By on November 27, 2008

According to Bloomberg, who has it from people supposedly familiar with the matter, GM “is studying whether to shed its Saturn, Saab and Pontiac brands in addition to Hummer.”

So assuming that they do:  Will they just dump the brands? As in throw them away? Or will they sell them? If the latter, who do you think will be the successful bidder?

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56 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Who Will Walk Away With Saturn, Saab, Pontiac, Hummer?...”

  • avatar

    I see no realistic way to sell Pontiac and Saturn unless someone just wanted the names. What assets would come with them?

  • avatar

    Is there a point for a car company, say a Chinese or Indian one, to buy one of those brands and then having to start a marketing campaign going:

    “Forget all you knew about Pontiac, forget the bad cars and lousy service, it’s all different now!”

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just a start a brand new brand?

  • avatar

    The only possible situation I can see is for some Chinese groups to buy the brands for essentially nothing so that they can have an easy entry into the US market.

  • avatar

    Saturn: Nobody, it will just die. Technically the same goes for every other of those brands as well, unless the price is right. If GM offers a good deal, I could see this happening:

    Pontiac: I would have said Tata, but they’re in trouble themselves right now, so probably some Chinese company…

    Hummer: If anyone wants it, it’s going to be the Chinese.

    Saab: This one will go back to Sweden or die.

  • avatar

    No one. The Chinese don’t need them; they will buy Chrysler.

  • avatar

    Indians or Chinese I’m sure would love to have Hummer, high prices and huge margins, especially if you crank them out in a low cost country.

    Pontiac, could keep g8 G6 ans solstice.. they’re great cars but it doesn’t make for a compelling brand.

    Crazy idea. set up somewhere with minimal safety regs and start pretending its the late 60’s. Build body on frame GTOs and firebirds mildly modernized. Export as kit cars to the US.

    Saab could go independent, but that would take some serious cash. I’d love to see them on their own but I doubt they could make it.

  • avatar

    Hummer – good one! as if
    Pontiac – as above
    Saturn – at a stretch, a Chinese company…the dealers are still pretty highly rated I think, so maybe if it can be had cheap, just for that.
    Saab – a European private equity group. Probably the most promising prospect. The same group would buy Volvo from Ford. Problem Solvo’d.

  • avatar

    It must be my demographic: why not dump Buick?

    Re-name Saturn to Opel, sell Hummer and Saab.

  • avatar
    mr. black

    OK, in my humble opinion …
    GM should take the VW group model (pre porsche).
    2 brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac. Chevy = VW,
    Caddy = Audi. That’s the solution Mr. Wagoner.

  • avatar

    Hummer and Saab are still relatively independent entities within GM. They actually have assets to sell.

    Saturn and Pontiac are brands that are “marketed” by GM. Saturn was absorbed totally into GM a few years ago though it started as a wholly owned subsidiary of GM. The Spring Hill plant, original home of Saturn, now makes the Chevy Traverse. The last Saturns made there were IONs. Production ended in Mar.of 07.

    There is nothing of Saturn and Pontiac to “sell” as all the models are corporate based relatives of other GM platforms sold elsewhere [or side by side in the US as everyone knows. No scrap that isn’t all GM all the time. [Unless there’s GM kimchi style via Daewoo]

    Hummer is built for GM by American General IIRC.Saab still has it’s own Swedish operations. Those are the only two brands that can be sold unless you’re simply talking about the intellectual property and copy rights of the brand names, logos, model names etc.

    Saturn and Pontiac will be discontinued. Hummer and Saab will be packaged up and sold off .

    There is a 411 day supply of Astras out there. GM loses money on every one of that model, and loses $10,000 per unit on each Solstice and Sky built [you read it on TTAC first!]. I imagine the G8 is a money loser as well.

    Given the fact that Saab and Saturn have never turned a dime of profit [except 94 in Saturn’s case. A bookkeeping sleight of hand] for GM in 20 years or more, one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to make the prediction that it’s over for Saturn at the very least and the auction block for Saab.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I think the Swedes are onto the right idea with a combined Saab-Volvo operation under government control, at least in the short term.

