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Jerry Flint on Saturn: Why No Blastoff?

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Do you believe that Saturn has potential? Some thought it would be easy, to just sell Opels in the US rebadged as Saturns.

Here's what Jerry Flint thinks, as posted to Forbes.com - click here

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Maybe if more people knew Saturn existed things would be better. GM should also allow its divisions to run independent like they did pre 1985.

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GM should also allow its divisions to run independent like they did pre 1985.

Here is a thought: spin off each division as a separate car company owned by the "central hub," that hub being GM.

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Here is a thought: spin off each division as a separate car company owned by the "central hub," that hub being GM.

Good idea, I'm sure it's been discussed but the $$$ prb. isn't there. :(

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If any more NA divisions must die, I'd MUCH rather see Saturn go than Pontiac. I've said it for years here, Saturn lost its significance to customers when it was assimilated... now it is just an invisible, generic GM brand. Kill it now and revive Pontiac, I say.
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Here is a thought: spin off each division as a separate car company owned by the "central hub," that hub being GM.

IIRC that's what FIAT did.

I don't think either alternative (GM model or FIAT model) is that important in operational terms: IMO it's the degree of effective integration and the strength of corporate culture that matter, and those things are for the most part independent of the legal structure a group of companies has.

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GM simply can't afford to have any of their divisions 'independent'...the product cadence is a mess without fiefdoms to battle.

I think Flint is seeing the cup as 1/2 empty. Transaction prices are higher and, while slow, the transition to a better image will take time.

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Saturn got lost as soon as the Malibu came out...why you ask? Look at the advertising $$$ that got dumped into the Malibu, it seems like Saturn got ignored or had their lunch money taken from them. I'm now seeing ads again for Saturn, but for a while there the ads disappeared. I am seeing a ton of Aura's on the roads here in Michigan lately.

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Enzl's right: Saturn languished for a long time. It would be a shame to kill it just as the product renaissance is beginning. Most of their problems have to do with lack of advertising $$$. How many people are even aware of the Astra or Aura?

I would personally rather see it go than Pontiac, but at least give it another year or so to see if the new product takes hold.

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Enzl's right: Saturn languished for a long time. It would be a shame to kill it just as the product renaissance is beginning. Most of their problems have to do with lack of advertising $$$. How many people are even aware of the Astra or Aura?

I would personally rather see it go than Pontiac, but at least give it another year or so to see if the new product takes hold.

1/2 full....or 1/2 empty, I think Flint is SPOT-ON with his article about Saturn. He hit's the major point.....GM squandered the company and never embraced the cultural changes that Saturn first embodied....

I said it before....while GM has ended up fully integrating Saturn into the GM portfolio, and it's ensuing old-school corporate culture......the irony of this is that the Saturn culture and different way of doing business is what GM, in whole, needed (and still needs) to do.

They never needed Saturn, the product.......but they've always needed the huge culture shift that was instilled in Saturn from day one.

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1/2 full....or 1/2 empty, I think Flint is SPOT-ON with his article about Saturn. He hit's the major point.....GM squandered the company and never embraced the cultural changes that Saturn first embodied....

I said it before....while GM has ended up fully integrating Saturn into the GM portfolio, and it's ensuing old-school corporate culture......the irony of this is that the Saturn culture and different way of doing business is what GM, in whole, needed (and still needs) to do.

They never needed Saturn, the product.......but they've always needed the huge culture shift that was instilled in Saturn from day one.

Flint is right--but what's done is done. We all know what the cost of a shut-down would be...and my guess is that Saturn can be revived because it doesn't have the baggage of some of the other divisions.

Additionally, revenue has been enhanced by the price points of the new product--most of the product starts at a price significantly higher than the Saturns of 4 years ago.

I would have done the revivial differently, but there's no unringing that bell at this point. Perhaps they could sell Saturn to somebody someday?

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GM needs to be patient with the process of moving Saturn upmarket. Their initial brand persona was all about offering small, value priced vehicles. That image cannot be erased overnight. I do see a problem with the advertising/marketing of the revitalized lineup: it's too mainstream and vanilla. The marketing/advertising does absolutely nothing to distinguish Saturn from Chevrolet. The division's portfolio was aligned with the Eurocentric style of GM's Opel division, but advertised as comparable to mainstream products from Toyota (Camry) and Honda (Accord); this is Chevrolet's position and purpose in the market. If GM really wants the public to "RETHINK" Saturn's image and portfolio, then create some advertising and marketing that suggests to the public that driving a Saturn is an experience that is aspirational and inspirational. The Eurocentric roots of the revitalized lineup need to be exploited and promoted.

