Retailer Recounts Details of Sudden Saturn Closure

Barbara Wieland from the Lansing State Journal: Sherrill Freeborough is finding there is life after Saturn. Freeborough was one of 340 Saturn dealers left hanging when GM's deal to sell the division to Penske Automotive Group collapsed September 30. GM quickly halted Saturn production - including dropping the Outlook crossover made at its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant - and began shutting down the brand. "It was sickening, disheartening," said the normally upbeat, optimistic Freeborough. "It took some time for the reality of it to sink in." Freeborough said the sudden death of Saturn took dealers, salespeople and even Saturn executives by surprise. "(Saturn General Manager) Jill Lajdziak was working on her press release about Saturn joining Penske when word came through," Freeborough said. "Saturn workers had gotten their Penske business cards earlier that day. It sure crushed a lot of dealers' hearts."

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Flashback Friday: How Saturn Built a Brand

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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."