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Our Saturn Story: The First 1000 Miles
SaturnFans.com December 21, 2001 It seems like just yesterday that my wife and I took delivery of our new L300; it'll be two months on Christmas Eve. Ever since we've picked up the car, I've wanted to post our Saturn "story" on the web to share with everyone here. I've gotten many e-mails from folks wondering about how our search, sales, and delivery process unfolded. Even though I've been a Saturn fan for more than half my life, the L300 is our first Saturn; neither my wife nor I have ever owned one before. Here is our story.
It All Started When...
I guess it all started in late September when I got an e-mail revealing that Saturn would be offering 0% financing as part of what would become known as General Motors' "Keep America Rolling" campaign.
No, wait... I think the best way to tell this story is to really start from the beginning. It was a little over 15 years ago when I first read about GM's top secret "Saturn Project". I became intrigued with the idea of a car company doing things - from engineering, manufacturing, and selling cars - completely different. I was ten years old at the time, and was excited to see GM attempt to build a car that could battle the best imports had to offer. As the Saturn project matured, more and more information made its way into newspapers and magazines. I read, collected, and stored these articles in 3" 3-ring binders. Today my collection of articles fills more than 15 binders.
The advent of the Internet in college gave me even greater access to more Saturn information. As the web grew I bookmarked every Saturn-related website, homepage, and news article I could find. I even joined an active e-mail digest for Saturn owners and fans. I wrote and completed many projects and reports discussing different aspects of Saturn (i.e. polymer panels, labor relations, engineering, and marketing). In 1996, I created a small homepage that would help me share my Saturn information with others. The "Saturnalia" website was born, and has grown over the years into the site you see online today.
Back To The Future
After receiving information about the special financing offer, I immediately told my wife. We contemplated on whether or not we should use this opportunity to buy a new car. Being slow decision-makers, we decided to wait until after we had a chance to check things out at one of our local retail facilities. In the back of my mind I wanted to wait for the restyled 2003 L due out early next summer. I usually like to drive by and look through retailer lots to see what's new, so we knew that we wanted an L sedan in white, black, or silver. However, it had been awhile since we'd been inside of a retailer's store, so I was anxious to actually see what was new in the 2002 L's. I'd read a lot about the changes, but hadn't yet had a chance to see them in person.
Our first stop was to Saturn of Sterling. I had heard some very good things about the facility. I had walked through their lot, but I'd never been inside their store or talked with any of the employees. This was the first time we met Jerry, the gentleman who would eventually become our sales consultant. I didn't mention anything about Saturnalia when we first introduced ourselves, because I wanted our Saturn experience to be genuine. I told Jerry that we were just looking, but if we did decide to buy a car it would be before the 0% financing offer ended October 31. He didn't pressure us or lose interest in us after he heard that we didn't want to buy something that day. Jerry also introduced us to his manager, Brad, who happened to walk by. Both were friendly, courteous, and answered all of our questions. We had a very informal discussion about some of the new things in the 2002 L300s.
Saturn of Sterling had an L on the showroom floor. It had the new mid-year changes: new leather armrests, exterior badges, and a very nice instrument panel. The quality of the switchgear and materials was outstanding - much better than what I remembered in previous L's. Needless to say, we were very impressed. Jerry asked us if we wanted to test drive one, but we had a prior engagement and couldn't stay very long.
After looking at cars the day before, my wife and I both had the new car "bug". We decided that we wanted to go for it! We had talked about colors options and models, and decided on either a white L200 or L300 with the sport package (spoiler, fog lamps, sunroof) and the power driver's seat. Since Saturn of Sterling didn't have one in stock, we decided to try some other retailers in our area. Only one of the six retailers we visited had a white L. It was an L300, but it didn't have all the options we were looking for: fog lights and a spoiler. Nevertheless, we test drove it and loved how the car performed.
Unfortunately, when we got back from the test-drive this particular retailer treated us in a very un-Saturn-like way. We were lied to and pressured, two things we did not appreciate. We left in disgust and disappointment, once again debating whether or not now was a good time to buy a new car. Since we were already miles from home, we decided to continue our search. As it turned out, none of the other retailers we visited that day had a white L. We made our way back to Saturn of Sterling to test drive an L200 and to take a second look at a silver L300 they had in stock.
Sterling Shines Again
As we have now come to expect, Jerry and the folks at Saturn of Sterling restored our faith in Saturn retailers. He was happy to see us return, and actually remembered our names. He gladly handed over the keys to a blue L200 for us to test drive. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 2.2L engine performed in the L200, but we both preferred the extra power of the V6.
