Few vehicles are as instantly recognizable as a Hummer SUV. Unapologetically boxy and impossibly wide, these rugged vehicles were originally built for military use, and it shows. For Hummer aficionados, the fact that these mammoth rock-crawlers are tank-like both in appearance and nature is a selling point, not a flaw.
The Hummer brand can actually trace its roots back to another military icon — the Jeep. Designed by the Willys-Overland company in the 1940s, the Jeep became so popular that when Henry J. Kaiser purchased the Willys-Overland company in 1953, the name was changed to Kaiser-Jeep. In 1970, American Motors bought Kaiser-Jeep and renamed it the Jeep Corp. At that point, Jeep was producing vehicles through two divisions: a commercial products division in Toledo, Ohio, and a government products division in South Bend, Indiana.
A year later, the government products division was spun off as a wholly owned subsidiary known as AM General. In the early 1980s, the company designed a vehicle to compete for a contract offered by the U.S. Army. Called the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, or Humvee, as it came to be known), it was designed to serve as the military's main light tactical vehicle. AM General won a 1983 production contract (the first of many with the U.S. Army) that required the delivery of 55,000 vehicles over a five-year period.
AM General's Humvees distinguished themselves in active duty during the Persian Gulf War in the early '90s. The vehicle's wartime prowess garnered a great deal of positive publicity, and not just within military circles. As a result, AM General decided to introduce a civilian version of the Humvee, dubbed the Hummer, in 1992.
In 1999, General Motors bought the rights to the Hummer brand name and became responsible for the development, marketing and distribution of future Hummer SUVs. The Hummer H1 was effectively a continuation of the AM General Hummer. The brand also introduced the H2 and H3, which were more civilized vehicles based on other GM SUVs.
GM discontinued the Hummer brand and its vehicles in 2010 after sales slowed during the global financial crisis. But about a decade later, GM announced that it would revive the Hummer name. It's no longer a distinct brand, however. New Hummer vehicles are upmarket trucks and SUVs built with all-electric powertrains and are sold under the GMC brand. These new Hummer EVs have no mechanical relationship to the old models but continue the brand's familiar styling and rugged off-road capability. They are also fully modern in regards to technology, features and comfort.