    Pontiac, Buick, Saturn and Hummer seem fated to land in the hands of one or more Chinese companies. They are the only players who have a need for brand names.

    A long shot for Saturn would be if Opel really is nationalized in Germany as rumored. Then Opel would indeed be an ideal company to acquire the Saturn brand.

  • avatar

    surprisingly, Buick is very successful in China

  • avatar

    It will be impossible to sell Pontiac and Saturn as they are inextricably linked to the rest of GM; specifically they are not not stand alone entities and are produced on the same assembly lines as some Chevrolet & Buick models. Besides that, Pontiac and Saturn have no real market value. With the exception of the Pontiac G8, all Saturn & Pontiac models are produced in another form by a different GM “division”.

    The thing to do is end Pontiac, Saturn & GMC (which is completely superflous with Chevy Truck). The Pontiac G8 should become the next Buick Lucerne and the Sky/Solstice can belong to Buick as the Buck Skylark. Buick can be combined with Chevrolet and cover the mid-line and higher grade cars while Cadillac can stay on its own.

    Saab & Hummer can probably be sold as independents to another manufacturer since they are pretty much stand-alone operations.

    Trying to sell Pontiac and Saturn is as ridiculous as Ford trying to sell Mercury such as Jerry York recently suggested. These brands, now unfortunately, are no more than names that once represented their iconic forebearers (at least in the case of Pontiac).

  • avatar

    Assets have different value to different companies. These brands have a dealer network, engineering, supply chains, public recognition & union contracts some of which could be very appealing to Chinese or Indian brands that don’t have any of these assets in NA. Cherry picking the assets they can best use could help springboard them into the market much more quickly than building it up step by step.

    Different companies often share the same platforms, so the fact that Pontiac shares architecture, engineering and production with Chevy or other doesn’t mean it’s a deal breaker.

    The question is whether GM would get enough for them for it to be worthwhile.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Hummer built by AM General? Not since the days of the original H1, as far as I know. the H2 and H3 are simply rebodied and rebadged GM platforms, and the H1 no longer exists. Right? Or not?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    mr. black, VW also has SEAT (marginal) and Skoda (very successful).

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The answer, ultimately, is the taxpayer.

  • avatar

    The H2 is actually built by AM General at their facility in Indiana for GM. It’s not simply a rebodied GM truck, it’s an engineering frankestein of parts that is different enough that it can’t be built on a normal GM truck line.

    Back on topic.

    Why would anyone want any of these dead brands?

    None of them aside from Saab are actual independent companies. They are simply names GM sticks on cars and come from the same talent pool within GM itself.

    There’s really no value in any of them for anyone, even the Chinese and Indians. Starting out with a clean slate is going to be easier and cheaper than doing what GM could not for nearly three decades, remake these names into something desirable.

  • avatar

    I think that we can’t see the forest for the trees….

    This is a just a publicity move by GM to show ‘Just how serious we are about changing the business…’ It’s also a good scare tactic too.

    Business models, factories, litigious dealers, logistics, etc, etc say that spinning off these divisions (SAAB might be the exception) is not feasible.

    So what then could the reason for this trial balloon, if not for politics sake.

  • avatar

    This is a just a publicity move by GM to show ‘Just how serious we are about changing the business…’

    The entire interaction with Congress is a publicity stunt, mainly on the part of the phony posturing politicians. Not in the case of every member but most. Mulally is worth whatever he’s getting and more. Does anybody really expect the CEO of a company the size of these to fly commercial? Not if they have a clue they don’t. GM ‘might’ sell Saab, but that’s it.

    What the politicians SAY they want is a plan to demonstrate viability, but what they really want are publicity and a cover for their asses when the companies go down in a few months. By the end of next week they’ll have both, and they can fork over the money or not. However they vote, they’ll have covered themselves, and that’s all that matters to most of them.

