GM Pares Divisions; Saturn On The Way Out

February 16, 2009

"My personal favorite would be to see Saturn survive and prosper," said GM vice chairman and car guru Bob Lutz, speaking to Automotive News. "But frankly, the reality is that that is probably not going to be the outcome."

The rather wordy Lutz (he's sounded off a bit lately, given his job title change and impending '09 retirement) serves as the mouthpiece for Saturn's fate, which has been playing a game of musical chairs with other shaky GM divisions like Saab and Pontiac. As of today, it looks like Saturn is the one left standing.

2007 Saturn Ion 4dr Sdn Auto exterior left side

2007 Saturn Ion 4dr Sdn Auto exterior left side

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Lutz explained that GM "spent a huge bundle of money in giving Saturn an absolutely no-excuses product lineup, top to bottom...and the sales just never materialized." He failed to explain that GM spent that money far too late, after they'd already effectively damaged the brand's reputation beyond repair.

It's pure conjecture, but many feel that if GM had just pumped enough money into the brand in the mid-90s to keep its wildly popular SL and SC lines fresh and competitive, the brand would be uniquely poised to sell big in this down market with a collection of small, efficient, and funky-fresh designs. Legions of fans once attended Spring Hill love-ins homecomings, foamed at the mouth while describing dent-resistant polymer bodyside panels, and gushed about haggle-free dealer pricing. Homecomings for a car brand. How did GM fritter away public enthusiasm at a level eclipsed only by the Obama campaign?

Saturn Homecoming

Saturn Homecoming

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GM's "huge bundle of money" invested into Saturn resulted in the atrocious Ion, followed by nothing less than a spasm of badge-engineering. They took some pretty decent Opels and plopped Saturn badges on them (L-series, Astra, VUE). They also dismantled the hallowed Spring Hill plant, re-tooled it for Chevrolet Traverse crossover production, plopped a Saturn badge on that crossover's platform, and called it an Outlook.

Their enthusiasm might have bordered on mania, but we've learned that Saturn fans are not stupid. Fool them twice...

Lights out, Saturn.

[source: Automotive News]

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