Ahhnold Drives One. Vot About You, Vimpy Man?

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General Schwarzkopf, meet General Motors. The world’s largest car company, in dire need of a hipness transplant, is about to acquire the rights to the Hummer. Yes, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, aka the Humvee), which has parlayed some good Gulf War press into a thriving niche market: poseur jet-setters (Ahhnold bought the very first one) for whom a regular SUV is just too wimpy.

GM won’t take over production; that job will stay with small manufacturer AM General Corp. at its plant in Mishawaka, Ind. What GM plans is to use the name to help it play catch-up with Ford in the thriving SUV and light-truck game. (Ford is upping the muscle ante this fall with the largest SUV ever, the Excursion.) Don’t expect the original Hummer, priced from about $68,000 to $86,000, to start clogging the nation’s highways any time soon. But a move into branded variants -- a mini-Hummer for soccer moms? -– might lie ahead, and in the meantime GM should benefit from being perceived as a cooler company. It certainly worked for Chrysler when they bought Jeep.