safe location and lock your car. If it is stolen, or trashed, you’re covered. If it’s a classic that really can’t easily be replaced then store it in your garage or secure carpark. Don’t worry, be happy, right?