By on June 12, 2007

saturnblimp2.jpgSo Ford runs an ad campaign pitting an all wheel-drive Fusion against a front wheel-drive Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. An invited group of customers scores the Fusion tops in styling, handling, performance and “fun to drive.” Emboldened by Ford’s “dare to compare” strategy, Saturn decides to launch a “Side-by-Side-by-Side Test Drive.” Dealers are instructed to offer customers some seat time in the Aura, Camry and Accord. It’s gutsy! It’s feisty! It’s ridiculous.

First of all, these comparo campaigns are a major mitzvah for Toyota and Honda. As far as public perception is concerned, if Ford and Saturn are working their butts off to prove that their mid-sized sedans are as good as (i.e. better than) the Camry and Accord, then the Camry and Accord must be pretty damn good. These “hey what about us?” ads seal the transplants’ rep as market leaders.

That’s not good. The vast majority of customers are driven by a desire for safety; to buy the product or service that carries the least risk. In their mind, that’s always going to be the market leader. Ask Apple or any other company that’s tried to dethrone the top product in its field: product excellence loses out to massive market share every time.

In fact, the only way to knock a dominant product off its perch is… to knock the dominant product off its perch. In other words, saying your Fusion or Aura is better than a Camry or Accord ain’t gonna cut it— even if they are better. Your only chance of stealing market share from the top dog is to remove the consumers’ feelings of safety. Not to put too fine a point on it, Ford and Saturn have to convince car buyers the Camcord sucks.

Only it doesn’t. Which means this comparo stuff is the marketing equivalent of pissin' in the wind.

Lest we forget, The Big Three used to own the U.S. auto industry. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, Mercedes and BMW came in with better products. So what? The domestic market was Detroit’s to lose. And lose it they did. A few decades of crap products and even worse service literally handed the American car market to the transplants. If GM, Ford and Chrysler didn’t suck in their own right, the transplants would still be nibbling at the margins.

And speaking of automakers that ripped out their consumers’ hearts (and wallets) and stomped on them until their formerly loyal customers RAN to the competition, what are the chances your average consumer is going to trust a Saturn salesman to provide a valid test of an Aura versus a Camry and Accord?

I know, I know: Saturn are the shiny, happy plastic people (well, they used to be plastic). No haggle. Honest as the day is long. But people HATE car dealers; they trust them about as far as they can teleport them (if only).

So, Saturn dude, you’re going to let me drive an identically equipped Aura, Camry and Accord? Uh, no.

According to Saturn’s website, customers can compare an Aura XE with preferred package, a Camry LE and an Accord Special Edition. The list prices are close enough for rock and roll, but just like Ford’s all wheel-drive versus front wheel-drive comparo, we’re looking at an apples vs. pears test: V6 power and optional 17" wheels (Aura) vs. two four-cylinder powerplants with standard 16" wheels (Camry and Accord).

Hmm. Would a customer looking at a frugal four cylinder Camry (21/30 mpg) or Accord (21/31mpg) really cross-shop a four-speed slushbox-equipped V6 Aura (18/28 mpg)? Conversely, would a customer looking for a smooth running V6 really consider a V6 Aura over a six cylinder Camry or Accord just to save a few thousand at the time of purchase (which depreciation would sort out later)? 

Anyway, who can be bothered? It seems self-evident that only the most anal car shopper has the time or inclination to take three test drives in a row– and these are the sort of people who will probably prefer the Camry and Accord for their superior refinement, fit and finish and resale value. 

Even before the Saturn’s side-by-side-by-side goes seriously sideways, Chevy’s making noises about bringing a Camry into their dealerships this fall for a Malibu vs. Camry shootout. Why not the Accord?  It may have something to do with the fact that they’d rather have the new Malibu face the mid-cycle Camry rather than the brand spanking new Accord. 

Detroit would have you believe that these promotions reflect a new, combative spirit. You can almost hear “We’re not gonna take it” echoing off the empty showroom walls. But if you look closely, it’s all just a bit of down market deviousness. TTAC will deploy its test driving team and report back. Watch this space.

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99 Comments on “Saturn Aura vs. Toyota Camry vs. Honda Accord vs. Reality...”

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine who is going to go to the saturn store for 3 test drives. The satisfied Camcord owner isn’t going to bother, they’ll just buy another. A few will come in just to tell the salesperson that they hate American cars. The Saturn buyer will buy the Aura anyway, unless the test drive convinces them that a Camcord is better – oops!

    The typical time wasters will loves it, much to the chagrin of the salesperson. If only there was a $50 gift card to go with it!

    The truly undecided probably could care less about the virtues being compared, and would be happy with a Malibu anyway.

  • avatar

    Resale is going to trump everythng and most people don’t trust initial model years anyway. Not too many people want to buy a car that turns out to have a common mechanical problem that the maker won’t owe up to. Add to that the famous GM toe tag sales that destroy resale value along with fleet sales to move metal and it becomes clear Saturn has it’s work cut out for them.

    Buying an Aura means buying a European import. A large group of Americans won’t give their hard earned money to foreign factories, the Accord and Camry are at least assembled by Joes in this land even if the profits go back to Japan. A fair amount of profit stays here in the form of reinvestment.

    The Aura is a good car and TTAC gave it a positive review. Conversely the Camry and Accord were both yawned here as being dry, boring rides that never break down or rip you off at resale.

    Today saturn screams bdge engineered lifeboat products for a dying corporate entity.

  • avatar

    An Aura is a European import?
    Wow when did they deport Kansas City?

  • avatar

    I don’t think the comparo ads are that bad of an idea. Detroit ceded the market leader rep a long time ago. In fact they’ve been playing the we’re just as good card for some time now too. Now that the products are reasonably good they need to do something to try and prove it. However, luring customers all the way into your dealership only to show them a viable alternative to your product is crazy.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    This argument could also be used to describe why developing Tundra and Titan were Toyota and Nissans worst mistakes ever. Right?

  • avatar

    Excellent editorial. I’ve made this same point before, most recently a few days ago: to win over a car buyer, it’s not enough that your product be excellent. The car buyer must also be dissatisfied with the existing product and/or the company that made it.

    Reliability is just one aspect of this, but the same logic applies. Detroit has thought that if it could match Toyota in reliability, then customers would come flooding back. But matching Toyota isn’t good enough. Toyota also must muck its own products up so much that the gap between Toyotas and domestic cars becomes as wide as it was back in the 1980s, just reversed. And recent recalls notwithstanding, this isn’t likely to happen.

  • avatar

    If domestic truck owners are as satisfied as Accord and Camry owners, and put as little thought into the buying decision, then yes, right.

    Though “worst mistake ever” is putting it a bit strong. They’ll still make money on their trucks. Well, at least Toyota will. Maybe not Nissan. The segment is large enough and the margins high enough for even products with a middling market share to be profitable.

    On the GM comparison plan: I don’t think it’ll have negative effects so much as the effect will be at best mildly positive. Those already considering an Aura for other reasons might have their beliefs confirmed by this tactic.

  • avatar

    How about THIS: Toyota and Honda put Malibus or Saturns in THEIR showrooms and dare people to compare the products!
    I would bet GM would be less than enthralled with that prospect…

  • avatar

    Captain Tungsten: When you're facing massive market share domination, the only sensible option is to "go where they ain't:" create a new product category where you can be first in and dominate. The PT Cruiser is a good example. Toyota did it with the Prius. Chevrolet tried to do it with the SSR (which they abandoned too soon IMHO). Toyota's entry into the pickup truck market isn't a mistake because the market ISN'T completely dominated by a single player; GM and Ford (and latterly Dodge) have big shares. And, as MK points out, the profits are high enough to live off the crumbs from their table. Last but not least, Toyota can afford to have a credible entry in the field even if it isn't a success. They can make the longer term slog, and hope that GM and/or Ford drop the ball. For example, what would happen to Tundra sales if Ford goes Chapter 11? Or GM? Or Dodge?

