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The reinvigorated Saturn is one of the best things GM's got going right now. May 2007 sales were up 68% over the previous year (what a difference appealing product makes), and overall, it's up 30% YTD versus 2006.

Now comes word from Bloomberg News that starting tomorrow, June 11, all but 5 of the 430 Saturn dealers in the US will offer prospective Aura shoppers comparison test drives in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. According to Saturn's Lisa Hutchinson, its participating dealers are buying the imports that'll be used for the program, which runs through July 31. GM's showing a lot of confidence in its new products -- remember, Chevy dealers will have Camrys on the floor to compare to the new Malibu when it arrives, too. This is all good, and it could probably be even better. Follow the jump for a bit of editorializing.

[Source: Bloomberg News]

Showing the competition to customers who've already found their way into the Saturn showroom is one thing. Getting even more people aware of the good new stuff in the Saturn showroom to begin with is another story. Saturn sales are decidedly up -- this is an inarguable fact -- but one has to wonder if it could (and should) be an even better story for GM. Just last night, after dinner with some friends, I pointed out an Aura XR leaving the restaurant to one of our companions as it drove by. We were actually chatting about cars at the time, and pleasantly surprised, he gave the "that's a Saturn?" reaction seen in the TV spots the automaker trotted out last year. That kind of response from the public is all well and good at new-model launch, but now, several months into sales, it struck me as being a bit of a problem. Similarly, last week, a friend who was over for a visit asked of the Aura Green Line in my garage, "Why don't I see more about this car?" Why, indeed.

Yes, it's just two people and its purely anecdotal -- I know this. But it makes me think that there are still plenty of people out there who simply aren't aware of the Aura and can't identify it when they do see it -- even if they like it. And make no mistake: both of the friends I refer to above would have no trouble identifying an Accord or Camry. The overall Saturn story right now is a a very good thing, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's even greater upside to be had. It boils down to awareness. GM is right to be proud of its new products and smart to serve up the competition in a side-by-side test for customers -- it communicates confidence, and that's compelling. The trick is to go out and get even more shoppers into stores to take that test in the first place. It seems like there's still untapped potential in that regard.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Good article, and I agreed a lot with the editorial that GM needs to get the good word out moreso with this car. Great cars should never be great secrets--get the word out. This comparison is a great idea in my opinion. Head-on challenges are a demonstration of confidence, and I applaud GM for taking an agressive move like this. GM needs to keep chipping away at the competition with great product and innovative ideas.

      Message to Greg T. Burgos, the smug Toyota dealer who posted earlier: That post was very juvenile and extremely un-becoming of someone who sells vehicles and deals with people for a living. Personally, I have nothing against Toyotas as I think the Toyota Company has done a lot of things right over the years. But, after reading a post such as your's, that sours my opinion greatly of the Toyota brand.

      I would urge readers here to buy a Saturn or any other brand for that matter, just to spite this guy.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Interesting. You claim you have "nothing" against Toyotas yet you're QUICK to let one guy's comment do the opposite for you. For all we know, he could be some hothead deliberately tainting Toyota's name by pretending what he claims to be.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Im happy for GM, anything to combat the myth that is the Japanese auto industry. The discussion over american cars vs "the other countries" is old, dealerships makes sales and do not want you to leave their showroom, thats priority, so if they can show you the competition and keep you in their showroom, then good for them. I do not hear everyoen else calling progressive names for giving you quotes from other insurance companies.

      If Toyota dealerships had american cars to show their customers people would be saying "shit yea now people can see what crap cars GM/Ford/Crysler make".

      The way american car companies failed in the last 30 years is in trying to out-japanese the japanese, they have finally stopped, thank god.

      IF you want a car that gets great gas mileage sure buy a Japanese car or better a european diesel. If you think that great looks and fun performance are worth 2MPG then buy an american or european car. Until the Japanese stop maying lethargic looking and acting cars then that is the way the playing field will be layed out.
      • 8 Years Ago
      425 new Camrys for Saturn dealers
      +425 new Accords for Saturn dealers
      +at least as many Camrys for Chevy dealers

      I hope Toyota and Honda send a thank you note
        • 8 Years Ago
        I was going to say the same thing.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I read somewhere that the competition's offerings will be rented...

        This comparison, and the new 100,000 mile warranty shows that GM is becoming very confident in their new products. Kudos for that.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Naw, it just means a bunch of cars dumped into the used market in a few months. Makes no difference whatsoever.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Honestly, I've been to GM, DCX (well now CX, haha), Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai/Kia dealerships. I've ONLY ever found an... acceptable level of professionalism, if you will, from the GM dealerships. Toyota came a close second, but their sales people were... how should I say it... jackasses.

      Imagine, if you will, going into an Apple store. You see a bunch of trendy 20-something idiots with iPods and "sweet iBooks, dude". Same idea with our local Toyota dealership. The sales people are all super-trendy (except for this one old guy), because Corollas and Yaris' and Scions are "cool, dewd".

