Saturn Revs for the Future with Performance-Oriented Products


Despite a lack of new product during the late 1990's, Saturn is working hard to re-establish itself as a 'different' manufacturer of class-leading, import-fighting vehicles. Unlike Saturn's first ten years when General Motors starved retailers of new product, Saturn's next ten years promise to be quite the opposite - a variety of exciting new models are planned for the future.

Automotive News recently spoke with David Smidebush, Saturn's director of brand and product development. He sees Honda as a role model for how Saturn can expand into other market segments. A gradual growth into other markets will be for Saturn to enhance its personality and will ensure that its a viable brand in the future.

"I don't want to pick a number and say we are looking at five cars or seven cars for our vehicle portfolio," said Smidebush at a press event. "We're kind of looking at it in stages."

Automotive News reports that Smidebush said "Honda is a good benchmark" for Saturn's product strategy. "Mirroring some of the things Honda has done, you can see growing the division - being known for small, mid-sized vehicles and growing into other segments."

One of the new segments Saturn wants to enter will please Saturn performance enthusiasts. The company will be adding high-performance enhancements to some vehicles within the next 18-months. A 240-hp Vue is expected next summer, and a 200-hp Ion quad coupe will arrive in early 2004. Also reportedly under consideration, but not yet approved for production, are a convertible, a midsize sedan to replace the L-Series, a large sport wagon, and several other vehicles.

  • Midsize Sedan. Automotive News reports that funding for the vehicle has not been approved, but the vehicle is expected to replace the L-Series sedan in the 2006 or 2007 model year. Until recently it was believed that Saturn would offer the 5-door sport-wagon Transponder as its only midsize vehicle entry. That idea may be scrapped in favor of a more traditional 4-door sedan based on GM's new Epsilon front-drive architecture.
  • Convertible. Saturn reportedly would like to have a 'halo' vehicle in its showrooms, such as last year's Sky convertible. One of the biggest challenges would be managing the development costs, because a Saturn convertible would not likely generate enough volume to justify the investment in such a vehicle. However, James Ulrich, vehicle line executive for Saturn Compact Vehicles, has said if GM develops a low-cost, rear-drive platform for the Pontiac Solistic, Saturn could share some of the components to build itself a convertible.
  • Sport Wagon. Whis vehicle would be larger than the current Vue and would likely seat eight passengers. It is not know whether or not it would be based on GM's new Epsilon architecture.

Source: Automotive News

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