Well, maybe not quite yet, but almost. A report just out says that Pontiac and GMC may go the way of all flesh. And an investor group from Oklahoma City is in talks with the company to buy the Saturn brand and turn it into an independent distribution network selling various brands. The group wants to offer foreign vehicles, possibly Chinese or Indian, and energy-efficient cars, maybe some made by GM.
It’s an ambitious idea that would save the necks of about 375 current Saturn dealers and their employees, preserving some 15,000 jobs. These people are undergoing a real financial debacle at present, with 45 Saturn stores closing since January 1. First quarter sales are down 59 percent, and the drumbeat of doom about the brand has made dealers prone to sell out (if they can) rather than wait for a dubious rescue.
Very few buyers want Saturns, despite the fact that it’s a much-improved product. The VUE, based on Opel’s Antara, is quite a good car, as we and others have reported. But the fact is that GM has simply killed the brand. Most of you know the story of how Saturn began life as a new concept in car merchandising that developed a real following. How GM let that concept die on the vine is one of the more damning elements in its demise.
In the end, says Business Week, despite the difficulties such an investment group would face, GM may have no choice but to sell.
Dispatching Saturn without buying off dealers would save GM a lot of money and headaches. The company wouldn’t have to buy back cars and parts and the new company would help phase Saturn out. If a deal is done, GM will supply Saturn cars through 2011. Saturn’s current retailers would own their stores, while the investor group would handle marketing, logistics and find carmakers who want to sell their vehicles in the existing stores. Saturn Distribution would even service cars owned by Saturn buyers, keeping them happy.
Well, would you buy a Saturn from new owners? If not, what would keep you away?