By on June 9, 2009

Roger Penske has got to be a busy guy these days. His purchase of Saturn is a characteristically audacious move that is simultaneously compelling and terrifying. Penske’s Saturn dealers will sell current GM products until they reach the end of their lifetimes. “Concurrent with that, we’ll go around the world to see what products could be brought into this country,” Penske tells Edmunds Inside Line. The “World Market” approach seems to do away with much of the industry’s basic understanding of branding, but Penske insists that aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, safety and styling will continue to be the defining characteristics for new Saturn products.

“We’ll be focused and targeted on models that serve the existing Saturn customer base and in the price ranges that already have surfaced with the existing owner base,” says the Midas of motorsport. Performance vehicles, it seems, are off the radar. “We need to be focused on the core volume before we become a specialty house. We need to generate volume,” says Penske. And though Renault/Samsung products are tipped as likely initial candidates for the International House Of Penske, let’s not assume any foregone conclusions for the sake of this exercise. Just give us your lineup of international vehicles (must be from brands with no US presence) for the new Saturn. Check out the gallery below for a few random suggestions.

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39 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: International House Of Penske Lineup?...”

  • avatar

    “Concurrent with that, we’ll go around the world to see what products could be brought into this country,”

    “We’ll be focused and targeted on models that serve the existing Saturn customer base and in the price ranges that already have surfaced with the existing owner base,”

    More Opels anyone?

  • avatar

    Hey, wasn’t the EV1 technically a Saturn, or at least serviced there?

  • avatar

    -Citroen C6
    -Renault Modus
    -Renault Megane
    -Lancia Delta
    -Opel Zafira
    -Holden VE Commodore Ute
    -Holden VE Commodore Sedan

  • avatar

    Not really a bad idea. From the point of the offshoring jobs it’ll be unpleasant, but it’s an interesting way to do things. I think it was what Cerberus had intended for Chrysler.

    It does work against the concept of branding from the perspective of product, but not from the perspective of the channel. Instead of Saturn being “Sony”, it becomes a “Best Buy”, which happens to sell one or two Sony products, but also those from Panasonic, etc.

    You’ll get some awful crap, but it’ll be priced low. You’ll also get some very interesting products, and you’ll get them more frequently and without the brand management baggage (well, from the perspective of Penske/Saturn) and costs that plague traditional makes.

    Eventually we’re probably going to be looking at commodity cars (at best) or a race to the bottom/Walmart-Auto (at works) at worst. It’s happening anyway as the technology sharing and rebranding is becoming more common, this is just more overt.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Tata’s Nano for $4999

  • avatar

    To tie in with a post yesterday, maybe that is where Tata plans to sell the US Nano.

  • avatar
    Seth L

    Ajla beat me to the C6, but I’d say the C3 Pluriel as well.

    Whatever happened with Mahindarah and Mahindarah? Could throw in their pickups too.

  • avatar

    If that pickup thingie has a full 6-foot box like my old dearly departed Rampage, I’m in!

  • avatar

    How about Skodas? I only ask as someone completely ignorant as to their relative merits.

  • avatar

    Another issue of concern is after sales support. With the supply of cars from all sorts of places, the parts availability will be more complex. When Saturn was in the GM family, there was a core of sub-assemblies that were common to a range of GM cars. But with the International House of Penske sourcing from many places the commonalities will be less. The after market support may be more complex/expensive.

  • avatar

    Mini/Subcompact: Proton Saavy & Saga
    Compact: Renault Samsung SM3
    SUV/Crossover: Ssangyong Actyon
    Midsize: Skoda Superb

  • avatar

    Saturn ought to commission an new interior for the Aura from Johnson Controls. The exterior is as nice looking as any of the competition. It’s inside where the car falls short. The powertrains are competitive as well.

    I think there is a niche to be exploited among high-mileage drivers. Saturn could be the “fleet manager” for individuals. They can implement airline-like maintenance schedules. One reason planes crash so seldomly is that part are replaced on a schedule before they wear out.

    One of Saturn’s most memorable commercials was the one about the woman who drove her SL all over Alaska for 200,000 miles (I don’t remember the number) and she brought it to the dealer for replacement of the driver’s seat.

