Hummer was a brand of trucks and SUVs, first marketed in 1992 when AM General began selling a civilian version of the M998 Humvee. In 1998, General Motors (GM) purchased the brand name and marketed three vehicles: the original Hummer H1, based on the Humvee; and the H2 and H3 models that were based on smaller, civilian-market GM platforms.
By 2008, Hummer's viability in the economic downturn was being questioned, and it was placed under review by GM management. Rather than being transferred to Motors Liquidation Company as part of the GM bankruptcy in 2009, the brand was retained by GM, in order to investigate its sale.
In 2009, a Chinese manufacturer, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company, announced that it would acquire Hummer, pending government approvals, but later withdrew its bid. On February 24, 2010, Reuters reported that the Chinese ministry of commerce had prevented the deal, although a ministry spokesperson denied rejecting the application, which had been stalled for eight months. At the end of February, General Motors announced it would begin dismantling the Hummer brand.
Although the automaker announced two days later that it had been approached with new offers, by April 2010, any sale became unlikely, as inventory was depleted and Hummer dealerships began shutting down. After filling a rental-car fleet order, the last Hummer H3 rolled off line at Shreveport on May 24, 2010.
The original Hummers were first designed and built by AM General Corporation, which was formerly AMC-Jeep's General Products division, in its Mishawaka, Indiana, assembly plant. The vehicles were created under a contract for the United States armed forces. The first model, the Humvee, was built in a variety of military-based equipment and versions. The US$1.2 billion contract won by AM General in 1983 was to produce 55,000 Humvees by 1985, which was later increased to 15,000 additional units.
AM General had planned to sell a civilian version of the Humvee as far back as the late 1980s. Having the same structure and most mechanical components, the civilian Hummers were finished in automotive gloss paint, adding passenger car enhancements such as air conditioning, sound insulation, upgraded upholstery, stereo systems, wood trim, and convenience packages. The civilian model began in part because of the persistence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who saw an Army convoy while filming a movie.
In 1990, two matching white Humvees were driven from London to Beijing over the rough roads of central Soviet Union. The Hummers made the trip with ease, for they were built to drive on off-road terrain. The highlights of this journey were broadcast in the United States on ESPN. This publicity would pale in comparison to the attention that the Humvee received for its service in Gulf War Operation: Desert Storm, the following year. Also, a privately-owned Humvee was modified into the first Snow-Vee, including the addition of caterpillar tracks, a new rear compartment and a new engine. This vehicle was designed for use in and just below the Arctic Circle, and the Antarctic.
In 1992, AM General began selling a civilian version of the M998 Humvee vehicle to the public under the brand name "Hummer".