By on June 16, 2014

Hummer 2One 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.

Hummer 5Big.

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

Hummer H2b

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.

Hummer H2 on saleThis 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.

Hummer H2 yellowA 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 H2 SUTHummer 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.

Hummer H3

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 H3 Lexus LXHummer 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 H3 Mercedes G ClassHummer and Mercedes G-Class

Hummer H2d

Hummer H2c

Ford ExpeditionFord Expedition 

Chevrolet TahoeChevrolet Tahoe

Dodge DurangoDodge Durango

Ford F-SeriesFord F-Series

Infiniti FX BMW X6Infiniti FX

Jeep WranglerJeep Wrangler

Infiniti QX56Infiniti QX56 in Ulaanbaatar

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17 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans Siberian Series Part 14: The Hummers of Ulaanbaatar...”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I thoroughly enjoyed your series. It is National Geographic meets Car and Driver.

    One question: how expensive is gas or diesel in Mongolia?

    • 0 avatar

      this is one of the best comments I ever got on this series, so thank you! Very prestigious comparisons…
      Gas and diesel are roughly at the same price in Mongolia and from what I could see the price varied between US$ 0.90 and US$1.20 per litre, and sometimes more in remote areas. Note ’95’ is only sold in Ulaanbaatar and elsewhere it’s mainly ’76’as it suits Russian vehicles.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Further observing your pictures, it appears that UB is a fairly modern city, with decent roads…is my perception correct?

  • avatar

    Obviously the QX looks most Asian-y out of any of these, so I would think it to be more popular than other Asian options. The Expedition looks at home there, much more than the Hummer.

  • avatar

    You mentioned this article some time ago, thought it had been dropped. Glad to see it still got put out :).

    On a side note; I want that black grille on that H2, hard as hell to find one of those.

    Little disappointed though at how many of our h-series trucks get sent out of the US, on one side it has kept prices high, but I fear many will be sent to countries that destroy vehicles when they are considered totaled, which isn’t hard if parts are hard to find in an area.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Fantastic car market in Mongolia.

    The vehicle that I find most interesting was the Russian 4×4 Kombi thing.

    The country seems quite open to market forces which is great. If you like it, buy it.

  • avatar

    Just confirming it again: Your series has become my #1 reason to go back to TTAC. Very cool, very interesting, well-photographed and written without ornamentation, straight to the point. It’s perfect. Thanks for the link to SCP, too. You got to know Mongolian society and oolitics quite a bit, I understand?

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for this Sjalabais! Glad you are enjoying the series. There is much more to come, so stay tuned!
      And yes it was a fascinating journey that uncovered many elements of Mongolian society I had no prior idea about.

  • avatar

    How cool is that?

    Right now there is a group of people from my church in UB. One of them sent me a picture yesterday of a heavily modded red Wrangler JK 2 door, not unlike mine…. except mine isn’t as modded, still pretty cool.

  • avatar

    As always, a good article. Certainly surprised about the hummers. Not that they have a lot of off road vehicles but just to see hummers again. Watching for the next one.

  • avatar
    formula m

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

    • 0 avatar

      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?

  • avatar
    formula m

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      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.

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