Before I start this whole topic I want to state that I am a proud GM shareholder. Saturn was a brand that was going no where and doing nothing for General Motors except burning billions of dollars with no hope for return on investment.
I made a comment on twitter.com/joeyredmond yesterday “Saturn is dead! Finally some good news in the automotive industry.” I received a blast of e-mails, tweets, and facebook comments bitching that other GM entities should be taken out and why Saturn should survive. Before I get to into the topic let’s have a little history lesson on the great Saturn brand.
Saturn was launched 24 years ago in January of 1985. The Saturn brand launch was GM’s response to “to the success of Japanese & German small-car imports.” The brand doesn’t hold a candle to the dominating sellers in the market segment and they cannot come close to a competitive price point.
Let’s look at the facts:
2009 Saturn Aura XE Sedan: $22,655 MSRP
2009 Honda Civic Sedan: $15,505 MSRP
2009 Mazda 6 I Sport Sedan: $21,150 MSRP
2009 Toyota Camry Base Sedan: $20,195 MSRP
2009 Toyota Corolla Base Sedan: $16,150 MSRP
2009 Honda Accord LX Sedan: $21,555 MSRP
2009 Nissan Altima Base Sedan: $19,900 MSRP
2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sedan: $18,495 MSRP
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer DE Sedan: $15,090 MSRP
2009 Volkswagon Jetta SE Sedan: $21,020 MSRP
I picked the sedan base model Saturn Aura XE Sedan which comes in the cheapest at $22,655 MSRP. I listed 10 cars that were similar in category and either Japanese or German origin. You know those “small-car imports” that Saturn was created to beat and destroy, maybe even save America!? Ironically I picked 9 other cars that were Japanese/German sedans base models like our Saturn. They were carry a cheaper MSRP and I would rather drive all of them before a Saturn.
Without a price point lower than it’s competition and some lucky design what is the motivation for purchase? The car has no real culture or adoption from a segment in the market. Aftermarket support for tuners is out of the question and way behind many other cars on the list. Most people purchasing a car use it to identify with a person brand they believe themselves to fall in (or want to fall in). Running that list above most of those cars fall into a category of purchasers or stereotypes that most people put the owners into. When I see a Saturn no branding, thoughts, or ideas come into mind. I don’t put Saturn into any category or relate to the owners because of any culture behind the brand.
On my last note let’s also remember Saturn was a failure from the start. It was launched as a property outside of the GM super machine. Saturn even had it’s own dealership network at first. Then as sales faltered and never met expectations it was brought in as another badge under GM. Sadly the public and shareholders do not know how much Saturn has lost in recent years because they don’t report the figures separately (or at least where I can easily locate them.) A general figure I can find is that Saturn has lost over $1,000,000,000 in recent years on it’s own. Next time GM wants to beat Japanese car companies perhaps they should focus on quality, performance, and durability while scrapping the plastic body. Just my two cents but a $22,000 plastic paneled machine on four wheels doesn’t seem to be luring me into any dealerships over the next year or two. Perhaps they need to steal some guys on the new Hyundai project because they have clearly figured something out.