Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Critics slam McDonald's Hummer toys

Thursday, August 10, 2006
Critics slam McDonald's Hummer toys
Chain calls kids' meal prizes a serving of fun; environmentalists say it taints firm's green gains.
Melanie Warner / New York Times

When General Motors introduced the 3-ton, 11-miles-to-the-gallon Hummer H2 four years ago, it redefined American extravagance. But with gas hovering at $3 a gallon and threatening to go higher, sales of Hummers are declining as Americans become increasingly conscious of gas mileage.

McDonald's, however, appears not to have gotten the message. This week, the restaurant chain started putting toy Hummers in children's Happy Meal boxes, calling it the "Hummer of a Summer" promotion. Television and radio ads, which started running this week, feature a family riding in a Hummer on the way to McDonald's.

With enough visits to McDonald's, kids will be able to collect eight different Hummers in a variety of colors, including two versions of the H1, the original and most monstrous member of the Hummer family, which General Motors stopped making in June.

The promotion runs until the end of August and is aimed at young boys. Girls can choose to get Polly Pocket fashion dolls in their Happy Meals instead.

Environmental groups are appalled with the promotion. Brendan Bell, a clean energy analyst at the Sierra Club, says Hummers in Happy Meals are about as responsible as "dipping a Big Mac in the fry oil and serving it to your kids."

McDonald's is trying to make Hummers look cool, Bell said, but the vehicles are anything but.

"The technology is passe," he said. "For the H1 and H2, they're running it off an engine that hasn't been fundamentally redesigned since 1950s. What the next generation needs is better technology in our vehicles so that we can cut our dependence on oil and curb global warming."

In a written statement, Bill Lamar, McDonald's chief marketing officer, said the promotion was intended to bring "the fun and excitement of Hummer vehicles" to "McDonald's youngest guests." The company did not make anyone available for an interview.

General Motors says the H2 and H3 benefit from a "host of advanced technologies" and that the H2's Vortec "is one of the most efficient engines in production today."

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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