• Feb 18, 2009
Saturn dealers must be feeling pretty unloved by their parent company right about now. Yesterday, General Motors announced as part of its updated restructuring plan that the interstellar brand would not be getting any new products, meaning that it's left to die on the vine when the current range reaches the end of its lifespan. GM has experience with this routine, having euthanized Oldsmobile earlier this decade, spending enormous amounts of money paying off franchised dealerships along the way.
Understandably then, both GM and Saturn dealers have a vested interest in keeping the brand alive. According to GM CEO Rick Wagoner, "[Saturn has] a good distribution network. If someone comes up with an offer, we're very open to that." Dealership owners are reportedly also interested in exploring that option. Dan Januska, owner of Saturn of Scottsdale and member of the Saturn Dealer Council says, "There are not a whole lot of alternatives. Someone is going to see the value of us and I don't know who it will be."

This may or may not be the best time to launch an offensive on the U.S. automotive market, but it would seem that any foreign automakers (China, India...) that are looking for a way to distribute their vehicles in America now have a extremely intriguing new option to consider.

[Source: Wall Street Journal - Sub. Req.]


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  • 53 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Correct me if I'm wrong, but Saturn doesn't have any dedicated US factories, no? Wasn't that the original issue with discussions about selling the brand? Why would a foreign make want to purchase a domestic auto brand in an effort to enter said brand's market, when said brand can't build it's own vehicles?

      Not being a smart-ass, it's an honest question. Or is my assessment of the situation off?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well if you have the cars already made from your home market, but no brand awareness in the US, then this is ideal. We could all be driving Chinese or Indian vehicles with Saturn badges in them in a couple of years!
      • 5 Years Ago
      All the cars I have bought new in my life have been pontiacs or saturns. They need to bring pontiac into the brand and put out a consistent line of cars. What GM forgot and Saturn never figured out is that people pick out their cars when they are 13, 14, and 15 and buy them when they are 30,40 and 50. You can't do that if they change the models every two years always chasing last year's trend. Make a good sports car and a sporty economy car, a luxury sedan/coupe and a work vehicle. Be sure what you are doing and then stick to your guns. Firebird, Sunfire, Aura/GTO.

      If you ever made a decent option for the "work vehicle" part I missed it. Maybe just skip it. Make cars. People identify with the body style. Offer gas, alchohol, hybrid whatever all in the same body styles. Then go after the kids. All ages.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Or so Bush said...
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM should be cutting brands. the first brands that should be completely shuttered and not sold are Hummer and SAAB, hopefully they are closed by 2011. Saturn then should follow in 2012 with a complete closure.

      The reason why Buick-Pontiac-GMC should stay is because they act as one brand, under one dealership roof, with shared manufacturing and could actually be successful going forward. in the yr. 2000 each had substaintially higher market shares but have deviated from their core branding and message.

      It will not cost GM a lot of money to close Hummer/SAAB/Saturn because their dealership footprint is extremely small. combined they have under 1,000 dealerships which minimizes lawsuits and allows dealers to be successfully bought out by the company. when Oldsmobile was shuttered in 2000 the brand has 2,800 dealers which made it significantly harder and more expensive to close.

      Using that logic it should only cost GM $700 million dollars to completely unwind those three brands, which is a mire pittance when compared to the $ 30 billion dollar infusion it is about to recieve from the U.S. government to sustain their operations.

      To sell Saab/Hummer/Saturn would be a big mistake, it would strengthen their competitors and not help to alleviate the over-branded U.S. market. competitiors will shift production and produce lower cost vehicles and use U.S. dealerships for their entry to the U.S market, this will overall be a major negative to GM in the long term.

      It is costing GM more to keep those three brands than it would cost to buy out dealers and shutter those non-essential brands that combined only account for 1.8% of the U.S. market as of 2008, while the Nissan brand alone accounts for 6 times more market share, the writting seems to be on the wall for this one.

      Buick right now seems in trouble, as well as pontiac but both brands can be saved by being relegated to importing successful international automobiles. Buick becomes an importer for some high end Opel cars to the U.S., while Pontiac could import most of the Holden Austrailia line under their Pontiac banner to the U.S. this would allow the entire Pontiac/Buick/GMC line to exist with little to no investment or upkeep from GM, which would allow GM to be able to focus on turning around/creating new products for both Cadillac and Chevrolet.

      Internationall there are opportunities for consolidation as well. GM should absolutely retain Opel as they are integral to the company and will provide products and logistics for other divisions, my main recomendation would be to eliminate Vauxhall and rebrand it as opel, having that one brand for just Britain is a drain on the company and is an unneccesary cost that can be avoided. this will be a benefit to strengthen the Opel brand as well as cutting costs.

      The same logic is used for allowing Holden Austrailia to take over the Daewoo division rebranding the entire division as Holden Worldwide, significantly slimming down their overlap and investment costs and capitalizing on the Holden name and logo.

      these steps will get GM on the right track to completely reinvigorate their business and return to their core values while removing brands that severely drain cash from the company as well as massive overlap. by taking the above mentioned steps they will be better positioned to grow their market share in the U.S. and internationally and will be better able to understand and respond to market shifts and changes in consumer tastes. GOOD LUCK GM!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Yesterday, General Motors announced as part of its updated restructuring plan that the interstellar brand would not be getting any new products,..."

