Army: Military Versions of Hummer Excluded from GM Sale Officials said some people called the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and AM General LLC, the company that makes the military vehicles, asking if the rights to the Humvee had been sold to the Chinese.
The U.S. Army is assuring people that General Motors' deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese company has nothing to do with the military version of the rugged vehicle. Officials said some people called the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and AM General LLC, the company that makes the military vehicles, asking if the rights to the Humvee had been sold to the Chinese. Steve Clawson, spokesman for the South Bend, Ind.-based AM General, said the military and civilian programs are separate. "GM's proposed sale of the civilian Hummer brand would have no impact on the military Humvee program," he said. The Army's news service posted a story to clarify the situation on its Web site Wednesday, a day after news of the sale was announced. "We really wanted to clarify in the minds of our own soldiers as well as the general public what was happening, just so we were clear on the difference," said Lt. Col. Martin Downie, an Army spokesman. Staffers at the House Armed Services Committee contacted the Army after hearing the sale news and were reassured that the military vehicles would not be affected, said Josh Holly, spokesman for the committee. "I think the committee will continue to watch it just in case, but at this point I haven't seen much concern from members on the military side," he said. General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that it had a tentative agreement to sell the Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., a 4-year-old company with just 4,300 employees based in China's mountainous southwest. GM bought the rights to sell Hummers to civilians from AM General in 1999, and GM hired the company to build the H1 model at a plant in Mishawaka, Ind. The hulking, inefficient vehicle, which dwarfed most other vehicles on city streets, was based on the military Humvee. Later, the automaker designed the Hummer H2 civilian vehicle, and AM General continued to build it. A smaller version, the H3, was built by GM at a plant in Shreveport, La. AM General is privately held, owned by private equity firm The Renco Group Inc., and MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, both of New York. The company, born of Jeep heritage, was once part of American Motors Corp. It began designing the Humvee in 1979, and since then has sold more than 200,000 to the U.S. military and friendly nations, the company said on its Web site. The vehicles became famous in the 1991 Gulf War. Tengzhong, which is keeping production of the Hummer in the United States, will face daunting hurdles in reviving the vehicle, known in Chinese as "Han Ma," or Bold Horse. Soaring gas prices have battered sales of the boxy trucks, which roar along on oversize tires and can weigh up to 5 tons. GM sold 341,000 Hummers to civilians worldwide through 2008, but U.S. sales have dropped dramatically this year. GM sold only 5,113 Hummers through May, down 64 percent from the first five months of last year, according to Autodata Corp. In a chat on GM's Web site Thursday, GM CEO Fritz Henderson was asked how a Chinese company with no experience building personal vehicles was able to buy Hummer, and Henderson wrote that GM had limited interest in the brand. "The potential buyer Sichuan Tengzhong offered the best overall alternative, and we did not have broad portfolio of other buyers," Henderson replied.