  • avatar

    I’ve waited a long time for GM to grow a pair and show some aggression towards the midsize market. Try a 4 pot Camcord versus our V6 Aura that can be had for the same price? Bring it on.

    I don’t understand why people have a problem with testing the AWD Fusion against the FWD Camcord when they are in the same segment and price range. Same applies in this case as well. They are not trying to prove that the 4 cyl Fusion or Aura are superior to the Toyota or Honda, everyone already knows they aren’t and probably never will be. What they are trying to prove is that your money can go further than just setting for the typical appliance if ‘fun to drive’ is on your checklist.

  • avatar

    danms6: They are not trying to prove that the 4 cyl Fusion or Aura are superior to the Toyota or Honda, everyone already knows they aren’t and probably never will be. "Everyone" doesn't. And it's precisely this "other people" that these ads are designed to fool– I mean, convince.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Biggest mistake ever isn’t necessarily a big mistake. But they are definitely investing for the long term with those products. It will take a while to pay off investments in all new platform, all new engines, all new plants, etc. A big part of their financial success is leveraging their engineering work to enter those new segments (Scion is the poster child for that strategy) But they made the BIG bet on these vehicles.

    They make huge profits without them, so it’s not like they need them. But I guess if continued market growth is your goal, there is nowhere else to go. Time will tell if it is at the expense of their core business. Deep pockets are good things to have.

    And, IMO, SSR was a great idea poorly executed. Too heavy and too expensive. Did anyone here notice that ASC went Chapter 11 a few weeks back, and in their public statements blamed in part the failure of SSR as a major contributor (early end of production, and expected follow on products were canceled) GM outsourced the engineering of that vehicle to ASC. Not Good.

  • avatar


    GM would LOVE it if Toyota or Honda did the same.

  • avatar

    Speaking of comparisons, one that weighs in more heavily than the others is Consumer Reports’ numerical rank which gets panned for its opaque top-secret formula. Getting a high score appears to be more a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, details really do count. Score may be slightly off as I’m doing this from memory:

    89 Accord EX V6, Altima S V6, Passat V6
    87 Camry XLE V6
    84 Camry Hybrid
    77 Camry LE I4, Fusion SEL V6/Milan V6 FWD
    76 Accord LX I4
    70 Saturn Aura XR 3.6, Mazda6
    ~60 Saturn Aura XE 3.5

    Gotta win that comparison before the sheeple come flocking over. Some GM vehicles have done well but none recently has topped the list.

  • avatar

    from what i learned in Marketing 101. if you are the market leader you don’t need to compare yourself to the 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) place.

    ever heard of the Pepsi challenge? Pepsi is the perennial #2. Coke never needs to compare themselves to Pepsi because they are #1! why even make the comparison?

    like someone said, it would be quite the coup if toyota or honda did a car compare at their dealerships. that would imply they fear GM or Ford’s products enough to justify having competitor cars on their lots.

    anyways it’s hassle enough to get a test drive with the car you WANT to buy. I’m curious as to how many people actually do the compare.

  • avatar

    Everyone’s buying Toyotas and Hondas these days, even GM.

  • avatar

    dwford: The typical time wasters will love it, much to the chagrin of the salesperson. If only there was a $50 gift card to go with it!

    OMG, You know my father-in-law?? He’s a Impala-driving retiree with lots of free time on his hands, and would swing by a Staurn dealership for a free $50 gift card in a freakin’ heartbeat!

    Kudos to RF for his contrarian take on this marketing effort.

    An advertising strategy based on a rival’s products can be risky. But in the case of GM and Ford, Peter DeLorenzo, a former automotive advertising executive, observed recently on his online magazine that “when you have nothing left to lose, why not go for it?”

  • avatar

    The No 1 reason that the Aura will not effective supplant either the Accord or Camry is the lack of a world class 4c. It’s noted in your article but bears repeating simply because the majority of NA buyers have spoken over the past 20 years in moving to 4c vehicles in replacement of V6 or V8 powerplants.

    When growing up in the 50’s and 60’s there were almost none at all ( 4c ). Now the list seems endless and it growing by quantum leap ( Scions, Fit, Prius, etc ).

    By not offering a superior 4c competitor to the typical CamCord buyer Saturn/GM is essentially saying ‘look elsewhere’. The Aura V6 4AT may be the best powertrain ever made ( it’s not ) but simply by being a V6 it’s disqualified in the minds of many shoppers.

  • avatar


    The base ’08 Aura XE will be available with a 4 banger, don’t recall how many speeds with the AT.

  • avatar

    Robert Farago

    When you’re facing massive market share domination, the only sensible option is to “go where they ain’t:” create a new product category where you can be first in and dominate.

    The PT Cruiser is a good example. Toyota did it with the Prius. Chevrolet tried to do it with the SSR (which they abandoned too soon IMHO).

    To GM’s credit they have done this twice very recently.

    The lambda’s IMO trump all the other crossovers simply due to their interior dimensions. Styling is a huge plus as is the fuel economy for such vehicles.

    The 2-Mode hybrids going into heavy vehicles like the Yukon and soon the lambda’s are are potentially GM’s Prius. A stand-alone vehicle for which the others have no answer.

  • avatar

    I stopped by the local Saturn dealership over the weekend to examine the Aura/Camcord display. The Honda and Toyota were both beige, with beige cloth interior and standard wheels with hubcaps. Yawn. The Aura, placed between the two transplants was an attractive dark blue with optional Moroccan leather upholstery and 18″ aluminum 5-spoke wheels. Stacking the deck, ya think?

    The Aura’s biggest weak spot is it’s lack of a four cyl option (I’m not counting the Green Line here). In the nineties, the six-for-the-price-of-a-four may have drawn in a few customers. Today, with the high price of fuel, many or most people who buy in this segment want economy over muscle. A hi-tech four and a five speed automatic are a desirable combination. GM’s pushrod 6 and four speed auto that come with the base model, regardless of how well it drives, will only serve the reinforce the GM=old tech opinions of the transplant customers.

  • avatar

    Um, Robert, haven’t we been saying for years that unless Ford and GM build cars as good as the Accord and Camry, they are doomed?

    So now GM and Ford finally achieve approximate parity (I said APPROXIMATE parity)and we criticize them for publicizing that?

    Maybe I’m missing something, but if I were in the market for a new car today, depending on segment, I would definitely consider the Silverado, Tahoe, Acadia, Aura, Enclave and Corvette. And I expect to consider the ’08 CTS and Malibu. Five years ago, there weren’t any GM vehicles I would consider.

    Seems like progress to me. Let’s remember that Rome, in a day, not built so much.

  • avatar

    kdhspyder, you beat me to the punch

  • avatar

    So now we’re going to pan Saturn for trying to give customers a reason to test drive their car and compare it to the big guns? Uh, at this point, isn’t that about the only hope GM products have of turning their market around – actually getting customers interested in their product?

    No, it’s not an exact apples to apples comparison, unless the apples your comparing is sticker price (and of course the American marque offers more stuff – they HAVE to!). No comparison ever is. You don’t want to take a chance on losing, do you?

    I’d say kudos that GM (and Ford) are finally bringing out cars that CAN compete. Now comes the hard part: Convincing the consumer.

  • avatar

    So, what’s to keep dealers from over inflating tires to create a harsh ride or removing a few dashboard screws to create some squeeks?

