Will Saturn Die Or Become a Purveyor of Other Companies’ Rebadges?
By Chris Haak
Wednesday night, GM’s Saturn division sent letters to approximately 1.5 million Saturn owners to alert them that even in the face of GM announcing that it would likely close down the Saturn brand, Saturn would not necessarily fade into the sunset in 2011 when the current models’ life cycles ended. Somewhat surprising, however, was the concept that the letter put forth of Saturn continuing beyond 2011 by distributing vehicles built by either GM or other manufacturers.
Saturn Distribution Corporation, or SDC, already exists as a subsidiary of GM, and is the entity with which Saturn dealers have their franchise agreements. Saturn General Manager Jill
The big “if,” however, is whether GM is able to find an interested buyer for Saturn. Saturn Distribution Company really is a perfect name, because it’s in the unenviable position of being a car company that has no ability whatsoever to make cars. This is a terrible time to try to sell a damaged asset such as Saturn, but perhaps it might still have a chance if dealers can pool their resources together to buy SDC, or if a Chinese company with US market ambitions such as Chamco or Chery wants a quick entry into this auto market. Actually, Fiat would have probably been better off buying Saturn just to get a distribution channel of clean, well-mannered, customer-centric dealerships. Unfortunately, I don’t see this playing out to a happy ending for Saturn and GM. My expectation – and I hope I’m wrong – is that GM will not be able to find any entity with sufficient interest in Saturn, and will end up having to pay big dollars to make Saturn go away.