Sean O'Grady: Sad farewell to a symbol of excess

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As one of the few people in this country to have driven a Hummer, I do feel a little bit sorry to see them go. I'm all in favour of choice and automotive variety – why not? – and there really was nothing quite as outrageous as a Hummer. The big one was a glorious piece of kit: big, bad and dangerous for any planet to know. It was defiant, indefensible, a symbol of excess.

Yet I strongly suspect that the chromed-up, stretched and otherwise "pimped" Hummers you saw around Britain were driven very few miles a year, rather taking the edge off their environmental harm. Just like Ferraris and Bentleys, actually. Demonising posh, fuel-hungry cars like those is one way we assuage our own guilt for not downsizing from, say, a people carrier to a hatch, which, if everyone did it, would do far more for national fuel consumption and poor old Gaia than scrapping all the Hummers. You just don't see many Hummers around, and the ones you do see are mostly on hen party duty. Who would want to spoil the girls' fun?

The Hummer model I drove was a much smaller version, the H3, which was made in South Africa, so buying one helped that nation's emerging economy. The H3 wasn't much bigger than a Land Rover Freelander: its problem was that it was styled to look like a Hummer, and to be as square-rigged and aggressive as its bigger siblings. And that, I suspect, was the Hummer brand's undoing – the immediate visual link with the original American military Humvee, usually seen on news footage barging some poor Iraqi's front door in. It was this deeply unfashionable Americanism that did for the Hummer, not its thirst for fuel. The Hummer was George W Bush on four wheels, and, like W, no one much wants to know it any more.

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