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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 67STANG on 10/1/2009 8:16:20 PM , Rating: 4
So you can understand:

The EV1 was advanced for it's time-- and GM had a working fleet of them.

The Volt is not advanced for it's time (there's tons of gasoline/electric vehicles on the road already)-- and GM can't get one out the door.

The interior of the Volt, while pretty much finalized (you can see images everywhere on the net) has not been confirmed to be done. You can bet it will be 100% plastic, however. What is confirmed is the exterior-- an exterior that looks like a Cobalt, only more retarded. (It will even use the Cobalt chassis.)

Bottom line is that when they can finally make them, they will have a hard time selling them. Gas is lower, jobless rates are higher and not many people want to drive a $40,000 car that looks like it costs $19,000. Even China will have a plug-in hybrid (BYD) to market before GM-- for only $21,000.

RE: No Plan B
By Spuke on 10/2/2009 1:08:46 PM , Rating: 2
The Volt is not advanced for it's time (there's tons of gasoline/electric vehicles on the road already)-- and GM can't get one out the door.
So YOU can understand:

The Volt is a SERIAL hybrid (for the 1 billionth time). There are exactly NO serial hybrids on the road. There are NO plug in serial hybrids on the road. And lastly, there are NO hybrids on the road that use lithium ion batteries. How is that not advanced? Because you say it isn't?

The interior of the Volt, while pretty much finalized (you can see images everywhere on the net) has not been confirmed to be done.
For the last time, post a link to a GM executive that says that the Volt's interior is final and completed and ready for production. I want to see FACTS! I could less about how you FEEL this will be.

Bottom line is that without actual evidence, what you believe is not fact and your feelings are not reality.

RE: No Plan B
By Alexvrb on 10/2/2009 11:06:50 PM , Rating: 2
The "cobalt chassis" is the delta platform. Nothing wrong with it, by any stretch of the imagination. That's like knocking an Infiniti for sharing a platform with a Nissan. You think there won't be any differences, because it shares a platform? Look at the variety of W-body cars. They're hardly all equal. But you wouldn't know anything about that, anyway.

As for the EV1, it had serious limitations that made it completely unviable, and they lost money on it left and right. Heck it wasn't even that advanced, it was based on "Impact", and it used lead acid batteries until later in its life. Gen II didn't even come out until '99, and even then the first Gen II models used lead acid still. It was a little crapbox, I don't know why anyone thinks it was anything special.

You know why GM built it? CARB literally *forced* them to build a zero-emissions vehicle, and since they already had Impact, they based it on that (rather than doing what the other major manufacturers did and retrofit an existing vehicle, usually a truck or SUV). They tried like hell, but full EVs just weren't ready for prime time. Perhaps they should have started working on a serial hybrid sooner.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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