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GM, Penske, and Saturn’s demise
Why neither General Motors or Roger Penske is saving GM’s once-hot startup brand
 

“The long, sad saga of Saturn is finally over,” said David Welch in BusinessWeek. The “once-hot General Motors division” had been in final takeover talks with “racing mogul” Roger Penske, who owns a giant chain of auto dealerships, but Penske couldn’t find anyone to manufacture the cars after 2011. GM really wanted to sell Saturn, but it “may have dodged a bullet” here—after 2011, Saturn would have been a GM competitor in a shrinking auto market.

Saturn’s demise is convenient for GM, but GM’s disappointment is “heartfelt,” said Andrew S. Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle. If GM and Penske both wanted a deal, though, “what, or who, was the straw that finally broke Saturn’s back?” Nissan’s board of directors, apparently, which reportedly balked at building Penske’s Saturns for him.

Boy, that must really “chafe” Roger Penske, who’s “among the smartest people ever in the car business,” said Steve Parker in The Huffington Post. Still, Saturn was “destined for failure” long before Nissan’s board killed Penske’s dream. Saturn was an “American phenomenon” when it launched in 1991, thanks to great PR and customer service and because it “built pretty damn good cars.” But GM stopped putting money in the brand years ago.

Saturn “couldn’t compete for a big enough share of GM’s limited financial and creative resources,” said Joann Muller in Forbes, but the “failed Saturn experiment” still cost GM an estimated $20 billion. As GM “struggles” to come back from the brink itself, perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s sending Saturn to join Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and maybe Saab and Hummer, in GM’s brand graveyard.

 

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