Saturn Could Go Euro
Originally envisioned as a Japan-fighter, the Saturn brand has never really achieved its early forecasts. That has much to do with a dearth of products, officials admit. That’s about to change. In the next several years, Saturn will double the number of segments it competes in, with products like the new Sky roadster. But globetrotting motorists might notice a subtle shift in the design theme of the American brand. Going forward, much of the Saturn product portfolio will be developed by General Motors’ European design and engineering operations. The replacement for the Vue crossover vehicle, for example, will be virtually identical to the new Opel Antara, shown in concept form at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. In years past, GM Europe had explored the idea of exporting products to the U.S.
, as it had some decades back. But off-kilter exchange rates make that an unlikely source for Saturn production. On the other hand, the weak dollar is enhancing the appeal of U.S.-made products, said GME Chairman Fritz Henderson, so, “We could bring a Saturn here to sell as an Opel, the Sky roadster as an example.” Henderson
emphasized that nothing is currently planned, but General Motors insiders confirmed to TheCarConnection that the concept is being actively studied.
Ford Depends on Design, Says Padilla
“We intend to be far more aggressive and far more appealing,” said Jim Padilla, Ford Motor Co. Chief Operating Officer, during an appearance in Frankfurt Wednesday. “A major tenet of what we intend to do in the business is a design-led recovery.” That’s a significant change in direction for the troubled number-two automaker, numerous company officials acknowledged during the Frankfurt Motor Show. In recent years, Ford has tended to play it “safe,” with admittedly boring products, such as its big Five Hundred sedan. Padilla spoke alongside Mark Fields, who was named last week as the automaker’s President of the Americas, its unprofitable home unit. “We made the changes for several reasons,” Padilla explained. “We’ve been working for awhile to have a stronger strategic focus. Frankly, it has been unsatisfactory. We will work to pull together a cohesive business plan. Greg Smith is the chief strategy officer and Mark Fields is a good operations guy. The people we’re moving into place are known commodities.” Separately, the two executives were asked about Ford’s struggling Premier Automotive Group, which Fields ran before taking on his new job. One question many observers are wondering is what will happen to the slow-selling Jaguar lineup, particularly its entry-luxury X-Type. “When we put together the original Jaguar plan,” said Padilla, “we did not own Volvo or Land Rover. What we need to do with Jaguar (going forward) does not need to be as broad or comprehensive. Now we can be a niche player with beautiful and fast cars.”