Upon closer inspection, the silver model at Sterling that we had seen before had the premium package; something we really we really weren't interested in. Besides, we already had our hearts set on cream white. We were now on a quest for a white L300. Jerry offered to call around to see if he could locate the car we were looking for at another retailer. Anxious to find one, we also called retail facilities near where each of our parents' lived. We didn't have any luck, but Jerry did. He found a car 200 miles away. However, having a "new" car with so many miles on it wasn't something we were very interested in. We decided to place an order instead.
A few days later we returned to the retailer to see if we needed to place a deposit or fill out any paperwork. During our conversation, I asked Jerry if it would be alright for me to document our Saturn experience online at SaturnFans.com. I explained that I was the webmaster of the site, and that we were very happy with how we were treated at their store. He thought it was okay, but went back to Brad's office so that he could double-check with him. Brad said that he didn't have a problem with me writing about our Saturn experience. In fact, he said that he frequently visited the site and recently had become a member of the message board. What a small world! We talked a little about the site, and then headed home.
Soon after, I posted a message on the message board announcing that we would be buying our first Saturn. I received many, many emails from visitors, SaturnFans members, and Saturn workers congratulating us on our decision. We couldn't wait for Jerry to call us with the news about when our car would be delivered. It was a long two weeks, but we finally got the call.
We made an appointment with Jerry to pick up the car on Wednesday, October 24th. Traffic was unusually heavy that evening, so what should've been about a 20-minute drive took well over an hour. I'll never forget pulling into the parking lot and seeing the car parked right in front. It was the first time in a long time that we had seen a white L with a spoiler in person - it was beautiful. We quickly parked and headed inside.
Jerry met us in the showroom and led us to his cubicle where we filled out the required paperwork. Jerry and Brad did their best to make the process as painless as possible. While they were processing our paperwork, we went outside to check out the car and take some pictures. The sun was setting as we got our first close-up look at the car; it was perfect.
A few minutes later we headed back inside to meet one of the retailer's service consultants. He gave us a quick tour of the service-side of the store. Afterwards we worked out the financing details, and signed more paperwork. It was at this time that we met Wei, a member of the SaturnFans Message Board. He had stopped by to drop off his car for servicing. It was nice to meet someone else from the message board, and to associate a face with a forum username. Unfortunately, he had to go and couldn't stay for the next part...
"I say, I say, Saturn?" Not yet!
Brad led us out of his office and back onto the showroom floor. There, he explained, they had a little something special planned. We walked into the showroom where we met three ladies from Saturn Corporation who introduced themselves as not only employees of Saturn, but also fans of SaturnFans.com. They said that their office was full of SaturnFans fans! I had heard a few years ago that Saturn visited the site, but I really never knew how many of their employees visit each day.
We shared stories and exchanged questions: they asked about Saturnalia and I asked about Saturn. It was a big surprise, and thrill for me to be able to talk with them. I learned a lot that night, not only about some particulars inside Saturn, but about how closely they read what's been posted at Saturnalia. I can say with confidence that Saturn is listening to what everyone has to say on the message board.
Time flew by (as it always does whenever I'm at a Saturn store) and before long it was getting late. It was finally time to take delivery of the car. They presented us with the keys and we walked outside to the front of the store. I took some more pictures before we said goodbye. Everyone stood around, clapped, cheered and did the "I say Saturn!" chant. It was all a dream come true. After all these years, I was finally a member of the Saturn family! I couldn't thank them enough for everything they had done for us. Saturn made it a very special night; a night for us to remember.
Her Name Is "Elle"
Call us crazy, nuts, or maybe a little fanatical, but it didn't take us long to give our car a name. We've never really named any of our cars in the past, but this one was special and it seemed natural. Instead of referring to the car just as our "Saturn" or "the L300," we decided to affectionately call her "Elle". She's already got more than 1000 miles on her.
In mid-November we attended our first new owner car clinic. About 12 other new owners were also there. Saturn of Sterling's service consultant, Jim, gave an excellent tutorial about how to best take care of our new Saturn. For part of the evening he gave a presentation and showed a video. We spent the second part of the night out in the service bays getting a close-up look at a L300. They had a SL2 on a lift for us to go underneath. It was a very interesting night, and the pizza was delicious! I'm looking forward to the next one.
We've been very satisfied with everyone at Saturn of Sterling. I would definitely recommend them to anyone who lives in the area. I was flattered by all of the things Saturn did behind the scenes to make our delivery extra special. I'm very happy to see that Saturn still tries to exceed customer expectations. Sometimes saying thank you doesn't seem like enough, and in this case we have a unique opportunity to do a little more: yesterday we received a survey form from J.D. Power & Associates.
I can't wait to fill it out!
Click here for pictures of when we took delivery of the car.
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