10 October 2006
General Motors began the first production outside the United States of the Hummer H3 sports utility vehicle at a plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Tuesday.
GM said it expected eventually to produce more than 10 000 units of the H3, the newest and smallest model in the Hummer range, for export to Europe, the Middle East and Asia under a US$3-billion contract awarded to its South African subsidiary in April 2005.
Production of a right-hand drive version, for export into right-hand markets in Europe and Asia as well as for local sale, will begin at GMSA’s Struandale, Port Elizabeth plant in the second quarter of 2007.
“The GM team in South Africa has demonstrated to the world that they have the people, the leadership, the technology and the skills to execute the type of automobile engineering and assembly that is required in the new global economy,” Maureen Kempston Darkes, president of GM Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Vote of confidence
GM South Africa MD Robert Socia described the project as “one of the most important milestones in the history of GM in South Africa,” adding: “It’s significant that GM chose to place the H3 contract with South Africa, as it says a lot about the confidence GM has in our ability to deliver.”
The Hummer H1 and H2 models – adapted from the Humvee vehicle developed for military uses – have been sold primarily in the US and Canada, although GM began exporting the H2 to countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East in 2004.
Since acquiring the brand in late 1999, GM has grown its Hummer sales from roughly 1 000 vehicles a year to more than 60 000 in 2005, when it launched the H3 in the US.
“With the assembly of Hummer H3 in South Africa, we take the next important step to grow the Hummer brand around the world,” said Hummer general manager Martin Walsh.
GM describes the H3 as “an authentic Hummer, offering the brand’s iconic design and famed off-road capability in a midsize and more accessible package.
“H3 aims to become the leader in off-road performance among mid-size SUVs, just as the H2 achieved that stature among full-size SUVs. In addition, H3 delivers surprisingly comfortable on-road manners and a clean, well-crafted interior.”
The South African-built H3 will be available with a new 242 horsepower (180 KW) Vortec inline 5-cylinder engine, choice of manual or automatic transmissions, and a premium, full-time four-wheel-drive system.
Port expanded, offroad track set up
South Africa is the only manufacturing site outside of the United States to assemble the Hummer H3, using components imported from Tilsonburg in Canada and from GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana plant.
The National Ports Authority recently completed a R7.5-million expansion of the car terminal at its Port Elizabeth port in the Eastern Cape to accommodate the imports and the subsequent exports of completed H3 Hummers.
And as the first South African-made H3s rolled off the production lines in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, GM South Africa launched a R1-million extreme off-road test track built specifically to show off the H3’s capabilities.
“We can’t wait to put the H3 through its paces,” GMSA vehicle assembly operations director Mike Pearton said last week. “The Hummer will seriously impress on this track, which is designed to test a 4×4 vehicle to the extreme.”