Saturn Corporation

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Saturn LLC
Subsidiary, LLC
Industry Automotive
Fate Acquisition
Founded January 7, 1985
Defunct October 31, 2010[1]
Headquarters Spring Hill, Tennessee, U.S. (1985–2007)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S. (2007–2010)
Area served
United States, Canada
Key people
Products Automobiles
Parent Motors Liquidation Company
General Motors
Website Saturn.com

The Saturn Corporation, also known as Saturn LLC, is a registered trademark established on January 7, 1985, as a subsidiary of General Motors.[2] The company marketed itself as a "different kind of car company" and operated somewhat independently from its parent company for a time with its own assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; unique models; and a separate retailer network,[3] and was GM's attempt to compete with Japanese automakers.

Following the withdrawal of a bid by Penske Automotive to acquire Saturn in September 2009, General Motors discontinued the Saturn brand and ended its outstanding franchises on October 31, 2010.[1][4] All new production was halted on October 7, 2009.[5]

History[edit]

1982–1989: Formation[edit]

Alex C. Mair began discussions of a "revolutionary new", small car project codenamed Saturn in June 1982. In November 1983, the Saturn idea was publicized by General Motors' Chairman Roger B. Smith and GM's President F. James McDonald. Twelve months later, the first Saturn demonstration vehicle was revealed. On January 7, 1985, the Saturn Corporation was officially founded. Citing full disclosure, Saturn was founded as a private, employee-owned company, by former GM leadership. They remained private until GM bought them out, and effectively "rewrote" company history.[6]

In the mid-1980s, GM released the Saturn Concept Car. The car, which resembled the first Saturn SL, was not originally meant to start up a brand, however, GM planned to release the Saturn car under one of its brands, which, at the time, were Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. In the late 1980s, GM changed their plan and founded Saturn as its own brand, with its first cars being the Saturn SC and Saturn SL. Production of both Saturn vehicles started in 1990 as early 1991 model year vehicles. The Saturn SW was later added for 1993. GM had plans for a sedan, a coupe, a convertible, a wagon, and even a sport utility vehicle; however, Saturn's first sport utility vehicle, the Vue did not appear until the 2002 model year. and Saturn's first convertible the Sky did not appear until the 2006 model year

1990–2000: "A new kind of car company"[edit]

1991-1995 Saturn S-Series

On July 30, 1990, the first Saturn was built, and it was a red 1991 Saturn SL2. The first Saturn dealership had opened in Memphis, Tennessee. Saturn Corporation was launched as a "different kind of car company", and Saturn had even had its own unique car models, and their own dealership network that separate from the rest of GM.

Results at Saturn, however, were more doubtful than positive. According to The Wall Street Journal, the project was too ambitious, as "everything at Saturn is new: the car, the plant, the workforce, the dealer network and the manufacturing process. Not even Toyota, a highly successful and experienced automaker, tackles more than two new items on any single project." While Saturn cars proved very popular with buyers,[citation needed] actual sales never met the optimistic projected targets, in part because of a recession in 1990. It also proved cannibalistic as 41% of Saturn buyers already owned a GM car. Its separation from the rest of its GM parent, plus the fact that it drained $5 billion from other car projects, stirred anger and resentment within GM's other divisions. Also, Saturn opened at considerably higher cost than the Japanese transplants (factories that Japanese automakers established in the United States). [7][8]

Nonetheless, the brand was immediately known for its "no haggle" prices. The first Saturn model, the S-Series, was significantly successful.[citation needed] A year later, Saturn hit the Canadian market. In 1993, Saturn's 500,000th car "Carla" was built. In May 1995, Saturn's 1 millionth car "Jasper" enters the market. In 1996, Saturn dealership distributed the electric GM EV1, the first car released under the GM marque. In 1997, Saturn became the first General Motors North American vehicle to be fully built with right-hand-drive on the same assembly line as the left-hand-drive vehicles (the previous right-hand-drive GM North American vehicle were built in the countries with left-hand road rule using the knock-down kit and customized dashboard and steering components) as it entered the Japanese market.[citation needed] In January 1999, Saturn rolled out its two millionth car. Also in 1999, Saturn began production of its all new L-Series for the 2000 model year.

2000-2002 Saturn L-Series

By the time the Saturn brand was launched in Japan, however, the Japanese economy was already in a sharp decline following the 1991 collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble.

