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Where Will Saturn and Pontiac Owners Go to Next?

Probably not back to GM, says new study.

by on Oct.02, 2009

With Saturn and Pontiac both to be closed down, where will current owners go when it's time to trade in? Not back to GM, says a new study.

With Saturn and Pontiac to be closed down, where will current owners go when it's time to trade in? Not back to GM, says a new study.

As part of its bankruptcy reorganization, General Motors will cut in half the number of brands it operates in North America.  While it is selling off Hummer and Saab, it will close Pontiac and, it turns out, the Saturn division, as well, now that Roger Penske’s plan to buy the division has collapsed.

Prior to going into Chapter 11 court protection, GM held a bit more than 20% of the American auto market – and it actual nipped 21%, despite a sharp sales decline, in September.  The automaker acknowledges it will lose some share, but is hoping to retain about 18%, even after abandoning the four brands.  Not likely, suggests a new study by Experian Automotive, which indicates the struggling domestic maker will lose many current Saturn and Pontiac customers whom it had hoped to shift to other GM brands.

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Between them, Saturn and Pontiac collectively accounted for about one in seven cars, trucks and crossovers sold by General Motors in the U.S., according to Experian data, the former brand making up 5% of the GM total, the latter 9%.  Pontiac alone was nearly as large, even after years of decline, as Mercedes-Benz, Mazda or Subaru.  Saturn was bigger than Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Land Rover.

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Renault Board Killed Deal with Penske Saturn

GM is now liquidating the division.

by on Oct.02, 2009

The Renault Board balks at Ghosn's Saturn plan.

The Renault Board balks at Ghosn's Saturn plan.

The key to the mystery behind the sudden end to General Motors Company’s effort to sell Saturn lies with the board of Renault-Nissan. Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn had signed off on the deal that would have cleared the way for Saturn to begin selling vehicles built by Renault-Nissan’s South Korean affiliate, Samsung, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The deal would have raised Samsung’s profile in the global industry and increased the utilization-rate at the Korean company’s manufacturing center, while providing Saturn with new vehicles.

Renault’s chief financial officer in an interview with Bloomberg news has acknowledged it was in talks with racing mogul Roger Penske, who is also the founder of the Penske Automotive Group of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Penske, who prefers to maintain a low profile away from the track, had never identified his potential partner. That is the reason for his carefully worded statement where Penske said the “board” of an unidentified company led to the collapse of the deal.

Ultimately, Ghosn and Penske, two the most formidable executives in the car business, could not convince the Renault-Nissan board that a Samsung-Saturn alliance was a good idea.

It demonstrates a complete lack of faith in the U.S. auto market where Nissan is posting heavy losses. It also might indicate a lack of faith in Ghosn’s judgment. The list of possible reservations also include concern about creating a new-competitor for Nissan in the US and worries about potential liabilities for Renault-Nissan if the Saturn venture failed, analysts suggested privately.

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Hummer Sold, Will Saturn Be Next?

GM CFO outlines plans for new company; may initially withhold financial data.

by on Jun.02, 2009

GM CFO Ray Young: 16 bidders for Saturn, 3 for Saab. The post-bankruptcy GM could go public by 2010, but may withhold financial data until then, Young cautioned.

GM CFO Ray Young: 16 bidders for Saturn, 3 for Saab. The post-bankruptcy GM could go public by 2010, but may withhold financial data until then, Young cautioned.

With a buyer apparently chosen for its Hummer division, General Motors is now turning to Saturn, the once-vaunted brand that it also hopes to sell off as part of its effort to slim down through bankruptcy.  According to GM Chief Financial Officer Ray Young, there are now 16 potential buyers interested in Saturn, with another 3 looking at Saab, the Swedish maker GM also hopes to sell.

As part of yesterday’s bankruptcy filing, the ailing U.S. automaker intends to eliminate all but four of its brands, and along with the hoped-for sale of Hummer, Saturn and Saab, GM will also abandon its once-legendary Pontiac brand.  Meanwhile, the automaker will restructure its vast global empire, starting with the planned sale of a controlling interest in its European subsidiary, Opel, to a consortium headed by the Canadian supplier, Magna International.

“We’re still going to be a global company, but how we’re going to operate as a global company will change,” explained Young, during a 90-minute teleconference with automotive analysts and reporters.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe sale of Hummer was announced a few hours before the call, but Young declined to reveal the name of the buyer.  As TheDetroitBureau.com reported, this morning, it appears the new owners will consolidate operations, which would mean some overseas production would be brought back to a Hummer plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, from the current site in South Africa.

How soon an announcement on Saturn and Saab will be made is uncertain.  The decision to sell the latter brand was not unexpected and, in fact, was long called for by industry analysts worried about GM’s deteriorating situation.  But the move to abandon Saturn is another matter entirely. (more…)