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By Rick Kranz
Automotive News / July 05, 2004

The 2005 H2 SUT gives the Hummer line a boost this summer.

MOAB, Utah -- Hummer's message for the remainder of the year will be an unlikely one for the maker of big, thirsty SUVs: fuel economy improvements.

Hummer sales dropped 26.4 percent in the first five months of this year as gasoline prices spiked.

The Hummer H2 ranges from 10 to 13 mpg, according to dealers. The federal government does not give the H2 a fuel economy rating because the SUV's weight is above the 8,500-pound cutoff.

At $2 per gallon, a complete 32-gallon fill-up costs $64.

"We definitely have a concern about gas prices," said Mike DiGiovanni, Hummer marketing general manager. "We are going to be looking at improving fuel economy.

"I think it is silly to put your head in the sand," DiGiovanni said. "You should address the issues head-on. So we are looking at improved gasoline engines, diesel engines" and hybrids.

High gasoline prices are probably not entirely to blame for the sales decline of the H2, which went on sale in June 2002. Distinctive, niche vehicles, such as the Volkswagen New Beetle, often fade after the initial rush.

Hummer eyes hybrid

While changes to the H2's styling are two or three years away, the line receives a boost this summer with the introduction of the 2005 Hummer H2 SUT. The four-door vehicle features a small pickup bed behind the rear seat. Shipments to dealers started last month.

To increase fuel economy, Hummer plans within a year to:

Tweak the H2's powertrain for modest fuel economy improvements.

Introduce the H3, a smaller vehicle that will be equipped with a five-cylinder engine.

Offer the 6.0-liter Duramax V-8 diesel engine in the H1. The SUV is powered by a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V-8.

More significant fuel economy changes are scheduled for the H2 around the 2007 or 2008 model year when a diesel and possibly a hybrid-electric engine will be offered.

The H2 will be re-engineered and its front end will be lengthened to accommodate a diesel engine, Hummer sources said. The exterior will be restyled to improve fuel economy.

No compromises

Hummer's image and fuel economy are expected to get a boost with the introduction next year of a smaller SUV, the H3, which will share some parts with the 2004 Chevrolet Colorado pickup.

The H3 will be equipped with GM's 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine. A 220-hp version of that engine is available in the Colorado. It has an EPA rating of 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway with an automatic transmission.

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