    Saturn could target people who drive their own cars on business, include a trip computer that lets you input your client and trip information and downloads it to quicken. The marketing can show how if you claim the standard mileage rate you actually MAKE MONEY driving Saturn cars.

  • avatar

    I fully expect good things to come of this, for no particular reason.

  • avatar

    He could start by bringing over the smart Smart and not the dumb-ass one he’s currently selling. I read an interview with the head of Smart USA who indicated Smart’s US incarnation with it’s gas engine and crappy transmission is just fine and they have no intention of bringing over the turbo diesel and the 6 speed manual.

    For all of Penske’s rep, he’s not doing the Smart justice.

  • avatar

    I dunno. It depends if Magna wants to play ball, also how willing Renault/Nissan or PSA are willing to forge into the US market. Just some options. The Renault Homepage is really informative, giving all their vehicles, from Renault, Dacia and Samsung.

    Small Hatch-New Clio
    Small Family-Astra
    Midsized Family-Opel Insignia
    Large Family Car-SM7
    Small SUV-Opel Antara or Renault Koleos (Like Nissan Rogue)
    Small MPV-Opel Zafria
    Large MPV-Renault Espace

  • avatar

    He could bring over one of those little “backee” pick ups. If for no other reason because nobody else is selling them here.

    How about the APTERA – Yeah, now we’re talking.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Penske insists that aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, safety and styling will continue to be the defining characteristics for new Saturn products.

    Okay, so if I get rid of ‘performance’ what other attributes does this leave me with?

    I’ve never been a huge fan of companies that try to make every model look exactly like it’s big brother or little sister but there is something to be said for design harmony across the lineup. If Penske goes for the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme model and creates Potpourriske Motors, the car reviews are going be as polar as Farago and De Lorenzo.

    This could be the rain that breaks the levies that are keeping Chinese cars out of North America. Maybe it’s time for Wal-Mart to get into the car sales business.

  • avatar

    The combination of Brilliance and Dacia models would make the AMC-Renault lineup of the 1980s look positively sensical by comparison.

    I vote for the Renaults. Except, of course, the Vel Satis. Cool French name, weird bodystyle.

  • avatar

    Do we get a free coffee mug for being the Beta marketing group ?
    Based on looks alone:
    Renault Clio
    Brilliance M3

  • avatar

    Forget Samsung, America has enough Asian cars already so we don’t need Korean-built re-skinned Nissans. Let’s bring over some Renaults and maybe some Dacias and give the French and Czechs another chance. Twingo, Clio, Megane, Scenic and a Sandero Stepway. Done.

  • avatar

    Hyundai established that a brand can be about something other than the cars. In their case it’s the warranty. And they’ve used that to leverage a whole lineup of absolutely forgettable vehicles.

    Likewise, Saturn’s brand represents not the cars but the buying experience. With competent management and cheap enough cars this could work.

  • avatar

    Nosubstitute +1

    You’ve got to find your niche. Hyundai’s were POS so the gave them loooooooooong warranties so you would give them a shot. If Penske offers long warranties (longer than Detroit, maybe not as long as Korea, but close)and brings over cars you can’t buy anywhere else in the United States, he might just make money.

  • avatar

    I really like this idea – I’ve always thought Saturn still had potential, and maybe being cut loose from GM is what it’s needed all along.

    – When I heard about the Nano coming to the US, I immediately thought “Saturn.” It’d be a good talking-point car for the brand (low-end halo?).

    – Renault seems like the obvious partner for this. I’d bring in the Dacia Logan range – even the commercials, there’s got to be a market for that type of truckette here. Cheap, cheerful(ish) and robust, just what Saturns used to be about.

    – Koleos/SM5 for an SUV/crossover thing.

    – I like Conslaw’s idea about refreshing the Aura, which is a handsome car. But they can’t source it from GM forever, right? You might as well bring in a contemporarily-styled mid-size Chinese car, so long as it’s built to at least Korean standards (anything that’s better than recent Chrysler).

    – I’d drive an Espace if they offered it; they’ve got awesome Euro style, and one with the four-cylinder turbo-diesel and stick could be my rest-of-life car, if it lasted long enough…

    Then once the brand and volume have picked up speed, you could do limited-run specials – I’m thinking the RenaultSports, maybe a Megane CC, or the Twingo-based two-seater they’re cooking up.