    From what I read, we’ve not seen the last of bank bailouts by any means. I heard a top analyst describe the latest deal with Citi as “an affront to tax payers”, with more affronts to come for Citi and the others “who are all in the same soup”. I don’t think GM can be saved without cleaning house at the top 3 or so levels of the execs and certainly every damn one of the board members. And expecting these clowns to come up with a viability plan in a week or so, when they’ve failed repeatedly for years is nuts. I can hear Ethel Merman’s voice: “there’s no business like show business”.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I would think Saturn would be a more appealing brand to purchase (e.g., by the Chinese) than Pontiac. Saturn has a more modern dealer network that comes closer to import standards of organization than old-guard GM brands. That in itself would be worth its weight in gold, because one of the biggest hurdles for the Chinese to establish an American presence is a viable dealer network.

    Of course, Saturn no longer has distinct manufacturing facilities. But that shouldn’t be too much of a problem given the number of plants that GM will undoubtedly be offloading in the next few years.

    Ironically, Saturn would also seem to be a better brand for a Chinese company precisely because its image is less well defined than an old-guard American brand. It would be easier to redefine the brand in a way that didn’t seem inauthentic. A Chinese-designed Pontiac just doesn’t like a winner to me.

    Frankly, if I were a Chinese company I’d rather start with a small problem — Saturn — than a big one like Chrysler. That allows one to get a foothold without taking on too much risk.

    Why would one buy Saturn rather than starting from scratch? Because the infrastructure costs huge amounts of money. Saturn could presumably be picked up for pennies on the dollar of what GM invested in it. Some might think Saturn’s reputation is too damaged, but I don’t think so — at least in comparison to the likes of Chrysler or Pontiac.

  • avatar

    I like rpol35’s plan, including preserving Buick with the G8 (but maybe rename it “Roadmaster”) and the Sky–>Skylark. However, I think Pontiac and Saturn do have value. As DweezilSFV noted, there is “intellectual property and copy rights of the brand names, logos, model names etc.” A major parts supplier might well want to acquire that property so it can advertise it sells “genuine Pontiac” and “genuine Saturn” parts. Even dealerships that didn’t formerly sell Pontiacs or Saturns might pay for the right to sell install such “genuine” parts.

  • avatar

    Hummer will just go home to AM General. It will die as a consumer brand and go home to its military roots with the H1. It could come back in the future as a Jeep Wrangler competitor.

    I concur with some of the others on here that Saturn has the most value to a potential market entrant. You have a good dealer network that has been starved for quality product for a decade.

  • avatar

    I agree with dgduris about renaming Saturn to Opel. GM has damaged it’s brands and needs something to try to win back the people have been scared away from the other brands. It would be an honest change since they really are Opels. Relatively cheap since the logo and body parts are already there for the cars. Upgrade the dealerships to look like premium car dealerships, push the German engineering Autobahn thing, and obliterate the GM logos from the cars and the buildings. Strictly Cadillac, Chevrolet, and Opel for North America. Sell Saab to the highest bidder.

  • avatar

    Saturn has the best stock of dealers in all of GM. The dealerships are clean and the service is pretty good. From a marketing standpoint, people just don’t know the name. Hell, most would think its an Asian nameplate.

  • avatar

    no one, no one (well maybe sweden), no one and no one.

  • avatar

    Why not think about this the other way and extract Cadillac and Chevrolet from GM? Those are the two divisions with the strongest lineups and would probably do better unfettered by GM.

    Not sure what you’d do with what would be left of GM. Perhaps consolidating the best model or two (if they have them) from each division into a single GM store?

  • avatar

    MikeInCanada is right on the money. If it was as easy as putting up a for sale sign or kicking the brands to the curb rabid Rick would have done it a long time ago. Remember he is a bean counter and they aren’t big on sentimentality. He doesn’t have a clue how to run a car company but he knows the only way to get clear of the brands and the dealers that go with them is C11. Bankrupcy is certain but first the 3 amigos will take Congress for a ride until even even dim witted (dresses like an unmade bed)Barney Frank will figure out that they got taken. When that happens C11 will happen and then Pontiac, Sabb, Hummer and Saturn will be RIP.

  • avatar

    Trouble is, what exactly would GM be selling?

    This is the curse of platform sharing and “cross-platform” synergies – the essential differences of the brands have been watered out.

    Second – GM has been twisting the arm of anyone who wanted to set up as a dealer, moving the risk to the dealer and away from themselves. The dealers had to secure the lot, build the dealership, pay for the dressing, etc.
    GM has contracts with dealers, but rarely owns any dealerships. The dealers can turn elsewhere (and are.)

