California Autos Examiner

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Is Saturn Dead? Lutz Fears the Worst

In an interview appearing in Automotive News' Feb 16 issue, GM's boy wonder Bob Lutz doesn't have encouraging words about the brand. Here are his exact words as quoted by the trade paper:

"My personal favorite would be to see Saturn survive and prosper. But frankly, the reality is that that (sic) is probably not going to be the outcome."

I'll leave the rest of the interview up to Automotive News to report, but you have probably heard enough to figure out the rest. While Maximum Bob doesn't actually deliver a "death blow" to the brand, that quote is close enough. As Stuart Lasser, owner of Saturn of Denville said, "Everything's been said; just not everyone has said it."

This all confirms the feeling I got when I spoke with both Rick Wagoner and Troy Clarke in Detroit this past January. Both men were being politically correct, but the bottom line that they both arrived at was that Saturn hasn't made money and GM cannot keep throwing cash at the problem.

I'm sorry to see this happen, but honestly the handwriting has been on the wall for some time. GM gave Saturn one last shot at making a go of it. For awhile Saturn had the best and brightest lineup in the GM family and it simply couldn't get the word out. Personally, I blame the "dark years" where GM really let the brand crawl along with a mediocre lineup. I remember being at an auto show and giving a product rep a hard time about the leopard print roof rails that were available on the Ion. Someone who was listening to our conversation and blurted out "No way!" and the rep looked down at his feet, shuffled them a bit, and said "No, it's true." I'm not saying that some funky options killed the pop star, but the Ion was a lackluster product and the L-Series was no prize, either.

I wish Jill Lajdziak, her group at Saturn and all of its dealers the best. When speaking with GM employees, they have always spoke very highly of Jill and I have been impressed with her whenever we have had the opportunity to meet. I also have high hopes that GM might find a new home for the Astra here in the States. I proposed that very question to Troy Clarke, asking if he saw a space for a premium hatch like the Astra in the U.S. market should the Saturn brand fail. Clarke's answer was yes, he did feel that a product like the Astra hatch could still be relevant in GM's lineup here in the States should Saturn not be able to offer it. While that statement isn't a commitment, it does offer a ray of hope for premium hatch lovers everywhere!

Please note that nothing is official. No one at GM is said that Saturn is dead and until we get a statement to that effect, all of this should be treated as rumor. There is still a chance that another option could be chosen, but as Bob Lutz said in his interview, "The fact is, we don't have the time or the resources to take 10 years to figure it out and possibly turn it (Saturn) around."

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