    Saturn presents an interesting opportunity for someone like Renault (or Fiat!) to use their South American, Korean and other low-cost manufacturing assets. I think the ideal product message is low-cost, efficient, sturdy and reliable – it’s a good selling line for difficult economic periods like the one we’re in. Renault is working on the electric technology that would be completely on-message for the Saturn brand, and since Saturn originally ‘sold’ the EV-1, I guess they could claim they’re un-killing the electric car.

    And hey, you never know – the Vel Satis could be a huge, random hit here… right?

  • avatar

    @ Kyle Schellenberg

    Wal-Mart piloted selling cars for a while, it wasn’t pretty.

    “warranties longer than Detroit”

    How do you get a longer warranty then Chrysler’s (or should I say Uncle Sam’s) lifetime warranty? Doesn’t seem to really be making a difference for them.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t this deal create a huge conflict of interest? How can Penske be the owner of a brand and still own the sale franchises of that brands competitors. Would Toyota be allowed to go around and buy up Honda dealerships? I don’t think so.

  • avatar

    there will be no skodas being as they’re owned by VW, and if renault imports anything it will probably be through nissan, which they already have a substantial stake in.

    now, we may see some pugeots and citroens, but renault would have to be stupid to import through penske instead of nissan NA.

  • avatar
    Great Wall Coolbear.
    Isuzu Trooper.

  • avatar

    Yes, I would love to see Renaults, Peugeots and Citroen’s on America’s roads. It would certainly beautify them.

  • avatar

    Suzuki Jimny 4×4 Diesel

  • avatar

    Pfft. Manufacturers have leverage over dealers now, and dealers have excess inventory. Plus, Penske has dealerships for multiple makes already. The “new” Saturn should cherry pick good models (like Suzuki’s SX4 or Kia’s Rondo) from multiple manufacturers, offer ’em at a fixed no-haggle price like the “old” Saturn did, and become to go-to place for people who hate dealerships and hunting for the “best” car and just want to buy something good without stressing out or getting ripped off.

    Other dealerships may complain, but then again, they can always undercut the Saturn fixed price — so you can have the market split between those willing to pay more for good service and low stress, and those willing to put up with crap to get the lowest price. Kind of like Saturn was to GM as a whole before.

  • avatar

    Penske insists that aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, safety and styling will continue to be the defining characteristics for new Saturn products.

    Okay, so if I get rid of ‘performance’ what other attributes does this leave me with?

    Comfort, Amenities and Price.

    Saturns will not be performance-oriented in engines or handling; Saturns will not be overloaded with available options; Saturns will not be high-end or luxurious; Saturns will be sold at a fixed no-haggle price; Overlarge SUVs and sports cars will not be on the menu.

    However, Saturns will have fuel-efficient engines and gearing, low coefficient of drag, attractive styling and will be among the safest cars on the road.

    If he can actually deliver, that sounds a lot like the original Saturn product line and dealership experience, and it worked very, very well before GM fucked it up.

  • avatar

    Short term: Alongside the GM contractually produced (on a temporary basis) Aura, Vibe and Outlook (dear Saturn: “no hybrids for YOU” – thanks, New GM”):

    How about adding the ex-NUMMI “Pontiac Vibe” rebadged as the Saturn Vibe? Less expensive, more saleable, more reliable and more mainstream than the overpriced Opel based Astra…. Retool a new grill and shizbang, you’ve got a competitive small car. Toyota wouldn’t care – they’d be happy to turn a profit on the cars. GM aren’t going to use the Vibe, they’ve said so. They’d also make a profit (owning 50% of NUMMI).

    Then, how about Renault-Samsung and Renault? (It’d take at least 18 months to get the cars tooled up and certified for US homologation/certification).

    There is a 4 door sedan version of the Renault Clio built in Turkey which may well form the bones of the next generation Renault Samsung SM3 compact (current car is Nissan based). Renault assemble Clio’s in Mexico right now; why not the next generation Saturn badge-engineered Clio too?

    The next generation SM5 is likewise going to be based upon Renault bones rather than Nissan, but I strongly suspect the Nissan 2.5 litre 4 could go under the hood. There’s your Aura replacement.
    South Korea has a free-trade auto agreement with the USA, does it not?

