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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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Q&A: Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak

What Penske can do that GM couldn't.

by on Jun.05, 2009

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak accepts the award for the midsize Aura, named North American Car of the Year at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak accepts the award for the midsize Aura, named North American Car of the Year at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.

It likes to bill itself “a different kind of car company,” and that’s likely to be even more true in the future, now that Roger Penske has signed an agreement that will likely make him the new owner of General Motors’ Saturn division by the end of the year.

The once-promising brand showed significant momentum in its early years, but GM admittedly starved Saturn of product until it was too late, and while it has recently expanded the line-up, to much praise, the ailing automaker has decided it needs to pare back to just four key brands if it’s to survive its bankruptcy.

What happens now?  TheDetroitBureau.com turns to Jill Lajdziak, the constantly-moving dynamo who has been serving as general manager of the Saturn division since March 1999, and has been with General Motors since 1980.  The brand’s greatest strength is its 192 dealers and 358 “rooftops,” she is quick to assert.  But it will, as she admits, take more than stores to make Saturn work, post-GM.

Q: As recently as January, GM was still looking to find a way to keep Saturn in its line-up. What happened since then?

Lajdziak: When we sat down, in January, we were looking at lots of other opportunities within GM.  (But) GM figured out it could only afford to support four core brands, both from a marketing and manufacturing standpoint.  From my vantage point, that was great and set up every (surviving) brand to be successful long-term.  That’s important for both General Motors and for the country.  But there wasn’t any room for Saturn. (more…)

GM Confirms Penske Saturn Acquisition

Deal would save brand.

by on Jun.05, 2009

GM has confirmed it will sell its Saturn brand - with court approval - to Penske Automotive Group, founded by motorsports legend and entrepreneur Roger Penske.

GM confirms it will sell its Saturn brand - with court approval - to Penske Automotive Group, founded by entrepreneur Roger Penske.

Confirming what TheDetroitBureau.com earlier reported, General Motors has announced that it has concluded negotiations on a proposed sale of its Saturn brand to Penske Automotive Group.

The deal must still be finalized – a matter complicated by GM’s current bankruptcy status – but if approved, the ailing automaker said, in a statement, that it would “save more than 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs at Saturn and its retailers in the United States, and would preserve the customer-focused Saturn brand.”

“Saturn has a passionate customer base and outstanding dealer network,” said Roger Penske, racing legend, mega-entrepreneur and chairman of Penske Automotive Group. “For nearly 20 years Saturn has focused on treating the customer right. We share that philosophy, and we want to build on those strengths.” (more…)