Saturn: Lost In Space

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
saturn lost in space

It’s should be fairly obvious by now that Saturn is a dead brand walking. Little remains of Roger Smith’s import-fighting concept anyway, as the “different kind of car company” now consists solely of rebadged and Americanized Opels, fine young CUV-annibals, and the Sky. None of which sell very well. So, dead by Thursday, and that’s all she wrote? Not according to those crazy, mixed-up kids at Automotive News [AN, sub]. “Saturn has a product program, both current and future, that is currently in our plans,” GM Marketing Honcho Mark LaNeve tells AN. “But a lot of what is in our plans is in a state of flux right now given the state of the economy and everything.” Understatement of the week day hour? GM hopes to conceive a new business model to make the brand profitable, according to LaNeve, because a sale won’t happen. Hello, China? Then again…

Saturn has no dedicated manufacturing or engineering facilities, let alone a brand with any remaining cachet. In fact, at this point Saturn is pretty much just a bunch of low-traffic dealerships and a few guys bolting badges onto Opels. If a sale won’t happen, then the only “alternatives” left for GM are to starve Saturn into a niche brand (a la Pontiac) or kill it completely.

The latter option means up to $1b worth of Olds-style dealer buyouts, since (all together now) bankruptcy is not an option. And that’s not counting all the potential lawsuits.

If GM can’t man-up enough to cut Saturn the easy way (in Chapter 11), why would anyone think they’d do it the hard way now? The only question left: how much more niche (175,434 year-to-date) can Saturn’s sales get?

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4 of 29 comments
  • Kevin Kluttz Kevin Kluttz on Dec 08, 2008

    Its is possessive. It's is a contraction for 'it is'.

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Dec 08, 2008
    The Saturn Aura, while being built in the US, is essentially an Opel Vectra. No, it's a Pontiac G6 with Vectra-inspired styling. The Vectra shares the short-wheelbase Epsilon platform with the 9-3; the Aura shares the long-wheelbase version with the old Malibu Maxx, current Malibu and G6. The interior is also unique to Saturn and owes nothing to Opel.

  • Willbodine Willbodine on Dec 08, 2008

    By the Slaone model I was referring more to the multiple brand structure. And the 1955 GM mindset that devolved from an over 50% market share. The suits at Ren Cen (ironic that it was originally a Ford project) today act "as if" GM still had that kind of market share. Hubris and arrogance, what a combo...

  • Slartybarfast Slartybarfast on Dec 09, 2008

    DweezilSFV : The ION had it’s own set of compromises but the S Series did NOT reinvent the automobile. That’s a lot of hype, urban legend and Kool Aid drinking. It was barely competitive on introduction and got further and further behind over the years. The Ion had two large compromises 1) to go after the x gen market with gimmicks 2) to make the car less efficient then its predecessor. the shifting of Saturn from soccer mom mobile to Scion was probably brought on by the same thought process that produced the Pontiac Aztek. DweezilSFV : It was the 2000 model year before they did anything about the oil sucking problem. Smooth move. As I said before this was the single largest failure of Saturn/GM the inability to fix/improve a product, the oil burners turned a lot of people away from Saturn, as did the continually failing motor mounts and pcv valves (due to the oil burning) DweezilSFV : Car & Driver: “Better than what it replaced” Consumer Guide : “Saturn’s replacement for the sub par S Series”. Not hard to do with a car that had been left to wither on the vine for 9 years.