By on March 21, 2008

saturnstacksigblk.jpgTTAC commentator (and now unintentional blogger) Lichtronamo dropped us an interesting email, which we reprint for your dining and dancing pleasure: "I was reading a Saturn brand Special Advertising Section in the April 2008 Automobile magazine (starting on page 40 and ending at page 53). On the last page, I caught this little nugget of info re: the Saturn brand: "Saturn was named for the rocket, not the planet". This raises at least two questions: 1. Wasn't Oldsmobile the "rocket" brand when Saturn was first launched (both the real rocket and the car brand, I guess)? 2. If Saturn was named after the rocket and not the planet– as suggested by the ad– then why is the Saturn logo a stylized image of the planet? Rethink that! [Note: if you come across a TTAC worthy item– in the media or real life– email, including your user name.] 

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25 Comments on “Saturn Brand is Confused About its Origins...”

  • avatar

    This sort of self-image confusion at GM is confusing in what way?

    Oh wait! MBob says that the brands are fixed.

    Sorry, I forgot.


  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Perhaps they should have renamed Saturn, Oldsmobile?
    Opel maybe? Or why not Vauxhall?

    Honestly, every single Saturn should just be a Buick.

  • avatar

    Honestly, every single Saturn should just be a Buick.

    Buick already has a rebrand of the Outlook, and a rebrand of the Aura (Epsilon Lacrosse) isn’t far away.

    I can’t really see how the Astra fits into whatever the hell Buick’s brand image is supposed to be (pretty vehicles?).

  • avatar

    Maybe they picked the name based on the rocket and then picked the planet because it made a better logo. This site says that the name was inspired by the Saturn rockets that carried American astronauts to the moon during the space race. They hoped Saturn would beat the Japanese at the small-car race.

    Also, it sounds like it started off as a code name and then stuck. I’m guessing they changed it to the planet so they didn’t offend Oldsmobile. (Let’s ignore the fact that Saturn has effectively replaced Oldsmobile in GM’s lineup.)

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I’d be so much happier if they renamed Saturn to Opel. Retroactively. All the original Saturns would be turned into Kadetts. The wagons would be named Oliver.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Axel :

    Okay Nitpick McGee, you got me there. The Astra can be a Pontiac.

  • avatar

    &Brian E- I fully agree. Just name it Opel.

    Of course, that would also require GM not to mess with the tuning, suspension, seats, or size of the vehicles to appeal to Americans, thereby ruining any foreign cachet that they may have. I don’t think that is possible for GM or pretty much any car company.

    Instead of saying, when they hear that people switched brands away cause their asses got too big, well, we do have Chevy and other brands designed for you, they think they should just bump Saturn up in size to keep those people. This is the huge flaw of a stable of brands, you need to transition people from one to the other as their taste changes, not just change the cars to match.

  • avatar

    So where is it written that one car manufacturer can’t have two rocket brands? With all of GM’s makes, nobody would bat an eye at the addition of even more rocket brands than it has now. How about the Vergeltungswaffe? Soyuz? Taepodong? A big slice of the car-buying public demands rocket-branded vehicles. Be creative, GM!

    The great thing is that GM wouldn’t have any development costs to supply the new brands. Just slap some new badges on the trusty Lambda platform and you’re good to go!

  • avatar

    Yes, the logo is a stylized image of the planet. But its also similar to a section of Oldsmobile’s logo in its last years. That Olds logo was surely intended to evoke the spiraling upward flight of a rocket.

    Incidentally, some of you may remember the brouhaha when it was learned GM was putting Chevy engines in Oldsmobiles instead of the Olds’ “Rocket” V8. Even though engineers might argue the Chevy was a better engine, GM lost a lawsuit over the switch and Olds’ image was tarnished. Another instance of brand mismanagement, I’d say.

  • avatar
    Scott Baysinger

    If only the United States of America had the launch capability that was once provided by the Saturn V. But now we are just another declining empire.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Rockets-schmockets! In the end it was a triumph of marketing that GM chose "Saturn" over what you know was their other choice…"Uranus."

  • avatar

    Does anyone else recall that there was some flak from some fundamentalist Christian groups about Saturn being too close to Satan?

  • avatar

    50merc: Yeah, if all the divisions had continued making their own engines, (e.g. gold-painted Rocket V6s and V8s for Olds, blue engines for Pontiac, etc.) the whole badge engineering binge (and rather negligible price differences between platform-mates) would be a lot easier for enthusiasts and average joes alike to swallow.
    Of course, doing so wouldn’t have provided massive short term gains for the shareholders, so they didn’t. But what now, bozos? WHAT NOW?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Born from Rockets


  • avatar

    Lieberman: funny stuff!

    Before we rename Saturn to Opel, what’s the deal with Vauxhall, anyhow?

  • avatar

    If Saturn didn’t come from a planet, then what did Geo come from?

  • avatar

    The logo can also be seen as rocket trajectory paths around a planet, or maybe rocket trails.

    I think in this case, the logo is well designed as it represents both; the planet is the first obvious thing you think of with Saturn, but the imagery can also be seen as a rocket path/trajectory around a planet, paying homage to its origin.

    NASA Logo:

    X-prize Logo:

    Old Space & Missile Systems Center logo:

  • avatar

    flak from some fundamentalist Christian groups about Saturn being too close to Satan

    Boy… these guys must really hate Santa then.

  • avatar

    Brian E,

    Will this new Opel brand be required to send a short, amusing british bloke to rebuild your wagon engine after you leave it in a river?

    Seriously though, GM could use the boost of a new name to get people to pay attention. Opel would be good because we all know that if it european, it must be better. Vauxhall could be used if the hire ups are afraid that the old Opel image mught cause problems. What do they have to lose? I don’t think Saturn loyalists really exist anymore.

  • avatar


    That’s just it, Saturn loyalists would exist if Saturn had done something right instead of failing. I knew a lot of folks “back in the day” who loved their Saturns. Nope, they weren’t car guys (or car ladies), they just liked the afford ability & reliability the cars had. I really don’t know what Saturn did to lose them though.

  • avatar

    I think GM should come out with the Scientology line of autos. Alien souls from another planet, because they sure don’t seem to be in touch with this one at GM.

    Of course what they really need is cars named for the Hindu God Vishnu, destroyer of worlds. Because they need to destroy whatever fantasy world Lutz is living in.

  • avatar

    Better than naming it Uranus

  • avatar

    Who cares?
    Saturn was a run-away success from the moment it was launched. Took them four years to reach 283.000 cars sold.
    One car.

    It probably made the other GM brand/model/dept/golf round robin managers look bad — which is why they commenced destroying what they had. (Couldn’t have helped that they bought Saab at the same time — Saabs could have been perfect Saturns, or the other way around).

    No, can’t have just one kind of car – got to have ourselves a whole range of Saturns. So the GM entry level Saturn car got itself an entry level Saturn …
    They’re numbskulls and you shouldn’t really be surprised that they can’t remember the origin of a car they’ve been completely confused by.

  • avatar

    Saturn – not “Rethink”


  • avatar

    I like the Wikipedia description for the astrological symbol of Saturn the best:

    Matter (cross) taking precedence over mind or human spirit (crescent).

    Oddly appropriate for an automobile, eh?

    Though the astrological symbol itself might have been a bit too cryptic as a logo:

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