    Look at Denny Hecker in the Twin Cities for one example. Closing six dealerships, selling three – and being sued by GM because he’s begun selling Hyundais out of the same salesroom where he’s selling the Chevy Aveo clunker. He has countersued GM because they’ve stopped financing his sales. He’s setting up a breach of contract situation, and is hoping to salvage some remains of his “empire”. GM doesn’t own any of it, and therefore can’t sell any of it.

    GM is a paper company that paradoxically is in the business of shifting metal about the entire world, at ginormous loss, and has been doing this for over a decade (the loss). A person doing this would be committed to the secure wing of an asylum.

  • avatar

    Suppose the Chinese buy any one of these brands for their existing dealership network, to market Chinese imports. And suppose they can sell their cheap imported products for less than half of Toyota and Honda prices, since the Chinese are using slave/prison labor, and do not have any UAW legacy costs.

    If it is true that the middle class in America is in a declining economic spiral, and if it is true that banking and finance is returning to austere consumer lending practices, will these millions of new lower classes have no choice but to flock towards these cheap Chinese imports? Would it be a race to the bottom for Toyota and Honda and anybody else trying to compete in this environment?

    If you are a transplant building cars in America, how could you continue to provide health care for your workers under these conditions, or could you even continue building in America? Would Toyota and Honda be forced to build in China as well?.

    Something to think about.

  • avatar

    I imagine some Russian ex-KGB bazillionaire will buy Hummer for not much money. Interestingly, it’s not as independent as people are saying, at least domestically. The H2 plant is completely seperate and not even owned by GM (owned by AM General as previous posters have said). However, the H3 and the new H3T (which, combined, comprise of about 80% of Hummer’s sales) are built at the same plant that also builds the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon (neither of which are huge sellers either). The plant probably needs all four products (H3, H3T, Colorado, and Canyon) to survive. Of course, GM could just contract out the H3/H3T sales to the new buyer, or sell them the plant and buy Canyons and Colorados from them. Now, I believe there are foreign plants that make the H2, and ones that make the H3, which make no other GM product, for sales of such overseas.

    Saab could also be sold, as it is mostly indepedent (although there is some overlap-the 9-7x is a rebadged Trailblazer, but both are to be discontinued shortly, and the extremely poor selling European Cadillac BLS is built in Saab’s Swedish plant, but it could be discontinued without anybody noticing or caring) but unless somebody back in Sweden wants it, I doubt there would be any buyers.

    The brand name for Saturn could also be sold, but I suspect there would be few, if any, carry over products. That is, some Chinese company could buy the brand and dealer network and use it to sell their own products.

    As for Pontiac, and by extension, Buick and GMC, there would be no buyers. Also, GM needs to keep them alive to keep the plants that make both Pontiacs (and GMCs) and Chevys running at something resembling full capcity, not to mention the billions in dealer bribes that would be required to shut the brands down.

  • avatar

    I could see a rich guy buying Saab, or maybe even Hummer, but the rest? C’ya.

  • avatar
    1600 MKII

    I don’t think there’s any reasonable road out here.

    I truly think that the only answer lies in closing the big shiny doors and restructuring (separately) Caddy, Chevy, Opel and Holden to sink or swim on their own. If their vehicles don’t reach the concept of true “brand” without the false (obviously) support of the General, then there won’t be enough of an investment pool out there to keep them in the water.

    If the US wants to keep the Dream Castles that are the factories alive then we have to actually nationalize them and retool to produce the stuff we really need here now – wind turbines, maybe construction equipment toward rebuilding our infrastructure- maybe true R&D toward battery technology. Sadly with oil cheap now the impetus is going to be away from all that.

    I love cars but there are plenty out there. GM was always a myth created by Will Durant and with the growth of the quarterly profit concept it totally lost its way – not 20 but nearly 60 years ago. The individual car companies have been gone since then and in the long run there is no escaping ennui.

