NY Times: Detroit’s Mr. Fix-It Takes on Saturn

In Mr. Penske's view, Saturn is a potential jewel to be plucked from the scrap heap of GM's bankruptcy. By early next month, his company, the Penske Automotive Group, is expected to complete its acquisition of Saturn from GM. After that, it plans to try to reinvent the brand as an independent chain of dealerships. That experiment hinges on attracting a foreign car manufacturer that will supply Saturn with vehicles after G.M. stops producing its current line of Saturns in 2011. The foray sets the stage for a classic business drama involving a self-made perfectionist who seldom tastes defeat and a tarnished brand that struggled to meet expectations under the heavy hand of a slow-moving and entrenched corporate behemoth. All of which has analysts, competitors and auto buffs placing bets on whether or not Mr. Penske met his match in Saturn. His efforts to restore Saturn's credibility and improve its sales mirror, in a much smaller way, GM's own uphill battle to come back — as a 60-percent-owned government entity backed by $50 billion in federal loans. "My guess is that Penske has a shot at it," says David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “But I'm not sure I could say that about anyone else except Roger." Mr. Penske, citing the pending deal with GM, declined to comment on his plans for Saturn. People inside GM who have knowledge of the transaction — but who requested anonymity because the negotiations are confidential — say that the acquisition should close early next month and that GM's new board of directors wants to move forward with the Saturn divestiture. Penske Automotive has already sent Saturn dealers two-year agreements to review and sign. A GM spokesman, Thomas J. Pyden, says the automaker is eager for the deal to close. "We certainly remain hopeful that the sale will proceed," he says. "In terms of Penske, we don't think you could find a better buyer for the brand."

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