Saturn New Practices Fall Flat
May 28, 2009
The Saturn car is a product line of General Motors that was started in 1985. Plans for this division of General Motors were two fold. The first was to compete with small car imports from other countries. General Motors heavily marketed Saturn as “a new kind of car”. The car itself was not so new but the method of purchase certainly was. As anyone who has bought a new car knows, it is all about negotiation. You go in you tell the salesperson how much you are willing to pay and he comes back and tells you how much the dealership will take. This haggling goes back and forth until either a sum agreeable to both parties is reached or one of you walks away. Saturn promised to do away with what some Americans found to be a very difficult process. The claim was that Saturn cars were priced so economically that no haggling was necessary, the customer was already getting a great deal so there was no room to dicker over price. The customer was expected to pay the priced ask just as he/she would do for other items purchased. While that sounds easy enough, several unforeseen factors came up. The first was quite unexpected, but it turned out that most people buying a new car “expected, wanted and liked” the bargaining that goes back and forth at most dealerships. Many buyers stated that they did not believe the company would offer the best price initially and many would be customers went to dealerships that did have negotiable prices. The practice soon ended a Saturn dealerships became arbitration dealerships just like most other new car dealers.
One the negotiation process was settled, it appeared that General Motors had found another great design and the public responded quite well to Saturn. The cars were unique in appearance and all were given names in relation to astronomical terminology. Initially they were given letter sequence names such as the Saturn L-Series, the S-Series and so on. These were not nearly as popular as the astronomical names proved to be. Soon names such as the Saturn Vue, the Saturn Sky and the Saturn Aura were given to the vehicles and sales did increase somewhat.
The designers for the Saturn’s gave the cars dent-resistant plastic body panes, which were supposed to allow the company to change the look of the vehicles easily. This was never fully implemented in practice however.
Recent years have been very unkind to most car companies and Saturn has been no exception. Sales began to decline steadily and by 2008, Saturn’s parent company, General Motors was looking to the United States government for help with its serious financial difficulties. In order to get approval for this government aid, General Motors has had to cut costs across the board. Saturn was placed on the chopping block. In December of 2008, General Motors appeared before congress to ask for aid. In exchange for help, it promised to slash operating costs to the bone. So it was that On February 17, 2009 General Motors chairman Rick Wagoner announced that Saturn would be put up for sale, if no buyer is found for the car line then General Motors will phase Saturn out no later than 2012.
Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at SW Engines. He writes about used Saturn engines and other industry specific topics.
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