Since its inception as a civilian vehicle, the Hummer has often incited moral indignation from people who believe the car represents wastefulness, overconsumption, arrogance and everything that is wrong with America. But a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that Hummer owners actually view themselves as possessing the moral high ground.
The findings were based upon interviews conducted on 20 U.S.-born Hummer owners, and discovered that most appealed to American myths such as the "rugged individual" and "boundless frontier" in upholding their choice to drive the infamous gas guzzlers.
The study's authors explain their conclusions in the paper: "Our analysis of the underlying American identity discourses revealed that being under siege by critics is an historically established feature of being an American. The moralistic critique of their consumption choices readily inspired Hummer owners to adopt the role of the moral protagonist who defends American national ideals."
The research was originally intended to study the sentiments expressed by the people who hold strong anti-consumption beliefs against Hummer owners, but discovered that Hummer owners share an equally strong moral indignation in the opposite direction.
The Hummer, sold by General Motors, has had its design criticized on multiple fronts and has become a prominent symbol showcasing the failure of the American auto manufacturer. Based originally upon the military Hum-vee, the Hummer has long prompted many to question its utility as a civilian luxury vehicle.
For instance, the car's unnecessary size makes it difficult to park and drive, and although many owners frequently cite safety as a consideration in their choice to purchase a Hummer, the vehicle actually takes longer to stop in highway emergency braking situations, has large blind spots and lacks stability control.
But perhaps the biggest criticism of its design comes from the Hummer's exceptionally poor fuel economy. It only gets 9-16 miles per gallon at best, and has garnered passionate disgust from environmentalists. Critics are so vehement that many have posted thousands of photographs at sites like fuh2.com of middle fingers directed at Hummer vehicles.
Due in large part to these criticisms and GM's recent bankruptcy, the company announced that the Hummer brand would be discontinued after 2010. There have been efforts to sell the brand, but those efforts are being blocked on environmental grounds.