Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans Siberian Series Part 14: The Hummers of Ulaanbaatar

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
One of the many Hummers I saw in Ulaanbaatar

This is the next step in our Trans-Siberian adventure. We stay in Mongolia, and after one week in the Gobi desert, saying that getting back to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar (nicknamed UB here) is a total shock is an understatement. You would assume that civilisation progressively creeps back to culminate in UB, but it’s not so. Anything outside of UB is desert steppe, and when you arrive in the city it’s like turning a huge switch on: you instantly are in traffic jams going for kilometres! I saw in 10 seconds the amount of cars it took one week to spot outside the capital…

I couldn’t go on without pausing on one of the most surprising particularities of the UB car landscape: the astounding frequency of Hummers…

If you can’t wait for the next report, you can follow my trip in real time here, or check out 174 other car markets on my blog.

Big.

I saw dozens of Hummers every day in UB and no, it was not the same doing the rounds, I checked.

All models are represented, with the H2 being the most frequent. When riding my bike to Terelj National Park, I was even passed by a hugely huge H1 Alpha Wagon and it took both sides of the road to pass my tiny mountain bike! Scary. I also spotted a few pick-ups. One interesting fact in Ulaanbaatar is that a majority of these Hummers are driven by women. With 80% of the highest-ranking jobs in the capital held by women it makes sense that they drive one of the most expensive American vehicles around.

This Hummer will set you back 89,999,999 MNT

If you are interested, there is one Hummer on sale right in front of the big State Department Store in Ulaanbaatar for 90 million MNT which is a steep US$52,000. Any takers? Which begs the question: but where do all these Hummers come from? When the brand shut down in 2010, there were reportedly 2,200 vehicles remaining to be sold, so it would make sense that a share of these found their way to Mongolia. A very interesting South China Morning Post article explains it all for us.

A yellow Hummer for a change

In 2010 Terbish Bolor-Erdene, a 30 year-old entrepreneur president of the Mongolia Hummer Club, said there are around 300 Hummers in Ulaanbaatar, a quarter of them sold through his dealership. This number could well have jumped to 500 or 600 today. ’The Hummer started out as a military vehicle and we Mongols still think of ourselves as warriors. It’s just a perfect fit for our country and our people.’ he said. The SCMP says the vehicles are particularly popular with Mongolia’s nouveau ‘khans’. Owners include pop singers, CEOs and famous athletes. Sumo wrestler Davaagdorj Dolgorsuren, who became Japan’s 68th Yokozuna, drives a Hummer H1 (probably the one who passed me on my way to Terelj!).

Hummer H3T

Mongolia’s love affair with the Hummer started in the late 1990s when a brash cashmere magnate named B. Jargalsaikhan started driving around Ulaanbaatar in a Humvee, one of the original military vehicles designed and used by the US army. Hummers have since filtered into Mongolia’s growing upper class. Luvsandorj Magnaidorj, a policy director for the local traffic police office, drives an H2.

In 2010 when the article was written in the South China Morning Post, Bolor-Erdene and other importers were purchasing Hummers in the US and shipping them to Mongolia, via China. Shipping a vehicle cost around US$2,600 and once it arrives in Mongolia the importer will likely pay an additional US$6,000 in import duties.

Hummer and Lexus LX

The Hummers were then shined up and sold in parking lots around the city, with high mark-ups resulting in big gains for importers. In 2010 Bolor-Erdene said his asking price for his latest import, a Hummer H2 SUT, was US$120,000, whereas a typical US price for this vehicle was US$56,800 at the time. Now that Hummer production has stopped, importers like Bolor-Erdene have to rely on the remaining stock available (it is unclear whether there are still some new Hummers around) or used vehicles.

But the Hummer was not the only American gas-guzzler to be seen frequently around Ulaanbaatar… See below for more Yankees.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia, and runs a blog called Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars around the world.

Hummer and Mercedes G-Class
Ford Expedition
Chevrolet Tahoe
Dodge Durango
Ford F-Series
Infiniti FX
Jeep Wrangler
Infiniti QX56 in Ulaanbaatar
Matt Gasnier
Matt Gasnier

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  • Formula m Formula m on Jun 17, 2014

    Many off them are stolen from N.A. and shipped there

    • SexCpotatoes SexCpotatoes on Jun 17, 2014

      Links? Proof of your assertion? Did the Hummers utilize the GMT-8000 or whatever platform ignition cylinder locks that did not lock the steering and allowed other trucks to push them to another location where they could be easily stripped of parts or lo-jack/gps disabled and spirited out of the country?

  • Formula m Formula m on Jun 18, 2014

    http://www.sutherlandinsurance.com/latest-news-item.aspx?id=aa5e9551-7586-4049-8355-cdc2330a2c06 I worked at a GM dealer in Ottawa, Ont. Many sales came from customers that had their GM full-size SUV stolen from Ottawa or Montreal airports. Such a low amount ever recovered because they can be put into shipping containers at the docks in Montreal in less than 2hrs from when it's stolen. Many cities seem to be the same.

    • Formula m Formula m on Jun 18, 2014

      IBC data shows that in 2006, 87.5% of all stolen cars in Alberta were later found. The following year that figure had dropped to 75.5%. In Quebec, where organized car-theft rings are most sophisticated, the recovery rate was a paltry 33.6% in 2007.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
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