Saturn's Demise Squarely on Shoulders of GM

As General Motors fights for its life, one scenario for a slimmed down GM calls for deletion of some of its brands. Among the brands on the deletion list are Hummer, Saab, Pontiac, and Saturn. While Saab and Hummer may be candidates for sale, Pontiac and Saturn would more than likely be eliminated like its late sister brand, Oldsmobile.

As an owner of two Saturns, the possible elimination of Saturn is disappointing. As one reviews the twenty year history of the brand from its conception to its precarious state today, there are many missteps that can be identified. Saturn hit a home run early on with its no haggle pricing, folksy image, and dependable, fuel efficient cars. Then, in the mid 1990s the SUV craze hit the market. Saturn continued on selling its fuel efficient cars. By the time the VUE SUV was introduced in 2001, GM had missed an opportunity to take advantage of the SUV market.

GM has been all over the board with Saturn, trying a mid-size sedan that failed (the L Series), and now selling a minivan (Relay), crossover (Outlook), roadster (Sky), and European styled sedan (Aura). These models were pushed at the expense of Saturn's core product, the economy car. As GM has tried to expand Saturn's product mix (and raise price points), the market has come back to lower priced, high gas mileage vehicles. Also, GM missed a golden opportunity to use the Saturn brand as a development brand for hybrid or electric vehicles. An experiment with an electric vehicle in the early 1990s, the EV1, was a modest success. GM decided not to pursue the EV1 further and destroyed all of them once their leases expired.

Perhaps the destruction of the promising EV1 more than a decade ago was a foreshadowing of what would ultimately happen to the Saturn brand. I hope I am wrong.

Link: Business Week - "GM, Ford Prepare for Congress"

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