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Oracle of Delphi

Saturn: General Motors's brand for the future

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bob-kisses856.jpg

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz kisses a Saturn Astra for the brand's national photo contest.

The sporty Belgium-built compact has won praises.

Saturn was touted as a "different kind of car company" when General Motors Corp. debuted the brand 18 years ago with a slavish devotion to customer service, a single-minded focus on compact cars and no-haggle pricing.

The fuel-efficient, pocketbook friendly cars, featuring a dent-resistant body, caught on with the public and car snobs alike. Popular Mechanics awarded Saturn a design and engineering award for manufacturing high-quality new vehicles.

But then Saturn and its Spring Hill, Tenn., country style morphed into a different version of itself. Its signature compact cars, highlighted by the breakthrough of the 1991 Saturn SL1, went stale because the company failed to introduce new models. Saturn also was hurt by GM cost-cutting and its late launch into the profitable SUV market.

"They never got back to the vehicle that really made Saturn tick," said auto analyst Erich Merkle of Crowe Horwath.

But a reinvention is under way.

Saturn's sporty Belgium-built Astra compact has won praise. The Vue has turned out to be a solid performer for customers looking for affordable crossovers, and the 2008 Saturn Outlook was rated one of the best new family vehicles. Saturn was rated the most improved brand in customer satisfaction in a recent University of Michigan survey.

Saturn has seen mixed results since being launched as an independent subsidiary of GM. It was designed as the automaker's counterpunch to Japanese compact car companies and came with a revolutionary labor agreement with the United Auto Workers.

Saturn introduced now-standard approaches to customer satisfaction -- from no-haggle pricing to staging "family reunions" for buyers in Tennessee to salespeople snapping Polaroids of new buyers posing next to vehicles topped with red ribbons.

"After they did that twice, I said, 'Don't do that a third time, I get the message, you're all caring people,' " said five-time Saturn owner David Hyde, an automotive historian at Wayne State University.

Yet some say Saturn was hindered by a limited product lineup that featured no new products from the S-series wagon's inception for the 1993 model year until the L-series sedan and wagon were introduced in 1999.

Since then, Saturn has regained some momentum, though its sales mirror GM's overall sales slump.

"They're in the middle of a transformation. They're probably going to survive," Hyde said. "They're one of the brighter spots in General Motors' overall picture."

Robert Snell

Link: http://www.detroitnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a...UTO01/809160325

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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If Saturn is GM's "brand for the future", they may as well pack their $h! and go home right now. Saturn means NOTHING. What a joke!
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Saturn can only dream about the transaction prices Oldsmobile was able to achieve with ease.

Relaunch the damn thing as Opel. New brand, no Rubbermaid polymer craptastic build quality baggage, and no expectations of cheap prices. GM's hemorraging cash, so why not eliminate unnecessary rebadging?

Edited by Croc
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Good to hear they're still dedicated to Saturn. The thing that GM has done in the past that's driven me absolutely nuts, is when they invest in a brand and when the first iteration isn't a massive home run, they abandon it. Given GM's beaten image, they need to show some long-term dedication to some of their brands so that they can actually build a meaningful image of those brands. And a good place to start is with Saturn.

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A better place would be Pontiac and Buick. Both brands are intensely ingrained into the American psyche.
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What a stupid picture. Bob, have some class. You're the CEO, fer fecks sake.
More like VP! :) Rick Wagoner is the CEO. Either way, he could have picked a better cars ass to kiss! :lol:
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A better place would be Pontiac and Buick. Both brands are intensely ingrained into the American psyche.

I agree. Launching Saturn was such an unnecessary move in the first place. If GM realized that their reputation was tarnished and they were losing market share to Asian imports back in the '80s, why didn't they make crucial changes and improvements within the existing brand structure (Chevy, Pontiac, GMC, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac)? Does building better vehicles and improving customer service really require launching another division? Just think where the corporation would be today if GM would have invested the money it wasted launching Saturn into building class leading cars and overhauling the existing divisions' customer service techniques. To me, this would have gone further to improve the public's perception of GM than spending billions to launch a division that has evolved into nothing more than just another typical GM brand. The entire Saturn experiment seems like an unnecessary waste of resources, talent, effort, and money.

Edited by cire
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A better place would be Pontiac and Buick. Both brands are intensely ingrained into the American psyche.

to add "when arriving at the rental counter at the airport"

sorry, couldn't resist.... :)

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to add "when arriving at the rental counter at the airport"

sorry, couldn't resist.... :)

So true... same with Chevy to a lesser degree. Actually, Avis,Alamo and Enterprise has been my only opportunity to drive new GMs for over a decade...

