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Hummer H3T – Refining Niches and Brand Identity for Changing Times

Times have certainly changed since the Hummer brand’s relaunch a few years back with the H2. Back then, 9/11 was fresh in Americans’ memory, and the H2’s military-inspired shape stirred up patriotic feelings among many. Heck, the fact that it slurped fuel with alarming thirst was probably a “badge of honor” among many Hummer owners. You took down our Twin Towers? Watch us take your oil!
Fast forward to 2008, and it’s a very different world indeed. The war that (at least in some small way) helped fuel Hummer’s initial popularity has reached an all-time low in terms of public support. Buzzwords like “foreign oil dependence” and “carbon emissions” are at the top of America’s collective mind. The values that Hummer stood for just a few years back are now far out of step with today’s national mood. Indeed, sales of traditional truck-based SUVs in general have declined significantly in favor of more efficient and “right-size” car-based alternatives.
So what’s a brand like Hummer to do? They can reposition the brand towards something more politically neutral, and they can perhaps increase the brand’s reach with interesting niche products. This new Hummer H3T seems to support both of these strategies.

High-tech adventure is what H3T seems to be about. Its vibe is REI, not Iraq. Plenty of robust, metallic styling cues abound, recalling high-tech adventure gear. H3T wants to enable your extra-urban adventures in a modern, high-tech manner.
The H3T at its core is a pickup version of the H3 SUV, itself based on GM/Isuzu’s mid-size pickup platform that underpins the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Isuzu pickups around the world. Examined in that sense, the H3T comes full circle back to its pickup roots – it’s the pickup that’s based on an SUV that’s based on a pickup.
HUMMER is touting H3T’s true off-road capability and accessorization as two of its biggest calling cards. It’s available with massive tires, locking front and rear diffs, and ultra-low crawl ratios that ensure that it can ford any obstacle. In keeping with its high-tech positioning, the truck is available with navigation (in both on-board and OnStar-based off-board varieties), along with a rear view camera. Its five-foot bed can be outfitted with all manner of cargo management accessories, many of which are styled to fit the adventure-tech theme. It’s noteworthy that in addition to the 75 Hummer genuine accessories available, there are also 50 “licensed” accessories made by the aftermarket – providing potential for personalization on par with Scion. In this era of mass customization, Hummer knows that a lifestyle vehicle must offer plenty of appealing choice.
Will it work? Are adventure seekers ready to pony up a significant premium for what is functionally a much cooler looking Chevrolet Colorado? Ironically, the highly styled sheetmetal that suggests extreme toughness also makes it a truck that owners are less likely to subject to abuse; real adventure types could very well continue to embrace more basic vehicles that they don’t mind banging up. Still, if nothing else, H3T serves as a statement for where the HUMMER brand wants to go. It’s an interesting variant that along with the upcoming H4 helps to round out the Hummer lineup and maximize its appeal in these changing times.

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