Sudden Death of Saturn Marks End of GM Dream

Paul A. Eisenstein from MSNBC: It's been nearly a quarter-century since General Motors Chairman Roger Smith stunned the automotive world by announcing that GM would create an all-new car division, called Saturn. But 25 years later, Saturn's once high-tech factory, and Saturn itself, are closing down, testimonies to the failures of Smith, and the CEOs who followed him, to fix GM's problems. GM announced late Wednesday it would close down the division, at the cost of some 13,000 jobs, after a deal to sell the brand to Penske Automotive Group fell through. aturn was going to be far more than just another brand, but effectively an autonomous company-within-a-company, charged with taking on the increasingly powerful Asian imports. It was one of the grandest schemes to emerge from the 14th floor at GM's old Detroit headquarters, where the squeaky-voiced Smith was giddily investing tens of billions of dollars in a bid to rebuild the increasingly troubled GM. The announcement set off a flurry of hope and expectations, and even triggered a bidding war among the dozens of states which hoped to land the Saturn plant — and the jobs promised to go with it. Tennessee eventually won the competition, and a plant was built in Spring Hill. "People expected the car to lift off its wheels and fly," recalled the late Skip LeFauve, who ran the Saturn operation from shortly after its heavily hyped announcement.

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Saturn Astra Set for 2007 Debut

Bob Lutz, General Motors' vice chairman for global product development, has high hopes for Saturn. The GM executive told Automotive News in a recent interview that was published this week that Saturn will be his company's hottest brand this year. Even though Chevrolet will experience the more growth in terms on the number of vehicles sold, Lutz told the magazine that among GM's eight brands, Saturn will have the largest "rapid overall percentage expansion."