Amidst all the recent bailout talk, one question being asked is what role GM's Opel division will serve in a new-and-hopefully-improved General Motors. More succinctly, will Vauxhall and Saturn soldier on unchanged or will they simply fade into automotive landscape? Automotive News seems to think the question of Opel and how it relates to Vauxhall and Saturn is so important that it's worth devoting three separate editorials to the issue, with varying levels of clarity.
Richard Truett maintains that shuttering Saturn would be a "monumental mistake that would alienate many of the most loyal buyers GM has," but thinks that "Saturn fans would be cool with a transition to Opel." We think that the cars might be well-received by Saturn buyers, but that the prices need to be more budget-minded and that the overall focus of the brand needs a thorough work-over. Some Autobloggers believe that shutting down Saturn altogether would be a mistake, while some are in favor of doing away with the brand as soon as possible. Regardless of where on that fence our staffers sit, we all expressed doubt that changing the name to Opel in the U.S. would serve any constructive purpose. Clearly, if it is going to keep Saturn, GM needs to show more support for the brand, as evidenced by the Malibu/Aura situation.
So what about killing off Vauxhall, which is essentially a UK-only rebadge of Opel? Well, here we see some dissent as well. Wim Oude Weernink says that the nameplate is superfluous and thinks GM should be reduced to just Cadillac, Opel and Chevrolet worldwide. That would leave GM with premium, near-premium, and mainstream lineups, placing it in line with other successful automakers like Toyota and Ford.
Colleague Mark Appleton, on the other hand, thinks it would be stupid to kill off Vauxhall. He argues that the General should keep the storied British marque, pointing out that there is no competition between Vauxhall and Opel and that the existing line-up would be very costly to replace with a brand that has never been successful in the UK. It's much like the Saturn/Opel equation except Saturn isn't as old, by a long shot.
This author thinks that Saturn could survive and possibly thrive as a rebadged Opel line, but recent history proves otherwise. The success of Vauxhall shows that the formula can work in other markets and now that smaller, more fuel-efficient Euro cars are gaining a foothold in the States, Saturn would be an ideal brand to market Opel's wares to American buyers who want to feel like they are ahead of the curve. And the same philosophy could be applied to Ford, with Mercury getting an infusion of the Blue Oval's Euro models.
It's expensive to shut down dealerships and to change brands, and the added cost of marketing a new or unfamiliar marque is considerably more expensive than manufacturing extra badges. So keeping Vauxhall and Saturn but streamlining the offerings and manufacturing some of the cars here could help bring jobs to America and stabilize prices when the dollar and euro (or pound) are going in opposite directions. Of course there are still some who think Saturn should just die already, but Alex is always cranky after a Knight Rider liveblog, and we don't know what to make of Paukert just yet. What say you?
[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]