AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Why Saturn is Sinking

August 6th, 2008 at 10:35am

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Saturn has a problem, a big problem, and it’s not likely going to be solved anytime soon.

Saturn is a brand with one of the most beautiful line-ups of new vehicles. The Astra, the Aura, the Sky, the Outlook and the Vue are extremely competitive products, but they only have one problem. They’re not selling very well.

Yes, yes, I know the whole market is down, but Saturn is down more than the market. In fact, Saturn is down even more than General Motors is. So what’s going wrong here?

I think that in the past Saturn did too good of a job of convincing customers that it makes inexpensive, small, plastic-body cars. But today the brand has moved far more upscale than that, leaving its original owners behind. And it hasn’t captured enough buyers from other brands, and so Saturn is sinking, even though it has one of the best line-ups in the business.

4 Comments to “AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Why Saturn is Sinking”

  1. MIke Morrissey Says:

    We appreciate the positive comments of the quality of Saturn’s new portfolio.

    This has been a tough year for Saturn, as well as the rest of the industry. And while we’d like to sell more vehicles, it is important to note that our sales decline is attributable to the absence of the high-volume Ion from our line up. The Astra — a more premium hatch back — was never expected to match Ion’s volume. Sales of our other new vehicles (Aura, Outlook, Sky and Vue) are actually up a combined 3.4 percent so far this year. Astra sales are also growing and were just shy of 6,000 units in July. That’s pretty strong performance in this tough market.

    Mike Morrissey

  2. Tom Martin Says:

    Saturn — a tale of three cities.

    First, Saturn sold novel, entry-level cars with great customer service, but there was no car to move up to.

    Second, Saturn sold entry-level cars that were out of date — needing refreshing.

    Now, Saturn builds non-entry level cars that are cutting edge. Saturn abandoned the market that was their strength — entry level.

    Bottom-line, Saturn needs at least one entry-level ($15K) and one fuel efficent mid-priced model ($18K-$23K) to compliment the current line. And in all fairness, in 2011, Saturn should get a version of the Volt and call it the EV-2.

  3. Alex Kajdi Says:

    The financial health of General Motors is very disturbing to most Americans. I believe that GM needs to re-examine it’s corporate portfolio. I once owned a Saturn Vue with the polymer panels. I loved those polymer panels. Now all the new vehicles in the Saturn Division are just clones of either the GMC Acadia or some Opel product. Saturn vehicles were identified by those polymer panels. Saturn has gone far too upscale with traditional steel panels. Saturn is simply the “New” Oldsmobile. It was a grave mistake to eliminate the polymer panels. I wish that I could have purchased the Pontiac Fiero and Pontiac Transport minivan new back when GM originally produced those with polymer panels. The polymer panels were key to the success of Saturn. They were very durable and parking lot safe. These panels identified a Saturn vehicle as a Saturn. The best thing GM did was to roll out the EV1 as a Saturn. In those days, being a Saturn owner meant that you were a progressive thinker who enjoyed innovations. I believe if GM would simply rebadge the current Saturn / Opel based lineup to the other remaining GM divisions it could get rid of some slow moving vehicles and not lose it’s huge capital investments in “Re-Thinking” Saturn.

    I believe that Saturn should be characterized as the “Forward – Thinking” division of General Motors. The Chevy Volt should also be rolled out as the “New Saturn ION”. This would re-energize the Saturn Brand. I understand why GM maintains it’s numerous brands, because Buick is loved in China and Chevy is loved in Russia. Pontiac, GMC and Hummer need to go the way of Oldsmobile. In fact, It would probably be best if General Motors did away with all the brands in North America and re-introduced it’s self as the “New General Motors”! The Dealers in North America would all become “GM” Network Dealers. The lineup of vehicles would be consolidated into vehicles classes, i.e., GM100 = Chevy Aveo, GM200 = Chevy Cobolt, Pontiac G5, GM 300 = Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6 & Saturn Aura and so on. Trunks would be labeled as GMC1000 and so on as to load capacity. All GM Network Dealers would be able to sell and service all existing and future models. This consolidation in brands and models would produce economy of production scales and eliminate redundancy and allow the “New General Motors” to very quickly improve vehicle quality in it’s streamlined product portfolio.

    If General Motors would feel it needs to keep any of it’s brands those should be Cadillac, Chevrolet and Saturn. The new slogan for Chevy would be: “SEE THE WORLD TODAY IN YOUR CHEVROLET”! I would love to hear a response to my suggestions from the top executives at General Motors.


    Alex Kajdi

  4. motorman Says:

    the poly panels went away because all the car experts bitched about the “large” panel gaps(fits) needed because of the expansion of these panels.