FT: The Final Chapter in a Classic Case of Detroit Mismanagement


The Saturn of 2008 is not quite what Roger Smith, a former GM chairman, had in mind when he launched the brand in 1985 with the promise of "a different kind of company, a different kind of car." GM initially hoped to encourage fresh thinking at its newest brand by giving Saturn more autonomy than such GM stalwarts as Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac. Its management offices were separated from those of other brands. A new dedicated assembly plant was built in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The new unit hammered out its own contract with the United Auto Workers union, giving workers a voice in production decisions. In contrast to most other manufacturers, Saturn adopted a sales policy of "no hassle, no haggle," licensing fewer than 500 dealers, compared with more than 4,000 for Chevrolet and 1,600 for Cadillac.

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