By on December 4, 2008

TTAC’s Deep Throat has resurfaced from points unknown. To make up for his extended absence, he’s got a major scoop– you know, if it goes down. He tells us that GM’s Franchise Operating Team (eight dealers and eight factory guys) will decide the Saturn brand’s fate next Thursday. “It’s not looking good for the different kind of car company,” DT intones (should such a thing be possible via email). He reckons Saturn will be terminated. “Some key vehicles will be parceled out to other brands. Possibly.” The payoff for Saturn dealers to crawl off into a corner and die is unknown, perhaps unknowable. Anyone want to guess who’d end-up paying for it?

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61 Comments on “Wild Ass Rumor of the Day: GM to Kill Saturn Next Thursday...”


  • avatar
    PickupMan

    The first 4-5 years or so, they really had a chance to make it a ‘different kind of car company’. I went out of my way to make a ’92 SL2 my first brand new car and was pretty impressed.

    Eight years later when it was time to replace it, you couldn’t give me one of their later models.

    Killing it off is the only humane thing to do.

  • avatar
    Adub

    Call me a cynic, but I think if anything happens it’ll be the pre-planning for the pre-meeting, or something like that. Anything to pass the buck a little while longer.

    If Saturn is killed, we should take up a collection to have Roger Smith exhumed and placed inside the worst of the lot and reburied.

  • avatar
    TomAnderson

    And they killed Olds and let this live because?

  • avatar
    derm81

    Saturn was a great idea….just managed poorly. I don’t know if anyone else notices but I see a ton of older model Saturns on the road. One of my best friends hit 215,000 on his 93 beater before he gave it up

  • avatar
    zedmanauk

    My first new car was a ’94 Saturn SC1. Great car. Much better than the Civic I test drove against it. Extremely reliable for the 6 years I had it and the 5 years my sister had it afterward. It was so light that the 85 HP it had was plenty to make it fun to drive, and it returned nearly 40 MPG. And the plastic body panels made it still look new when she got rid of it. She traded it for an Ion Redline which she does not like very much, and has said her next car will be a Mazda 3.

    Saturn suffered from the same apathy that all great ideas at the American car companies do, just like the Taurus and the Focus on the Ford side. It was great when it was launched, but a decade later with few updates, the Japanese had passed it by.

  • avatar

    KILL OLDSMOBILE, SATURN and let Saab go !

    Brand engineering sucks if you’re not doing it right.

  • avatar
    N85523

    Some key vehicles will be parceled out to other brands.

    What “key vehicles” does Saturn possess?

  • avatar
    ReGZ_93

    Awesome!!! Thank you GM, you made your best small car in America worthless.

    Typical modern American Corporation, once they start producing something of quality, they either kill the product off, or find a lower quality replacement. Then use “the its newer and better” marketing tact.

    What ever happened to the standard of the world?

    It was replaced with cheap and quick.

  • avatar
    ReGZ_93

    N85523

    Some key vehicles will be parceled out to other brands.

    It is rumored that Buick and Opel will be closely aligned. Meaning they will be sharing platforms and styling, and a replay of 1972.

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    Yeah, did Saturn even have its own platforms? It seems like the old Vue’s Theta platform was the only unique one it had — everything else is shared by Pontiac, Opel, or the other shared SUV/CUV platforms it seems.

    It’s unfortunate what they did to the company — they got especially desperate with their “Rethink American” slogan. I remember watching that set of ads and thinking “so, what they’re saying is, ‘hey! I know American cars suck in general, but we’re different from those other guys!\'”. It was sort of like Mercury’s “Put Mercury on your list! Please! PLEASE!” campaign.

  • avatar
    ReGZ_93

    N85523 :
    December 4th, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Some key vehicles will be parceled out to other brands.

    What “key vehicles” does Saturn possess?

    It is rumored that Buick and Opel will be closely aligned. Meaning that there will be much platform sharing. (and a replay of 1972) The same place is also saying the new Opel Insignia will be sold as a Buick in America, and China.

    As for key vehicles, there are none, just rebranded Opels for the most part.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    N85523:
    What “key vehicles” does Saturn possess?

    The Vue. It sold 3300 units in November; by contrast the Aura, Astra, and Sky combined sold 3500.

