from 1985-2010 and based in Spring Hill, Tennessee, United States.
Often in the early years of the brand, due to the similarity of the cars and the lack of model-specific badging all Saturn models were simply referred to as just "Saturns" by the public and as the
(1995 Edition) Best Late-Model Bet in the Subcompact category (model years 1991-1995)
|1994 Book||In the Rings of Saturn by Joe Sherman, Oxford University Press|
The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Saturn Corporation page on 17 June 2016, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
The Saturn Corporation is a registered trademark established on January 7, 1985, as a subsidiary of General Motors. 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.
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.
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 1992. GM had plans for a sedan, a coupe, 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.
1990–2000: "A new kind of car company"
In July 1990, GM Chairman Roger Smith and UAW President Owen Bieber drove the very first Saturn off the assembly line in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The brand was marketed as a "different kind of car company", and Saturn operated outside the GM conglomerate, with its own assembly plant in Spring Hill, unique models and a separate retailer network.
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, 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).
Nonetheless, the brand was immediately known for its "no haggle" prices. The first Saturn model, the S-Series, was significantly successful. A year later, Saturn hit the Canadian market. 499,999 Saturns later, "Carla" entered the market in 1993. In May 1995, "Jasper", Saturn's Millionth car is produced. In 1996, Saturn Dealerships distributed the electric General Motors 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 CKD kit and customized dashboard and steering components) as it entered the Japanese market. In January 1999, Saturn rolled out its two millionth car. Later that year, Saturn began production of its all new L-Series.
2000–2008: Model expansion
Saturn's first compact crossover SUV was introduced for the 2002 model year as the Vue, based on a globally used GM design. For 2003, Saturn introduced the Ion as a replacement to the S-Series. For 2005, 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. Also for 2007, 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.
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.
2008–2009: Attempt to sell brand, market changes
In US Congressional hearings on December 2, 2008, General Motors announced its intentions to focus on four core brands (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC), with the sale, consolidation, or closure of Saturn and the remaining brands (Pontiac, Hummer, and Saab). 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). 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.
General Motors announced in June 2009 that it was selling the brand to Penske Automotive Group. The arrangement was similar to the deal under which Penske distributes Daimler AG's Smart Car in the United States. 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.
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.
2009: Sale falls through
On September 30, 2009, Penske terminated its discussions with GM to acquire its Saturn subsidiary. The tentative agreement was for GM to continue to produce the Saturn line until 2011; after that time, an undisclosed third company would assume production responsibilities. Penske's decision to back out of the sale came after an undisclosed company's board rejected plans to take over production of the Saturn line. The undisclosed "company" was later reported to be the Renault-Nissan Alliance, reacting mainly to objections from the Nissan side of the Alliance. Subsequently, GM stated they would shut down the division and dealers would have to close by October 2010. Since that date, Saturn vehicles have been serviced at other GM dealerships.
Meanwhile, the Outlook was the last Saturn to be produced, although it is unknown when production ended. Although all Saturn production ended in October 2009, only the Outlook resumed from hiatus by February 2010 for production.
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.
Saturn Authorized Service Providers have been introduced since the closing of the Saturn brand. Most Saturn Authorized Service Providers are at Cadillac and Chevrolet dealers. Saturn Authorized Service Providers are responsible for all aspects of service, including warranty service, on Saturn vehicles.
Saturn's last vehicles were the Saturn Astra, Saturn Aura, Saturn VUE, and Saturn Outlook. GM continued to market the leftover 2009 model year vehicles as 2010 model year vehicles for rental car fleets. Sales of all Saturn vehicles ended in late 2009, however.
In 2011, GM reintroduced the VUE compact sport utility vehicle based on the Chevrolet Captiva platform. The resulting vehicle was called the Chevrolet Captiva Sport, though it was only sold for fleet use, and to rental car fleets. The vehicle was unchanged from the old VUE, though V6 and Hybrid engine options were unavailable. The only change was that Chevrolet badges were placed everywhere where there once was a Saturn badge, and it was renamed 'Captiva'. In a similar fashion, the plant that produced the Saturn Outlook was retooled to produce the redesigned 2013 GMC Acadia. Most noticeable in the rear wraparound glass and lift-gate, many Outlook parts were largely unchanged when recycled into the Acadia, only adding GMC design cues where necessary. No other Saturn models or parts have been reintroduced.