Yet another Saturn post-mortem

This time, from an actual former Saturn owner:

It seemed to me that around 2002 Saturn lost its focus in a race for short-term profit. Instead of improving the small cars they knew how to build, they started making larger cars, sports cars, and an SUV. Everybody wants an SUV, right? Maybe it could have been Saturn that sold the first popular hybrid. Instead they came to be, de facto, another division of GM.

I blame GM management too. The original idea was that Saturn would be an independent company, owned by GM. When it was making money operating on its own, GM should have spun it off, issuing stock to GM shareholders and/or Saturn employees.

GM’s arcane financial reporting being what it is, who knows for certain whether Saturn turned any kind of profit? Most of your automotive pundits are saying that Spring Hill never made a dime for the General.

The argument made for the L-Series was that people just naturally want to trade up, and Saturn didn’t give them any “up” to trade to. Had they put the S-Series on a constant-improvement cycle, instead of just facelifts now and then, they might have held on to their buyers. (Then again, this was an endemic problem at GM: the hapless Chevy Cavalier was kept on for over two decades. It’s hard not to conclude that GM just didn’t understand, or simply couldn’t stand, small cars.)

And it was indeed 2002 when the Vue showed up. I’m not an SUV-hater by nature, but the Vue seemed antithetical to what Saturn was supposed to stand for.

I ought to try to talk Trini into doing a Saturn piece. She’s owned a S-Series, and currently drives an Ion.


  1. Jeffro »

    5 October 2009 · 9:59 pm

    I suspect that every dealer who operates under the “normal” pricing system was pushing hard for the consistent sales price idea to go away as well. The one that employed me certainly looked with fear at the concept.

  2. CGHill »

    5 October 2009 · 10:13 pm

    When Ford actually owned dealerships down here — the so-called “Auto Collection” concept — they were supposed to have had a variation on the fixed-price theme. I bought from them once: a brand-new (but year-old and still unsold) Mazda, stickered at $20,295. They didn’t seem to have any problem letting it go for $17,400, or with letting me keep the rebate ($2,000). On the other hand, I was a tad upside-down on the trade, though I covered about half the difference in cash up front.

RSS feed for comments on this post