2000–2008: Model expansion[edit]

Saturn's first compact crossover SUV was introduced in 2001 for the 2002 model year as the VUE based on a globally used GM design. For 2002 for the 2003 model year, Saturn had introduced the ION as a replacement for the S-Series. In 2004 for the 2005 model year Saturn began selling the RELAY a minivan and the first Saturn based on similar models from other GM brands. That same year, the L-Series was discontinued. The Sky roadster was introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model. In 2006 for the 2007 model year, the AURA midsize sedan made its way to dealerships, alongside the Outlook, a larger CUV than the Vue, and was the last year the Ion was produced. The Ion was replaced by the European-built Astra in 2008. During the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Saturn revealed its Flextreme concept vehicle, which was a rebadged Opel Flextreme.[6]

Saturn was believed to have had a disagreement with GM and were not very accepting of the company closing. In 2004, GM and the United Auto Workers dissolved their unique labor contract for the Spring Hill manufacturing plant, allowing Saturn operations to be integrated with the rest of GM.[9]

2008–2009: Attempt to sell brand, market changes[edit]

In US Congressional hearings on December 2, 2008, General Motors had announced its intentions to focus on their four core brands (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC), with the sale, consolidation, or closure of Saturn and the remaining brands (Pontiac, Hummer, and Saab).[10] General Motors chairman and former CEO Rick Wagoner announced during a news conference on February 17, 2009, that Saturn would remain in operation through the end of the planned life cycle for all Saturn products (2010–2011).

In February 2009, GM declared its intent to part with this brand by closing or selling the division, either to investors or to dealers, as part of restructuring plans dependent upon the receipt of a second round of government loans ("bailout" funding).[11] It was the third such action for GM in the 21st century, following those of Oldsmobile, which ceased production in 2004, and Pontiac, which ended production of the 2010 model year by the end of 2009.[12]

General Motors announced in June 2009 that it was selling the brand to Penske Automotive Group.[13] The arrangement was similar to the deal under which Penske distributes Daimler AG's Smart Car in the United States.[14] Penske was not planning to buy the factories and would eventually have to contract other car companies to build cars sold as Saturns. GM would have built the AURA, VUE, and Outlook for Penske for two years. To replace GM as the brand's manufacturer, Penske was in discussions with several global automakers, including Renault Samsung Motors of Korea, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

By the end of 2009, GM closed all of its 46 Saturn dealerships in Canada, even for Saturn dealerships also selling Saab vehicles. GM and Penske decided that they could no longer make a business case to distribute Saturn vehicles in Canada after the sale of the brand. Saturn's customer service, parts, and warranty operations moved to other GM dealerships in Canada.[15]

2009: Sale falls through[edit]

On September 30, 2009, Penske had ended its deal with General Motors. The deal between Penske and General Motors had ended because of Penske not finding another manufacturer to buy the Saturn brand. However, at one point Penske was in talks with some car manufacturers including Renault Samsung Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but talks with the Renault-Nissan Alliance had ended mainly because of the objections from the Nissan part of the alliance. There was also another part of the deal between Penske and GM was for GM to continue to make the AURA, the Outlook, and the VUE until 2011, and then another manufacturer would take over, but since Penske didn't find another car manufacturer that was willing to continue production of Saturn vehicles, the deal between Penske and GM had ended. As a result of this, General Motors had announced that the Saturn brand will be discontinued in 2010, and that all Saturn dealerships will be closed by October 31, 2010 or until all of their inventory was sold.

In February 2010, as a means of customer retention, GM announced it was offering existing Saturn owners up to US$2,000 in incentives on purchasing a new Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick or GMC vehicle until March 31. Customers were required to have owned their Saturns for at least six months and were not required to trade them in to be eligible for the incentives.[16]

Saturn Authorized Service Providers have been introduced since the closing of the Saturn brand. Most Saturn Authorized Service Providers are at Chevrolet and Cadillac dealers. Saturn Authorized Service Providers are responsible for all aspects of service, including warranty service, on Saturn vehicles.

Saturn's last vehicle models were the AURA, the Outlook, the Sky, and the VUE. GM had continued to produce the AURA, the Outlook, the Sky, and the VUE into the 2010 model year. The 2010 model year Saturn models were sold only to rental car companies. All sales of new Saturn vehicles had ended in 2009 however.

In 2012, General Motors had reintroduced the discontinued Saturn VUE as the 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport. The Chevrolet Captiva Sport was mostly unchanged from the discontinued Saturn VUE. However, the Captiva Sport did not have a hybrid version available, when the VUE did.

Models[edit]

Earlier models[edit]

Originally, the company's products used a dedicated platform called the Z-body and a dedicated engine, the 1.9 L Saturn I4 engine, and a dedicated plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. All of the original Saturns featured dent-resistant plastic body panels which were also touted as allowing the company to change the look of the vehicles readily. However, in practice, the company did not often take advantage of this capability.