  • avatar

    If I had a few billion lying around I’d take a shot at Saab and Volvo; I think they could make a pretty good combination. Volvo can sell a big luxury safety sedan or two and a luxury CUV-type thing with beefy AWD/RWD V6’s and V8’s, and Saab can get a sporty FWD hatchback and small sedan with turbo-fours, and maybe a small 3-door economy-type car. Go down to your local Saab/Volvo dealer and find six or so distinct models, easy to choose from based on your needs. Here’s the way I see it:

    Saab 9-1: Small, fun, 3-door FWD 2.0L, priced in the high teens
    Saab 9-3: Either a 3 or 5-door, FWD 2.0L base, 2.3L turbocharged “Turbo” sporty model, priced in the lower twenties
    Saab 9-5: Midsized 4-door sedan, FWD 2.3L turbo base, V6 and AWD options, priced mid-twenties to $30k or so
    Volvo XY: 4-door midsize built on the 9-5 platform (though easily distinguishable, not just badgineered), V6 standard, AWD option, buncha features you can’t get with the Saab models, priced in the mid thirties
    Volvo XY+Z: Full-size 4-door, RWD platform, V6 standard, V8 option (AWD option on the V6), sport version available, priced low forties and up
    Volvo XCUV: Your typical luxury CUV, with Volvo’s safety twist, V6 AWD standard, priced in the high thirties

    You don’t really have to read all that crap (too late), but the point is my underlying philosophy for a proper automotive brand: overlap. At the extreme end of the overlap concept you have problems like badge-engineering, which are bad for obvious reasons. But properly implemented overlap can be successful I think. The high end of the lowest model overlaps in slight ways (engine options mostly) with the lower end of the next model up, whose high end overlaps slightly with the next model up, etc. It could lead to the same “aspirational” effect that GM had back in its heyday — that is, a 9-1 owner would aspire to own a 9-3, whose owner would aspire to own a 9-5, whose owner would aspire to own a Volvo, etc. It creates a natural heirarchy that keeps owners loyal to the brand. Blah blah…

    None of that has much of anything to do with this post, but I was thinkin it regardless. I guess I’d just really like to see Saab and Volvo come out of this whole ordeal in a positive way.

  • avatar

    “Trouble is, what exactly would GM be selling?

    This is the curse of platform sharing and “cross-platform” synergies – the essential differences of the brands have been watered out.”

    You cannot determine differences between Pontiac, Saab and Hummer? Ok…

  • avatar

    Bridge2far :
    November 28th, 2008 at 12:03 am

    “Trouble is, what exactly would GM be selling?

    This is the curse of platform sharing and “cross-platform” synergies – the essential differences of the brands have been watered out.”

    You cannot determine differences between Pontiac, Saab and Hummer? Ok…

    That’s not a valid point.
    The issue is one of “which are the real, transactionable assets, that would bring value to GM in a sale?”

    Go into the cars, and you’ll find a lot of shared components, in some instances enough to have you begin laughing. In other words, the brand differences are often paper only.

    Some commenters in the thread posit that furriners would want to buy the GM dealerships – well, they better sit down with the dealers, then, because GM doesn’t own those dealerships.

    GM owns (has borrowed to the hilt on) its plants, its design facilities, and its “brands.”

    But those brands are watered out shells of what they once were, and that makes it a valid question to ask: what exactly would GM be selling?

  • avatar


    The thinking – Saab/Volvo – has an underlying logic.

    But both brands are a hodge podge of platform and component universals from GM and Ford. If Saab had to develop a platform of its own, from scratch, instead of using the ones they get access to from GM, that would be a strain as they were reconstituting.

    Alfa is today’s Saab, Saab is Opel. Take Opel out of Saab, and you’re left with paper and some memories.

    And I wonder what the deal btw Saab Holding and GM looks like. According to reports in Sweden, now that it’s all falling apart, the brand name Saab is owned by the aircraft and weapons manufacturer SAAB, and GM has the right to manufacture cars under the name, but not the transaction rights to the name itself.
    Wonder if Saab’s holding company can actually sell the name to another car manufacturer, if GM stops making cars under the brand …

  • avatar

    Who owns who?;topic=29059.0;attach=58545;image

    There is massive overproduction of cars in the world, and the chart kind of explains what a mess it’s all become. GM’s brands would be worth a lot more if this wasn’t the case, and if the company wasn’t insolvent.