      Not that this is against Toyota as a company, I'm just suggesting that I can see such a scenario often, given the public image of the company.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I don't have fleet numbers for G6 versus Camry, but I'd imagine Toyota would, oh my gosh, be "best in sales" for that segment also! Because they're just so darn good! :)

        I loaned a Cobalt and killed the loan off 2 years early, so I've actually had two new cars in two years, my bad for having the money (and taste in vehicles) to spend at my discretion. Perhaps I shall move to China, where I am told what to spend and where to spend it.

        And again, I prefer the performance and styling of DOMESTIC vehicles over IMPORT (at least in my price range), which is the reasoning behind my purchases. I do this knowing full well of a lesser resale value, and frankly I don't give a fuck.

        Why don't you go and try and tell OTHER people their opinions are somehow "wrong"? Thanks, and have a nice night. :)
        • 8 Years Ago
        Actually, I'm not a Republican, thanks. And I happen to be twenty one. I guess the point I was trying to make, if you held the ability to READ WORDS, is that the staff seemed a little too into themselves to notice customers half the time, and the members of the dealership who's attention I was able to attract weren't all that professional, or intelligent for that matter.

        I'll quote myself, thanks:
        "Not that this is against Toyota as a company, I'm just suggesting that I can see such a scenario often, given the public image of the company."
        • 8 Years Ago
        Wow. More than one person in this comment thread has stated that the worst part of a particular dealership experience was the salesperson's attitude. Besides being completely subjective on a person to person basis, this also is a poor factor for judging a car manufacturer's quality of product. Regardless of whether or not you think the sales staff is "super-trendy", shouldn't your main determinant in making a major purchase like this be the car itself? Personally, I like to ignore salespeople altogether and research both objective facts and equipment, then look at the cars firsthand and see how I like them based on appearance, comfort, drivability, etc. After I have formed my opinions and narrowed my choices, I will use the salesperson for the only thing they are good for: price haggling and paperwork. I really couldn't care less if the kid helping fill out my forms is a "20-something idiot" or not. Perhaps you need a little extra "special help" in forming your own opinions, though? Oops, don't want to make this too long, or you'll miss the start of "The O'Reilly Factor"!
        • 8 Years Ago
        corollas = trendy? you're an idiot.

        and apparently you're the one who loans a new car every four years...but you're only 21. why dont you recalculate just how many times you've gone through that whole process.

        and this wonderful tidbit...

        "No no no, what I said was the only difference between my car and a comparable Camry was keyless (keyfob) start and FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS. :)"

        yeah, save some money now, but i'll love to see how much you get for your trade in when the time comes. with all those fleet cars flooding the market...good luck.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I won't buy a Toyota for a few reasons. When I was looking to get my first car I was going to get a Toyota Corolla, but I wanted it a certain way, (LE with leather, side airbags, and alloy wheels), and not one Corolla in the whole country was like that. I would have to special order it if I wanted it that way. Instead of helping us, everyone at the Toyota dealership tried to convince me to buy one they had on the lot. After getting tired of their crap, I by chance happened to go next door to a Volvo dealership, and bought a S40, which was only a few thousand more after I added all the options onto the Corolla. The other reason is one time my dad was going to buy a ES from Lexus, and the salesmen were less than interested in helping him. He went to the Infiniti dealer across the street and they let him take a I30 home for a few days to try out, and he liked it enough that he bought it, drove it back to the Lexus dealership. He told the salesman he was a prick and because of it he just lost a sale. Toyota could care less about their customers, and for that reason I refuse to give them my business.
      • 8 Years Ago
      So when do they bring in Fits and Yarises to sell the Chevy Aveo, or Siennas and Odysseys to sell the Uplander (if they even make that contraption anymore), or CR-Vs and Rav4s to sell the Equinox.

      Yeah, that's what I thought.

      I do like that many cities now have automalls, where all the dealers are side-by-side and practically share a parking lot. When I bought my last car, I was able to test cars back-to-back on the exact same test loop, which I drove in my old car prior to arriving to use as a baseline.

        • 8 Years Ago
        Nobody's suggesting that the Yaris isn't the best car in it's segment.

        With that being said, I'm 6'4, and so I have a problem fitting into even a Corolla. Ironically, the ugly-as-the-devil's-face Cobalt Sedan fits me just fine.

        I'd take comfort over an extra 5mpg any day, thanks.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Which really brings up an important point... when all is said and done, the final decision is often a practical matter, and debating which car is "better" assumes a theoretical average driver.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Im going to say three things... First, I don't have investments in Toyota or GM.

      Secound, its going to be a great time to be in the market for a midsize car.

