03 November 2017

The Saturn Car Brand

GM had many brands in the 1980's but it decided it needed another one to compete with Japanese brands, hence Saturn was created. In 1990, the first cars started rolling off the production line. It was ambitious in the sense that everything was new, from the brand, the models, assembly plant to the dealer network.

Despite the subdued economy at the time of release, it sold in reasonable numbers. Getting enough stock was an issue for dealers in the early years, customer satisfaction surveys had the brand near the top and by 1994, sales had reached 280,000 units in the US. It also had a different culture from the rest of GM in every area and it was working.

Then while it seems that GM had poured money into Saturn at the expense of other divisions, then it was the others turn and Saturn was no longer getting the money to go to the next level. That and other reasons led to a plateau in sales. Even when new models did come along, it didn't do anything to improve volume. By the late 2000's, GM decided to rationalise its brands and Saturn was one that had to go.

It seems to me that GM has lacked consistent management with long term plans. Even today,  I find GM's strategies baffling. It adds the Chevrolet brand to Europe, which was basically GM Korea products. Then not long after pulls the brand out and then Opel/Vauxhall is sold, leaving GM with no presence in Europe.

The bold move to establish Saturn wasn't followed through on. The care it got in the beginning caused internal resentment from other divisions, then the brand wasn't supported as it should have been. It seems an excellent example of how not to do things. About 4.6 million vehicles with the Saturn brand were made in North America for the US, Canadian and Japanese markets.

Models:

An S-Series car

S/Ion/Astra: The S-Series was a small car that started with a sedan, then a coupĂ© and finally wagon was added. The first generation went from 1990-95. The 1996-99 S-Series was a reskinned car with little else done to it. For the 2000-02 third generation, a more generous makeover was undertaken.

Then a new model named the Ion replaced the S-Series for the 2003-07 , this time using a GM Platform. It came as a sedan and coupé. It was replaced by the European sourced Astra for 2008-09, which was offered as a 3 or 5 door hatchback with one engine offered along with two trim levels.

EV1: As the name suggests, it was an electric vehicle that was only available through leasing and not sold to the public. It was serviced through some Saturn dealerships so Saturn was the closest brand to the vehicle. It was soon dropped by GM, as if it was a pilot test more than a serious attempt to sell electric cars.

The Aura model

L/Aura: Some years later the medium sized L-Series arrived comprising of a 4-door model and wagon. It was troubled by quality issues and didn't sell very well. It was soon dropped and after a short break, its replacement arrived, the Aura. It came only as a sedan model and was better executed than its predecessor.

Vue: Finally an SUV was added, in this a case a mid-sized model. In 2008, production moved to Mexico and it was the same vehicle as the Antara and Captiva sold in other markets.

Relay: The meduim sized MPV was introduced in 2005 and was the first Saturn model that was a rebadged GM product. In 2007, it was deleted from the range, effectively replaced by the Outlook SUV.

The Outlook SUV

Outlook: This large sized crossover SUV arrived in 2007 heavily based on other vehicles within GM and while Saturn was closed in 2009, production went until early 2010 to use up existing parts.

If you picked the Sky model, well done

Sky: Lastly a sports car was made for the brand, shared with other GM brands to spread cost. It was well liked by those who bought one.

Below are yearly North American production figures for each model. The Euro sourced Astra isn't included.

Yr Light Truck Passenger Cars Grand
Md Outlook Vue Relay L / Aura Sky S / Ion EV1 Total
90 - - - - - 4,200 - 4,200
91 - - - - - 95,800 - 95,800
92 - - - - - 212,100 - 212,100
93 - - - - - 281,500 - 281,500
94 - - - - - 280,400 - 280,400
95 - - - - - 301,500 - 301,500
96 - - - - - 313,900 - 313,900
97 - - - - - 271,900 - 271,900
98 - - - - - 244,000 100 244,100
99 - - - 61,000 - 238,100 300 299,400
00 - - - 86,000 - 174,900 - 260,900
01 - 3,300 - 103,500 - 171,900 - 278,700
02 - 87,900 - 98,900 - 145,500 - 332,300
03 - 99,300 - 45,400 - 138,000 - 282,700
04 - 100,200 7,700 11,700 - 110,900 - 230,500
05 - 88,300 15,900 - - 100,100 - 204,300
06 3,000 110,500 5,000 39,700 10,500 123,800 - 292,500
07 47,500 81,000 - 60,900 14,700 27,500 - 231,600
08 22,400 88,700 - 64,500 8,900 - - 184,500
09 5,000 5,600 - 3,700 300 - - 14,600
10 2,500 - - - - - - 2,500
T 80,400 664,800 28,600 575,300 34,400 3,236,000 400 4,619,900

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