    It’s like labrat said, if all they have is parking a couple of blah colored cars next to the bright, beautiful and bold blue Aura, than that isn’t much. I think most customers would see right through that ruse.

  • avatar

    When will American auto makers get it?

    It isn’t always about price.

    I’m looking for a new car, my criteria are:

    1. Reasonably fun to drive without resorting to an Eibach suspension upgrade like my last two cars.

    2. 4-doors

    3. 6 Cylinder with around 3 liters of displacement (last car had a turbo – not bad, but tired of lag)

    4. All Wheel Drive – I live in the northeast – and snow happens.

    Here are the candidates:
    Infiniti G35X (favorite so far)
    Audi A4 (reliability…..)
    VW Passat 4 motion (again reliability….)
    Subaru Legacy 3.0R (not out yet)

    Notice there aren’t any domestics on the list. I looked at the Ford Fusion, and it is a joke compared to the rest of the vehicles in the list. The interior was boring and cheap. It wasn’t all that fun to drive either.

    Granted, the Fusion is cheap compared to the rest of the list, but I’m going to live with this car for the next 6 years. I’ll spend a little more up front to be happy with my selection.

    BMW would have made the list, but they are $10k higher than the G35, I just couldn’t see the value.

    I was disappointed that the big 2.5 have almost nothing for me to look at this go around.


  • avatar

    It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
    – Gore Vidal

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for everyone, but by far and away the most popular Camry and Accord color I see on the road is tan/beige/blah.

    The biggest thing the Aura lacks is popularity and I see no better way of gaining it than this campaign.

  • avatar

    Um, Robert, haven’t we been saying for years that unless Ford and GM build cars as good as the Accord and Camry, they are doomed?

    Maybe that’s what you’ve been saying, SherbornSean, but the impression I’ve received from Mr. Farago’s writing over the years is that “as good as” and “approximate parity” won’t cut it, that anything less than “clearly superior” is insufficient.

    Anyway, that’s the impression I get. If I’m way off-base, I’ve no doubt he’ll say so.

  • avatar

    If I remember correctly Saturn pulled this stunt before when the L series first hit the market. Only that time they were bringing the Saturn and an Accord to your home to do the comparison. I remember the TV ads. What did that do for the L series. It’s probably not a bad car but Saturn failed to convince anybody that it was as good or better than the Honda Accord.

  • avatar

    Re, asking Apple: Here’s the thing, Apple *doesn’t* have the superior product. I own both PCs and Macs, and while they both have their advantages, I don’t think one is necessarily better. (And before you Apple fans jump all over me, my Mac crashes/locks/pukes as often as any other, but my PC *never* crashes. Don’t install crap you don’t need and defrag regularly and XP stays hella happy.)

    Why does Apple do so well? It’s the *perception* of being better, being artsy, being different.

    And perception is *way* more important than reality.

    I see Saturn’s strategy: If they feel the Aura is good enough to put up against a Camry or an Accord, consumers will (presumably) think, it must be pretty good.

    Personally, I think Saturn got the model mix wrong by not making the XE with a 4-cyl. The Aura is not the car I would buy. But it is a fair bit better than most people think it is. The perception is that GM products are *way* worse than Toyota and Honda products, just as the perception is that Apple computers are *way* worse than Windows computers. The *reality* is that neither is true — but the only way to get people to realize that is to compare them side by side and hopefully alter their perception.

    BTW, at a GMC Acadia press launch, GM had a Pilot and an MDX for us motojournos to drive and compare to the Acadia. Know what? The Acadia drove just as well as the Pilot and better than the MDX. That’s the truth. Will people believe it? I expect that many won’t — after all, they are General Motors, they can’t *possibly* build a decent car… perception, once again, trumps reality.

  • avatar

    Er, sorry, the perception is that Windows computers are way worse than Macs, not the other way around.

    Must… have… edit… function…

  • avatar

    The potential customer can easely compare vehicles online, why not continue the online experience by comparing vehicles at the dealer.

    This could be an evolutionary step in retailing.

    Years ago Lexus was urging its dealers to go out and buy a Mercedes or BMW, but especially Mercedes put or keep it on the used car lot to convey the message that a Mercedes was traded for a Lexus.

    Compare online, visit our showroom and compare in person.

  • avatar

    Omitted to mention

    There are numerous dealers that supply alternate transportation for service customers by using the services of rental cars.

    Customer brings in Brand A for service and is given Brand C as a service loaner for the day.

  • avatar

    Two very important things people are forgetting

    A) not everything is about the wider war. This is not the final push of Saturn into Camcordia. This is an attempt to buy some life for their new product. It is a localized action taken in all probability mostly to pick up stragglers that might have gone to Camcordia, and those Camcordians whom fortune has not blessed with reliability and service (there will always be outliers). The goal is to nibble, then with a good start and wide dispersion people can see the quality and reliability (and it had better be be good) of the Aura and become a viable option. Right now they are looking for the sand for the pearl to form around.

    B) While most people aren’t going to run three test drives in a row, it is very powerful perception wise. It is like a contractor providing references, they aren’t checked all that often, and maybe not all that deeply, but that they are provided is a great comfort. Saturn is saying we are ounce per ounce better then them. Of course that they don’t do that for their entire line then looks suspect. (Heh, Ion vs. Fit)

    Oh and in a GM car (really any domestic) the 4 cyl is a poor choice. For most drivers (in any mid size) the 6-cyl hurts mpg less then is commonly stated as driving styles are not as restrained as the EPA would like.

  • avatar

    Ugh, there isn’t that much of a point here.

    Without writing a long refutation, I have to point out that the PC thing is just a bad example. The two have little in common, unless they start segragating traffic by brand.

    Perhaps the comparo’s will work, or maybe they won’t. I suspect that failure will be more about the products. If they did make a better car, the comparo’s would work.

    Here is the catch – It needs to be an obviously better product/value, AND you need to do it over and over for years. Then, you win.

    Lastly, GS650G, I prefer not to send my money to UAW coffers where it is put in the socialist campaign chests. I prefer cars built oversees, and I am not alone.

  • avatar

    I see this backfiring as dedicated Camcord buyers will not visit the Saturn showroom b/c all 3 are there. I see it more as a threat to those Saturn repeat buyers (those who blindly buy the Ion or L300s of past) now can get a real good look side by side to the Camcord and may get them to visit the Honda or Toyota dealer. Never bring the enemy into your showroom – only bring it to the engineers to learn from it.

    Remember Ford dropped using a 4 cylinder in the Taurus in order to have v6 standard on base models as a major selling point over the Camcord (only to have that base v6 and slushbox as 1970’s technology). It got worse gas mileage, reliability, NVH, even though it had more power and torque due to its much larger weight it was not any faster than the Camcord’s scrutinously and often revised 4 cylinders.

    For that slightly rigged in Ford’s favor driving comparison…if they took an honest apples to apples comparison of an Accord FWD v6, Camry FWD v6 and a Fusion/Mazda6 FWD v6 with similiar levels of options – that that would have brought more credit and made them look less like pulling the wool over your eyes. With the AWD model it should have been a Legacy or similar AWD equipped model for a true comparison.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    My personal opinion is that they’re choosing the lesser models of the Accord and Camry because they’re the most comparable in terms of price. If you want a V6 Camcord, it’ll run you a good $5k more than the four-banger. Saturn is saying hey, you can get all this car for the same price as the stripped down models of these other cars. Which is true. But what you *don’t* see them comparing the Aura next to is the Sonata, which is near-as-dammit on everything, including price.