    Consumers just want a practical or fun car, and couldn’t care less about the game of musical chairs these companies have been playing.

  • avatar

    @allen5h : That slave/prison labor story is a myth. China uses a paid labor force. They pay them a month what a UAW worker gets in an hour. Nevertheless, Chinese workers don’t riot over low pay, they riot when the plants are being closed and they are out of a job.

    And guess what: Toyota, Honda, GM, Volkswagen, BMW and just about everybody else have long been building cars in China. It started more than 20 years ago ….

  • avatar

    As to the chart above, everything’s in flux:

    1) Ford has sold Aston Martin to Kuwaiti investors
    2) And they sold Jag and LR to Tata
    3) GM got out of Suzuki
    4) Ford has divested itself of some Mazda
    5) Porsche has jumped into Volkswagen
    6) GM is looking for a buyer for Hummer
    7) And by now, generally, everything’s up on the auction block.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @mr. black

    OK, in my humble opinion …
    GM should take the VW group model (pre porsche).
    2 brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac. Chevy = VW,
    Caddy = Audi. That’s the solution Mr. Wagoner.

    Pre-Porsche VW had 10 brands, not 2

    Volkswagen Cars
    Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

  • avatar

    @ Mirko Reinhardt

    I’d say you could split that up into groups, though:

    1. Personal/Private cars

    2. Transport/Haul

    3. Vanity LuxuryBrand Purchases due to temporary insanity in the boardroom.

  • avatar
    Chris Inns

    Vanity LuxuryBrand Purchases due to temporary insanity in the boardroom.

    Yes, why does Detroit deserve money now? When they had plenty of it back in the 1990’s they wasted it adding these brands to their already bloated portfolio of marques.

  • avatar

    No one will buy Pontiac or Saab. The designs are built off of common platforms and the designers won’t be part of the deal. In addition, Pontiacs are built on the same production line as other GM cars, so the buyer won’t get the production line either.

    As a brand, Saab is done. All of their platforms are old. Nothing worth saving.

  • avatar

    Saturn and Saab

    If GM splits from Opel, these two are effectively Opel’s presence in North America. Think about it:
    * GM ships over Chevrolet to compete with Opel on the low, and Cadillac to compete with Saab on the high.
    * Opel owns most of GM’s worthwhile engineering, and has little need of GM-DAT, Holden or GMNA’s products
    * GMNA is actively moving away from Opel’s work. A lot of the NA product is coming from GM-DAT.
    * GM has been effectively supporting it’s North American blunders on the back of Opel and it’s Chinese partners.

    At some point, Opel’s going to get sick of the lopsided treatment they’re receiving and split, probably five minutes after GM files for Chapter 11. An independent Opel/Saab has more than a fighting chance. GMNA can crank out GMT900s, W- and G-Bodies while importing bottom-feeders from GM-DAT and engage in the occasional platform sharing with Opel, but I’d kiss the formal ownership goodbye.

    Once this happens, Saab and Saturn become, should Opel choose, an American dealer network.


    No one. They’re the next Plymouth or Oldsmobile, if Mercury doesn’t beat them to the punch. There’s no point to Pontiac, unless, say, Holden is cut loose in the same fashion as Opel probably will be.


    I’m not sure. If times were better I’m sure there would have been any number of buyers, but now, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t try to buy Jeep from Cerberus first.

  • avatar

    What GM should do but probably won’t:

    * Keep Chevy and Cadillac only.
    * Ax Pontiac
    * Ax Saturn
    * Ax Buick in the US and sell to SAIC in China. Enclave and EpII-based car go to Cadillac. Comfort is still important to Cad buyers.
    * Sell Saab to anyone with cash stupid or egotistical enough to take it.
    * Reposition GMC for Medium Trucks only and prepare to spin this business off. Maybe Isuzu would be interested.
    * Ax HUMMER but sell the brand name for licensing purposes like Chrysler does with Jeep. Any number of sporting equipment or retail apparel companies could be potential buyers.

