Original Saturn Plant To End With a Whimper?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
original saturn plant to end with a whimper

When GM CEO Roger Smith wanted to create a different kind of car company (like he didn’t have several already), he commissioned a Saturn factory in Spring Hill, TN. For a short time, the factory, the brand, the model they built, the dealers who sold them and the customers who bought them all lived happily ever after. And then the GM borg assimilated Saturn. At first, they neglected it. Then they gutted it like a fish. Then they stocked dealers with a bunch of unloved German-style imports, built somewhere other than the Volunteer State. And now, that pioneering Saturn factory builds GM’s fourth badge-engineered Lambda platform. The Chevy Traverse is not doing well, saleswise. In fact, LSJ.com reports that the TN factory producing these unloved CUVs is currently operating at 24 percent of capacity. That’s after the General spent, wait for it, $690 million re-equipping the plant for the task. And remember what we said about politics informing GM’s business decisions? Check this out . . .

Erich Merkle, a Grand Rapids-based auto analyst, thinks Spring Hill could be jettisoned in favor of GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant. That’s because the crossovers made there – the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook – are sister vehicles to the Traverse.

The Delta Township plant also has excess capacity. GM eliminated the second shift at the plant at the end of March, cutting production and throwing hundreds of people out of work.

At current sales levels, all four vehicles could be built at either plant, but politics could give the Michigan plant the edge, said Merkle, who has speculated before that Traverse production could end up at the Lansing Delta Township plant.

“Spring Hill could be on the bubble because it’s in a red state and Michigan is a blue state,” Merkle said. “The governor of Michigan is a Democrat, too, and she needs all the plants she can get.”

And here’s the money shot:

The Delta Township and Spring Hill plants should be safe if operating decisions are made rationally, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

The guy who gave Detroit the ammo to scarf federal bailout bucks is warning us about irrational operating decisions by the federally controlled automaker. That’s Rich. [Thanks to matttstairs for the link]

Join the conversation
2 of 39 comments
  • Logandiagnostic Logandiagnostic on Apr 25, 2009

    Hmmm... Spring Hill has been retooled. Now considered a Chevrolet plant or GM Spring Hill Manufacturing. Yes, the Chevrolet Traverse is being built there. Outsold Toyota Highlander by 1100 vehicles in March 2009. All 'Saturn' Spring Hill employees are now 'GM' employees. Problem: Both LDT and Spring Hill build basically the same product. What to do? You need some facts: LDT: Fairly new plant. Spring Hill: 18 year old plant with a new 2008 billion dollar upgrade. A 18 year old plant would be considered 'new'. Basically any car factory is simply 4 walls and a roof. LDT is running 1 shift. Spring Hill is running 2. LDT is working during the current 'GM shut down'. Why?..1 shift. 1 shift is not cutting it at LDT in relation to market demand. Spring Hill is working 2 shifts. LDT is mouthing off the Traverse is comming to Lansing. How could they take on the Spring Hill work? They can't. Spring Hill is building upwards of over 600+ Chevrolet Traverse's per day. LDT could not build the Chevrolets, plus Saturn, plus Buick, plus GMC models. LDT is about 1/2 the size of Spring Hill. 3.4 million sq. feet vs 7.5 million square feet for Spring Hill. Spring Hill offers stamping, powertrain, interior/exterior plastics, assembly. All onsite. Also, being all of Spring Hill is now GM. IF the Traverse DID move to Lansing...all the Spring Hill guys could follow their jobs. Lots of former 602 and 652 UAW local workers. One final fact. With the 'Obama Auto Group' overlooking all the plants very closly, and making chioces. The last thing you wannabe is a GM plant with only 1 shift. Your done.

  • Miller2008 Miller2008 on Apr 25, 2009

    Hi, A very smart and diplomatic answer. It’s really appreciable and generous. Miller Auto Quotes

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.