Last month we talked about the possibility of Roger Penske taking control of Saturn and why that made good business sense. Today, he went ahead and did it. Penske Automotive and GM reached an agreement for a price of $100-200 million, said Bloomberg. And let’s not forget: Helio Castroneves, driving a Penske car, won his third Indy 500 three weeks ago. These things are not unconnected.
But the Saturn deal seems to make everybody happy—not only because of Penske’s great background and ability in the automotive world, but because GM will contribute its vehicles to Saturn showrooms for at least two years. After that, according to Penske, “We would expect to have a line up going forward, which would be manufactured by a worldwide partner.” And he hopes these cars will be made in the U.S.A.
Further, he intends to have all 350 dealerships and 13,000 Saturn employees remain, at least for now. More details are in the news release here. That distribution network is what makes Saturn valuable, along with “a passionate customer base,” as Penske put it, that could well be revived.
His most relevant experience has been creating and operating the second-largest U.S. car distributorship group. But racing at Indy is in some ways more demanding than running a car company. It requires not only money and passion but close attention to detail and superb team management skills. If he can run Saturn like he wins races, Roger might even revive the company that GM did its best to kill off.