Saturn Couldn’t Escape GM’s Dysfunctional Orbit

Paul Ingrassia from the Wall Street Journal: General Motors and the United Auto Workers union have waged war against each other—sometimes hot, sometimes cold—for most of the past 80 years. One of the few things on which they collaborated, sadly, was undermining Saturn, which began as the boldest effort to reform the dysfunctional dynamics of their relationship. On Wednesday, what appears to be Saturn's death knell sounded when Roger Penske, the legendary automotive entrepreneur, abandoned his plan to buy Saturn from GM and run it as an independent car company. Mr. Penske's plan was a long shot anyway. He had intended to make Saturn a distributor and retailer only, procuring the vehicles from auto makers—initially GM and then France's Renault — on a contract basis. One inherent problem was that the companies making cars for Saturn also would be its competitors, if only indirectly in Renault's case. So it was little surprise when Mr. Penske couldn't reach acceptable terms with Renault and pulled out of the deal. But make no mistake: The failure here isn't Mr. Penske's. Saturn was killed by its creators, GM and the UAW.

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Flashback Friday: 1993 Saturn Shortage

Flashback Friday: 1993 Saturn Shortage

Back in the early days, Saturn was a bit of a phenomenon. As a new brand on the automotive landscape with a new way of doing business, folks came from miles around to check out their relatively unknown lineup of Tennessee-built plastic-bodied small cars. The trouble was that after kicking the tires and taking one for a spin around the block, customers usually wanted to buy one.