Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Oracle of Delphi

Lutz: Despite good cars, Saturn probably dies ...

52 posts in this topic

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News

February 16, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

DETROIT — Bob Lutz says General Motors' struggling Saturn brand probably won't survive.

"My personal favorite would be to see Saturn survive and prosper," GM's vice chairman told Automotive News. "But frankly, the reality is that that is probably not going to be the outcome."

He added: "We spent a huge bundle of money in giving Saturn an absolutely no-excuses product lineup, top to bottom. They had a better and fresher lineup than any GM division, and the sales just never materialized. So we have to act on that. It's our duty."

New Jersey Saturn dealer Stuart Lasser took Lutz's comments as confirmation of his worst fears.

"That really seals our fate," said Lasser, owner of Saturn of Denville, Saturn of Mount Olive and Saturn of Livingston. "I think they knew this fact months ago, and they never shared it with us."

Lutz, who announced last week that he will retire by year end, said GM lacks the time or resources to help the brand make a comeback.

On Dec. 2, GM told Congress it will focus most of its resources on its "core brands" — Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC — and make Pontiac a niche brand with one or two products. That left Saturn, Saab and Hummer in the cold.

GM put Hummer up for sale in June. Saturn and Saab are under review.

GM has told Saturn dealers that it has allocated funds to build Saturn vehicles through 2012 and in some cases 2013. But it has not committed money to future products.

Saturn's sales fell 21.7 percent to 188,004 in 2008. GM had hoped to sell about 100,000 units annually of the Aura sedan, the 2006 North American Car of the Year. But the car hasn't come close to that target since its August 2006 launch. Last year 59,380 were sold.

Lutz doesn't fault dealers: "We have some very excellent Saturn dealers who've made a commitment to the brand."

Some Saturn dealers say GM damaged the brand with its Dec. 2 announcement.

"I would agree with the comment that saying that Pontiac is under review probably had some impact on Pontiac sales," Lutz said.

"Saying that Saab is under review probably had some impact on Saab sales.

"But the lack of Saturn sales has been ongoing for a couple of years," he added.

"The Aura never really made its volume commitments, the Vue is halfway there, and the Outlook has not done nearly as well for Saturn as the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia."

Lutz said he isn't sure why Saturn has not done better.

"The fact is," he said, "we don't have the time or the resources to take 10 years to figure it out and possibly turn it around."

Link: http://www.autonews.com/article/20090216/A.../902160352/1021

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A misguided project from the very start. That startup money would have been better spent continually improving the J-cars at the other divisions... if we are to adhere to GM's founding mission, you need to grab the young customer with a great entry-level car at each of the core brands and keep him for life as his situation improves. Saturn was a distraction from that. Yes, the original S-series was a good car in a lot of ways, and still enjoys a following, but that's where The Experiment ended. The Day of Reckoning has come.

My local Saturn dealership has been there almost from the start. They always treated my mom (with her 2 SL2s) and me with my troublesome ION QC2 well. That was never a problem. I wish all Saturn dealership personnel well in the future.

With this announcement... how in the world are they going to be able to keep the lights on in those dealerships until 2012? Service departments carry many a dealership through lean times, but I see sales totally flatlining with this, and that ain't good. The switch has been thrown.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They will either switch franchises or go out of business. Saturn dealerships in the middle of nowhere could start selling SAABs if not other dealership is nearby. Or a niche brand like Pontiac.

Edited by Croc
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"But the lack of Saturn sales has been ongoing for a couple of years," he added.

"The Aura never really made its volume commitments, the Vue is halfway there, and the Outlook has not done nearly as well for Saturn as the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia."

Lutz said he isn't sure why Saturn has not done better.

:rolleyes:

Gee... I dunno... Maybe it could be the COMPLETE and TOTAL lack of marketing.

Or maybe it could be that Saturn only has 400 dealers in comparison to Buick/Pontiac's 500,000 (sarcasm)

Why are GM execs so stupid? Seriously? It's not hard at all to see what remains BROKEN (and will remain broken) with General Motors and it's rich plethora of divisions.

I guess Buick will be the next division to get the "GM bait and switch" of a whole new product line up and prospects of world domination,[bait] with only 2 years to get the job done.[switch]

First Oldsmobile, now Saturn, next Buick.

(To hell with Pontiac, GM didn't even give them the 'bait' in the first place. They've just worked feverishly over the last decade to destroy that division's product line)

After Buick, we'll see Cadillac on the skids... Mark my words (The american public wants a slow, painful death for what this country was. And GM is the poster child for that)

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Saturn became pointless a long time ago, when GM turned it into another redundant division selling random rebadged GM stuff. I miss my old reliable, durable plastic body SL2, but I currently own a Subaru Legacy and I will likely not buy another GM vehicle again.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Saying that Saab is under review probably had some impact on Saab sales.
Pardon the sarcasm, but... no $h!, Sherlock! :banghead:

Re Saturn, the idea of Buick as a core brand and getting the Opel-based Regal reopened the door for these two brands to get in bed together. Saturn is now irrelevant, and my hope is that some lessons learned about dealership experience and costumer service are not wasted.

