By Larry Carley c2009
If General Motors moves ahead with its plan to kill the Saturn brand (or sell it if they can find a buyer), it will be a loss for consumers. The best thing Saturn has (had) going for it is its consumer-friendly, no nonsense, no B.S., no dicker sticker pricing on its vehicles.
When you walk into a Saturn dealer, the price you see on the sticker is the price you (and everybody) else pays. No games. No haggling. No arm wrestling with a salesman. No uncertainty if you are getting a getting a fair deal or getting screwed. I like that.
It is the same sales policy Carmax uses at its used car outlets. GM should have adopted this same policy for all of its dealerships. But I guess that would take all of the fun out of selling cars.
I remember when Roger Smith (former GM CEO and villain of Roger Moore's "Roger & Me" documentary) told the world that GM was launching a brand new car line called Saturn, and that it would revolutionize the way GM builds and sells cars. Saturn cars would provide consumers with good value-priced transportation. The cars would be unique and appeal to a certain type of buyer (the frugal type, mostly).
When Saturn finally got up and running several years late and billions of dollars over budget, the cars were well received. I took a press tour of the Spring Hill, Tennessee plant and was impressed by the degree of automation. There was hardly a soul in the place except in the final assembly area. At one stop during the plant tour, they tossed a brand new Saturn door panel on the ground, then drove our train of golf carts over it to show how tough it was. The undamaged door panel was then placed back on the rack supposedly to be installed on a car later that day!
The first generation Saturn cars were true to their ideal. A neighbor of mine bought two of them (SL models) and drove them for years. Both cars held up fairly well, until the steel brake lines rotted out. The speedometer quit working in one, and an emission part failed in another. But no major repairs or problems. He always bragged about his fuel mileage. He and his daughter now own a pair of PT Cruisers.
In 2001, I bought a used 1998 Saturn SC2 from a Carmax dealer for a second car. I bought the car because I liked the sporty styling, the sporty handling, the performance of the dual overhead cam engine (except for the annoying idle vibration), the excellent fuel economy (over 30 mpg with an automatic transmission), and the plastic body panels that would last forever because they were rust proof and dent resistant.
I drove that car for a couple of years, then gave it to my daughter as a college graduation gift. She is married now and her husband still drives the car back and forth to work. The car has held up very well, and except for a cranky crankshaft position sensor that had to be replaced ($15) and normal wear items like brake pads and tires, the car has been very cheap to drive and maintain.
The Saturn models that followed drifted from the original intent. Some, like the ION, were ho-hum cars that were not well received. The Aura has a nice, upscale European feel to it, and the Saturn Sky is Saturn's answer to the Mazda Miata. The Saturn VUE hybrid is green addition to the Saturn lineup. But none of these vehicles fit the original Saturn mission statement or image. Saturn has become just another brand with no particular distinction. I guess that is why GM has decided it is the end of the road for Saturn.
Apparently nobody wants to make affordable reliable cars for the average Joe anymore.
So long Saturn. You'll be missed.