    I’m sure Saturn’s angle will be that the Aura is cheaper than truly comparable honda/toyota models, and they may sell cars based on that. May. As we’ve said many a time, brand reputation tends to be king, and while the Aura may be getting some positive press, it may not be enough.

  • avatar

    Bingo, Robert while I feel that GM has nothing to lose with this campaign, it will not save them even though I find their latest offerings to be competitive.

    Your last article was about the Prius reaching a tipping point. Unfortunately for the domestic car industry, while they are making in my opinion many competitive vehicles now, they have also reached a tipping point.

    More precisely many buyers are no longer even cross shopping domestic cars with imports. Although the campaign seems to address that, it will in fact fail for precisely the reasons you put forth.

    Consider my situation. In 1991 I specifically looked at sevearl cars including domestic brands. I specifically set out to look at the Chevy Lumina, Mazda MX5, Ford Probe, Mitsubishi Galant. I specifically was not going to consider a Honda Accord as it was 3000 dollars more than the cars I was considering but I took a test drive as I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

    The accord was head and shoulder better than everything else and I could not sleep or stop thinking about the Accord after the test drive. I finally said F*** It and paid the 3000 extra dollars for the Accord 2 dr EX coupe. I loved that car.

    In 2000 I specifically looked at an Oldsmobile, Intrigue Buick Regal, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Solara. I actually preferrd the Chrysler 300 I went back to the Honda dealer to drive the 2000 Accord Coupe EX V6, I bought the Honda because it ws almot 10,000 dollars less than the 300. I loved my Accord.

    In 2006 I bought an Xb, I didn’t step foot in a domestic dealership. I left Honda because they didn’t have a small Hatcback. I love my Xb. My last thre cars have satisfied me, they have thrilled me and they have been reliable etc and i have loved them. Why would I switch brands to say a Ford (which I have never owned) or to Chevy simply because they now have a competitive product?

    I really don’t understand why people on different Internet forums assume that simply because GM or Ford have at last truly competitive car in a certain market segment that their former customers will come flocking back. If someone has been happy with their last cars like me with my last Hondas and toyotas then why would they suddenly flock to buy a Saturn?

  • avatar

    “Oh and in a GM car (really any domestic) the 4 cyl is a poor choice.”

    True, of course sushi would be a bad choice at a Waffle House.

  • avatar

    Well, the Aura is a fine car; just hope that the comparo doesn’t result in a few more I4 Camry and Accord sales.

  • avatar

    Where do the fuel economy numbers in the article come from? According to Saturn’s web site, the XE gets 20/30, not 18/28.

  • avatar

    Some advertising is designed to alleviate post purchase dissonance and that may be a prime reason for these comparisons. Satisfied customers are your best advertising, more so than print advertising.

    Also don’t forget the vast majority of consumers know very little about the cars they buy and drive unlike those of us that have somewhat of an obsession with cars.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The domestic automakers’ marketing and sales campaigns are aimed solely at recruiting new buyers notwithstanding customer retention is a universally acknowledged cost effective and profitable strategy.

    The Big Three freely admit they built more than a few stinkers. If warranty interpretation was more generous, granting owners the benefit of the doubt, they might be favorably disposed to buying the same make again.

  • avatar

    18/28 is using the new 2008 EPA numbers, on

  • avatar

    Oh and in a GM car (really any domestic) the 4 cyl is a poor choice. For most drivers (in any mid size) the 6-cyl hurts mpg less then is commonly stated as driving styles are not as restrained as the EPA would like.

    Agreed again but therein lies the crux of the problem. 75+% of all AltCamCordnata’s are world class 4c models. By not providing a superior product in this segment attempting to win over these buyers is hopeless.

    That doesn’t even take into account those buyers ‘stepping up’ from Civics, Corolla’s Sentra’s, Yaris’, Fits, Scions, Jetta’s, etc, etc. These latter buyers often will not even look at a V6. Not always of course. The Sonata V6 is so good and so inexpensive it has to be considered.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The Aura is a good car and TTAC gave it a positive review. Conversely the Camry and Accord were both yawned here as being dry, boring rides that never break down or rip you off at resale.

    Incorrect. The Accord (LX, EX) received a positive review by two reviewers. Its not our fault the Camry’s slipping on the fit/finish, styling and handling department.

  • avatar

    That doesn’t even take into account those buyers ’stepping up’ from Civics, Corolla’s Sentra’s, Yaris’, Fits, Scions, Jetta’s, etc, etc. These latter buyers often will not even look at a V6. Not always of course. The Sonata V6 is so good and so inexpensive it has to be considered.

    I’d guess that most buyers have only a minimal idea what v6 means (and as an enduser it doesn’t really mean much), certainly not enough to be massively for or against it. While on the one hand that pretty much kills the 6 for the price of 4 style advertising, it also means that buyers won’t ignore a well priced v6.

    I don’t know anyone not car inclined who has much idea of v6 more then faster/not as gas efficient. Even that is going to be dispelled by actual numbers. Of course this isn’t the market to be going into with an efficiency deficit as people don’t know how to do math. That however is a different issue and the green line ought to handle that modestly well.

  • avatar

    Hard to say whether this is a good idea or not. I definitely agree that it is conceding that your competitors are widely regarded as being better than you. I’d say GM is at least facing up to reality with this promotion, which can’t be a bad thing. The difficult part is nailing down the demographic to whom this might appeal. You are obviously narrowing it down to the segment of Camry/Accord intenders who have an inkling to compare them with Saturn and to whom test driving them all in one shot is significantly more convenient than going from one dealership to another. Probably a small group, but you have to start somewhere I guess. The only potential downsides I see are a) that the Aura doesn’t come out looking good in the comparo (I don’t know whether it will or will not), or b) the time and money being put into this promotion takes time away from another promotion that they could be doing (whatever that may be). I do think it is a better call than more ‘0% financing’ or ‘$XXXX rebate’ which has been a GM marketing staple for years and which always smacked of desperation to a greater degree than this comparo.

  • avatar

    Also, the AURA is not a European import. The styling yes, but it is built in America.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the problem with the ad campaign. People shop by price and offering an option to look at all three cars in one place (if you don’t have a carmax nearby) isn’t a bad thing. It’s not apples vs. pears it’s $$ vs $$ and that is what matters most if you are buying an appliance, reliability comes 2nd. I may have the most reliable car in the biz but if it is 5k more than my competition and the competition if 95% as good then I won’t be selling any cars.

    It shows you have faith in your product against the primary competition. Whether or not they will be sucessful or not remains to be seen but there is no conspiracy here.

  • avatar

    I would have commented sooner, but I was rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter concerning the idea of Chevrolet comparing the Camry to the Malipoo.

  • avatar

    Does the blimp imply that saturn is full of hot air ?

  • avatar

    All the talk about the comparisons is a bit odd. Its not the same engine size, colour blah blah blah. I guess its like going to the grocery store, you see 2 near identical bags of apples (or pears) priced the same, but one has say 2 extra apples in the bag for free. You might look and ponder on it, but you’d buy the one with the 2 extra free ones wouldn’t you?

    Fair play to GM and Ford they’re showing they have faith in the product, all they have to do is start changing the perception in the world about their product. What if actually it works and people realise that the product is actually good? They’re making progress, leaps and bounds in a lot of cases, lets start appreciating that.

    Also whens the next FoMoCo death watch coming? Land Rover and Jag are definately on the selling block now, that is not good whichever way you look at it….. Theres a lot of worried talented people in the Midlands at the moment.

  • avatar


    The blimp is supposed to remind one of the Hindenburg, as in Saturn or GM will die in a brief but fiery explosion for all to see.