Edited by ZL-1
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Meh. Saturn's models are redundant with several other brands. Not sure what the point of it is these days.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seriously?

A no excuses line up, top to bottom?

I'm sorry Mr. Robert Lutz but Saturn had no where near a "no excuses" lineup.

The Astra was late and had pitiful engines/options choices and availability.

Aura was not a Vectra but a G6 in drag.

Corsa never came.

Outlook was a distraction from what the rest of the lineup was to represent.

I guess that I must say I am glad they are finally eliminating Saturn.

I had a feeling they could never move the cheap plastic car brand upmarket with some half-hearted Euros and wannabe's.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Meh. Saturn's models are redundant with several other brands. Not sure what the point of it is these days.

Basically it only exists to give people an alternative to the Malibu/Impala/G6 (Aura), the Equinox/Torrent (Vue), and the Solstice (Sky). The Astra and Outlook are not even worth mentioning. Unfortunately, this is not a strong business case for the continuation of the division.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Astra and Outlook are not even worth mentioning.

Oh, I do disagree here on this (well, at least for the Astra).

As a product overall, it is light years ahead of anything from GMNA and even better to drive and more special feeling than Volkswagen's cars of the same class.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank God it is about time. Buick and Pontiac can pick up some new models, helping make them stronger brands now that Saturn is toast. Saturn had a place in the 90's but ever since the dawn of the Vue and the like I knew they were going down hill. Nothing could save them not even a new line-up. If you would have given that to Pontiac ro Buick I will bet the results would have been different. GM is finally taking some of my advice kill Saturn. Trust me I will not miss that brand or its products, how about a Pontiac Astra?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Seriously?

A no excuses line up, top to bottom?

I'm sorry Mr. Robert Lutz but Saturn had no where near a "no excuses" lineup.

The Astra was late and had pitiful engines/options choices and availability.

Aura was not a Vectra but a G6 in drag.

Corsa never came.

Outlook was a distraction from what the rest of the lineup was to represent.

I guess that I must say I am glad they are finally eliminating Saturn.

I had a feeling they could never move the cheap plastic car brand upmarket with some half-hearted Euros and wannabe's.

Wow! Someone finally acknowledges that the Aura is not a true Opel product. I don't know how many posts I have seen on many different forums that claim it is a rebadged Vectra when it isn't. It is a GMNA exclusive that is styled to imitate an Opel (much like the Outlook, which received a very unsuccessful Opel imitation design).

The merging of Saturn and Opel was a misguided, halfhearted, poorly executed effort. Saturn's "warm & fuzzy" cult-like affordable image made it an unsuitable candidate for a pairing with Opel (misguided). Two of the brand's products (Aura and Outlook) were not Opel products and the issues with the imported Astra hatchbacks are fairly well documented on this forum (halfhearted). The relaunch of the brand contained limited marketing and what little marketing that the brand received was ineffective in changing the purpose or perception of the brand (poorly executed). I agree that Mr. Lutz is sort of delusional if he thinks that Saturn's revitalization program was a first-rate effort.

Once GM eliminated the aspects of the division that made it unique (distinct composite body vehicles built on a dedicated platform at a dedicated production facility and sold at dedicated customer service oriented dealerships) is when the division became completely redundant and unnecessary (although I still say that it wasn't really necessary in the first place). It's time to bring this experiment to a close.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're welcome.

Gosh, considering, my favourite Astra wouldn't even be a firebreather OPC/VXR but rather the 5-door Cosmo with 1.9L CDTi, 6-speed manual, leather, xenons, and climate control in dark green.

I was (and am) disappointed.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Oh, I do disagree here on this (well, at least for the Astra).

As a product overall, it is light years ahead of anything from GMNA and even better to drive and more special feeling than Volkswagen's cars of the same class.

I was referring more to its sales performance as well as the public's awareness of it. The Astra is an impressive product on many levels (although it should have been produced in North America in a modified form that would have made it more successful in this market; an accompanying sedan variant would have helped also), but it failed to resonate with U.S. buyers for many reasons.

The Outlook should have never existed in the first place (along with the short lived Relay minivan). To me, it somewhat represents the antithesis of the Saturn brand. I also think it is overshadowed by the rest of its Lambda platform mates, which are better looking and more appropriate products for their respective brands (although the logic of having the Enclave and Acadia in the same dealer network somewhat baffles me).

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They really lost it with the ION - then diverted their attention to rebadged minivans, 16-mpg SUVs, and large redundant sedans.

C&D called the ION "the most disappointing all-new American car in a decade."

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was referring more to its sales performance as well as the public's awareness of it. The Astra is an impressive product on many levels (although it should have been produced in North America in a modified form that would have made it more successful in this market; an accompanying sedan variant would have helped also), but it failed to resonate with U.S. buyers for many reasons.

