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Daryl Z71

GM plans to sell Saturn this year, 2 years early

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AFP/File – Logo of the Saturn division of General Motors at the North American International Auto Show January 2009 …

By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher, Ap Auto Writer – Tue Apr 28, 5:31 pm ET

DETROIT – General Motors Corp.'s Saturn brand will either be sold or phased out by the end of this year, nearly two years faster than previously announced, the brand's top executive said Tuesday.

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak said the brand, once billed as a different kind of car company, most likely will be sold, given the interest of several buyers who have surfaced. She says GM will take other bids for the brand until June 1.

GM has said it wants to sell or get rid of Saturn, Hummer and Saab as it restructures, so it can once again become profitable. It's also getting rid of the Pontiac brand.

In February, the company said it would keep Saturn going through the end of the 2011 model year, which is late summer in 2011.

But because of the interested buyers and demands to restructure faster, GM decided to pull the sale deadline forward, Lajdziak said.

GM is living on $15.4 billion in federal loans and must win concessions from its unions, reduce debt and make other cost-cutting moves before a June 1 government deadline.

The company has said it will shed the brands, cut jobs and close more factories as it tries to prove to the government it is worthy of additional loan money. If it can't meet the deadline, GM will head into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Lajdziak would not say when GM expects to announce a Saturn sale, but conceded the company will be on a fast timeline to complete a deal by the end of the year.

"We remain confident given the expressions of interest we've already had," she said.

Among the bidders for Saturn is a group led by Oklahoma City private equity firm Black Oak Partners LLC. The group said in a statement that it would get vehicles from GM initially, but it expects to sell smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles from other global manufacturers using Saturn's well-regarded dealership network.

GM started Saturn in 1990 as a small-car answer to Japanese automakers and billed it as a "different kind of car company." Its new factory in Spring Hill, Tenn., had more flexible work rules than traditional GM plants and more autonomy for those who built the cars, known for their plastic body panels.

Despite a cult-like following that drew thousands to annual reunions in Spring Hill, the brand never made money for GM.

As GM focused more on high-profit pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, Saturn began to languish in the late 1990s. But in 2006, it started getting the best of GM's new models, and executives viewed it as a precursor for GM's restructuring effort.

After a good year in 2007, sales dropped 22 percent last year as the U.S. market withered.

Sales were off 59 percent for the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2008. Lajdziak said the brand fell with the rest of the slumping U.S. auto market, but Saturn was hit further due to publicity about its potential sale or demise. U.S. auto sales were down 38 percent from January through March.

Some Saturn dealers have given up their franchises since the company announced last year that it was putting the brand up for sale.

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GM management, sell Pontiac too, you stupid #$%#$# idiots!

Irony of ironies will be when Saturn outlives GM and goes on to sell a million cars a year under the new owner.

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So GM still hasn't gotten consessions yet?

I still maintain that it is harder to demand concessions when the government is pumping money into you. What was previously an ordeal is turning into a fiasco.

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I still maintain that it is harder to demand concessions when the government is pumping money into you. What was previously an ordeal is turning into a fiasco.

Chrysler managed it.

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Chrysler managed it.

So? The French make weaponry, it doesn't mean they are any good :P (actually French rifles are neat, plus they are in pristine condition because they have never been fired, and usually only have a dent from when it was dropped)

I'm simply saying that GM would be in a better bargaining position WITHOUT government help, not that it is impossible to do so with it.

Edited by Teh Ricer Civic!
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I just cannot muster up much of an emotional reaction to the demise of Saturn as I can with Pontiac. My mom owned two new S-series sedans, which were good little cars. I owned a new 2003 ION Quad Coupe for 9 months and it was a disaster. GM weakened Saturn when they neglected the S-series, and destroyed it when they integrated it as just another me-too division. I feel most sorry for all the dealership employees who put their heart and soul into keeping customers happy, only to have this happen. Good luck to them as Saturn goes through this wholesale transformation into... who knows what at this point. A lot of people thought they had time, but the sand is falling much faster through that hourglass, seems like.
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I won't lie and say I'm not saddened too by the news of Saturn's quicker demise, especially after buying two new '2007' Saturns back in 2006 (SKY in April, AURA <lease> in November). My dealership is a very good one, from the friendliness of the sales staff, to the go-above-and-beyond service department, to the fast and efficient parts department (you won't believe the Saturn stuff I;ve bought from my dealership since 2006!). Like ocnblu, I feel sorry for the entire staff at Saturn of Mount Laurel and what they must be experiencing with this latest news.

But also like ocnblu, I'm more connected to Pontiac as a car brand (Pontiac is my favorite car brand, and as you all know GMC is my favorite truck brand). While I was understanding of Saturn's let-go, I still can't come to terms with Pontiac's demise. I've had one used Pontiac (bought from a Pontiac dealership back in '98) and three new Pontiacs ('99-present), so a lot of my money has gone to this brand. Of all the classic cars I like, most if not all are from Pontiac (okay, if I could have only one old classic car, it would be a '57 Olds, but a '61 or '62 Pontiac is next in line). I subscribe to Pontiac Enthusiast (have for many, many years) and usually pick up High Performance Pontiac magazine if it has enough in it to justify the cost (not too many tech articles and not too many race-ready, late model cars). And as much as posters here hate the G6, when my wife was car shopping last year I recommended the car and she fell in love with it (of course she really wanted a Vibe, but it wasn't as good of a deal as the G6 was). If I wasn't losing my job and could use more of the cash I have saved as a deposit, I was planning to replace AURA lease with a Pontiac G8 in late summer/early fall (I could still get a Pontiac though, but now it's a Vibe or G5 instead of a G8).

I hope something works out for Saturn and quickly, as the dealership employees need their jobs and our economy can't keep taking hits day after day. And I hope GM doesn't sell Pontiac, unless it was to Holden, so that maybe one day at least one Pontiac car done right can return (and then be a niche offering in Buick-GMC dealerships).

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I NEVER liked Saturn. Every time I was around one of their vehicles they seemed cheap and junky.

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