Saturn Dealers Don’t Want to Close

19 Feb

Some Saturn dealers, upon hearing that GM wants to kill the brand, want to spin the marque off from GM. Recall that Saturn dealerships are singular and free-standing.

I would tend to agree with this notion, because it’s become quite evident that the domestic automakers’ attempts to compete with Japanese, Korean, and European cars have almost uniformly become a game of catch-up. So, if Chevy, GMC, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac can’t compete effectively with Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Acura, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, or VW, it makes some sense to retain the Saturn dealership network and use it to try and compete.

Because Saturn was just getting interesting.

After a decade, give or take, of selling tinny crap with plastic doors that looked like it was designed in 1988, Saturn was starting to get good. The Aura, the new Vue, the Astra, the Outlook – these are not only good cars, a couple of them are cars I’ve actually considered buying because they’re well built and well designed.

Saturn is supposed to get the new Opel Insignia, which is about as close to BMW luxury as a domestic automaker would ever get for under $30,000. The Astra is built in Belgium. The Outlook is as good as the last-generation Honda Pilot.

So the Saturn dealers might be able to band together and keep the brand alive through a deal with Opel, GM’s European brand. Opel is the source of the Insignia (Vectra’s new name, and the 2011 Aura), the Astra, and could decide to bring the Meriva and the Zafira – its mini-MPVs – to the states to compete with the Mazda5 and the European Fords that are supposed to start being shipped over here soon. The Corsa could easily compete with the Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit. Opel offers an entire range of stylish and fuel-efficient vehicles. With some tweaking, its diesel engines could be adopted stateside.

On the other hand, if GM puts Saturn for sale, it might provide one of the Chinese automakers like Brilliance or BYD an entree into this market. On the other hand, there have been rumors that Renault might be looking to re-enter the US market, and a ready-made distribution and dealership network are just waiting to be gobbled up. (My personal preference would be to see Škoda come to the US. Their cars are more conservatively styled than VW’s, cheaper, and better-built.)

Even though the economy is in the tank right now, this is not going exist in perpetuity. Now is a good time for an ambitious company to strike on re-entering the US market to compete on the design and fuel-efficiency front.

4 Responses to “Saturn Dealers Don’t Want to Close”

  1. Mike Miller February 19, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    Alan, I am in total agreement with you on this! I was evry encouraged at the less watered down Opelization that Saturn undertaking. It would be nice if GM killed the Saturn brand altogether and brought the Opel marque back to the US.

  2. Paul February 19, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    The Aura is no better than the Malibu. (In fact I like the Malibu better design wise).
    There is nothing special about the Outlook. Again the Buick Enclave is much more stylish. The Astra is interesting, and although built in Belgium it is not as a German built Rabbit, especially the GTI version. The new Equinox will be based on the same chasis as the Eqinox.
    I guess my point is that fundamentally there is nothing special about Saturn.
    Americans miight say give up on Buick, but so much is invested in Buick in Asia. In China they even label Suzukis with the Buick moniker.

  3. Buffalopundit February 19, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Buick Enclave is significantly more money than an Outlook, and it looks like a suppository to me. The Astra’s only downfall is a small engine. The new Equinox will have a totally revamped skin & interior.

  4. FoxyLady February 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    I own a 2003 Saturn Vue and love that little poor man’s SUV. If a foreign country like China buys Saturn I won’t be buying anymore of them, I’ll be going back to GM products. Buy American!

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