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Saturn has officially been killed by GM after the Penske Automotive Group failed to secure a producer of the vehicles and the sale to Penske fell through.  (Source: Jalopnik)

The death will shut down 350 dealerships nationwide and will cost approximately 13,000 jobs. It also marks an embarrassment for Penske and a loss of sales revenue for GM.  (Source: MSNBC)

Saturn will largely be remembered for its "No Haggle" policy, its success in the early 90s, and its resurgence between 2000-2008 with new models like the 2007 Saturn Sky, pictured here.  (Source: Drag Times)
Saturn brand meets its demise when deal with the Penske Automotive Group falls through

There was a death to report yesterday in the automotive industry.  At only 24 years of age, the Saturn brand was officially laid to rest by GM.  The brand was always one of great ups and downs, but in the end a champion to save it failed to emerge.

The Saturn brand was officially formed in 1985 and the first cars rolled off the assembly line in 1990.  The brand projected a U.S. family-friendly image and produced high quality small vehicles to compete with Nissan, Honda, and Toyota imports.  Also popular was Saturn's famous "No Haggle" price policy.

However, the expenses of the vehicles' quality and that policy left the brand relatively unprofitable.  It is unclear if even at its greatest sales year it turned a profit.  As a result, GM didn't give it the product it needed to stay fresh, and it fell behind other brands in the 90s.  At the turn of the millennium GM tried to revitalize the brand, and it seemed to be working.  Customer interest in new models like the Saturn Vue, Ion, and Sky soon rose and the brand looked poised for a comeback.  Then the recession came.

Even its new vigor was not enough to outweigh its weakness in the late 90s and Saturn found itself among the many brands on GM's chopping block, along with Saab, Hummer, Vauxhall, Opel, and Pontiac.  Under government supervision, GM worked out a sale of Saturn to the Penske Automotive Group, founded by racing legend Roger Penske.  The group already owned 310 auto retailers, so it seemed a perfect fit for the brand

The deal was almost complete, but one major aspect remained unanswered -- who would produce the vehicles.  GM agreed to temporarily take on some of the design and engineering responsibilities and transition these task to Penske.  It also agreed to produce Saturn vehicles, but only until 2011.  Penske needed someone to take over production from GM.  Reportedly, Renault Samsung Motors Co., a South Korean subsidy of France's Renault motors which doesn't currently import in the U.S., was among of those considered to take on the task of producing of Saturn-branded vehicles abroad and then shipping them to the U.S.

The Boulogne Billancourt, France-based automaker wrote, "Renault has been in contact with Penske to supply cars, parts and technology to Saturn through an OEM agreement.  The conditions for an agreement have not been found."

At the end of the day, the mystery third-party producer pulled out when its board reportedly rejected the deal to produce Saturn vehicles.  This left Penske without a producer past 2011.  Penske terminated the deal and GM terminated Saturn.

The mood was a dismal one when the brand, beloved by many, was laid to rest.  With it goes 13,000 jobs, largely in Michigan, and 350 dealerships, which have until October 2010 to close.

GM expressed its disappointment with the development, with Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson stating, "This is very disappointing news and comes after months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees and Saturn retailers who tried to make the new Saturn a reality."

Some analysts were shocked that GM let the deal collapse, losing the profit of the sale.  Stephen Spivey, an auto analyst with Frost & Sullivan in San Antonio, states, "I’m a little surprised that there was no plan B here.  It’s surprising to me that Penske had no idea that this might not be accepted."

Indeed, the loss could hurt GM's reputation, according to analysts.  GM also lacks a clear plan to salvage Saturn's hybrid technology and other important technologies from the brand.  For Penske it represents an embarrassing mar on the group's traditionally strong track record, which has included such successes as brokering a deal with Daimler as the exclusive import of Smart cars.

Many analysts are simply lamenting what could have been.  Rebecca Linland, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, states, "Saturn is the brand you wanted to like.  It is the little brand that could have and should have [been great]."

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RE: No Plan B
By Manch on 10/1/2009 8:02:36 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, the damn floor mats. Oh wait I can throw them in the trunk. The camaro on the other hand you need to have towed back to the dealer. That's the same.

RE: No Plan B
By Spuke on 10/2/2009 1:19:38 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, the damn floor mats. Oh wait I can throw them in the trunk. The camaro on the other hand you need to have towed back to the dealer. That's the same.
Tell that to the family in San Diego that was killed (heard the 911 call RIGHT before it happened) that this recall is not a big deal.

RE: No Plan B
By Keeir on 10/2/2009 2:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
No offense, but there should be a way of safey stopping your car in such a situation. Throwing the car into nuetral, Braking until your stopped. Then turning the car off...

Is there a reason this wouldn't work?

However, the underlying point that should be made is that all manufactures have recalls and defects on thier products.

For example the 2004 Toyota Prius has 3 recalls. 1 for improperly designed brake lights. One for improper airbag inflation. And my favorite- Loss of steering control of the vehicle due to poorly designed parts in the steering system.

Here is a good place

The 2004 Malibu has only 4 recalls. One for an airmarket issue, so 3 recalls. Same as the 2004 Prius.

RE: No Plan B
By Spuke on 10/2/2009 3:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
No offense, but there should be a way of safey stopping your car in such a situation. Throwing the car into nuetral, Braking until your stopped. Then turning the car off...
No offense taken. They were driving a Lexus and if you hold down the Start/Stop button for 3 seconds it will turn the car off. They, obviously, didn't know that. You should also be able to put the car in neutral. They didn't know that either apparently. And the brakes still worked but either they didn't press hard enough or weren't able to slow enough to avoid the collision.

It's sad but they weren't powerless. They could've saved themselves. Even turning the wheel, possibly sliding sideways or sideswiping parked cars would've been better than that fate. I mean they had time to call 911 for God's sake. That's time they could've used to figure out how to survive. People need to realize that the brakes are not the only thing you can use to avoid an accident.

RE: No Plan B
By Manch on 10/3/2009 2:10:10 AM , Rating: 2
From your link:

Preliminary evidence suggests that the wrong model of all-weather rubber mat caused California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor to lose control of a 2009 Lexus ES 350 -- part of Toyota's luxury vehicle line -- on State Route 125 last month.

Toyota is merely taking precautions because of the potential that this could be an issue. 6 years and the first time it becomes an issue is because it the WRONG FLOOR MAT!!

Again, not the same.

The question that should be asked is why the dealership installed the wrong ones in the vehicle. Last time I bought some all weather cut to fit floor mats the instructions said to make sure it does not interfere with the safe operation of the brake and gas pedals. The issue here isn't Toyotas floor mats it's the fact that the wrong ones were put in.

RE: No Plan B
By johnsonx on 10/3/2009 5:20:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's very sad, but you can't blame Toyota or even the floor mat (which was the incorrect model for the car). That family died because of the driver's stupidity and panic. You'd think a CHP officer would keep a cooler head.

RE: No Plan B
By johnsonx on 10/3/2009 5:29:55 PM , Rating: 2
ok, I take part of that back. The situation doesn't exactly make sense, stopping the vehicle should not have been difficult regardless of whether the accelerator was stuck, but I have no way to know whether the driver acted stupidly or panicked. Perhaps there is more to the situation than is immediately apparent.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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