The Saturn S-Series family of cars were produced from 1991–2002. S-Series cars had three generations: First generation cars were produced from 1991–1995. For the 1995 model year Saturn used a "first generation" exterior and "second generation" interior. The exterior of the 1995 model looked the same as the first generation cars, but it had larger gauge faces on the instrument cluster and a redesigned center console. First generation engines were rated at 85 horsepower (63 kW) for the single overhead cam engines, while the dual overhead cam engines were rated at 124 horsepower (92 kW) for the entire run of S-Series cars (1991–2002). In 1996, the second generation S-Series sedan was introduced. Changes that carried through until 1999 included a redesigned body and single overhead cam power being increased to 100 horsepower (75 kW). The third generation sedan received only minor design changes for the 2000-2002 production run. Most notably, the exterior body panels were updated once again, and new paint colors were offered. The sedan retained many of the same mechanical components with an updated interior design. In 1997, the second generation of the sport coupe model was introduced with a more scooped headlight front. The 1999 Coupe models received a suicide door behind the driver side door. The S-Series was produced in three variations: Coupe (SC), Sedan (SL), and Wagon (SW). The wagon was introduced for the 1993 Model year and it was produced until 2001.

The first significant change came with the 2000 Saturn L-Series mid-size car. It shared the GM2900 platform with the Opel Vectra, along with its engine. It was built at a GM factory in Wilmington, Delaware.The 2000 model year were designated LS-1 (4 cylinder) and LS-2 (6 cylinder.) However, as Lincoln-Mercury owned the LS designator, and to prevent a lawsuit, Saturn changed the designators to L200 & L300 for the model years 2001-2005. The Saturn L200 was discontinued after the 2003 model year. In 2003, the Saturn ION replaced the S-Series compact.

The production of the Saturn ION was temporarily stopped for three weeks in 2003 due to Saturn dealerships having a large amount of ION vehicles.

The Saturn L-Series was discontinued after the 2005 model year due to poor sales.

Final model line[edit]

In 2007, the two final Saturn models with plastic body panels were the VUE and ION. The plastic body panels were discontinued on all Saturn models after the 2007 model year. None of the 2008 Saturn models used plastic body panels.

The 2009 Saturn models were the Sky roadster, the AURA sedan, the Astra hatchback, the VUE small crossover SUV and the Outlook full-size crossover SUV built off the GM Lambda platform.[17]

Some of the final Saturns were virtually identical to certain European Opel/Vauxhall models. For example, the 2008 Saturn VUE was a rebadged Opel Antara, while the Opel GT was based on the Saturn Sky. The Saturn Astra was a rebadged version of the Opel Astra. The Saturn Astra was also the first Saturn to be built outside of North America. The Saturn Astra was built in Antwerp, Belgium.

Saturn had featured two sub-lines of their vehicles: the Green Line and the Red Line. The Green Line Saturn models where environmentally friendly mild hybrid vehicles, and the Red Line Saturn models were high-performance and sporty vehicles.

Model lineup[edit]

Model Class Production
Saturn S-Series compact sedan and coupe 1991–2002
station wagon 1993–2001
Saturn L-Series mid-size sedan and station wagon 2000–2005
Saturn VUE compact crossover 2002–2010
Saturn ION compact sedan and quad coupe 2003–2007
Saturn RELAY minivan 2005–2007
Saturn Sky roadster 2007–2010
EV1 Electric 1996–2003
Saturn Outlook full-size crossover 2007–2010
Saturn AURA mid-size sedan 2007–2010
Saturn Astra compact 3– and 5-door hatchback 2008–2009

Concepts[edit]

  • Saturn Prototype (1984)[18]
  • Saturn Prototype (1988)[19]
  • Saturn Sport Sedan concept (1990)
  • Saturn SC Performance Edition (1999)
  • Saturn CV-1 (2000)[20]
  • Saturn SCX (2001)
  • Saturn LST (2001)
  • Saturn VUE Urban Expression (2001)
  • Saturn VUE Outdoor Expression (2001)
  • Saturn Sky concept (2002)
  • Saturn Curve (2004)
  • Saturn AURA Concept (2005)
  • Saturn PreVue (2006)
  • Saturn Flextreme (2008)
  • Saturn VUE Hybrid 2-Mode (2009)

Slogans

A Different Kind Of Car Company (1991-1993)

A Different Kind Of Company, A Different Kind Of Car (1994-2001)

It's Different In A Saturn (2002-2003)

People First (2004-2005)

Like Always. Like Never Before. (2006)

Rethink American (2007)

Rethink (2008-2010)

Awards[edit]

