China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company has agreed to buy the brand from GM, the two companies said yesterday, for less than $500 million, according to a source familiar with the transaction, well off its peak value of a decade ago.

The 7,000-pound gas guzzlers are rolling out of an environment that became increasingly hostile toward them and into one whose go-go industrialism and lack of regard for the environment — until very recently — resembled that found in the United States a century ago.

So reports the WP in “Hummer’s Home: China, the New Land of Excess.”

Less than $500 million? That’s a rounding error in the cash giveaways to the auto industry these days. Why couldn’t we just swallow that cost to forever remove from the planet this unsustainable blight?

Who are these clueless new owners of GM anyway? Oh. Never mind!

Seriously, though, this is the second mistake GM/Obama/you-and-I are making:

As part of its downsizing, GM is trying to sell off brands that no longer fit the company’s — and the White House’s — vision of its future. Hummer is the first to go. Saab has three bidders and 16 parties have expressed interest in Saturn, GM said yesterday.

So 16 companies have expressed interest in Saturn. What a non-surprise. Saturn is obviously a still-attractive brand that makes precisely the kind of small cars (and hybrids) that are the inevitable winner in our peak oil and climate-driven near future.

But the big execs at GM always viewed Saturn as a skunk works, as an effort to show that the “GM way” doesn’t work, so they did everything possible to kill it, and now they will sell it off to some eager competitor. When I wanted to buy an American car in the mid-1990s, I settled on a Saturn, which was a terrific car for me for 10 years. Had GM not abandoned at the start of the Bush administration the hybrid vehicle development program the Clinton administration started with them in the early 1990s, Saturn might well have had a good hybrid by the time I was looking for a new car. But they didn’t. And so I bought a Toyota Prius.

Now Saturn has hybrids and a unique brand, which can easily be revived by a smart nimble car company.

As for Hummer, I suppose you could argue that if China plans to build obscenely big gas guzzlers, they could do so on their own with or without Hummer. And you can certainly argue that once peak oil kicks in big-time over the next 5 to 10 years, and oil prices shoot over $5 a gallon, nobody is going to be terribly interested in Hummers, which suggests GM/Obama/you-and-I are smart [not dumb?] to get some money for it.

Perhaps, but as one of the owners of GM, I’d very much like to know what this “less than $500 million” price was. If it was a lot less, then this sale is unjustifiable on any grounds.

I think the whole brand should have been shuttered. And if the Chinese wanted to spend many billions of dollars building their own production capacity for gas guzzlers, let them. But that’s no reason for us to act as Dr. Kevorkian in this unsustainably suicidal behavior. My buyer’s remorse grows!

What do you think?

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