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Old 03-13-2009, 04:37 PM   #1
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Default What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

A new feeditems entry has been added:

What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Kevin Smith from Automotive News: In a few weeks we will learn the fate of Saturn. A number of options are on the table, but it is clear that Saturn no longer is part of General Motors' long-term future. How did a business-school case study, and a rare moment of GM brilliance, fall so far so fast? While Saturn has lost its place in GM's orbit, it still points the way car companies and many other brands need to go in these challenging times.

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Old 03-13-2009, 08:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

Only a very poorly run company could completely squander the customer loyalty that GM gained by creating Saturn. You don't spend billions creating a new product line that gains back valuable would-be import buyers, and then take away every defining feature of that brand and pull a bait and switch, trying to sell products that lack all of the attributes that originally drew those buyers.

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Old 03-18-2009, 06:45 PM   #3
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Only a very poorly run company could completely squander the customer loyalty that GM gained by creating Saturn. You don't spend billions creating a new product line that gains back valuable would-be import buyers, and then take away every defining feature of that brand and pull a bait and switch, trying to sell products that lack all of the attributes that originally drew those buyers.
amen brother!

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Old 03-18-2009, 07:54 PM   #4
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

What <All> Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn <Debacle>


Don't
try to re-image or re-product a brand just when an economic crisis is about to hit...

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Old 03-19-2009, 07:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

With all due respect, how many really knew that the economy was going to take a swan dive around the time GM attempted to move Saturn upscale?

That's bad timing, plain and simple, just like Toyota opening their truck plant deep in the heart of Texas just as fuel prices reached 4.50/gal.

Hokie's assessment is spot on. GM ignored Saturn's original customer base and is now paying for it.


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Old 03-19-2009, 07:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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With all due respect, how many really knew that the economy was going to take a swan dive around the time GM attempted to move Saturn upscale?
I'd been aware of the rising foreclosure rate for years, and I expected an economic downturn. However, I didn't expect it to be this bad! If I had, I'd have moved all of my 401k money into short term/money market. Instead, I've lost like 35% of my retirement savings.

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Old 03-19-2009, 08:11 PM   #7
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Arrow Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Originally Posted by VTHokie00SL2 View Post
Only a very poorly run company could completely squander the customer loyalty that GM gained by creating Saturn. You don't spend billions creating a new product line that gains back valuable would-be import buyers, and then take away every defining feature of that brand and pull a bait and switch, trying to sell products that lack all of the attributes that originally drew those buyers.
I agree that GM has made mistakes over the years, especially in regards to how it sometimes treated Saturn, but other than taking away polymer panels, what features are missing from the new Saturns? The cars are safer, better built, and more refined than ever before. What bait and switch are you referring to? I am not aware of Saturn hiding the fact that they changed over the years. All companies evolve and try new things to stay competitive. Some new ideas work, and some don't. But if you don't change -- like when Saturn was starved of new product in the late 1990s and early 2000s -- you do run the risk of squandering customer loyalty. Saturn's current lineup is one of the most competitive in the industry. Unfortunately GM didn't give Saturn the funds needed to adequately promote the new vehicles and get the word out about their award-winning product.

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Old 03-19-2009, 08:27 PM   #8
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:57 PM   #9
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
I agree that GM has made mistakes over the years, especially in regards to how it sometimes treated Saturn, but other than taking away polymer panels, what features are missing from the new Saturns?
It's not just features, but some sort of identity. Saturn has had such a random assortment of rebadged GM products and has not had any sort of cohesive strategy. But in terms of features, I guess the new Saturns are competitive. I think they're so similar to other GM platorm mates that the division became pointless, though. And it's a shame that Saturn went from a "different" and American car company to a company selling rebadged imports.

Quote:
The cars are safer, better built, and more refined than ever before.
I still don't know if the reliability and longevity of the new Saturns will equal the admittedly unrefined, but darn near bulletproof S Series. Saturn has been inconsistent, though, with some products that are well built and some that have been absolutely dreadful (CVT Vue, Relay minivan).

I will say that I looked at the IIHS crash test ratings, and all of the current Saturns do well except for the marginal side impact result for the Astra. So, okay, they're safer than the S Series, as well they should be. I still long for a modern, Spring Hill built S Series, though! Saturn should never have abandoned its original customer base as it tried to move "upscale".

Also, I just find some of the new Saturns to be ugly. The Sky is a cool little car, but I still think the original SC is the best looking car for the money ever made! Haven't seen an economy car look that good since.

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Old 03-19-2009, 09:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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I am not aware of Saturn hiding the fact that they changed over the years. All companies evolve and try new things to stay competitive.
They certainly try to pretend that Saturns are somehow different from Chevys or any other GM brand. Of course they have to, as it wouldn't make sense to say, "Check out the new Aura, or buy a Chevy Malibu as it's the same car with a different skin." But that's all it is now - marketing bs. There's nothing unique about a Saturn unlike in the early days of the division. GM might as well have just one or two divisions, as the branding is all just marketing nonsense. How about GM/Cadillac? Just like Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, etc.

Quote:
Some new ideas work, and some don't. But if you don't change -- like when Saturn was starved of new product in the late 1990s and early 2000s -- you do run the risk of squandering customer loyalty.
When you ignore the fact that thousands of owners are willing to attend a homecoming at Spring Hill, and say they'll be just as happy buying rebadged Opels, cars built in Mexico, etc then you are definitely squandering customer loyalty. People actually bought into the whole "America can still build a world class car" concept.

Quote:
Saturn's current lineup is one of the most competitive in the industry.
It may be competitive, though it's not superior. I can't think of any reason I'd recommend an Aura over a Honda Accord, for example. When taking on established competitors, you've gotta leapfrog 'em, not just catch up.