    And while the Vue is somewhat related to other GM cars like the Equinox, it’s different enough to justify. It’s actually one of the best cars in the GM stable and they sold over 75,000 of them last year.

    The Astra, being Saturn’s other “unique” vehicle, has been such a sales failure that I can’t imagine they’d intend to keep it in a new GM.

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    I’m old enought to remember our local Buick/Opel dealer. I the mid 60s they sold real Opels prior to the “Opel by Isuzu” nonsense. My father even test-drove a Kadett.

  • avatar

    Saturn, like Superman, could only really work while its true identity was unknown. Once it became known as just another set of re-badged GM vehicles it became as pointless as Pontiac. The Aura, Astra and Sky should have been sold as Opels as VW have shown there’s still some cachet for low priced German marques no matter how badly made.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What a pity. The only sign in thirty years that GM had some sort of clue gets euthanized.

    Saturn had better demographics than any brand from any manufacturer, managed satisfaction scores that were topped only by Lexus and pulled customer retention levels that beat them. So what did GM do with it’s unexpected windfall of goodwill? Utterly fail to learn a damn thing…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Well said psarhjinian…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Saturn was the wrong answer to the question of how to fix what ailed GM the very day the idea was first floated. It is that last of Roger Smith’s strategic decisions to hit the ashcan. At the very same time when GM’s historic brands were being neutered in the name of cost savings … a whole new division with custom everything including engines, body manufacturing process and the works is funded. Meanwhile, Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac and Cadillac were turned into barely gussied up Chevrolets. Brain dead.

    What GM needed to do was to fix the brands and operations it had, not to start up a skunk works brand half in/half outside the company to pretend to learn how to compete with Toyota. United tried the same foolishness by starting up “Ted” to compete with Southwestern Airlines … and then folded Ted. Consultants dream this kind of crap up and sell it to low wattage CEOs.

  • avatar
    50merc

    bjcpdx: “I’m old enough to remember our local Buick/Opel dealer.”

    Me too. My wife and I still laugh to recall the big Buick dealership we visited to test drive an Opel. There were a half-dozen at the back of the lot, parked close together and looking rather dusty. The poor salesman was so fat he had difficulty squeezing into a car. When he tried to start it, we found the battery was down. He tried another car; same result. Not one of the Opels had a charged battery!

    I suppose that salesman thought to himself as we left, “Hope they don’t come back. Why in hell would anyone want to buy a midget foreign car?”

  • avatar
    menno

    Frankly, Saturn dying is logical for several reasons.

    It’s really never made GM a penny.

    It’s a separate dealer network from the others.

    Virtually all of the cars are cloned GM generics.

    There is no particular reason to keep it going.

    The thing is, the Saturn dealer network will sue GM’s @ss off. (Of course, you can’t get blood out of a turnip, can you?) Lots of people went broke when the took a big gamble on Ford’s Edsel dealership franchises, too. That only lasted just over two years… Pity the poor fools who managed to survive Edsel then took on Studebaker…

    Pontiac going away seems very logical. Why not Buick too? Because the brand is very popular in China, of all places (historically, because 90 or so years ago, the wealthy Chinese purchased Buicks! Yes, the Chinese have long “institutional” memories, don’t they?)

    Killing Buick in America would leave the literal foundation of General Motors in China, only. That wouldn’t play in Peoria, kids.

    Besides, the Pontiac-GMC-Buick sales channel can now be the Buick-GMC sales channel and this will at least keep the lawsuits from those dealers at bay.

    So where will the Saturn Vue go? I’m going to guess GMC.

    What about the Pontiac Vibe? I’m going to guess Chevrolet, while the pug-ugly HHR takes a dirt nap. At least the Vibe is reliable (being a Toyota underneath).

    Of course, all of these alterations of the deck chairs on the Titanic are for naught if Uncle Sugar doesn’t cooperate by throwing $34 billion towards Detroit, and that’d only be a “first installment” (towards American Leyland). Tick tick tick, the end of the month is coming up fast…

    Every time I saw a photo of the 4 stooges sitting in front of the Senate today, Curly’s Stooge line goes through my head “I’m a victim of coicumstance!”

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    My mother is still driving her 93 SL1 with 130k on it. Its has been rock solid reliable.

