Flexibility Wasn't Enough for Former Tennessee Saturn Plant to Keep Building GM Vehicles

Aerial Photo of the Former Saturn Plant

Lindsay Chappell from Automotive News: Suppliers and workers at General Motors' assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, thought they had the inside track this summer when GM had to decide quickly where to build a new family of subcompact cars. The plant boasts a recent renovation, a history of good labor relations and the sort of innovative supplier-automaker partnership that automakers profess to seek. It wasn't enough. A plant in Orion Township, Michigan, got the nod. "A lot of us are still wondering how they made this decision," says Mike Herron, chairman of Spring Hill's UAW Local 1853. "Obviously, we're all hoping the best for Orion. But when you consider what we've achieved here, you have to wonder what it counted for."

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Flashback Friday: How Saturn Built a Brand

Saturn Logo

Saturn launched its lineup of compact sedans and coupes in the fall of 1990 as an relatively unknown and untested manufacturer of "a different kind of car." The Saturn team did the impossible by implementing a set of strategies that included building quality vehicles and crafting an intriguing message that attracted car buyers who had written off domestic cars long ago. That was no small feat. In his book, "Building Strong Brands," author David Aaker set out to "not only to describe what was done but also to suggest the logic behind the strategies: why they were pursued, and how they were intended to contribute to the brand." He concluded that "although certainly some elements of the Saturn strategy may have been critical, it was the synergy of the total program rather than the power of any single element - that led to its success."