    Renault-Samsung build a compact SUV which could obviously replace the Vue and Outlook.

    Perhaps Penske could set-up a CKD assembly deal with NUMMI on contract to assemble the South Korean supplied kits in California. Stranger things have happened (especially in third world nations where all manner of competing auto makers have shared CKD assembly halls in many combinations, in many nations).

    Just for a couple of historical examples, the company in South Africa which assembled Studebakers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, added the Volkswagen Beetle in the early 1950’s (and is now Volkswagen South Africa).

  • avatar

    I would like to see some of the Indian knock-offs like the Samurai (Gypsy in India) as well as the TATA and Mahindra cars and trucks. Skodas, Dacias, and the Suzuki Jimney. The whole Iveco line. Maybe the Russians and Chinese truck offerings.

    More Diesels!

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Prediction du jour. Given that the product portfolio at Chrysler is functionally empty, except for a pickup and a minivan, there’s really not much else for your local Dodge boys to sell while wearing their white hats.

    That’s not enough to keep the doors open. When the Fiat 500 shows up, “in 18 months,” that won’t be enough to keep the doors open either.

    So Chrysler will go under. Again. And since Fiat will have re-engineered their cars to go into the U.S. market, I think you’ll see some of these products as Saturns.

    Fiat will have to get their money back. Okay, you can laugh now.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I can write a LONG article about how Penske’s strategy can completely change the auto industry. I’ll keep it to one sentence.

    Penske is going to contract virtually everything a manufacturer does out, and focus squarely on quality control, product mix, and dealer sales management.

    Product mix??? Here it goes…

    Saturn’s smartest strategy will be to focus on those models that already sell well here but are a part of a weak brand. The Suzuki SX4 in particular looks to be the perfect fit for it.

    If Mitsubishi pulls out, you may see a variety of their models with the needed upgrades in interior quality and design. The trick would be to offer cars that don’t overlap Saturn’s current line-up. The Outlander would be a nice offering. But volume issues and cannibalization will likely make a Mitsubishi presence limited.

    Forget about the European brands unless the vehicles are manufactured and supplied by a developing nation. They may offer great cars. But price competitive and volume friendly they are certainly not.

    Mahindra would be a great fit. In fact, I would find it a highly interesting prospect to have Penske handle rural Mahindra dealerships that could potentially take care of the Saturn line. A truck with a very long warranty and a ‘tough’ reputation would sell exceptionally well. That could in fact be Saturn’s volume vehicle.

    The Nano would be great for attention but the cost of making it US compliant (our regulations and our driving environment) may result in it not being price competitive. My own concern is that the Nano would be a bad halo vehicle due to it’s lower standards and limitations.

  • avatar

    Yes, I would love to see Renaults, Peugeots and Citroen’s on America’s roads. It would certainly beautify them.

    Yes, the shine and shimmer of leaking oil on the tarmac, the glimmer of chromed parts on the side of the road. Heck, the beauty of a well-designed French car, it’s lovingly-designed tail hoisted up by a tow truck.

    It’ll be glorious.

  • avatar

    But psarhjinian, so many TTACers are so bored with “appliance” Toyonda type cars and want something “exciting” like an Alfa Romeo.

    Yeah; the kind of car that in the UK is known to be the best on the market. If the measurment is “being left on the hard shoulder in the drizzle waiting on RAC or AA tow-trucks”.

    Just think how much MORE exciting it’ll be to be broken-down in a Colorado pass at 10,000 feet in the winter, in the middle of a desert in Arizona in July, or in a Upper Peninsula of Michigan blizzard 15 miles from a house in these fancy-dan stylin’ Eye-talian beauties!

    Plus! The wrench-boys at the nearest remaining 12 or 15 Dodge dealers will be soooo familiar with these rigs after wrenching on head gaskets of the few remaining Neons, Cummins diesels in pickem-ups and Hemi V8’s, no doubt about it.

  • avatar

    There actually is a model for this kind of branding that has worked very well for decades. It’s called Kenmore and Craftsman. Don’t laugh. Obviously, Sears doesn’t make washers, refrigerators, vacuums, lawn mowers and so on. They select menufacturers to source the product from, and often make some modifications to the appearance or controls, or add or subtract a feature or two, besides just swapping nameplates. And for all of Sears’ overall ups and downs, they have done a damn good job of maintaining the Kenmore and Craftsman brand equity.

