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WHAT CAR STARTED THE DEATH OF SATURN?

79 posts in this topic

The J-body was never great, but it was good. It sold in good numbers. I still see a lot of old ones on the road. It could have been better with continuous improvements instead of being allowed to stagnate and fall so far behind in the public's perception. Using money to update the J body instead of creating Saturn could have put GM in a much better position in the compact car market.

I whole-heartedly disagree per my own personal experiences with those POS's.

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start ups are not expected to make money right away. after a while, sure. how long should have saturn been given?

it is fact that saturn brought customers to GM they would never have. still do, even now. I know MANY people who won't touch chevy, BPG, etc. but will buy a saturn or like them. Saturn dealers sell more cars per dealer than any GM brand. Best customer experience. Yet, GM kills them. Will the press turn on GM and in 3 years we'll be reading, (when BPG ultimately has to be put under too) "why GM killed saturn, we don't know".

GM has to do this now because of the economy but my guess is this seriously bites them in the ass.

I was reminded about this driving home this weekend on a long trip, when 99% of the Buick drivers I saw looked like they had one foot in the grave already. GM is writing off an entire age demographic by killing saturn and tasering pontiac because i don't think chevy will neccessarily pick up all those buyers.

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Depending on how you look at it... to me it seems much more like a brave admission that has since shown to be true.

How in the world would you expect Saturn to have made money?

Step 1: create an essentially separate company from the ground-up. Build a manufacturing facility capable of 500k+ cars a year. Then start with a small economy car (small profit margin).

Step 2: cut off additional funding, expecting this new company to muster up it's own funds to develop not only refreshes of it's existing car, but any additional models it may desire.

Step 3: when it's clear that a company with plenty of overhead selling only economy cars can't make enough money to fund new platform development (in spite of selling hordes of what they have), half-heartedly "throw them a bone" with a half-baked, gremin-prone reskin of a car not originally designed for their market (L-Series).

Step 4: kill everything that made the brand special & allowed them to sell 250-300k small cars a year to begin with, alienate all customers, complain that the company never made a profit.

Honestly, most of the people who hate Saturn have that hatred seated solidly in jealousy, and conveniently ignore the facts of the many ways in which Saturn kicked butt. You guys love to say how the car, or the money that made it, should have been fed into Chevy, or Cadillac, or whatever your favorite brand is. Oh no, GM killed Olds. Now you can't get a Grand Am with a rocketship on it.

I'll only take issue with the bolded part of your post, the "steps" I would not dispute. I actually don't have an issue with the cars nor the concepts that represented what Saturn was.

I do have a problem with the decision to create the brand in the first place, it was just another example of the gross mismangement of GM at the time. A stupid decision that permanently wounded the company and makes today's toubles just that much deeper.

Ironically, much of GM's current lineup (including Saturn) are really some of the best products that the general has offered in decades.

It's all too sad.

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The J-body was never great, but it was good. It sold in good numbers. I still see a lot of old ones on the road. It could have been better with continuous improvements instead of being allowed to stagnate and fall so far behind in the public's perception. Using money to update the J body instead of creating Saturn could have put GM in a much better position in the compact car market.

As with BV, I completely disagree. It looked seen worse when you had a safer, better built, more refined, and overall superior, product that competes with it made by Toyota sitting the same showroom floor.

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I'd hope a 2009 Saturn is appreciably better than a 1986 Cavalier. If it weren't, that would be sad.

Yes, GM probably shouldn't have started Saturn, they should have put that money towards developing better small and midsize cars for the existing brands. Negotiating a new UAW deal for the whole company probably wouldn't have hurt either. That said, Saturn did bring in customers that weren't hip to what GM was slingin' and could've kept those customers if they hadn't let their cars wither and die.

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I'd hope a 2009 Saturn is appreciably better than a 1986 Cavalier. If it weren't, that would be sad.

Yes, GM probably shouldn't have started Saturn, they should have put that money towards developing better small and midsize cars for the existing brands. Negotiating a new UAW deal for the whole company probably wouldn't have hurt either. That said, Saturn did bring in customers that weren't hip to what GM was slingin' and could've kept those customers if they hadn't let their cars wither and die.

Except that they couldn't afford to do it from the get-go. Add in all of the "non-automotive" businesses these geniuses were too busy buying at the same time they were dumping money into Saturn's creation. Meanwhile, they impugned the quality of their own small cars at the established brands in promoting the Saturn "concept". Badge-engineering became rampant, and huge swaths of the lineup were allowed to wither on the vine without updates for years.

Terribly skewed priorities.

Stupid.

That's my problem with Saturn.

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Depending on how you look at it... to me it seems much more like a brave admission that has since shown to be true.

How in the world would you expect Saturn to have made money?

Step 1: create an essentially separate company from the ground-up. Build a manufacturing facility capable of 500k+ cars a year. Then start with a small economy car (small profit margin).

