General Motors is closing its Saturn business, ending the once-ballyhooed effort to build "a different kind of car company," as the implosion of auto sales that started last year continues to ravage the industry.Penske wasn't going to save all of Saturn. He was only interested in the dealer network. He was trying to find a foreign manufacturer to build the cars. (More on that in a minute.) He couldn't reach a deal in time to salvage the deal with GM.
The decision Wednesday to abandon Saturn came after negotiations broke down to sell the brand to Penske Automotive.
When Saturn was new, the cars looked very different from GM's standard offerings. (Though a few were too small for people over 5 ft. 10 in.) When Saturn was new, the workforce looked very different from Detroit: Flexible work rules. 401Ks instead of defined-benefit pensions. Pay for performance.
It didn't last.
Over the years, though, the models became less distinct from other GM brands, and consumer interest faded. Some blamed GM's expansive bureaucracy for homogenizing Saturn's cars.An example of how their vision changed...
Early on, Saturns were known for plastic doors that could bounce back from dings (Saturn later switched to steel).I don't know why they switched. Perhaps there was actually some problem with plastic doors... though they use plastic bumpers (or plastic covered, anyway.) But Saturn went from being something different, to being GM South.
And that hasn't proved to be a good thing.
According the Detroit Free Press, Saturn sales are down 59.2% this year (through August) compared to last year. "no doubt, hurt by the brand's uncertainty."
I can't find numbers on how many billion dollars, of the bailout money we gave to GM, went to Saturn. I'm sure that information is out there. That money was a bad bet on an company that is out of touch with its market.
And I still won't buy a car from Government Motors.