    This could be very interesting to see play out, as Penske/Saturn could give us access to many cars whose manufacturers would not be able or willing to make the investment to set up a North American dealer network. Of course, Penske will need to be able to provide the parts and warranty support. The first time a customer in Montana has to park his Dacia truck for a month waiting for some part to arrive from Bucharest, it’s game over.

    I am also curious if Penske’s long term plans include some manufacturing. What if he bought a plant — plenty of ’em around — and used it to bring back some of the cars that are most sorely missed? For example, buy the tooling for, oh, say, a Roadmaster wagon, update it a bit, and buy the engines and transmissions from GM (umm, excuse me, Governmentski Motors, or VEB Automobilwerk GM, or whatever it will be called now).

  • avatar

    I sat down last evening with this in mind, so bear with me.

    Object one: be realistic (in other words, choose cars which can be sold in the US in a realistic timeframe considering how long it really will take to “federalize” them).

    Object two: make the car line up something which would appeal to the current Saturn buyer (obviously, don’t alienate the people still willing to shop the brand)

    Object three: plan ahead with the realization that better MPG is demanded of future cars, whether by government fiat (sorry for the pun) or from market forces, it’s going to happen; likewise, electric cars

    I even chose “names” which I thought sounded pretty cool. Feel free to choose your own names.

    Potential Saturn 2010 cars as of Oct. 2009 (and contract mfr.)

    Valor (New) sedan (Suzuki SX4, FWD), 2.0/4 (J)
    Aura sedan (new GM), 2.4/4, 3.6/V6 (US)
    Vue SUV (new GM), 2.4/4, 3.5/V6 (Mex)
    Outlook SUV (new GM), 3.6/V6 (US)

    Potential Saturn 2010 cars as of spring 2010 (and contract mfr.)

    Valor sedan (Suzuki SX4), 2.0/4 (J)
    Villa (New) sedan (Mitsubishi Galant), 2.4/4, 3.8/V6 (US) (in other words, replace the Aura as soon as GM refuses to build them)
    Vue SUV (new GM), 2.4/4, 3.5/V6 (M)
    Victor (New) SUV (Suzuki XL-7 based) 3.6/V6 (Canada)

    Potential Saturn 2011 cars (and contract mfr)

    Via (New) hatch (Dacia/Renault Sandro), 1.6 (BR)
    Valor sedan (Suzuki SX$), 2.04 (J)
    Vulcan (New) sedan (Renault-Samsung SM5), 2.0 (ROK)
    Villa sedan (Mitsubishi Galant), 3,8/V6 (US)
    Vista (New) SUV (Renault-Samsung QM5), 2.0/4 (ROK)
    Victor SUV (Suzuki XL-7 based), 3.6/V6 (Can)
    EV-2 (New) sedan (Renault), electric (F)

    Potential Saturn 2012 cars (and contract mfr)

    *possibly assembled in the US from kits?

    Via hatch (Dacia/Renault Sandro), 1.6 (BR)
    Valor (NEW) sedan (Renault-Samsung SM3)1.6/4 (ROK)
    Vulcan sedan (Renault-Samsung SM5) 2.0/4 (ROK)*
    Vista SUV (Renault-Samsung QM5) 2.0/4 (ROK)*
    Vanguard (new) sedan (Renault-Samsung SM7) 3.5/V6 (ROK)
    EV-2 sedan (Renault) Electric (Mexico?)

    Obviously, a tie-in on the main D-class (Camcord) sized Vulcan line would be to get with Paramount and hire in the new young Spock to do ads….

    Don’t forget that Dacia, Renault and Nissan are all tied together; that already certified Nissan engines could be used in any vehicles in which they would fit and could be engineered to go into; that Renault-Samsung are thought to be the top quality manufacturer by the South Koreans, apparently; and that there is a free-trade auto pact between South Korea and the US (or at least there was meant to be one). Also don’t forget that Renault is preeminent in electric car development, crash safety and have come a long long way since the days of the “Renault Appliance” sold by AMC dealers.

    Wonder if any old AMC executives, seeing Renault’s success in the rest of the world, are sorry they sold out to Crapster in 1987?

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