General Motors (GM) has been labelled an "utter disgrace" by environmental groups for launching its gas-guzzling Hummer model in the UK.
The world’s largest carmaker will begin selling its right-hand drive Hummer H3 at the end of July and is opening its first UK showroom dedicated to the brand this week in Manchester. It is also planning to open showrooms in London, Birmingham, Scotland and Northern Ireland by the end of the year.
But car analysts have expressed surprise at the decision because of the current backlash against 4x4s and sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Chancellor Gordon Brown is likely to double road tax for the most polluting cars in today’s (Wednesday’s) Budget, while the European Commission is proposing legislation limiting carbon-dioxide emissions to an average of 130 grams per kilometre for all new cars by 2012.
Greenpeace climate transport campaigner Emily Armistead says: "I’m absolutely astounded it is choosing to launch Hummer in the UK now. They are monstrous, appalling, gas-guzzling beasts which have no place on our city streets.
"It stinks of the rottenness of the car industry and they’re not facing facts on climate change. It’s an utter disgrace and I’m flabbergasted. It shows the increasing desperation of the US car industry in the face of competition from Asian manufacturers."
GM acquired the rights to the Hummer brand in 1999 and sales have increased from 1,000 vehicles in 2000 to 82,000 vehicles last year. Bauer Millett has been the UK’s sole licensee for the Hummer brand since 2002 but the marque has not previously had its own showrooms in this country.
GM vice-chairman of global product development Bob Lutz says: "We are determined to build on the brand’s recognition in Europe and especially here in the UK."