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I agree. Launching Saturn was such an unnecessary move in the first place. If GM realized that their reputation was tarnished and they were losing market share to Asian imports back in the '80s, why didn't they make crucial changes and improvements within the existing brand structure (Chevy, Pontiac, GMC, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac)? Does building better vehicles and improving customer service really require launching another division? Just think where the corporation would be today if GM would have invested the money it wasted launching Saturn into building class leading cars and overhauling the existing divisions' customer service techniques. To me, this would have gone further to improve the public's perception of GM than spending billions to launch a division that has evolved into nothing more than just another typical GM brand. The entire Saturn experiment seems like an unnecessary waste of resources, talent, effort, and money.

So much of the brand and top management at the time had their heads so far up their rear ends that they refused to allow such changes. The only reason Saturn is a shell of what it was supposed to be is because of a few mislead money-sapping projects (selling Saturns in Japan, for example), and GM starving the brand for development. Saturn sold GOBS of cars and built a reputation that created some of the most loyal customers at the time. Then... they couldn't develop new product. Eventually they got lame excuses for product hand-me-downs from GM (L-Series, etc), and it was all downhill from there.

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I agree, Perdue. The things that made Saturn cool were their unique qualities within the GM empire. The S-series was the first and last significant Saturn. This ship has SAILED. It's too late to save it.
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i dunno. GM as a whole needs to sort out that mess. i think i see saturn developing into premium smaller vehicles, as opposed to chevy (cheap daewoos).

this opens pontiac up to unique models small or large but with defined performance characteristics. Buick can focus on extreme comfort that is value based. I think eventually Pontiac/Buick/GMC will be folded into Chevy. Pontiac and Buick will exist with fewer models and will serve the need for buyers who don't want asian type appliances (which is where Chevy seems to be going).

In my opinion it makes more sense to pair Caddy when needed with Saturn and Saab. Its tough for me to see how Caddy complements Chevy, going off into the future.

In reality I like all GM brands in one house, but I think it will be tough for BPG to survive on its lonesome. Saturn has few dealers so I think they can tread water...except it was disappointing to see the Insignia not coming here.

I think Buick and Pontiac can survive and thrive more if folded into Chevy stores as premium product. They can be more tightly focused and they won't need as many models. It's conceivable for example that we could have an Alpha G6 line (wagon, sedan, coupe), Zeta G8 line (wagon, sedan, coupe), the Solstices (moved to Alpha), maybe a clone delta compact with exclusive 2.0 turbo. If they really needed to keep the Vibe I suppose they could but to be honest its a very confused offering that sells well now because of expensive gas. I'm not sure how you do Buick but a park avenue, a Lucerne, a LaCrosse/Invicta.........I would add a 4 place hardtop convertible ala Riviera. Enclave of course. I would add a 2 row crossover and I think that's all Buick needs. Some may argue Buick needs a compact. Who knows on that one.

As usual, its the idea of buying off dealers and consolidation. Saturn is a different cat. Seldom do you have other brands, plus owners of the franchises own multiple dealers.

I think Saturn has more rope than BPG right now......but that's why the Insignia delay is so confusing. To assault the Saturn showroom in 2010 with a new Insignia and Astra and tall MPV like vehicle would have boosted them dramatically.

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A better place would be Pontiac and Buick. Both brands are intensely ingrained into the American psyche.

Engrained as in: Pontiacs are tacky and Buicks are for old people.

With that said, both of those brands need to come up with the unexpected. They need to throw away their GM niche. Pontiac needs to realize that it is not a performance brand and Buick isn't luxurious. Pontiac is more like Scion and Buick should be more like Nissan.

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buicks to me seem as if you'd want a lexus / e and s class mercedes feel to them.

pontiacs? alfa, ferrari, a little bmw.

saturn is sposedly going VW, opel, acura, etc.

saabs concepts have been so cool lately. when will they get any of that to the showfloor?

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Can I have what you're on? It seems powerful.

I just mean that Buick shouldn't aspire to be Lexus. It would do better to focus on a car company with a full line of appealing cars like Nissan. An altima type car would be just the ticket for Buick.

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I just mean that Buick shouldn't aspire to be Lexus. It would do better to focus on a car company with a full line of appealing cars like Nissan. An altima type car would be just the ticket for Buick.

If the Insignia does indeed come to the US as Buick Regal, it'll have Nissan wishing to be more like Buick. :smilewide:

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I just mean that Buick shouldn't aspire to be Lexus. It would do better to focus on a car company with a full line of appealing cars like Nissan. An altima type car would be just the ticket for Buick.

In one sense you are right.......hence the usual "too many divisions, too many models" dilemma.

Cadillac is the brand right now banging up against Lexus....

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