Speculation surrounds Hummer brand

Speculation surrounds Hummer brand :

Ever since General Motors announced that it was considering selling the iconic Hummer brand, speculation has surrounded who might buy it. The latest name to emerge on the list of prospective suitors is Russian Machines, the engineering firm which makes trains, planes and some automobile parts.

Owned by one of Russia's richest men, Oleg Deripaska, Russian Machines was reported to be in talks with GM about buying Hummer. But it issued a swift denial, saying it was "not strategically interested in such a deal".

Previously, reports had suggested Indian carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra was involved in "exploratory talks" with GM about buying Hummer. Observers suggested this would have been a good fit, as Mahindra already makes trucks and sports utility vehicles and is the main rival to Tata Motors, which recently bought Land Rover from Ford.

But GM would only say it was discussing the sale of the brand with "a number of potential buyers", without naming any names. 'Bad timing' With little let-up in the rising price of fuel over the last few months, analysts suggest General Motors has not picked a great time to sell a brand not renowned for its fuel efficiency.

"You couldn't think of a worst time to be selling a brand like Hummer," said analyst Jay Nagley from Spyder Automotive. "It is typical of large corporations to jump on the bandwagon when SUVs were fashionable, then try to sell it when the wheels have well and truly come off."

GM bought the Hummer brand in 1998, a number of years before its heyday when celebrities like footballer David Beckham and former film star Arnold Schwarzenegger were photographed driving theirs. The now Governor of California still has his, but in a sign of the more environmentally conscious times, has had the vehicle converted to run on biofuel. 'Tastes change'

Like most big motor companies, GM has suffered from falling sales as cash-strapped consumers have cut back on big purchases. It made a net loss of $15.5bn (£7.8bn) in just three months between April and June this year. In June, Hummer sales were slightly over 2,000, well below their peak.

But General Motors defended its brand, saying it was still relevant and needed in some parts of the world. "Not everyone in the world has perfect roads to drive on and there is no brand that conquers that like Hummer," said GM spokesperson Joanne Krell.

"For some, who bought it less for utility than desire, we are seeing a backing-off because tastes change. "But we shouldn't get carried away and say that takes away the need for an off-road vehicle like Hummer."

GM thinks there will be someone who can "maximise the potential of the brand" better than it currently can. Whoever that is, according to analysts, will have to have deep pockets and is most likely to come from Russia, China or India.

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