The Outlook should have never existed in the first place (along with the short lived Relay minivan). To me, it somewhat represents the antithesis of the Saturn brand. I also think it is overshadowed by the rest of its Lambda platform mates, which are better looking and more appropriate products for their respective brands (although the logic of having the Enclave and Acadia in the same dealer network somewhat baffles me).

Ah, yes, I see and would have to agree.

I have only ever seen two, possible three Astras out on the road ever.

I rarely see the Mk V Golf, but I do see many Mk V Jettas. However, in Chicago, Golfs were EVERYWHERE.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Seriously?

A no excuses line up, top to bottom?

I'm sorry Mr. Robert Lutz but Saturn had no where near a "no excuses" lineup.

The Astra was late and had pitiful engines/options choices and availability.

Aura was not a Vectra but a G6 in drag.

Corsa never came.

Outlook was a distraction from what the rest of the lineup was to represent.

I guess that I must say I am glad they are finally eliminating Saturn.

I had a feeling they could never move the cheap plastic car brand upmarket with some half-hearted Euros and wannabe's.

exactly. outside of astra, saturn did a commendable job with refining style on already produced GM vehicles with little to no other improvements. aura was released with newer equipment, the new DOHC powertrain, and a slightly higher qualtiy interior, that's all folks. GM literally did what it has done in all cases, catch up with competition that is on its way towards a new design already, but never leapfrog the competition and think far ahead in terms of design or engineering. GMNA is getting too predictable in this sense. they are perpetually designing cars that in many major ways only match the current competition that may already be 2 or 3 years old. this is not a way to build consumer repoire.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They really lost it with the ION - then diverted their attention to rebadged minivans, 16-mpg SUVs, and large redundant sedans.

C&D called the ION "the most disappointing all-new American car in a decade."

i do agree. but even then, I don't see ion as a turning point in any general direction. yes, they lost a lot of sales with that generation, that was simply because the competition was too strong. certainly sales were lost in that generation, and it was viewed as subpar. but the important move was where they'd go next from there. the consumer is inattentive and tough to train at times. they don't care if you do something bad, they just ignore it, and if you do something good, you are often rewarded. saturn was barely coming to at that point. ion was one forgettable mistake, all they had to do was refine that theme, but continue on with a philosophy of simple inexpensive cars.

i truly don't see a turning point for saturn until this new design theme happened. it was too fast, too big of a change. saturn was already largely irrelevant, aside from the fact that ion and vue were decently reliable and immensely affordable. this was thier secret, those cars were cheap, and people knew the dealership experience would be, well, nice. the complete deviation from any line or facias that had any semblance of what saturn used to be, and forgetting thier original specialty was just simple cheap cars, nothing special, hurt the brand definitely. completely ignoring any design connection, completely disregarding the familiar saturn face amidst multiple relaunches at competing brands, new and evolved design themes, was a big mistake. saturn was still a babe, new and uncharted territory. bringing a 5 door hatch with a less desirable shape and attractive themes than its closest competitor in a limited market, asking more money, and giving it a smaller engine and less overall space, were mistakes. calling this the replacement to your only big selling model line was an even more cataclysmic mistake.

finally, that GM ran out of money, time,and good fortune is the real culprit here. that or GM's inability to greenlight good design, give the proper attention to good engineering, or to keep commitments to product launches or brand building. GM, it seems, is in a perpetual spiral. i said a long time ago good design could save it. i'm just not sure they understand what that means.

Edited by turbo200
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not happy and not sad.

Some cars had great design, like the Sky. However, the same cars lacked build quality. Other vehicles like Vue #1 were complete crap from the get-go. Ultimately, Saturn began selling on the fact that it wasn't GM. GM integrated it, homogenized it, and gave it the same half-ass built cars the rest of GM got.

Saturn could have been... better.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Humph. I knew this would happen when Saturn shifted away from their core product. Heck, I wrote an essay about the death of Saturn around here a year or two ago. I am not saying I am happy tho. I have gotten my wife, her parents and 3 friends into Saturns, but all back in the plastic panel days... I just wish it could be turned around. I think it is possible, but GM is unwilling or unable to do it.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Humph. I knew this would happen when Saturn shifted away from their core product. Heck, I wrote an essay about the death of Saturn around here a year or two ago. I am not saying I am happy tho. I have gotten my wife, her parents and 3 friends into Saturns, but all back in the plastic panel days... I just wish it could be turned around. I think it is possible, but GM is unwilling or unable to do it.

There was a NYT feature that suggested "Saturn" - the original Saturn concept - was already dead. If you look at their lineup today, it's looking much more like Opel.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

saturn is the easiest to kill but saturn sells more cars per dealer than any other GM brand. something like 470 saturns per dealer whereas buick only sells 51 buicks per dealer........

Edited by regfootball
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0



  • Who's Online (See full list)

    There are no registered users currently online

  • Who's Chatting

    There are no users currently in the chat room