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Old 11-27-2013, 04:19 PM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Boston
Posts: 2,819

1993 SW2
2001 L-Series 3.0L Wagon
Default Re: Video: A Humorous Look Back at the Year 2000 and the Saturn L-Series Wagon

This video inspired me to respond.... It was pretty humorous and did Invoke some nostalgia. In its humor, however, it hit some aspects of the Saturn story on the head.

I own an L-Series and have had it since it was new 13 years ago (2001 LW300). I have loved this car and will defend it vehemently against its detractors. It is the nicest driving car I've ever had. The seats are firm yet comfortable, its ride also firm and sporty, yet comfortable, and for its day, it was quick off the line like none of its competitors. To those who dissed its styling as bland, I say hooey, I used to get a lot of compliments when it was new about its styling and compared to the ultra-blandness of its competition (Google images of a 2000 Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or even the higher end VW Passat) it was almost sexy looking.

The car was not without flaws (cheap, flimsy interior controls) and marketers lacked imagination in positioning it among well-established players like the Camry and Accord. For example, a manual transmission available with the V6 or perhaps a LC 3 door (or quad) coupe, with sport packages available for all models would have differentiated it (even though most buyers would opt for the generic versions of the car, having these other versions could have shaped its brand and model identity).

Yet the real problem is touched on by this video in a humorous way. The L-series, as nice as us fans know it to be, was the beginning of the end for Saturn. GM failed to capitalize on what made a Saturn a Saturn and what drew fans to the brand for the previous decade.

The labor agreement, the uniqueness of it among GM brands. While the S-Series did draw some buyers away from other GM divisions, it was mostly a huge success in bringing new buyers into the GM fold that would, in the 90s, never dream of setting foot in a GM showroom.

GM and top UAW officials who were not part of the Saturn way pressured Saturn to conform to the GM way. GM bean counters, clueless as to what made Saturn an attractive brand, were hellbent on leveraging platform engineering which killed other venerable GM brands like Oldsmobile and Pontiac as well.

I have always felt that there are good and bad ways to leverage investments across the divisions rather than creating generic GM cars with brand badges rather than unique branded products that happen to share some key components.

For example, if Saturn became the GM global supplier of 4 cylinder passenger car engines, and they happened to put the engines into Chevy's and Pontiacs, buyers of those other cars wouldn't care. A Chevy Cobalt buyer wouldn't mind buying a Chevy with a Saturn engine, but a Saturn buyer would very much mind a Saturn with a Chevy 4 banger. Further a Saturn with a GM global 4 cylinder is not appealing to most Saturn buyers since Saturn buyers fancy the cars and their engines to be independent of GMs meddlesome fingers and bean counters. Even if the L's optional V6 was a sourced engine from another division, that would have probably been OK since 4 bangers were the bread and butter of Saturn sales and could have been something that the Saturn brand should have owned having established itself as a reliable maker of such engines (after 2 decades of other GM products killing buyers' confidence in the reliability of their 4 cylinder engines).

Saturn buyers would probably forgive a Pontiac suspension or a dome light or even a transmission shared with Chevrolet.

While we know that there were some in GM who wished to crush Saturn, from a corporate perspective, it's stupid to bring about failure when success is possible. Many people lost their jobs and a lot of money invested in a successful idea was needlessly lost.

Anyway, the L-Series is a rolling symbol of GM hubris combined with a complete lack of understanding of what made Saturn so successful from the get-go.

And this is from someone who likes the L-Series as a car.

1993 SW2 MT 193,000 hard Boston city miles ("Rozzie")
Gone but not forgotten:
2001 LW300 ("Elle")
1999 SW2 MT
Project cars:
1966 Corvair Monza convertible
1928 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan

Last edited by cityhawk; 11-27-2013 at 04:28 PM..


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