  • avatar

    Sorry GM, but if I’m buying Honda or Toyota, I’m already NOT considering your brands. When I see GM retirees driving Camry’s and CRV’s it makes me wonder what they know. Maybe you should park a Fusion next your cars, Ford already proved they’re the best!

  • avatar

    I would have commented sooner, but I was rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter concerning the idea of Chevrolet comparing the Camry to the Malipoo.

    Unless you know something everyone else doesn’t and have been driving unreleased cars, you really have no reason to talk. Even this gens Malibu isn’t a bad car, though it is no camry beater, but then again Chevy currently is leaning on the Impala for that role.

  • avatar

    Jonathon: Where do the fuel economy numbers in the article come from? According to Saturn’s web site, the XE gets 20/30, not 18/28. From the EPA web site. starlightmica: 18/28 is using the new 2008 EPA numbers, on The mileage cited for all three in the article are the new EPA numbers.  The "old" numbers are: Aura – 20/30 Accord – 24/34 Camry – 24/33

  • avatar

    The Saturn Aura is a rebadged Opel Vectra. Import. Look it up.

  • avatar

    Not so. “Rebadged” cars share their structure, many body panels, practically all parts under the skin and have identical wheelbases (and most other dimensions – think Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego). While the Aura and Vectra look very similar, were both styled by Opel and are both based on the Epsilon platform, the Aura is a separate model. Check the dimensions for each (all in inches):

    Wheelbase: Vectra – 106.3, Aura – 112.3
    Length: Vectra – 181.5, Aura – 190.9
    Width: Vectra – 181.5, Aura – 190.9
    Track: Vectra – 60.5 (f) 60 (r), Aura – 59.9 (f) 60.3 (r)

    And there is no drivetrain sharing between the two at all. Under the skin, the Aura has more in common with the Malibu or G6 than it does the Vectra.

  • avatar

    As commenters above have posted, GM needs to be head-and-shoulders above Honda or Toyota. How is that possible when reliability is the key metric? Make a vehicle with a .1% chance of breaking down vs. a .15% chance? Cars are so reliable today that even zero defects would be hard to discern (by most users).

    The only big things left are sex appeal, goodies/toys, power, smoothness, and fit and finish/material quality. I say show it off in the showroom. If the Aura can match the Toyota and Accord in reliability, and it give more toys, more power, a smooth V6 over an I4, and can do it all for the same or less money (and look pretty), then putting them side by side is the only option left. I know that those 30 second commercials touting “better equipped than camry” mean exactly squat to me.

  • avatar

    SherbornSean: So now GM and Ford finally achieve approximate parity (I said APPROXIMATE parity)and we criticize them for publicizing that?

    I wouldn’t say approximate parity. In ’04, after the demise of my Saturn, I rented an Impala for about six weeks while I looked for a new car. Ended up buying a ’99 Accord. The Impala was a decent car, but the difference in refinement was huge, despite the fact that the Accord was five eyars and nearly 60k miles older than the Impala.

  • avatar

    If they really want to make a Saturn sale comparing them to Toyota and Honda, they need to get a five year old Accord and Camry and compare it to a five year old Aura… oh, wait, that’s right, you’re not going to be able to find one. Ok, get a five year old Saturn that is similarly equipped to the Aisan models and then compare them. Actually, come to think of it, probably not a good idea for Saturn either…

  • avatar

    I think it is a very proactive move by Saturn. My girlfriend test drove the new aura along with its foreign competitors and was very impressed with its great looks and fit/finish vs. the Camry. Saturn is a bright sport for GM right now with its sales up 69% vs. this time last year – making it the fastest growing brand in the entire industry. I really don’t think its a stretch at all – most buyers who test both vehicles will end up driving off with the saturn based on price, fit/finish, and especially looks. The Camry’s front end is hardly what you would ever call handsome, and mostly what you would call uninspired and boring. The Camry will have better resale value, we considered this, but hopefully the steps GM is taking toward selling so much to the car rental companies will help somewhat. Regardless, resale value is really not a big factor for us because we plan to drive our saturn past 100,000 miles.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t say approximate parity. In ‘04, after the demise of my Saturn, I rented an Impala for about six weeks while I looked for a new car. Ended up buying a ‘99 Accord. The Impala was a decent car, but the difference in refinement was huge, despite the fact that the Accord was five eyars and nearly 60k miles older than the Impala. Except the 04 impala you drove had been redesigned in 2000 and the 99 accord you bought had be redesigned in 98. So really it has no relation to the more recent parity that has developed.

  • avatar

    Good luck. Opel reliability in Germany is typically worse then Mercedes and we all know how that one goes. Add the typical GM service in the US and I see plenty of PO’d puppies down the road.

  • avatar

    “I would have commented sooner, but I was rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter concerning the idea of Chevrolet comparing the Camry to the Malipoo”

    Have you even seen the new ‘08 Malibu ? If so, I’m wondering what the logic is for your comment because on looks alone (that would include the interior design and materials)the Malibu wins if it even slightly resembles the car I saw at the auto show.

    On driving satisfaction and enjoyment—-well—-Camry doesn’t have much of standard set—-so I am thinking the Malibu will win there.

    As others have pointed out—good reliability / quality seem to be tablestakes for new models—so tie there…although given recent Toyota quality problems maybe the Aura (like the Fusion 3) can better the Camry

  • avatar

    If nothing else, Saturn is planting a seed with this campaign. It has created a lot of buzz about Saturn (it’s getting a lot of play in this forum), and has planted a seed in the minds of some people that Saturn could be a good alternative to a Camcord, or at least something worth considering.

    Of course some cynical people think it only shows how the Camcord is at the top and Saturn is desperate. I doubt those people would consider a Saturn anyway.

  • avatar

    There is a lot of confusion over the origin of the Aura. As Frank pointed out, it is not an Opel. It is not the same vehicle as the Vectra, and it is not imported from Germany.

    Think of the Aura as an upscale Pontiac G6 styled to look like the Vectra. The 2008 Malibu, on the other hand, will be on a reengineered platform, and represents the next generation for GM.

  • avatar

    RF you have hit the nail on the head – nothing screams corporate inferiority complex like buying into the perception that your competitors product is the market standard. The same goes for Volvo – I recently saw a Volvo S80 advertisement on TV and I swear they mentioned BMW as often as they did their own brand. Talk about a homage to your competitor.

  • avatar

    Autonerd: Did you drive that Acadia against the NEW or OLD MDX? If the Acadia drove better than the MDX that was engineered six years ago, I’m going to yawn and shake my head. If it drove better than the new MDX, which does 70mph on Massachusetts off-ramps without any tire-squeel, I will be impressed. That would be a helluva statement. Do tell.

    Back to the bigger picture: GM/Ford wound up being vulnerable over the past 20/30/40 years because their products were ‘planned obsolescense’ and proved to be inferior in every measurable dimension. CamCord (and its siblings) improved the transportation lives of tens of millions of Americans, and I can not believe that those people would go back to GM/Ford for a product that is “as good as”.

    The truely pathetic/revealing piece is that GM and Toyota are (keep the math easy) selling the same number of units as eachother this year…..and in so doing, Toyota is record-breakingly profitable, and GM is, well…not.

  • avatar

    From the Power Information Network (JD Power)an average of all nameplates in the US

    …………………..May 06………May 07
    New Vehicle Price……26,398………27,158
    Customer Cash Rebate….2,277……….2,121
    Cash Rebate Penetrat….47.9%……….46.8%
    Percent Neg Equity……31.96%………29.57%
    Type of Sale CASH…….26.3%……….25.7%
    Type of Sale FINANCE….54.9%……….54.4%
    Type of Sale LEASE……18.8%……….19.9%

    Saturn has access to figures that are more detailed that these…what they are doing makes good sense, especially if they emphasise leases.