    *Grow the GOODWRENCH brand by offering franchises to former Pontiac/Buick/GMC/Saturn/HUMMER dealers. GOODWRENCH SERVICE outlets would offer repair, maintenance, accessories for ALL MAKES and sell “certified” used cars. Used cars and service should do well in bad economic times. This could be a growth business (for a change!) for GM.

  • avatar

    It reminds me of something my friend’s mother related last week. She works for Jo Ann Fabric, which is going under, and cleaning out its remaining inventory at fire-sale prices. A customer walked up to her, looking at the 80% mark-downs around the store, held up an item, and said (in all seriousness), “But when will it be free?”

  • avatar

    Suprisingly only a few posters have correctly stated this is mere political posturing on GM’s part for the next round in Congress. The fact of the matter is GM can’t afford to nix Pontiac or Saturn because they can’t afford to buy out all the franchisees which they would have to do like when they ended Oldsmobile. Saab and/or Hummer could be sold so long as they were sold as an ongoing entity like Jaguar/Land Rover but not Pontiac or Saturn because as many posters have pointed out there’s no way to sell these two brands as ongoing entities. Without question Wagoner and GM’s board need to be replaced, the former because he’s absolutely clueless and the latter for supporting him. Exactly how clueless Wagoner is can be demonstrated by the attempted acquisition of Chrysler than 30 days later floating the idea a current GM brand reduction. He may even be clueless enough to cause GM not to get the federal money it so desperately needs to attempt staying in business after he’s driven the company right in the ground.

  • avatar

    Saab has a bit of tradition and a bit of a cult, since it was around before GM picked them up in 1990. If BMW is rumored to be interested in Volvo, as it was said to be, then they might have a passing interest in Saab. They must want those Swedish meatballs.

    I don’t see how Saturn or Pontiac would survive without GM, though. They’re all joined at the hip. And if nobody bought Hummer by now…

  • avatar

    The fundamental problem with selling anything right now, be it cars, dealerships that sell them or the car producers is that there might well be takers, except they don’t have the money. Buyers always buy with borrowed money, look at Cerberus. They barely contributed 500 mill to the 7 bill bill. Most companies are asking for government help. How can they justify spending any money acquiring other companies?

  • avatar

    None of these brands has any market value, although Hummer could conceivably be picked up by some aspiring third world conglomerate.

    If GM’s future is to be anything other than Organ Donor, it will take a massive infusion of cash and a drastic, back-to-basics reorganization. Start all over again, with a focus on quality, design and efficiency. Develop one or two really good platforms that could support five or six different models under the Chevrolet and Cadillac brands, and then… oh, wait a minute. This is GM we’re talking about. Never mind.

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    twonius :
    November 27th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    surprisingly, Buick is very successful in China

    There is nothing surprising about this. Mao and Deng Xiaoping cruised around exclusively in Buicks, and the Chinese are not soon to forget the stylings of their dictators.

  • avatar

    I would have to guess that Pontiac is most likely to get the axe first for the same reasons Oldsmobile got chopped. At the time, one could actually argue that Olds had some of the best products in GM’s portfolio (ok, not saying much, but the cars looked nicer and drove better than anything else they had on the Avis lot at the time).

    However, Oldsmobile had a huge percentage of their sales going to fleets (>50% if I remember correctly) and they had the fewest stand-alone dealers, so while it was still expensive to terminate franchise agreements it was cheaper than it would have been with other divisions.

    Similarly, Pontiac seems to be lost with consumers. What does it stand for? They have many of the exact same products as Chevy (Cobalt/G3, Torrent/whatever Chevy calls their small SUV). They do have the G8 but it’s a lone wolf in that lineup of badge-engineered mediocrity.

    And, more importantly, thanks to GM’s dealer reorganization, has very few stand-alone dealers to pay off.

    There should be a library of books written about how GM screwed up on Saturn but their dealer network is still a model for how to establish a distribution network (if you must use franchisees). I’m still not sure if this is a reason to keep them when GM simply can’t afford to design and market so many overlapping products, but at least it’s something.