There are two other concepts that I think GM should explore to help remake/refocus Saturn's image and market position:

1) Combine Saturn with Pontiac and GMC to create a midmarket, import focused (in image, if not in origin country of assembly) dealer network of cars and crossovers. Buick could then be repositioned as the FWD luxury arm of a Buick/Cadillac/Hummer luxury dealer network (Saab could be sold to generate revenue). Chevrolet would remain an independent mainstream dealer network with a full line of affordable cars/crossovers/trucks combined with the image enhancing Corvette and Camaro sports cars.

2) Refine the lineups of Saturn/Pontiac/GMC to reinforce each brand's image and purpose in the newly formed dealer network. Saturn would become the import flavored FWD car and MPV division. Pontiac would become the import flavored RWD car division. GMC would become the import flavored FWD/AWD crossover/SUT division. I provided a detailed lineup model below.

Saturn:

* Corsa: Subcompact 3-door, 5-door, wagon, and "TwinTop" roadster (Gamma II).

* Astra: Compact 3-door, 5-door, sedan, wagon, and "TwinTop" coupe (Delta II).

* Aura: Midsize sedan, 5-door, wagon, and "TwinTop" coupe (Epsilon II).

* Meriva: Subcompact MPV (Gamma II).

* Zafira: Compact MPV (Delta II).

* Discontinued: Sky, Vue, Outlook

Pontiac:

* Solstice (or G2): Roadster and 2-seat coupe (modified Alpha?). The styling of the next generation would be aligned with global versions offered by Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, and Daewoo. A luxury retractable hardtop version would then be developed for Cadillac.

* LeMans (or G4): Compact sedan, coupe, and convertible (Alpha).

* Ventura (or G6): Midsize sedan, coupe, and convertible (SWB SigZeta).

* Grand Prix (or G8): Large sedan, coupe, and convertible (LWB SigZeta).

* Discontinued: G5, Vibe, Torrent

GMC:

* Envoy: Compact crossover and SUT (SWB Theta II).

* Terrain: Midsize crossover and SUT (LWB Theta II).

* Acadia: Large crossover and SUT (Lambda).

* Discontinued: All truck based products (trucks/SUVs). This market is rapidly shrinking and Chevrolet can offer option packages to cover the truck/SUV market in the affordable and midmarket segments; Hummer would cover the luxury segment of the truck/SUV market.

The 2 steps mentioned above would help with Saturn's move upmarket, give all three divisions distinct/focused identities and purposes, and give GM a solid 3 brand midmarket, import focused dealer network that doesn't contain redundant products within that network.

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What's really nice about this Saturn failure is, with all their models nothing more than rebadged Opels, there is less of a negative impact on GM as a whole when they decide to dump the brand, as Opels can continue to be sold successfully, apparently, in Europe. No harm, no foul. I have nothing against GME developing certain platforms to be sold here and around the world, as with Holden and their excellent RWD platform, and other "Homerooms" around the world. I just want chassis tuning, minor differences in drivetrains, sheetmetal and interiors to match the brand DNA it's being sold under. A Chevrolet is a Chevrolet, a Pontiac a Pontiac, and so on.
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I think they need to give Saturn more money for advertising. I have not seen one Astra commercial. I haven't seen any recent Aura commercials either. The only Saturn commercial I've seen is the new VUE commerical, but it's nothing that gets people to consider it over the competition.

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Cadillacfan, my sentiments exactly.

I haven't seen anything for Saturn...and I've been watching a lot more TV lately.

When I do see Saturn ads, they're really not effective, either. Not bad, but not memorable either.

It's been said before, Saturn's ad budget needs more $$$ to up the frequency/quality.

Side note: I remember seeing beautiful Opel Astra 3-doors while in Europe - this is still a beautiful design. I can't believe I haven't seen a SINGLE ad for this car: print/online/billboard...nothing. And unlike most people, I keep my eyes out for industry-related ads. If that isn't a sign that Saturn needs more ad dollars, I don't know what is.

Again, the product is there - finally - but no buyer has a frickin' clue that these cars exist!

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I think they need to give Saturn more money for advertising. I have not seen one Astra commercial. I haven't seen any recent Aura commercials either. The only Saturn commercial I've seen is the new VUE commerical, but it's nothing that gets people to consider it over the competition.

You mean, you haven't seen this Saturn Commercial?

http://www.autoblog.com/2008/05/16/video-n...a-bleep-saturn/

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Actually, I've seen quite a few of the "Some people try to act cool [as some doofus in a sporty car that pulls alongside an Astra dumps his drink on himself] while other people are cool" ads on TV around here. It came up in a conversation at a dinner thing I went to tonight. Truthfully, it has only been the Malibu ads that have saturated the market around here in years.

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If any more NA divisions must die, I'd MUCH rather see Saturn go than Pontiac. I've said it for years here, Saturn lost its significance to customers when it was assimilated... now it is just an invisible, generic GM brand. Kill it now and revive Pontiac, I say.

I miss my plastic paneled dent resistant U.S. built SL2! If I could buy a modern equivalent today, I probably would! I have no interest in the Opels that are being sold as Saturns today.

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