    From a recent McKinsey study on brands, US consumers on a scale of 1 to 10 want the following from a vehicle.

    Pleasure to drive……………10
    Exterior Design……………..8.8
    Interior Design……………..7.8
    Good Value for Money…………6.7

  • avatar

    Hah so the top two criteria for a vehicle are ‘pleasure to drive’ and ‘exterior design’, yet the Camry is the best-selling car? 2 + 2 = 5.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Re: 4 cyl vs 6 cyl: It has always baffled me why the domestic manufacturers can’t seem to get the knack of making a relatively powerful and efficient 4cyl power plant when the importers have been doing it for decades. One of the things that impressed people about import cars back in the 70’s was their ability to do more with less, and to do it more efficiently. That these companies made a virtue of neccessity (since they were operating on slimmer resources in the spare, post-WWII economies of Germany and Japan) was not noticed as much as the fact that they could make a 4 cyl car that had as much “zip” as an American V-8 (especially the smog-choked V-8s of the mid-70s.)

    Back in ’99 when I was shopping for a small truck, I noticed with disgust that the domestic small truck base engines put out somewhere around 120-130hp, which is anemic. Meanwhile, the imports (particularly Toyota) could put out a 4 cyl base engine that had the same power output (150hp) as the domestic’s smaller V-6’s. Of course, back then gas was cheap, so there was no real reason to go with the 4 cyl on anything, but the lesson was obvious: Domestic manufacturers are wedded to the bigger V-6 motors because they can’t (or won’t) try to develop an efficient and powerful 4, something that the imports mastered long ago.

  • avatar

    The McKinsey study is flawed. There is what people say they will do, and then there is what they actually do. Very different things…

    Everyone who says that GM can’t compete with Toyota in quality or reliability probably hasn’t given a recent GM car a fair assessment. It’s very clear which GM vehicles were designed by beancounters (especially in the late 80’s and early 90’s) and which ones were designed by engineers. But if you don’t compare cars back-to-back in person when you go shopping, then there is no way of knowing how much better one vehicle might be on the criteria that matter to you. Come on people, don’t just read your Consumer Reports and take everything they say as gospel! Things change from year to year; last year’s reliability statistics might be completely obsolete as soon as manufacturing or design flaws are corrected, and Toyota’s supposed reliability advantage has largely evaporated. Toyota uses many of the same suppliers as GM, has as many recalls as any other company, builds many of its products in the USA, and engineers come and go at both companies. Moreover, the 2007 Camry is woefully disappointing in too many ways to count. It’s about time that car shoppers open their eyes and admit that there are many good choices in both foreign AND domestic cars. If people are too lazy to shop around, then it’s good that GM offers people the choice to see how their cars really stack up to the competition.

  • avatar

    Martin: American manufacturers believed for a long time that cost efficiency of their factories was more important than the fuel efficiency of their engines. Since gasoline in the USA is inexpensive, they have no reason to change. Now there is a glut of factories tooled to produce V-8 engines, and of course the market for large engines is not growing as fast as small engines as fuel prices start to rise.

    Asian and European manufacturers have always produced small-displacement engines because their home markets have much higher fuel prices. no surprise there. BUT – with the exception of some exotic, high-cost models, you might be interested to see that domestic engines are very competitive in fuel consumption per horsepower. The Yanks aren’t behind anybody in the technology race, we just allow the accountants and Wall Street to decide what makes it to market – which is of course a bigger, more powerful version of the same thing we built last year. Wrong trend, clearly, but management thinks that this is what will impress auto buyers. Let’s hope someday America realizes that more is not better — the right size is best.

  • avatar

    “Domestic manufacturers are wedded to the bigger V-6 motors because they can’t (or won’t) try to develop an efficient and powerful 4, something that the imports mastered long ago.”

    I have to give GM some credit for bringing its 4 cylinder ecotech engine into 1990’s level of horse power output.
    2.4 liter with 164 HP isn’t that bad. In fact it fits right between the Accord’s 2.4 liter 166HP and Toyota Camry’s 155 HP 2.4 liter.

    The thing that I cannot understand is GM’s mentality. They had a chance to build a car to surpass the best Japan had to offer. Instead of coming at this with the mentality of winning, they came at the Aura with the goal of competeting. Saturn is not going to be praised as victors by car buffs or consumers. Saturn’s going to get a pat on the back, a “nice try kid, hope to see you next year.”

    Using the engine lineup in the Aura as an example, if you look at horse power figures, GM gave the Aura engines right in the middle of the Camry and Accord. They are nothing remarkable. I am not saying that GM should have blessed the Aura with a 200 HP 2.4L I4 or a 300 horse power 3.5L V6. But wouldn’t it be something if GM applied its displacement on demand technology to the I4 and V6, and why not?! Toyota claim’s each of its cars in its lineup will have a Synergy Hybrid option. GM is the pioneer and if not the leader in displacement on demand technology. If GM was building sedan’s with MPG estimates 10-20% better than its competitors with comperable performance, I think you would have the making of a world class sedan.

    The short and skinny is that GM didn’t come to win, they came to compete. This marketing ploy proves it.

  • avatar

    Personally, I think Saturn got the model mix wrong by not making the XE with a 4-cyl.

    I agree, except that domestics just don’t (can’t?) build a refined 4 cylinder. Honda can make the Accord EX loaded up with nice options, but also with a world-class four banger. There’s a reason why it’ll cost you a little more than the Aura up front. But don’t worry because you’ll get it back when you sell it, even if it’s years later. Why? You get what you pay for.

  • avatar

    The whole thing reads “We have so little foot traffic in our showroom, we have to bait people with competitor’s car. Please come to the Saturn dealership, you can test drive an accord or a camry. Pleeaaaase?”

    Not to mention if you actually like the Accord or Camry better, Saturn won’t sell it to you. Just go accross the street, buy the Honda there and you save everyone’s time there, after all, you just did a test drive.

    Bravo I say!

  • avatar

    I’m too “scared”
    to take the test drive. Because it won’t end with the test drive. The sales person will endlessly call me at home and attempt to pressure me/guilt trip me, or won’t let me leave after the drive is over and I didn’t buy.

    I imagine a lot of people don’t want to take the chance and endure that, so they never step foot in the dealership as a direct result. I know plenty of people who would like to get a new car. They just don’t want to go to the dealer to get one! The (closed) lots on Sunday are packed. Ghost towns Monday through Saturday. Aggressive, high pressure sales tactics leave a lasting impression. Not to mention unscroupulous methods and hidden fees all designed with getting the maximum dollar amount out of the victim.

    Why can’t I just get the vehicle at invoice? Why go through all these hoops and games? Why take two or three plus hours to finally get what I wanted in the first place? How did these dealerships ever get to be so shady in the first place?

    In a list of places people hate to go, dealerships would be right in there. Definitely not a friendly place. Not a place to hang out at, or browse the selection, or even spend any time at. Could be though..

  • avatar

    The problem the domestics have is that there’s an entire generation of car buyers raised on Hondas, Toyotas and other imports that won’t even consider a domestic brand car. For the past 20+ years Accord and Camry have become the gold standard while the domestics peddled poorly built, outdated iron like the GM A-cars (introduced in 1982 and produced, essentially unchanged until 1996!). Now that GM finally has a fairly competitive car like the Aura they’ve got to do something to get these import brand buyers into the showroom and at least look at it. Will it work? Who knows (anyone remember the early 80’s comparison ads where a Chrysler K-car beat the imports). Last month GM sold 4784 Auras while Honda sold 31,915 Accords and Toyota sold 50,126 Camrys. GM may have more of an uphill battle than they think.