    I like Saabs and am embarrassed to admit that I’ve actually owned a couple over the years (and lost a fortune on both of them, by the way). They make interesting cars for masochistic gearheads but have never sold in volume, have horrendous resale value, and have almost zero brand presence in the U.S. Oh, and they tend to sell or lease at tremendous discounts because Saab leaders in the U.S. still harbor the fantasy that they can charge as much as BMW on their stickers. Saab probably could have had a future as a niche player with fuel-efficient luxury cars but they haven’t even had that to brag about in years. Their small turbocharged engines have promised the power of a 6 with the fuel efficiency of a 4 but never really delivered either. They could have been an ideal candidate to try out hybrid-electric technology for GM but Smith/Wagoner and the rest of them decided to buy Hummer instead of continuing the development started by the EV1 program (yes, there were hybrid prototypes in the works even back then).

    Sadly, I just can’t see the value of Saab to any potential buyer. As lost as Jaguar may have been over the years, they can at least point to their heritage with racing, the E-types, XKs, and other iconic cars as the basis for a prestige brand. How many contemporary car buyers even know what a 99 or Sonett are? And, even if they did, would these be the basis for a luxury brand? GM has never made money on Saab and I don’t think anyone ever will. And I’m a fan.

    Hummer should be an expensive write-off and a future Harvard Business School case study, but other than that, it should be shut down and forgotten. Maybe my perspective is screwed-up by living in California as long as I have, but I think the market for overweight and overly conspicuous SUVs is dead even with gas prices back down as they are today. That trend was fueled by poorly written CAFE standards, expired tax loopholes, MTV and SEMA. Kids interested in pimping their rides are now focused on Hybrids and veggie oil and SEMA jumped the shark when their show started focusing on 24″ wheels with real $100 bills glued on under the clearcoat (I kid you now, they had them there a couple of years ago).

  • avatar

    Bertel Schmitt,

    I think “Who Will Walk Away With Saturn, Saab, Pontiac, Hummer?” should be replaced with:
    WHY WOULD ANYONE Walk Away With Saturn, Saab, Pontiac, Hummer?

  • avatar

    Hummer – Mahindra buys the name. Continues H2 on life-support for now (via AMGeneral). Continues H3 on life-support via GM. Develops a new H3 based on a Mahindra platform to be built in India. Kills H2, brings back H1 as a halo vehicle in very small numbers. Licenses Hummer name to women’s accessories – maybe Frederick’s :-) – since it is a chick car anyway.

    Pontiac and others – Get GM into Ch.11 and kill Pontiac as a division.

    Chevy – turn into a bargain basement “new Chevy” brand – trendy sub-20K XB type cars. Pontiac maybe comes back as a tuner-badge for Chevy.

    Buick – takes on the conservative middle-range – 18K-40K.

    Cadillac – gets the top-end – 35K and above – only sedans, rebuild the image without the hideous Escalade. Offer superior quality, technology and luxury at value pricing – prepare to rebuild reputation over a decade. It is a par-five hole, needs dedication and focus – a hole-in-one strategy won’t work.

    Corvette – becomes its own brand, with a two or three car range – imported Opel Speedster, a Camaro and a super-Corvette.

    GMC – becomes the truck brand, producing badge engineered SUV versions for Chevy and Buick.

    Saab – Sell.

    Saturn – hybrid and electric versions of select “new Chevy” models. The brand had a reputation for bold-ish innovative thinking – try to revive and nurture it. Alternatively, offer Saturn and its dealer network as a sweetener to whoever buys Saab.

  • avatar
    George B

    Keep Chevrolet and Cadillac
    If GM sells Opel, include Saturn and Saab in the deal.
    Sell Hummer brand minus actual Hummers. Worth more that way.
    Sell Buick brand to the Chinese.
    Euthanize Pontiac and GMC.

    Thinx and others, most customers won’t pay more for a Chevrolet if you call it a Pontiac, Buick, or GMC. They’re just Chevys with a different set of dealers. The honest thing would be to pull the plug on Pontiac/Buick/GMC if dealer lawsuit costs were not a problem.

    Cadillac is a real not just a Chevy brand in GM. I like the idea of moving the Corvette to Cadillac dealers, but there are more important issues to worry about right now.

    Saab and Saturn are effectively part of Opel. If GM sells Opel, maybe they can throw in Saab and Saturn brands with the deal like free floor mats with a new car purchase.

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