  • 1991
    • Saturn receives two "Silver Anvil" awards for community and internal relations.
    • Saturn receives Popular Mechanics "Design and Engineering" award for "manufacturing processes that result in exceptionally high quality for an all-new vehicle."
    • Saturn receives "Driver's Choice awards for best small car" from MotorWeek.
  • 1992
    • Saturn receives "Driver's Choice awards for best small car" from MotorWeek.
    • Saturn is in the "Top Ten Domestic Buys" according to Motor Trend magazine.
    • Saturn receives the "EVE" award for Saturn's attempt to employ women and minorities.
  • 1993
    • Saturn receives the Best American Car Value Under 13,000; Lowest Total Cost To Own—American Car; Best Overall Value—Compact Class under 16,500; from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn receives Technology of the Year from Automobile Magazine.
  • 1995
    • Saturn receives Best American Car Value under 13,000; Best Compact Under 17,000; Best Subcompact over 12,500; from Intellichoice.
  • 1996
    • Saturn receives Best American Car Value under 20,000; Best Compact Value under 17,000 (import or domestic); by Intellichoice.
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Small Wagon (import or domestic).
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Subcompact value under 12,000 (import or domestic).
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Subcompact value over 12,500 (import or domestic).
  • 1997
    • Saturn receives Best Car Value Under 20,000; Best Compact Value under 15,000; Best Subcompact Value under 14,000; Best Small Wagon Value; from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn is the Leader in "Brands under 20,000".
  • 1999
    • Saturn receives awards for Best Compact Value under 20,000; Best Small Wagon Value.
    • Saturn S-Series gets a Double 5-Star rating in Driver & Passenger in front-collision tests.
  • 2000
    • Saturn is voted MotorWeek's "Best Family Sedan".
    • Saturn receives "Best Overall Value of the Year" for the SL1, and SL2 from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn in Spring Hill receives "Most Valuable Pollution Prevention."
  • 2007
    • Saturn's 2007 AURA claims North American Car of the Year.
  • 2008
    • Saturn's Outlook receives Parents Magazine/Edmunds.com "Best Family Car 2008", "Best Crossover Utility" by MotorWeek Drivers, "Best New Family Vehicle" from kbb.com.

Plants[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Van, Adam. "Savannah Saturn car dealership adjusts business". savannahnow.com. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  2. ^ Staff Writer. "How Saturn Cars Work". howstuffworks.com. Retrieved February 17, 2009. 
  3. ^ "International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 21". St. James Press. fundinguniverse.com. 1998. Retrieved February 17, 2009. 
  4. ^ Reuters. "GM to close Saturn as sale to Penske collapses". reuters.com. Retrieved August 18, 2017. 
  5. ^ Nelson Ireson. "Saturn Production Halted, Remaining Cars Sold Off Within 4 Months". thecarconnection.com. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "History Of The Saturn Car Company – Our Story | About Us". saturn.com. Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ Robert A.G. Monks (2005). "Corporate Governance case study: General Motors". Corporate Governance. Blackwell Publishers. Archived from the original on June 23, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2010. 
  8. ^ Greenwald, John (November 9, 1992). "What Went Wrong? Everything at Once". Time magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ Staff Writer (June 26, 2004). "Innovative Saturn-UAW Contract Dismantled". saturnfans.com. Retrieved February 17, 2009. 
  10. ^ Vlasic, Bill (December 2, 2008). "Pursuing U.S. Aid, G.M. Accepts Need for Drastic Cuts". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2009. 
  11. ^ Krisher, Tom; Thomas, Ken (February 17, 2009). "GM seeks up to $30B in aid, will cut 47,000 jobs". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on May 1, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2009. 
  12. ^ "The Last Pontiac Built in the US". autoevolution.com. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  13. ^ Goldman, David (June 5, 2009). "GM to sell Saturn to Penske". CNN Money. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ David Goldman and Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writers (June 5, 2009). "GM to sell Saturn to Penske". cnn.com. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ Chrissie Thompson, Automotive News (September 1, 2009). "GM to close 46 Canadian Saturn stores by the end of the year". autoweek.com. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  16. ^ Vijayenthiran, Viknesh (February 14, 2010). "The Car Connection – GM Offering Saturn Owners $2,000 to Stay with Company". thecarconnection.com. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Saturn: New 2009 Cars, SUVs, & Crossover Vehicles". saturn.com. Retrieved February 17, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Flashback Friday: 1984 Saturn Prototype". saturnfans.com. May 16, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Flashback Friday: 1988 Saturn Prototype". saturnfans.com. December 19, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Flashback Friday: 2000 Saturn CV1 Concept". saturnfans.com. August 8, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  21. ^ "GM closes Delaware plant, ceases Solstice, Sky production". leftlanenews.com. July 29, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2009. 

External links[edit]