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before, but I still think it’s a good idea.

    So Ford/GM want their Fusion/Aura to be better then Camry/Accord/Civic. Well, the whole reputation thing, just can’t shake it. It’s been almost 40 years in the making for Ford/GM. Toyota/Honda has been a decent car for at least the past 15/20 years.

    So even IF the Aura/Fusion is “just as good” or even better then; no one will believe it. No one will give them their millionth chance.

    You would not believe the amount of people I know(especially females) that for many, many years drove domestic cars strictly because they were cheaper then an import(upfront cost). ’90 something model Beretta or Grandam, etc. Total POS’s. They spent plenty of time at Pep-Boys or where ever getting whatever fixed for the 20’th time. Constant maintenance. Luck of the draw whether the repair costs $400, $600, or $1000 each time.

    They all finally bit the bullet and they all now drive Civic/Accord/Camry. Every last one of them. Was more expensive then a domestic to purchase. Never, ever in the shop though. Starts every time and gets them where they are going.

    So the Fusion is best? How? Not in every way so it’s not. How about separate, dedicated models for it too excel and dominate in? Save the one size fits all for later. Decimate them on all fronts first. We need a stripped down bare bones model that is dead nuts reliable. Design everything in such a way that it will never wear out. It can’t wear out. It’s not in it’s design to wear out.

    Good example(of not being that way): My 94,000 mile 2001 Ford Ranger daily commuter(25 miles each way, 70mph). Something in the door rattles. The console lid rattles. That piece of crap plastic strip at the dash/windshield junction vibrates like hell. The god damned gear shift knob that was apparently glued on from the factory comes off when you shift into 2nd or 3rd if you don’t do it in such a way so that it doesn’t! The AC is crapping out. The motor pings on 87 and 89 octane. I have to run 91 octane in this stocker just so it doesn’t ping like hell(4 banger)! The power steering pump howls like a banshee.

    Rode to lunch with a girl at work. 2000 something Accord. I thought: “it’s so quiet, there’s no rattles!”

    So we’ve got the stripped down(but still good) Fusion so the price annihilates everything. Now give us a hot rod model. Turbo 4 and 6. Give us rear wheel drive V8. Imagine a car that has both front and rear wheel drive models. It can be done! Give us hybrid and diesel models. Where’s the max effort MPG model? Where’s the luxury model in various trims? Stick a Volt like drive-train in it already.

    This way the reviews can not fault anything. Put in a $10,000 interior or whatever the upper limits of the market are so no one can fault the car for having a “cheap interior”. Make it available(even if it’s a rare option). Offer every size wheel that fits.

    Let’s talk about brakes. Rotors and calipers are dirt cheap at OEM prices. Some $450,000 Porsche has 15″ rotors front and back. Why put 9″ discs on front and 5″ drums on back on certain cars? Go big, go all the way. Go all out. The car industry has lost all of it’s gusto and bravado. I think it’s run by a bunch of women.

    Ever seen a woman drive a fork lift? The differences between a male and female driver amuse me endlessly. The female is very easy on the equipment. Has no desire whatsoever to “get on it”. The males are hell bent to “kick it’s ass” and “drive the hell out of it”. Every piece of equipment I drive or operate. I always run it for all it’s worth so it’s giving me all it’s got. Like it owes me or I desire more from it. It’s what I want from it. Women have none of that.

    Here’s one of the funniest and best quotes I’ve ever read:

    “Performance doesn’t sell. Ask any Honda owner!”

    So funny on multiple levels.

    When I win the lotto, I’m going to turn the import market inside out and upside down. I’m going to purchase a Civic and construct a bolt in rear wheel drive conversion for it. I’m also going to construct adapter motor mounts so any motor ever made can be installed. I’d also like to make a converter bell so those front wheel drive motors can still be used in a rear wheel drive setup. I want to post the plans on the net so people can do their own conversions. Maybe some company would pick up the product and sell the components already constructed. It’s already been done for one car:

    A 350 small block in a Camry/Accord/Civic(all RWD)? Any motor, any car. That’s all. Oh yeah.
    “Performance doesn’t sell. Ask any Honda owner!”

  • avatar

    Someone alluded to marketing used by Coke and Pepsi. It’s obvious that while Coke doesn’t ‘acknowledge’ Pepsi in its advertising, that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to what they do publicly.

    I wonder how perception of GM (and it subsequent sales) would be if they simply dropped the Toyota-Honda comparisons and the pandering ‘American Revolution/Re-Think American’ taglinery they feel that they need to dazzle buyers with.

    Instead of marketing the Aura as a ‘Camcord’ fighter, how ’bout just letting everyone know that Saturn makes a pretty good family sedan? There’s something to be said for not following the crowd (or, as has been intelligently noted, that you’re not the exactly leading the way). If the Aura is any good, people will buy it in spite of ‘better’ cars, then compare. It’ll have its own dedicated customers like Coke and Pepsi do. Or more specifically for GM’s case, Diet 7up.


    Landcrusher: I prefer not to send my money to UAW coffers where it is put in the socialist campaign chests.

    Can I assume that you also eat your freedom fries with W Ketchup? Keeping money away from politically opposed unions is about the most convoluted reason not to buy a heritage-domestic branded car I’ve ever heard–well, almost. It still won’t top former Pinto owners expressing resurrections about buying an ’08 model Ford.

  • avatar

    OK so it’s gimmicky and smacks of desperation but I think this makes sense for Saturn. At the moment Saturn just aren’t on the radar for a lot of car buyers. If this gets them on the shopping list and drives traffic at the dealership it will have been worth it. After all they don’t need to “knock the top dog off his perch” they just need to steal a few thousand of his sales per month. Saturn do need to explicitly target the Japanese brands and show they are not afraid of the comparison otherwise any sales growth is just taken from another GM brand.

  • avatar

    Saturn has been a dead brand since it started. A one trick pony with that single model they had forever. Now all they have is re-badged Chevy’s. Nothing special. Nothing special doesn’t sell.

    Would GM make less money if they dropped Saturn? What’s the profit vs operating costs? Does Saturn by itself turn a profit?

    At one point in time they hand built some EV1’s. Bring that back in a Lithium model?

    Who killed the electric car and listened to the people and brought the car back? Make it better then ever?

    Onboard charger that can use standard 110v and 220v plugs that are already in our garages.

    Multiple sized packs for various ranges. Buy as much as you need. Cheap as sin model that does 50 miles per charge. The 100 mile model, various models all the way up to 1,000+. It can all be done with lithium.

    The batteries are proven already.

    Build the new EV1 or go out of business. The market is flooded with lame four bangers.

  • avatar


    No, I don’t eat freedom fries. The people that fall for that sort of thing are no better than than the union hacks. And please! Politically oppressed?

    Nope, they make bad cars, and even worse politics. Two words – Senator Levin. Case closed.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    I went to the launch of the new Civic a couple of years ago. Not only did they have the previous model there for us to drive — they also had competitor’s cars available.

  • avatar

    As Acd pointed out, Toyota sold 50,126 Camrys last month, or more than ten times as many as Saturn sold Auras (4,784). They even sold 24,009 Priuses. So I don’t think they are worried. Heck, I’m sure they are happy about the extra sales (for Saturn dealers to have a Camry to test drive, somebody had to go to the local Toyota dealer and buy one).