    Saturn jumped the shark when they rolled out the ION. I test drove one, it was worse than the 2nd Gen SL that it replaced.

  • avatar
    bumpy

    I seem to recall that when GM set up Saturn in the first place, they wrote a lot more control into the franchising agreement than they had with the traditional brands. Might be worth digging around to see if there’s a “Your franchise has been sold/rescinded; enjoy a complimentary dinner mint” clause in the agreement.

  • avatar

    What’s the truth about state franchise laws?

    At the senate hearing the representative of the car dealers said that GM should be easily able to terminate franchises. He said that state franchise laws don’t stand in the way.

    Here on TTAC it’s always stated that it’s impossible to terminate brands and dealers due to lawsuits and state franchise laws.
    What’s the truth?

  • avatar
    kovachian

    I see no point in propping up the Saturn badge when everything behind it, everything that made it what it once was, has withered away.

    “Either General Motors had to begin to look more like Saturn in order to be able to achieve that kind of performance or Saturn had to go back and look more like General Motors.”

    – Saul Rubinstein, Professor of Labor, Rutgers University

    When the Ion ended production at the tail-end of 2006, that was the last nail in the coffin. Sorry guys, Saturn died two years ago.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Boy I hope not…at least without saving the good model(s).

    The Sky is WORLDS better looking than it’s Pontiac twin. It needs to live.

    The Outlook can go…no loss there.

    The Aura…sad to say, can go as well…or make it a Pontiac sedan…and ditch the G5.

    The Vue needs to stay. Make it a Chevy.

    The Astra can go. Great idea but a very bad execution.

  • avatar
    50merc

    menno: “The thing is, the Saturn dealer network will sue GM’s @ss off.”

    Right, that’s what we’d expect. Yet TTAC’s Deep Throat “tells us that GM’s Franchise Operating Team (eight dealers and eight factory guys) will decide the brand’s fate next Thursday.” Presumably it’s conceivable an 8 to 8 tie won’t result.

    Could it be that Saturn dealers are losing so much money they might happily surrender their franchises if GM buys back the cars and parts?

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    Franchise protections are enabled by the states to protect franchisees from certain actions from franchisors. Most states subscribe to a uniform franchise law (there’s some acronym for it but it escapes me now) and it covers everyone selling a franchise and protects the franchisees. Dealer agreements are considered franchises since they’re independently owned businesses using a “system” provided by the franchisor for merchandising.

    There is no way to get around the laws and there’s a body of lawsuits around unlawful terminations. The only way GM can end any dealer liabilities is by going bankrupt as dealer contracts are considered “executory contracts” subject to the continuation or termination by the debtor with no recourse from the other party.

    Saturn only has 400 or so dealers, so it’s relatively cheap to close. Keep in mind that the stores value today is nominal at best (as is every other brand in GM) so any settlement might be cheap. It’s also probable that the Saturn dealer agreement forces binding terms on actions by the dealer/factory governing group thus avoiding individual dealer lawsuits to some extent.

  • avatar
    bubbagump

    “# ReGZ_93 :
    December 4th, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Awesome!!! Thank you GM, you made your best small car in America worthless.

    Typical modern American Corporation, once they start producing something of quality, they either kill the product off, or find a lower quality replacement. Then use “the its newer and better” marketing tact.

    What ever happened to the standard of the world?

    It was replaced with cheap and quick.”

    Cheap, quick, good, pick two.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Saturn was the wrong answer to the question of how to fix what ailed GM the very day the idea was first floated. It is that last of Roger Smith’s strategic decisions to hit the ashcan.

    I don’t think Roger Smith did much right, but this was one of his smart moves. GM gets compared to a dinosaur, and the comparison is more apt than most people realize: one of the more interesting theorized aspects of dinosaur physiology is the long time delay between, say, pulling the tail and the sensation of the tail being pulled reaching it’s brain.

    Similarly, no matter how hard Smith pulled GM’s tail, it was going to take a long time for GM to clue in, if it did at all. Smith was up against the entire GM corporate fiefdom and it’s notorious “It’s the right thing to do because we’re doing it” attitude. Saturn was probably the only way he was going to change that; it was going to be an example, a proof-of-concept for the rest of GM on how things should be done.