      That would be INTERPLANETARY brand, not intersellar.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh and product that too
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think Saturn should hook up with Suzuki. In my area, at least, Suzuki has a terrible dealer network. It seems like every few years one of the Suzuki dealers closes down, and then another one pops up, usually in some old leftover building. Plus Suzuki has small, practical cars (like the SX4) that would fit into the Saturn brand. And they already have alliances with GM, such as the XL7. It makes perfect sense to me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey, good thinking and funny you mention it! When I sold Sautrns years ago in El Paso, a new idead for a sister store, adjacent to Saturn, was Suzuki! Everyone at the time agreed that this was a perfect fit back then (mid-90's) and that each brand (both newer to the market) would help each other sell. Nice idea, but Saturn still outsold Suzuki way more. With the vehicle line up of both brands as it is today and the current GM situation, my bet would be Suzuki to outsell Sautrn.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Saturn.

      Rethink your franchise agreements.

      Rethink why you got into selling new cars.

      Rethink that McDonalds franchise you could have sunk a million dollars into starting instead of going with GM.

      • 5 Years Ago
      So, if I bought an Astra (something I've been seriously considering recently), and then Saturn dealers get bought by someone else and Saturn is no longer part of GM, other GM dealers (local Chevy dealers for instance) would still be obligated to honor the 5 year/100000 mile warranty on my new car, right? And they should be the link to getting parts for it down the road too, right?

        • 5 Years Ago
        That's true except for with the Astra, there aren't other GM cars that are sold here that are closely related. Yeah, it's got some platform components in common with the Cobalt, but I would guess that some of the electronics are quite different, and there aren't any other vehicles here that have the 1.8 liter iron block 4, so parts availability down the road worries me a little bit.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The warranty for a GM vehicle can be serviced by any GM dealer. Actually, many car repair places not affiliated with any manufacturer will also do warranty work for you as well.

        My parents owned a '95 Oldsmobile until recently and there was absolutely no issues getting it serviced at our local Chevy dealer. It also shared virtually no parts with any Chevy car.

        Since all Saturns also have relatives in other GM vehicles, finding parts will not really be an issue either. It's not as though they really have any parts specific only to Saturn besides their badges.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Astra is built on the Delta platform, same as the Cobalt and HHR. Other than the engine, I'm sure there are a lot of similarities in parts and such. That's one of the benfits of building multiple cars off the same platform. The bodies are quite different, but I'm sure a lot of other stuff would be interchangable.

        Plus, aftermarket companies make replacement parts for tons of vehicles, the parts don't have to come directly from the manufacturer(though they could since the Astra is very popular overseas). Not to mention that many of the parts are built by suppliers in the first place and not by Saturn or even GM. Overall, I think you are honestly far more worried about it than you should be.

        Bringing it back to my parent's Olds. It was an Aurora. The engine in the Aurora is also an orphan within GM, it's 4.0L V8 was only ever used in the Aurora(unless you count the Shelby Series I). Despite being a fairly uncommon engine, they did not have any problems having the car serviced at a Chevy dealer or any other garage my parents took it to.

        There were 136K first-gen Auroras produced(which all had the V8) and 69K 2nd-gen Auroras produced(which also offered a V6), so considering the millions of cars GM sells each year, the 4.0L V8 in the Aurora is a relatively low-volume engine. On the other hand, despite not selling many copies here, the Astra has sold far more than 200K copies in its lifetime worldwide. I wouldn't worry about parts availability.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You're not the first person to mention this, but it still dumbfounds me to an extent.

      Saturn is already made up of all Opels with the exception of the Outlook.

      So, why then would changing the name to Opel suddenly rejuvenate their sales? You do also recommend bringing over a few other Opel models(which I agree with), but why can't those also be called Saturns just like the Astra, Vue, Sky, and Aura are now.

      Seems to me that continuing the Saturn name(but doing the other things you mention) would be much more cost-effective than going through the hassle and cost of closing down Saturn only to resell the same cars as Opels. I just fail to see the benefit there. If you're going to keep those same cars, keep Saturn as well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Disregard, supposed to be a reply
      • 5 Years Ago
      This would only work if GM sold the brand, otherwise GM would screw the dealers at every turn.

      Re: AZZO45b's comment. The number and the locations of Chrysler's dealerships is actually a disadvantage to an incoming manufacturer. Too many dealers, often too close together. The ratio of Saturn dealers to market size is much closer to what Toyota's and Honda's.

      Plus the buying experience at Saturn dealers has a better reputation than Chrysler's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I bet, if all Staturn dealers chipped in and started making their own vehicles, they would make sure that they make something that actually leaves showrooms with happy and numerous buyers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Pedal cars, then? You haven't quite got a handle on this auto industry lark, have you?
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