General Motors is expanding its popular and controversial Hummer lineup, adding a midsize sport utility vehicle that could go on sale next year, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Hummer spokesman Pete Ternes on Wednesday told AP that dealers learned about the new vehicle in September but refused to say when the next version of the hulking SUV would appear in showrooms or how much it would cost.

AP noted that, last month at the Los Angeles motor show, GM introduced a design concept for a midsize pickup called the Hummer H3T, which features a pickup box with side-access doors and a drop-down rear window - the concept is built on a modified GM midsize truck platform and powered by a 350-horsepower, five-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Ternes reportedly said the new H3 will be similar in size to the H3T concept but will not be a pickup. It will join the H1 and H2 SUVs and the H2 SUT, which has the features of both a large pickup and an SUV. Production of the H2 SUT is scheduled to begin in the spring, AP added.

According to Associated Press, Hummer has become America's new status ride, attracting celebrities and athletes who aren't bothered by its retail price and fuel economy that barely rises above single digits. The H1's price starts at about $US105,000 and the H2 at roughly $50,000 while pricing for the H2 SUT has yet to be announced, the report said.

AP said that GM reported 35,259 Hummer sales in 2003, an 80% increase from the 19,581 sold in 2002, but noted that Hummer also has its critics, such as the Sierra Club, which faults the vehicle for its bulk and poor fuel economy.

CSM Worldwide analyst Mike Wall told AP that, depending on pricing, the H3 could add 70,000 sales a year to the Hummer lineup, but pricing is the key.

If GM decides to sell the H3 for $35,000 or slightly less, the automaker will increase sales but likely create competition for SUVs from its other brands, Wall reportedly said. He predicted an eventual price tag of $35,000 to $40,000, still well below the H2, Associated Press said.