    And it was. Saturn was winning customer loyalty to a degree unheard of at the time amongst GM’s other dividions. Think about the contemporary Pontiac or Chevy. Now, think about the perception of those cars.

    Only the GM rank-and-file that succeeded Smith (of which Wagoner is one) had a vested interest in seeing Saturn fail. There was no way that they were going to be proved wrong, and they starved Saturn out of malice, setting up garbage like Geo as a counterexample.

    If GM was truly interested in doing things right, they would have folded Saturn ten years ago and taken what they’d learned to improve Chevrolet or Pontiac. They didn’t. And they didn’t want to improve.

    And look where they are now.

  • avatar
    63CorvairSpyder

    bjcpdx & 50Merc,

    My wife and I, newly married in 1967 actually owned a ’67 Opel Kadett. Bought it brand new at the Buick/Opel dealer in Hackensack, NJ. I commuted about 60 miles round trip to work at the time and we thought it would save us money on gas(about.39/gal). It did as I recall about 35MPG. We paid about $1,875.00, was a great little car but we had to upsize three years later when the first baby came along.

    Fond memories. I terms of the GM debacle….Sad.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    It’s really never made GM a penny.
    GM made sure of that by starving Saturn of decent product until too late.

    It’s a separate dealer network from the others.
    Their dealers are one of the highlights of the Saturn experience, and a vast reason for their early success (especially with women, tired of being run over with a car buying experience).

    Virtually all of the cars are cloned GM generics.
    Not a bad thing. I personally like the looks of the Aura better than the Malibu, and the Vue better than the Equinox. My vote is Saturn should stay, and absorb select Buicks and Pontiacs (Lucerne, Enclave, G8) since those brands are dead.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Other than once-unique sales (now copied by Scion), Saturn doesn’t offer anything the other GM divisions do. Chevrolet has a superior Aura, Pontiac a superior Sky, the Astra is overpriced and underpowered, and the Relay’s a clone. Also, Saturn has relatively few dealers, and their service’s no better or worse than GM average.

    If GM is smart, they’ll try to save the Saturn marketing approach for one of their other divisions. Otherwise, perhaps it is time for Saturn to “leave the building”?

  • avatar
    Point Given

    This is all very interesting.

    Here in Edmonton Alberta, we have a new Saturn store on the build, that incidentially, has the same money behind it as the new giant Dodge store that Samir interviewed.

    We also have two unfinished very large chrysler stores(capital and crosstown) on the build here. Wonder if the dealer principles are sweating.

  • avatar
    motownr

    RE: cost of buying out Saturn stores.

    Due to the brilliant idea of subventing Saturn leases over the past few years–to the point where even Chevy leases on comparable vehicles were far more expensive–Saturn store numbers were inflated to ridiculous levels.

    Buyouts a la Olds were formulated on past sales; meaning that GM’s subsidies in the past will make buying off Saturn dealers comparatively expensive.

  • avatar
    forditude

    Not to belabor the point that Saturn has strayed from its roots, but do they even have one original vehicle that isn’t badge engineered? Some are commenting that the Saturn versions look better, but trying to be everything to everyone is part of what got GM into these problems in the first place. Maybe GM can take their share of the bailout to pay settlements to Saturn, Pontiac, and Buick dealers when those brands are hopefully dissolved.

  • avatar
    slartybarfast

    Its a shame to see Saturn go, GM started in an attempt to make better car then the imports, and to a degree they did the S series in 1994 outsold the civic by 7%. They got the design right but they failed on the main lesson continual evolution not a revolution every 10 years.

    This is best highlighted by the engine on my 1996 (second gen) SL2 at 50,000 miles it developed a taste for motor oil. after poking around I learned this was not an uncommon thing, the fix a rebuild (at 60k). Reportedly it wasn’t until the 2000 retrofit the oil consumption issue was addressed. Wating 9 years to fix what the consumer is going to view as a showstopper doesn’t help one earn repeat business.

    and then there was the ION and GM’s attempt to mold Saturn into a hip youth brand like Scion. GM made the trade of economy for power. on an Economy car!.

    With Saturn GM bought a lifeline and brought people back to the brand who left, It was successfully in that regard. Its a shame they couldn’t make the cars to keep the customers.