    Now, that doesn’t mean that Toyota isn’t paying attention. If the Aura is better than the Camry, you’ll bet Toyota will fix whatever the deficit is. If you watch Toyota closely, whenever a specific problem appears, it gets fixed in the next revision every time. Some of thier pickups had problems meeting a government rollover test-volia, traction and stability control suddenly became standard-problem fixed. People complained the xA and xB didn’t have cruise control-volia, they appear when the vehicles are redesigned-problem fixed. It’s obvious they listen to thier customers and constantly add features when there is a need. And this doesn’t even count the various invisible under-the-hood improvements.

    Another interesting thing is that the Camry is available in a dazzling array of trim levels (5), engines (3), and transmissions (3). Now, of course, you can’t get every combination (you can’t get a manual with a V6 or the highest (XLE) trim level, and you can’t get a V6 on the lowest (CE) trim level), and the hybrid is available only with it’s own trim level and unique transmission, but there’s still a total of 11 combinations of trim level/engine/transmission available. You can get an LE (second lowest trim level) with a V6, and you can get an XLE with a 4 cylinder.

  • avatar

    Sajeev Mehta, the majority of consumers disagree with you. The new Camry’s styling is a HUGE leap over the old generation, and handling is also improved compared to the old generation.

  • avatar

    Even if Saturn succeeds winning some pro camcordima customers, there is no guarantee they will stay with saturn when time comes for its replacement.

    How do I know? I am an ex L-300 owner. Goes to prove that brand loyalty is important more so than winning some people one time.

    After 100k miles, I have had enough of L300 and its troubles. Throwing good money on bad car is still okay if you have reasonable amount of confidence that you wont see another repair for some time. But I didnt get that from Saturn.. new problems crop up as soon as old ones were fixed.

    It was getting expensive and I didnt feel it was worth it. Mind you reliability is a loose term as there are many other parts in a car that can break beside powertrain. So equating engine’s longevity with reliability is foolish.. A lesson learnt in a hard way. Labour is expensive nowadays and it all adds up in a hurry.

    Saturn will do well to make sure that all components work in Aura way after 100k miles and only then the word will spread… This is another reason to keep a well known nameplate rather than coming up with new monikers for cars.

  • avatar

    Johnson, Sajeev is not quoting things he “heard” on the internet about the newest Camry, he actually reviewed the car.

    But of course you are free to disagree with his opinion and agree with the rest of the sheeple out there.

  • avatar

    My 94,000 mile 2001 Ford Ranger daily commuter(25 miles each way, 70mph). Something in the door rattles. The console lid rattles. That piece of crap plastic strip at the dash/windshield junction vibrates like hell.

    I have recently had the displeasure of driving a rental Impala. The car only had 220 miles on it when the keys were handed to me. For the sake of all domestic cars (of which I have very little experience with aside from Corvettes), I hope that this is not the standard. There are rattles all over the place! Both front doors, respectively, creak and crack, and an overwhelming rattle from somewhere in the vicinity of the rear windshield occurs whenever the stereo is turned on. BTW, I am not a fan of heavy base. Remember, my standards for interior comfort are very low. This car has more rattles than my Evos!!.

    Since I really don’t have much contact with what could be termed straight “passenger” cars, I’m not sure if my expectations are simply too high or unrealistic. But oh my, driving the Impala is like sitting in a bowl of jelly that has been placed on a waterbed that is floating in the ocean. Is this normal? Has anyone driven the Impala/Accord/Camry and would be willing to compare handling?

    Another complaint; the cabin lights are so far behind the driver that it requires almost a full extension of my arm to turn them on. I’m short but not that short (5’9″). Then, because the lighs are so far back the front of the cabin recieves almost no light as it is blocked by the front seats. Is this because I was driving the base model? Do the more expensive models have a set of lights mounted where they should be in the first place? (in front of the rear view mirror).

  • avatar

    My point of view is that GM has nothing more to lose at this point. I think it will get them some points in public perception. GM has a herculean task in front of them in terms of turning perception around. We did a piece on this specifically in March; some of you might find it interesting – it’s HERE.

    On a more practical note, I agree with one of the previous comments that mentioned that the Saturn salespeople were going to be hating life when they have to do the whole “three test drives” thing. And then of course, you’ll have the usual showroom flakes, squirrels and nimrods that want more than the three test drives because they forgot to compare something or whatever.

  • avatar

    Well Saturn has gotten what they want, because people are actually talking about the Aura as a result of these stunts. How many people online or offline ever even knew that the “L” cars existed?

    Interesting that both the L and the Aura started life as Opels. Hopefully the second round works out better than the first.

    I highly doubt that Toyota or Honda are going to loose any sales to Saturn. The very idea is silly. Saturn might capture some ‘merican car/truck loyalists, but this isn’t going to win over those who have already turned Japaneso.

    Soon GM will be able to recyle the Opel by Isuzu nameplates from the 1970s and call them Saturn by Opel.

  • avatar

    This will be an interesting social and marketing study if people indeed individuals take the bait and switch from their Hondas or Toyotas for a Saturn. Or for that matter a Ford/Mazda from a Honda or Toyota. One of my friends owns a Saturn her family works for GM and she is a UAW democrat. Ironically, she traded her Geo Prizm for a Ion. I seriously doubt many Honda and Toyota customers will switch to Saturn or Ford. The commercials do not mention customer service after the sale, reliability, and resale value.

    Toyota and Honda are tops in brand loyality. I owned Honda but swtiched to Audi/VW. I had no problems with my Honda but they didn’t have what I was looking for at the time.

    I am part of the demographic that the 2.5 will never get. I know their main goal is to turn profits not produce a quality product, provide excellent customer service, and provide products the public wants not what is most profitable for them.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this sort of comparison available at many dealerships? Here in Louisville there is a Ford/Nissan dealer on Dixie Highway. Also, want to know what an Impala feels like compared to that Accord. Walk over to thier used car side. There is bound to be a one or two year old one sitting there (also used cars that ain’t the dealership’s brand can sometimes be bargains). When we were minivan shopping we cross shoped three or four vans at the same Chyrsler Dodge dealer. The saleman was cool about it. We bought our Ford van at a Saturn dealer.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait to visit my local Saturn dealer and ask to test drive a manual transmission equipped “Aura”. That outta be good for a long, uncomfortable silence and blank stare. At least Honda and Toyota still give someone like me who refuses to own a “snooze-box” a choice.

  • avatar

    “Johnson, Sajeev is not quoting things he “heard” on the internet about the newest Camry, he actually reviewed the car.”

    Your point is? I’ve thoroughly driven and sat in many new Camrys, including the V6 SE.

    Styling may be subjective, but handling certainly is not. The new Camry having better handling over the old generation is not mere opinion; it is objective fact.

  • avatar

    The Accord is the nimbler car of the midsized sedans. I’m not really sure you’ve driven one with the “numb” comment as it has excellent feedback, plus handling has always has been major trait of the Accord car. You don’t have to believe me but the Accord has been on C&Ds 10 best list for 20+ times with their major praise for those several decades of how well it handles compared to the competition.

    Now, I have a question. If you are at the Saturn dealer, will they sell you the Camry or Accord? Great way to increase sales at Saturn by selling the #1 & #2 cars in the US. Also nice that Honda/Toyota get a nice bump of 1,000+ cars for Saturn dealers and when they start putting them in the Chevy showrooms it’ll be nice that GM will purchase another 5,000 Camry & Accord’s each. Now what will when the all new Accord hits the street in September? They will have to buy them too (at sticker) or be looked at funny as having the older model and look like they are pulling the wool over your eyes. Will they buy new Camry & Accord’s each year to have the current model year or let them sit and probably get bashed and abused by the employees then sit them next to a brand new Aura. Saturn’s got to look better then.

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