Motormouth: Hummers Are Overkill for Jakarta’s Streets (Op-Ed)

Price, size, power, functionality, suitability, reliability, efficiency, road conditions and styling influence vehicle choice. But so do egos, unfortunately.

Something that isn’t always a factor in vehicle choice, but should be, is your fellow motorist. An automobile purchase is usually approached with only personal needs and wants in mind. In a perfect world, car buyers would also consider how their vehicle choice affects not just the environment but others around them.

In the mainstream there are city cars, sedans, minivans and sport utility vehicles. Ideally, the estimated 900,000 cars that are likely to join the masses on the roads in 2012 would all be city cars, which would make navigating two-way through jalan tikus much smoother.

For those who have some money to burn and an appreciation of things that go fast, there are sports and luxury cars, even luxury saloons, on the market.

And fair enough, most people can appreciate the fine design and fine-tuned sound of a 911 Porsche or a Mazda MX5, as it drives past.

The Case Against the Hummer

Anything in moderation is okay, except for a Hummer. For all practical and recreational purposes, the Hummer is a bad vehicle choice. This might seem like an odd place to pin the argument, except that there are two of these absurd vehicles parked at my apartment complex. Despite being grotesque, impractical and expensive, the Hummer is not as uncommon in Jakarta as one might presume. Aside from the two that I encounter on an almost daily basis, I have spotted numerous others in the city at different times.

Both said Hummers are H2 models, a 4WD that weighs about 3,000 kilograms, with a 6.0 liter V8 gasoline engine. The H2 is 2063 mm wide, 5169 mm  long and 1994 mm high, and gets an average of 12 to 14 miles per gallon.

The Hummer, a civilian version of the Humvee military vehicle, was marketed by General Motors as on off-road and a “general purpose” vehicle before it went out of production in 2010. I don’t miss it but the resale market remains and there are still plenty of them around.

The Hummer says nothing but overconsumption and excess. How fitting that the infamous Malinda Dee purchased a Hummer for her boy-toy, common-law husband.

You Are Not Needed Now

The vehicle went on sale in 1992, apparently after Arnold Schwarzenegger convinced AM General, an American heavy vehicle manufacturer, that is was a good idea. Arnie, as he is sometimes affectionately known, reportedly owns four Hummers, three of which were converted to use alternative fuels to please California voters while he was governor. In 2006, more than 70,000 Hummers were sold in the United States and internationally.

After the financial crisis, though, General Motors was left with a dead weight as sales and public opinion of the car turned sour. In 2010, less than 1,000 Hummers were sold. GM had hoped to offload the Hummer to a Chinese machine manufacturer in 2009. Beijing, however, put a hard stop to the acquisition mid-2010 saying that the Hummer did not fall into line with its vision for a greener and more responsible China.

As far as popular trends go, we can only hope that if the US and Chinese markets have turned their backs on an unnecessary, road-hogging, rude and offensive gas guzzler like the Hummer, then maybe Jakarta will also. This is not a war zone and you don’t need a vehicle that chews up the environment and elbows fellow motorists aside. There is only place today for a Hummer, and that’s on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster, or as a tacky stretch limousine.

Published January 15, 2012 in the Jakarta Globe.

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