  • avatar
    IOtheworldaliving

    Too bad. I liked the no-haggle sales experience at Saturn. As for most of the rest of the dealership sales people in this country, they can take advantage of the high price of gold to hock all their fancy jewelry for rent money.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Too bad. I liked the no-haggle sales experience at Saturn.”

    Yep, everyone pays full sticker price sure was a great deal …. for the dealers! Why pay full boat for an Aura when the Chevy dealer will do much better for you on a Malibu?

  • avatar
    IOtheworldaliving

    @John: Wasn’t my problem–I got GMS pricing as an employee and then later as a relative of one. When I moved out of MI I couldn’t go to my old dealer, which I trusted very much. All the dealers where I live now were clueless on things like GMS and lease pull-ahead. The F&I guy at the Chevy dealer did the high-pressure sales push of that extended warranty and life-insurance crap.

    I’m not as good at dealing with this stuff as some other people are. I’d rather deal with a fixed price, MSRP minus incentives as the market would dictate, and then great service afterward.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Saturn was killed by neglect. We still have our 95 Saturn SC1, perhaps the best vehicle GM has ever made for the class.

    Every bit the competitor to the contemporary Civic and Corrola.

    Bulletproof reliability: Over 165K miles, we’ve spent <$2K on repairs. Yes, thats right. Total repair bills (excluding routine maintinence) of $2K over the car’s lifespan so far…

    And it still looks good! It looks contemporary and modern still.

    But the successor, the Ion, was an abomination. Cut corners, cheap design, and didn’t refine things the way the Civic and Corrola were refined.

    And the lack of a competent midsized car (the L serise was a joke) ensured Saturn’s demise.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    Crazy ass thought: What if GM has had this plan in the works for a while?

    Just look at the plans they’ve been making over the last year; the new Aura (nee Insignia) was canceled/delayed, while Buick will likely be getting a direct-import Insignia clone. The Vue has been doing well thanks to its Euro design and quality interior, but GMC is getting a new small SUV, the Terrain, that shares the Vue’s sheetmetal. The Astra, though never really meant to sell in large numbers, has no confirmed replacement.

    All the signs have been pointing to a Saturn closure being in the works, but nothing has provided concrete proof until now.

    Saturn’s a dead-brand walking. Too bad…

  • avatar
    jnik

    I bought an Opel Rallye in 1972. Sweet handling car, but just TRY getting the Buick dealer to service it! Service mostly consisted of ignoring the problem, then trying to get me to trade up to a [email protected]$$ Buick! Never looked at a buick abain after I got rid of the Opel.
    My guess is they’ll somehow buy out the Saturn dealers, then replace the Pontiac G6 with the Aura, Torrent with the Vue, and maybe the G5 and G3 with the Astra. Solstice and Acadia stay in place.

  • avatar

    “Screw up, and you get sent to the Outer Planet!”

    Outer Planet being slang for Saturn, which was considered to be where men who were not so real were sent to die.

    Anyway – Saturn was great when it started, the rest of GM should have sought to achieve that kind of customer loyalty and after-sales service, and the company wouldn’t be where it is now.
    But with GM bent on “cross-platform synergies,” poor Saturn had too few models for that idea to work there. Instead of reaching the logical conclusion – leave it like that – they gave Saturn a range of models to fois their platforms on.

    Numbskulls.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Dammit, the Astra was the only GM car I actually liked.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The ghost of Roger Smith is alive and well! “Hey guys, let’s declare the experiment a success!”

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Saturn did not reinvent the automobile with it’s crude and primitive S series. They marketed it well.
    That Roger Smith’s ego and GM’s money allowed him to live out his Walter Mitty fantasy of being an automobile magnate and start his own company was criminally tragic.

    I own two Saturns: a 95 SL1 and an 05 ION 1. If the S Series was the best GM could do with all it’s resources and all it’s money, it’s no wonder it’s in the straits it finds itself in today.

    As for the ION being “worse” than the S series: it rides better, it’s quieter, the Ecotec 4 doesn’t suck oil, the transmission differential pins don’t blow, it’s easier to enter and exit, has more trunk room and has a more comfortable driving position.

    I just got back from a 2000 mile round trip in it. 700 mile days were easy. I would have been crippled and deaf in the 95. Even Car & Driver said the ION was “better than what came before it”.