      And the third thing is, if you have anything to say otherwise, be honest about your investments. Because otherwise, you going to come out sounding like your full of hot air.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I don't understand these die-hard import guys. I was raised on Chevrolets and domestics in general for that matter, yet I have no problem acknowledging the pros of the imports, and not just the cons. Open you mind for a change and get with the times. Imports are no longer unarguably the best choice. You can't deny their solid reputations, but are the foreign automakers reputations really enough to keep you from believing the facts? You are so hell bent on believing the Camry or Accord is the best car for the money that you refuse to acknowledge anything else. You are like a bunch of Jeremy Clarkson's on crack. Although JC will point out the strong points of most American cars, he will always make sure to let you know that an American car will never be as good as a European car. You, on the other hand, will tell me a Corvette is slow and lacks technology, merely because on the hood of the Chevrolet there are two flags, and inside one of them is a bowtie. If someone offered me the keys to either a brand new Camry or a brand new Malibu, I would take the Camry in a heartbeat(and remember, I'm a die-hard Chevy guy). As of now, the Camry is superior to the Malibu, but when the '08 comes out it will be a different story, and that is the difference between me and you. I can look at the facts and decide on my own which one I would rather have, going on more than just ignorance and pride.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "I was raised on Chevrolets and domestics .."

        Then your not old enough. American cars are not on the bottom of the scale because people are brainwashed into buying imports. American cars deserve their position and so do the Japanese cars. Before Toyota, people had to buy products that didn't fit together properly. No point complaining because the American car makers more or less told the consumer to stick it. Now those same people are begging the consumer to come back. When it's the import that the Americans have to be as good as, then they had failed beforehand.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "If someone offered me the keys to either a brand new Camry or a brand new Malibu, I would take the Camry in a heartbeat(and remember, I'm a die-hard Chevy guy)."

        Well I'm a die-hard Ford guy, and I'd take the Malibu in a heartbeat.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Barney, I have credit where credit was deserved for the import industry saying "nobody can deny their reputations" and Jon, I understand where your coming from, but it's the patriotic choice, not the smart one. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not how I am.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Know what is interesting?

      Saturn still has not shown a return on investment after all these years, all the excitement on increased sales (while a positive) still does not come close to paying for the Saturn division and the dollars that could be used in the other divisions. Compare this everybody seems to be down on Pontiac--

      YTD 103,935
      May 26,905

      YTD 141,742
      May 36,325

      Saturn is not Saturn, it's Opel and Saturn is just a division, not the standalone it once was. Saturn will not save GM and it won't ever be a major player. Time to kill it and spend the funds where they are needed.

      • 8 Years Ago
      sheth...you contradict yourself (obviously, to your benefit).

      you say that "Edmunds.com had data showing that most of the new Saturns are heavily cross shopped with Asian imports".

      Later on, however, you say "the average import buyer is totally ignorant about current domestic offerings in terms of pricing, performance and build quality".

      So, what do you call those buyers who look at both domestic vehicles and foreign cars?

      and your quick dismissal of "fair" comparisons is, well, unfair. it might be difficult to have "identically equipped" vehicles, but as matt says earlier in this thread, the only difference between his vehicle (a g6) and an available camry is a keyless start function. so why not look for a similarly equipped camry when it is obviously available?

      if domestic vehicles can measure up to the standards of imports (which i believe they can), why not at least provide enough insurance so the potential buyers will be sure they are getting the same potential vehicle as a toyota dealership?
        • 8 Years Ago
        No no no, what I said was the only difference between my car and a comparable Camry was keyless (keyfob) start and FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS. :)
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think showing competing cars is a good idea so long as the comparison is fair.

      When I was car-shopping almost 4 years ago, the Toyota dealer I visited had a Honda Accord on the showroom floor. But it was dirty, the seat felt too low, and it didn't appear to be as impressive as the Camry standing next to it.

      The Toyota dealer wasn't arrogant and I was offered a test drive in a Camry LE which left me agreeing that the Camry was a good car, but too soft-riding and consummately bland. There was just no joy in that thing.

      A few minutes later I went to a nearby Honda dealer and the Accord I sat in and subsequently drove was somehow much nicer than what was supposed to be the same car shown at the Toyota dealer.

      The Accord at the Honda dealer was FAR superior in my view and that's what I bought (but a more upscale Accord EX-L from a different dealer a few weeks later).

      In any case, GM is currently the underdog and must show confidence in its products by comparing them honestly with the more popular brands.

      Saturn deserves credit for this--the Aura appears to be a fine car that should test out well against its competition. It certainly looks good!
      • 8 Years Ago
      This makes no sense. People who step foot in a Saturn dealership in the first place already have some inclination towards buying a Saturn. There are not many people like that to begin with, and getting people into the showrooms is the biggest hurdle that GM has... Then, once they get there, do you really want to show them the competition?

      What if they like it better? What if they had never thought about a Camry or Accord in the first place? People are not stupid, they will see this as desperation and gimmicky.. like someone said before.. where are the Odysseys and Fits for comparison?
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