Dealership has humdinger of a way to entice customers

Dealership has humdinger of a way to entice customers

Grayden Jones

IT’S 16 FEET LONG and can romp through standing water like a grizzly bear. It can bust over a brick wall and sprint 100 mph on the freeway. It blasts CDs over nine Bose speakers from inside a brightly colored mega-machine with trademark squinty windshield.

For around $50,000, you could own an H2 Hummer.

But don’t expect to take it home any time soon if you’re shopping in Spokane. Pat McConahy, fleet sales manager for George Gee Pontiac GMC, can barely keep the 6.0-liter machines in stock.

“General Motors really did their homework on this one,” McConahy says, pausing between Hummer orders. “We’re getting soccer moms, hunters, professional people, and Rambo types. One guy bought four of them for his family and business.”

General Motors in July named Gee one of 150 exclusive Hummer dealers in the nation. The move is turning out to be a coup in the local SUV market. Thus far, the dealership has sold about 20 H2s even before they came off the trailer. That’s $1 million in sales, with more on the way. The company has pre-sold every one of the white, yellow, and green SUVs scheduled to arrive through October, McConahy says.

The Hummer – like the Honda Prelude, the new Volkswagen Beetle, and the PT Cruisers before it – draws the curious almost daily at Gee’s Liberty Lake car lot. Maybe it’s a need during days of war to get close to something that looks like the military’s Humvee personnel carrier.

Maybe it’s the rush of sitting in a $115,000 vehicle, the price tag for the H1 Hummer, the off-road cousin to the Army rig. Maybe it’s Gee’s taunting display of Hummers along Interstate 90, where 20,000 commuters can daily lust after the wide-bodied beasts.

GM began offering the Hummer in 1999 after acquiring AM General Corp. of South Bend, Ind., the maker of the military’s Humvee. A new factory was erected to produce the H2 Hummer, and the auto giant has slowly been building up a following with its network of exclusive dealers around the country.

The tough H1, which comes as a four-door hardtop or convertible, was built for the worst possible terrain. You can deflate the tires from inside the rig and drive it on the rims. You can take it underwater. You can drive it down a 50-degree slope. With a German- engineered four-wheel drive system, truck chassis, and 8,500-pounds of metal, the H1 is more tank than car.

The H2, however, was built for people. With its mushy seats, six- disc CD changer, overhead console, and OnStar navigation system, the H2 rides like a luxury car that won’t get stuck in a Montana snowstorm.

Because of the popularity of the H2, McConahy says, he expects prices to rise significantly in January. “They’re in short supply and when that happens,” he says, “it usually means the price goes up.”

Donations rain down like cats and dogs

The Curves for Women chain recently raised nearly $4,000 for the Spokane Humane Society, says Patty Burkhardt, owner of Curves at 1404 N. Mullan Road. The Valley fitness club and four other Curves in Spokane reduced their initial membership fees for one week from $75 to $30, and then donated the proceeds to the animal protection organization. The fitness chain also collected 300 pounds of pet food for Spokanimal during the “Help a Pet and Get Fit” fund-raiser, Burkhardt says. Spokane Humane Society, 6607 N. Havana St., last year found homes for 1,706 dogs and 1,312 cats.

Fair vendors online

Recovered from the Spokane County Interstate Fair yet? Wish you could remember the name of that vendor selling stainless steel pots or sheepskin slippers? How about the ones who offered discount cell phones, eyeglass cleaner or fireplace inserts? Relax. The county lists the fair vendors online at SIFVendors.htm by name and product, with Web site and e-mail addresses.

Copyright 2002 Cowles Publishing Company

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