    They also said “we waited 7 years for this ?”. It was better, but not by much and came with it’s own set of quirks and problems. And it’s a TWAT winner as well. But that just damns the s series even more.

    The comparison between an S Series and an ION is like comparing a 33 Ford to a 49 Ford.

    Still doesn’t make the ION a good car, but it suits misfits like me just fine.Mileage is 26-37 with the automatic.Always beats it’s EPA #s. In LA traffic.

    No. There was nothing GM could not have accomplished with Geo [which came before Saturn BTW], Nummi, Opel or GM S. America for billions of dollars less.

    What they proved with Saturn was that with the right ad agency and brand focus they could sell a lot of mediocre cars at full price and have people love em. The S was fun to drive and simple to work on. At that it was brilliant.

    With a total of 11,000 Astras sold vs. 100,000 units per year for the ION, a 411 day supply of the Atra currently, the Sky selling at a $10,000 per unit loss and the market for 5000 lb crossovers dying, let it go, GM. It’s over. It never made a dime since it’s origins in the mid 80s. At a true cost of untold billions.

    End it. Don’t mend it.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Stein X Leikanger: Anyway – Saturn was great when it started, the rest of GM should have sought to achieve that kind of customer loyalty and after-sales service, and the company wouldn’t be where it is now.

    In the 1990s, Oldsmobile, under division general manager John Rock, tried to implement Saturn’s no-haggle price policy and upgrade service at local Oldsmobile dealers.

    The effort failed, and one reason was that Olds dealers were more independent than Saturn dealers. When GM drew up the Saturn franchise agreements, it made sure that the corporation retained a great deal of control over the operation and policies of the dealers. GM did not have this level of control over Olds dealers.

    DweezilSFW: The comparison between an S Series and an ION is like comparing a 33 Ford to a 49 Ford.

    Maybe, but the 1949 Ford was at least as good as it contemporaries, and better in some ways, while the ION was woefully behind the Focus, let alone the Corolla and Civic.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    For those rejoicing at the end of Saturn, please remember this — it is you (and I) who will be paying for it.

    The cost of this shutdown will be coming out of our pockets. It could easily cost a billion dollars to do this.

    It’s a shame that a decision like this wasn’t made when GM would have gotten some benefit out of it and they could have paid for it themselves. Now, instead, we’re going to pay for it, and we won’t be seeing any benefit from it at all. The Aveo will not magically become a better car just because Saturn is gone.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Geeber: You are absolutely right. And that is the nub of it: The ION was better than what came before it. But not class leading or even “as good as” the Focus or Corolla. And screwed up in so many other areas.

    I like the car, but can be objective about it. To say it’s good, is wishful thinking. To say it does it’s intended job with a measure of ability and economy is true , but faint praise.That it’s a TWAT award winner makes me smile every time I drive it.

    A shame too, as the Delta platform is a competent although heavy one.It took the Cobalt to bring the improvements that the ION should have been introduced with in Fall of 2002.

    Even then the Cobalt was only “Almost there”. And only for a year before GM started it’s campaign of neglect. “We only got 10 years out of our 95 Cavalier makeover. Maybe we can get 15 out of the Cobalt…”

    The Holy Grail S Series was considered “almost there” by the automotive press in being an equal competitor to the Corolla or the Civic when it was introduced. And that’s as far as it EVER got. Almost.

    PCH:Also true. If the Feds do this bailout to maintain the type of mismanagement that Saturn represents [failed opportunities, grandiose schizo product planning, etc ] and I will never ever buy another domestic built car. Ever. It’s one thing to buy a funky automobile because it has a certain whacked appeal to the buyer. Another thing when everyone else is forced to pay for it as well.

    And ironically the AVEO will sell three times as many units as the Astra.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    The Holy Grail S Series was considered “almost there” by the automotive press in being an equal competitor to the Corolla or the Civic when it was introduced. And that’s as far as it EVER got. Almost.

    Almost was good enough – if they could have stayed just that little bit behind Honda and Toyota, many of us would be driving Saturns today. I was willing to give my business to GM for “almost”. For “not even close”, as in the Ion and the Cobalt? Not a chance.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    My mom owned a ’93 SL2, which I drove for a summer. For the time it was an ok car. The engine was peppy and it was far sportier and fun to drive than the Taurus I had at the time.