Step 2: cut off additional funding, expecting this new company to muster up it's own funds to develop not only refreshes of it's existing car, but any additional models it may desire.

Step 3: when it's clear that a company with plenty of overhead selling only economy cars can't make enough money to fund new platform development (in spite of selling hordes of what they have), half-heartedly "throw them a bone" with a half-baked, gremin-prone reskin of a car not originally designed for their market (L-Series).

Step 4: kill everything that made the brand special & allowed them to sell 250-300k small cars a year to begin with, alienate all customers, complain that the company never made a profit.

Honestly, most of the people who hate Saturn have that hatred seated solidly in jealousy, and conveniently ignore the facts of the many ways in which Saturn kicked butt. You guys love to say how the car, or the money that made it, should have been fed into Chevy, or Cadillac, or whatever your favorite brand is. Oh no, GM killed Olds. Now you can't get a Grand Am with a rocketship on it.

I have no problem with Saturn itself. I like most of the cars..... but that doesn't mean it was a good idea. GM's idea was that it wanted to compete with the import brands... so it created Saturn. The problem with that idea is that you don't compete with import brands by disguising yourself as one. You compete with import brands by building superior domestic product. In many ways the S-cars were better than the J-bodies. The S-cars should have replaced the J-bodies entirely. If the money spent on creating Saturn had been invested into just the S-cars for Chevy and Pontiac to have GM would be in a very different position right now. Even the L-series, with minimal additional investment, would have made a better Malibu or Cutlibu than what was being offered at the time. The Vue would have slotted in great under the Bravada at Olds. The Sky should have been a Cadillac.

Everything Saturn has ever sold, would have sold better or for more money at a different brand and likely made that brand more complete and more competitive.

And yea, I'm bitter about not being able to buy a better styled Envoy with a rocket ship, or an STS light, or the best W-body ever made..... but I sure am glad I can buy a G6 with Saturn rings or an Acadia with a decontented Enclave interior or a Chevy Captiva or, be still my heart, a Chevy Uplander with leftover IKEA wood.

Best way to improve Aura sales? Rename it Cutlass and sell it at all the dealerships that used to sell Oldsmobile.

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The Relay dug the grave, Outlook pushed the brand in the hole, Astra threw the dirt on top.

Saturn should have focused on low price cars for younger buyers (like Kia or Scion) but when they started to make 7-8 seaters, and tried to move above Chevy, they turned off current customers, and weren't attracting many new ones. Same with Pontiac killing the Firebird and sports cars in favor of Torrent/Montana and rental cars. GM's mistake was trying to change brand identities. A brand should try to do one thing well, and be known for it.

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Saturn should have focused on low price cars for younger buyers (like Kia or Scion)

Not really disagreeing with any particular point of your post, but just thought I would note... looking at Scion's lousy sales numbers these days, I don't think it's appropriate to say that any division "should be more like Scion." ;)

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Best way to improve Aura sales? Rename it Cutlass and sell it at all the dealerships that used to sell Oldsmobile.

Agreed. Coke Classic was unbeatable when it came back, and New Coke was forgotten overnight.

If GM wasn't so close to death, I would suggest the resurrection of Olds in the Saturn footprint. But then again, if GM wasn't so close to death, they would dump 3 billion into Saturn and give all the VPs million dollar bonuses.

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Agreed. Coke Classic was unbeatable when it came back, and New Coke was forgotten overnight.

If GM wasn't so close to death, I would suggest the resurrection of Olds in the Saturn footprint. But then again, if GM wasn't so close to death, they would dump 3 billion into Saturn and give all the VPs million dollar bonuses.

Sorry, that would be a pretty stupid waste of money. Shell out billions to kill a brand just to resurrect one? I don't know the sales #s, but if someone is correct that Saturn sells more cars per dealer than any other brand (I assume GM brand), can you honestly expect a resurrected Olds to do better for more than a short burst of initial boosted interest?

I would be possibly in favor of GM bringing back the Olds name in one or two special cars, sold through an existing sales channel so that they don't have the baggage that is connected to a full-fledged brand/division. If they sell well and another model is justified, make it. If not, don't. Cut and add products as the market dictates, without so much blowback from dealers because they want "volume models". But, I've said that before, and would like to see that happen with all the brands except Chevy and Cadillac. Don't kill the brands, make them flexible!

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Not really disagreeing with any particular point of your post, but just thought I would note... looking at Scion's lousy sales numbers these days, I don't think it's appropriate to say that any division "should be more like Scion." ;)

Scion's cars are ugly with cheap interiors. To make car like Scion is a bad idea, but I think Saturn should have gone after the demographic Scion goes for. Had they stayed what they were with value pricing like Hyundai/Kia they would have been in a good position when the economy tanked.

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Scion's cars are ugly with cheap interiors. To make car like Scion is a bad idea, but I think Saturn should have gone after the demographic Scion goes for. Had they stayed what they were with value pricing like Hyundai/Kia they would have been in a good position when the economy tanked.

