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Oct. 3 2009 - 1:06 pm | 12 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

RIP: Saturn

It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, but leaving a huge blank space here would sort of look funny, so please forgive me.

Very few people not directly involved in the manufacture or sale of Saturns is going to miss the division. Though there’s never been a truly awful Saturn, there’s never been a brilliant one, either. All of their recent offerings have been mediocre and/or shared across GM’s still vast corporate universe. For instance, the Sky is a good roadster, but it’s mechanically identical to the cheaper and better looking Pontiac Solstice, the Astra is another decent modern Saturn, but it’s just a rebadged Opel (and besides that, GM stopped importing them months ago).

The original Saturn S-series had excellent fuel economy and an innovative polymer body that was rust proof and mildly resistant to dings. It wasn’t best-in-class, but was generally competitive with other small cars in the early 90s. But GM never extensively revamped the car over its 12 year production run, just restyled or re-contented it every so often. By the dawn of the new millennium, the S-series was less refined, less roomy and generally less capable than competitors. Many of the Saturns that followed, such as the Ion and L-series, were bland and uninspiring.

Compare these products to those of another defunct American automaker with a polysyllabic name starting in “s”.

Until it stopped vehicle manufacture in 1966, Studebaker made some awesome vehicles that were innovative, well-constructed and had timeless style like the Commander, a full-sized car that was capable of getting almost 30 miles to the gallon in the early 50s even with a V8, or the gorgeous Avanti, which sat four adults in luxury but still managed to best Porsche and Ferrari in speed (the R3 version of the Avanti topped out at 172 mph and was the fastest car you could buy in North America in 1963).

Saturn’s no haggle pricing and friendly, well-trained dealer network regularly topped consumer satisfaction surveys, but the best sales and marketing in the world aren’t going to compel people to buy stuff they don’t want. Besides, while an overly aggressive, rude or dishonest dealer can be off-putting, how much of a factor is it when weighed against the overall car ownership experience which might last for 10 years or longer?

Anyway, I wish the best to dealers and others associated with Saturn – about 13,000 jobs are directly tied to the company – as well as any fans of the brand.


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    About Me

    I have more than a decade of journalism experience covering a variety of automotive, financial, and community news topics. Specifically, I've written for the Daily Record, National Underwriter, Institutional Investor and helped ConsumerSearch set up its car and truck review section as its founding Automotive Editor. Being fascinated with vehicles since I was a wee lad, I've piloted an ancient Mercedes 300SD across the country, pedaled thousands of miles on a Bianchi Volpe, gone go-carting in Europe, and broken my shoulder falling off a Yamaha Seca.

    Like most writers, I hope to achieve immortality before I die.

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    Followers: 38
    Contributor Since: January 2009