    Still, the dash was hard ass plastic. The cloth seats were left me longing for the Taurus and the whole climate control layout looked like it was scammed from my buddies ’83 Celica. But with continued refinement it could’ve easily been a serious competitor to the Civil/Corolla class leaders.

    The mid-90’s redesign wasn’t to my stylistic liking…then with the ION rollout I completely lost interest. Too bad. When Saturn started selling an SUV I had already long ago left the ranch for the Japanese transplants.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    The Cobalt was “almost” for perhaps a year. The ION never. But it was still better than what came before it from Saturn. What they had by 2000 was a platform first laid down in the 80s with very little updating, GM’s hallmark style model development among it’s passenger cars, the “let it die on the vine before we finally replace it” school of product management.

    And that is the crux of GM’s problem: just give the dealers something to sell “in the segment”.It only has to be just good enough. Criminal mismanagement and outlandish basis on which to base product decisions. No question.

    And no evidence whatsoever that this has changed in any way. The Cobalt was to be GM’s “premium” small car, to help erase GM’s image as an also ran in the segment. You have all seen how long that lasted. Classic GM.

    And I will bet you: nothing has changed and nothing will as a result of the bail out. What you will see in the 2020 Chevy Cruze will be what you see in 2010. If GM even lasts that long.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    If GM Chapter 7’ed tomorrow, Saturn would be a bargain for someone wanting to get into the car biz, if you got the dealer network with it.

    GM killing Saturn and letting those dealers twist in the wind would be GM-ish, which is to say stupid. What kept Saturn going after GM stopped investing in it was the dealer network. People who didn’t necessarily like Saturn cars would buy a Saturn anyway just because of the dealer experience alone.

    That puts Saturn in one of the rarest of places: a GM division that figured out how to engage its customers at the dealer level, promoting fierce brand loyalty and a positive image of the company. The fact they have done as well as they have with some truly mediocre iron (plastic?) says a lot about that side of Saturn’s business. I would like to see Saturn survive, even if it has to punch out, escape pod-like, from the burning and stricken Mothership.

  • avatar
    jimpen

    So here’s my question: Should I or should I not buy the Astra I’ve been thinking about for the past three months?

    Over on the Astra review thread Macca compared the Astra to an early 90’s Infiniti G20 – small, not a lot of power, but great handling and dependable.

    For me small/great handling == Ton-O-Fun

    I own a 91 G20 with 230K miles. It’s time to think about a replacement and the Astra sounds like the perfect car for me. Is there any chance I’d have someone to honor any kind of warranty for the next five years or should I just forget about it and move on?

  • avatar
    NickR

    Saturn is a GM double whammy. The overall idea may have been great, but they took the ‘clean sheet of paper approach’ too far, investing a fortune. GM never recovered their investment in Saturn.

    That being said, it did have some successes. As many others have said, novelty, good customer relations, and brand loyalty. This at least offered the prospect of a sometime return on investment. Then GM let it whither, then made it a home for Euro imports that it didn’t advertise and lost money on, as well as some badge-engineered non-entities. The only exception was the Sky, in that it looked distinctly different, and better, than the Solstice.

    The Aura and Outlook will disappear, and the others…well I can almost see them all ending up at Buick if that brand sticks around. If not, I think they all disappear.

  • avatar
    hapless

    Forget it. It’s not the Astra is a bad car, it’s that it’s terribly overpriced.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The Saturn had and still has something no other General Motors marque can claim: It pulled in people who would not be caught DEAD in a GM dealership. For the first 5 years or so people were rewarded with an experience and choice of drivable vehicles unlike any of the rest of GM.

    If they had better products and a better product line, nobody would be asking “What would Jesus drive?”

    It took supreme arrogance and unfathomable idiotic brand management to stomp all life out of the Saturn experience. Dump top management and bring in people from L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and REI to run it and watch how much is still available to be mined from this tree-hugger’s bait Mother Lode.

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    Just out of curiosity, has any Wild Ass Rumor of the Day ever panned out?

  • avatar

    Yes.

  • avatar

    Do you think this rumor, and the possible execution, are a way for GM to convince the government that the situation really is serious and that it must act? Hardball negotiation.

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