Which means theoretically targeting 16 year olds and actually getting 61 year olds into the showroom?

Scion was SHRINKING even in booming economy.

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Scion's cars are ugly with cheap interiors. To make car like Scion is a bad idea, but I think Saturn should have gone after the demographic Scion goes for. Had they stayed what they were with value pricing like Hyundai/Kia they would have been in a good position when the economy tanked.

I agree with that, somewhat. Scion went for/goes for youth buyers, but has ended up with a bunch of old farts that want to look cool. That's probably fine, except that it kinda killed the youth appeal. But yes, Saturn should have stuck with value pricing. Trying to move them upmarket just alienated their customers very badly, and GM doesn't have time for Saturn to let the customers get used to their new identity or find new customers.

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Scion has crappy cars. I agree that Scion isn't getting the demographic that they target. The Ion could have started Saturn's demise also, it wasn't a very good product. Saturn lacked something like a Mazda 5, Kia Rondo, or Honda Fit, that was cheap, but had some utility and versatility that younger buyers would want. Ion, Relay, Aura, Outlook were too much like Chevys, although Saturn has been a money loser, they would probably be closing regardless of what they did.

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IMO about '99 was the first hint of decline at Saturn. The S needed a thorough update yesterday at the time as the '96-'97 updates were nice but too weak to keep them up to the level of the Japanese in reviews. GM/Saturn however was actually de-contenting the S in those years of little things like the 4 wheel disc option and the "performance" mode for the auto trannies, not big deals but noticed by repeat buyers.

The L was on the horizon about that time as well, and the fact that it would only be partially plastic skinned and equipped with an imported and timing belt equipped V-6 gave a mixed message to S owners who were heavily sold on how superior the plastic panels and timing chain equipped engines were supposed to be. Early problems with the L that led to the recall of many examples of the then unproven 2.2 Ecotec and ongoing electrical issues hurt as well. Remember, this was only the 2nd new model from a brand that liked to brag about previously buying back a batch of early S cars just becuase of bad antifreeze.

This was the start of their slide, the VTi, the Relay, and then trying to go "upscale" while not improving at the core business (S, ION) finished them off.

Edited by fightingbee
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I agree with many of the comments here. I'd have to say that while the L Series was largely a failure, the ION really killed Saturn. The VUE, however, remained popular while it was built in Spring Hill and had polymer panels.

My SL2 was the first GM car I bought, and it'll be the last. I hope some other automaker offers dent resistant plastic/composite panels again someday, though.

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No car killed SATURN not evan the Relay or Astra.......... GM DID because they didn't know what to do with SATURN after the first 6 years.

Edited by RjION
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<!--quoteo(post=476597:date=Mar 5 2009, 04:04 AM:name=Satty)--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE (Satty @ Mar 5 2009, 04:04 AM) <a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=476597"><{POST_SNAPBACK}></a></div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->The 2nd generation S-cars. When all they did was a facelift instead of keeping the cars ahead of the competition, they sealed Saturn's fate. Second place goes to the Relay, first Saturn without polymer panels.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

I agree with the 2nd generation Saturn S-Series. I was in the market for a new car at the time and decided to give the then newly introduced 2nd gen Saturn SL a test drive. It seemed very crude and uncompetitive compared to some of the car's competitors that I test drove the very same day. I ended up buying a competitor's product instead. GM spent billions launching this brand to counter the Asian imports, but they didn't do much after that to ensure that the brand stayed current and competitive. It was a very expensive yet ultimately halfhearted attempt by GM to regain lost market share and customers. I still think GM would have been better off by simply making drastic improvements within their existing divisional structure; they should have tried "thinking outside" of their existing box instead of creating a troublesome new box that they weren't able to maintain or sustain. Creating a new division with its own accompanying dedicated factory and dealership body isn't required to engineer/design/build class leading products and improve/overhaul customer service.

Agreed.

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No car killed SATURN not evan the Relay or Astra.......... GM DID because they didn't know what to do with SATURN after the first 6 years.

You know, I gotta agree with this. The brand never really saw any changes for a decade....

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The life and death of any GM brand is the success or failer of GM.

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The S series was expected to sell without changes and was 'good enough' for GM's 1990's managers. Same with the Cavalier.

The thought process was that small car buyers "don't care about quality and are cheap buyers". But if they don't like the car after owning it, they are gone for life from GM.

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The S series was expected to sell without changes and was 'good enough' for GM's 1990's managers. Same with the Cavalier.

The thought process was that small car buyers "don't care about quality and are cheap buyers". But if they don't like the car after owning it, they are gone for life from GM.

Pretty much.

Granted, besides being cheap looking, were great cars....

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Trick question: Saturn was never really alive until the Sky.

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Trick question: Saturn was never really alive until the Sky.

Yeah, because the brand wasn't successful when it was selling a third of a million cars a year. :P Having an enthusiast car is not the same as success as a whole.

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