General Motors is struggling to stay alive and pleading for a bailout from Congress this week. One of the options GM has discussed in its plan is the sale or shutdown of Saturn. Neither of those options would be easy though.
The problem with selling Saturn is that almost all of its vehicles are based on other cars sold by GM. Any sale would either have to include provisions allowing the new owner to continue a vehicle sharing relationship with GM or leave the new owner with no vehicles to sell.
Shutting down Saturn would be an even bigger problem for GM. Jim Hossack, an analyst at AutoPacific, estimates that it would cost GM at least $2 billion just to close Saturn down.
“The state dealer franchise laws in this country are so restrictive that unless GM goes bankrupt, the cost of deleting a brand would be prohibitive,” Hossack said.
There are more than 400 Saturn dealers in the U.S., according to USA Today. If Saturn were shut down, GM would still honor warranties and supply parts for the cars, just as it has done for Oldsmobile vehicles.
Saturn was created to compete with Japan’s economy cars in a time when GM believed that American buyers wouldn’t trust an American small car. The first cars rolled off the assembly line in 1990. Saturns were popular for their no hassle dealerships, dent-free plastic body panels, good gas mileage and reliability.
USA Today is suggesting that a Chinese car company could buy Saturn to facilitate a move into the American market. If Saturn were Chinese-owned, would you buy one?
The Saturn Astra, based on the Opel Astra sold in Europe, is loved by critics and journalists.