Indian automakers humming for HUMMER

Hummer SUT IndiaThere is market speculation that General Motors is planning to off load its gas guzzling Hummer brand to two Indian companies. It is incomprehensible why Indian automakers would want to bring fuel inefficient vehicles to the country..

They are only ‘unconfirmed market speculations’ as yet and the companies named are at the usual, ‘no comments’ stage at the moment. But if the recent mergers and acquisitions by India Inc are anything to go by then surely there is some fire somewhere from where all this smoke is emanating. The Economic Times has reported that two Indian automotive players, TATA Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra are in the fray for picking up General Motors’ controversial brand Hummer.

For those of you, who have not seen the Hummer, I can only say that someone at the GM design centre, in their wisdom, crossed an army supply truck with a standard American sports utility vehicle (SUV) and the resultant progeny is known as the Hummer. For all the musical tone of the name, the beast does anything but hum. It roars and springs into action to decimate all competition on the road through the sheer menace of its size and power.

This one is not for the faint hearted or the ones with shallow pockets. It is an overweight monster that drinks fuel by the gallon and takes you only as far as the nukkad with that amount. With the price of crude making new highs almost daily and with reports of global warming and other climate changes (due to the heating up of our planet via burning of fossil fuels) coming in thick and fast, one can not help but wonder at the decision by these two Indian companies ( or any other) to court the Hummer.

Almost everything about it screams waste. Its sheer size makes it incongruous for our crowded city roads. In a country where finding elbow room for our nippy Marutis and Tata Indica is an uphill task, a Hummer would be the equivalent of an elephant walking in a pedestrian zone (I know, I know that happens, too, in India).

There are already some of these behemoths in Chandigarh and other places where the folk have pretensions to being cow boys (the American type). One hopes that in the event that Hummer is acquired and makes a bid for a share in the rugged- vehicle market segment then it remains confined to far flung areas. The last things our metros need are fuel guzzling, large vehicles.

The irony of it all is that, stung by the rising crude prices, the consumers in America are finally beginning to think about fuel efficiency as an important factor while buying a vehicle. The manufacturers anticipating a declining demand are now deciding to stop production at all four plants that manufacture this ‘gasaholic’ product.

As has happened in the past, obsolete/environmentally unfriendly technologies and products are going to be shipped off to developing countries where the glamour associated with American brands is high. Some recent Bollywood films, shot in Dubai, have given Hummer a strong brand recall amongst Indians too.

If ever there was a time to say goodbye to fuel inefficient vehicles, it is now. Why then are Indian companies even considering entering that segment? Fiscal disaster stares the Indian oil companies in the face because of the heavily subsidised price at which fuel is supplied to the Indian consumer and even then the consumer is a harried lot. Ever increasing fuel bills and a crumbling public transport system threatens to bring the Indian growth story to a skidding halt. The inflation genie is in rampage mode and the government is in an unenviable position.

It is regrettable that instead of thinking of alternate technologies like electric powered vehicles, the Indian auto makers are bringing in bigger and bigger SUV’s to our market. In an ironical twist, electric powered technology is what the General Motors.

We have had a head start in it in a product like the nifty Rewa that has a noticeable presence not only on the roads of Bangalore but in London too. Recent reports indicate that the Londoners just can not get enough of our indigenous beauty. The city authorities there are actively working towards providing more recharging stations in London for the convenience of people trying to kick the gas guzzling habits of yore. It’s time the big brands in India explored environment friendly options instead of courting products that will only add to the country’s fuel bill and burden its infrastructure further.

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