GM Sells Saturn; Penske Becomes A Virtual Automaker

June 5, 2009
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General Motors has been shopping Saturn to potential buyers for months, and rumors recently began circulating that the company had found one in Penske Automotive Group. In a win-win-win for GM, Saturn, and Saturn fans, those rumors have now come true.

Penske will purchase the soon-to-be-orphaned brand for a price tag in the $100 million to $200 million range, according to Bloomberg. The bulk of that modest sum is tied to the brand itself, the dealer network, and other small interests. In a press release, GM said Penske's purchase will save more than 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs at Saturn retailers, but made no mention of a manufacturing component.

It's doubtful that the sale includes anything substantial from the manufacturing side--meaning that Penske will own the brand, but the company will need to outsource manufacturing of the vehicles. General Motors will continue to supply Saturn with its current lineup--the Aura sedan, Outlook SUV, and VUE crossover--through the 2011 model year. (Renault Samsung Motors Company may take on the manufacturing contract afterward.) The Saturn Sky roadster is not included in the carryover cars that Penske will receive in the sale; the Delaware plant that builds the two-seater will close this summer.

In an exclusive follow-up to a press conference this morning, Saturn's new owner said its goal is to be a "distribution company", not a warehouse of designers, engineers, and manufacturing experts. Penske also confirmed that there are no plans to fold the Saturn lineup into its existing distribution of Smart Fortwo city cars in the U.S.

The GM/Penske deal comes as welcome news to legions of Saturn fans, whose loyalty has been fairly consistent since the personable, no-haggle brand launched in the early 1990s. Likely, it's even more welcome to the thousands of GM employees attached to Saturn--employees who have at least a temporary reprieve from the massive cuts taking place at General Motors.

GM says it expects to close the sale this fall.

[source: Bloomberg]

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