The original Saturns actually were very well equipped for their day. The S Series had some technology and features that weren't previously found in economy class small cars. But as the product stagnated, Saturn lost that edge.

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Old 03-19-2009, 09:28 PM   #11
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Arrow Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Originally Posted by VTHokie00SL2 View Post
Saturn should never have abandoned its original customer base as it tried to move "upscale".
Did Saturn really move so far upscale that they abandoned their original customer base? There was a concerted effort not to abandon previous owners.

In terms of price, the original Saturns were never really "cheap" cars. Saturn was traditionally positioned more or less against the Civic and Corolla, leaving the Chevy Cavalier and Geo models as GM's entry-level vehicles. Lately, Saturn has stopped building no-frills, no-power-anything models, but that's in response to what customers want to buy these days (even Hyundai's are "upscale" these days).

Anyway, back to the topic of the new Saturns and their price. Al Clapsaddle put together a pretty comprehensive price comparison between some old and new Saturns... there's really not that much difference in price. More often than not, the current models are less expensive than similarly equipped previous Saturns. Its an interesting analysis, and its one that often gets overlooked because Saturn doesn't offer "base" models anymore. Once you start equipping vehicles, the new Saturns for the most part really are priced favorably.

http://www.saturnwest-alclapsaddle.com/comparisons.html

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Old 03-19-2009, 09:39 PM   #12
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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In terms of price, the original Saturns were never really "cheap" cars.
That's true. I remember when I graduated from college in '97, one of my classmates went to work at the same place I did, and we both bought a new car at the same time. He said he fell in love with the Saturn SC2, but couldn't justify the cost vs a Pontiac Sunfire coupe, which he apparently got a good deal on. In my case, I was willing to spend more up front for a car that I felt was better built and would be more reliable over the long haul. Also, the superior crash test results, 5 mph bumpers, polymer body panels, and styling that I liked were big factors as well. I think paying more up front paid off in the end, as I ran that Saturn for 220,000 miles with minimal repairs, and the polymer skin kept the car looking like new.

Quote:
Saturn was traditionally positioned more or less against the Civic and Corolla, leaving the Chevy Cavalier and Geo models as GM's entry-level vehicles.
Saturn's mistake was to abandon mainstream small car buyers. The ION was too weird and unconventional in its styling, and just not competitive enough (though I know there are those here who will disagree). Then, they abandoned the sedan and coupe market altogether, with the Astra only sold as a hatchback.

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Old 03-19-2009, 09:47 PM   #13
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I can't think of any reason I'd recommend an Aura over a Honda Accord, for example.
Conversely, I can't think of any reason why I'd recommend an Accord over an Aura. Same goes for the Camry. An automatic Aura gets better gas mileage than the 5-speed manual Accord. And significantly, the Aura beat out the new Camry for the North American Car of the Year award in 2007.

http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dl...THISWEEKSISSUE
http://money.cnn.com/2007/01/07/auto...year/index.htm

That's the best part of this discussion: we're talking about an American car that can compete with the two Japanese models most folks regard as best-in-class. Even better is that its a win-win-win situation for consumers, because they're getting an good car no matter which they choose.

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Old 03-19-2009, 10:09 PM   #14
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OT

Charlie, Its good to see you around! Also nice to see so many Saturn supporters!
Thanks, its nice to be able to spend more time on the site this week! It feels good to have the 2 1/2 month long project at work that was monopolizing my nights and weekends behind me now. Any my wife is happy that I'm not at work all the time too.

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Old 03-19-2009, 10:28 PM   #15
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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Conversely, I can't think of any reason why I'd recommend an Accord over an Aura. Same goes for the Camry.
I can. More extensive dealer network, more discounts on the products. Saturn's limited dealer network and no-haggle pricing only worked when it had something truly unique that you couldn't get from Honda or Toyota.

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Old 03-20-2009, 10:47 AM   #16
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I can. More extensive dealer network, more discounts on the products. Saturn's limited dealer network and no-haggle pricing only worked when it had something truly unique that you couldn't get from Honda or Toyota.

So, when ya plan on buying a new Accord or Civic? Will you buy the newly designed 2007, the newly redesigned 2008 or the newly redesigned 2009 or are you waiting on the newly redesigned 2010 model?

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Old 03-20-2009, 06:09 PM   #17
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

The best sellers have always been a good small car with a good price.The ION replaced the S-series as a volume seller.You need this as a base for sales and service. The ION is a good but not great car but still sold well because it met the small car small price criteria. That went away. The Astra was far from a replacement,importing from Belgium brought the price way up. Small car yes but big price.The base numbers went away.GM's use of Saturn as a test group did not help(Can you say CVT trans). The Eco-tech motor started with us to make sure it worked before using it across the board.The Aura was developed under Saturn turned out to be a great car so now we can slap a Chevy bowtie on it.(VUE turned Equinox).No doubt the Astra was the future Cobalt(former ION) but it tanked and was dropped.Thanks GM. Job well done.

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Old 03-21-2009, 12:43 AM   #18
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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With all due respect, how many really knew that the economy was going to take a swan dive around the time GM attempted to move Saturn upscale?

That's bad timing, plain and simple, just like Toyota opening their truck plant deep in the heart of Texas just as fuel prices reached 4.50/gal.

Hokie's assessment is spot on. GM ignored Saturn's original customer base and is now paying for it.

I would agree with you on that. Especially on ignoring the original base. They got rid of economical cars and went to cars with crappy gas mileage just as gas was going to $4 a gallon.

BTW, I was expecting the economy to go down the pot too, just not as quickly as it did. I busted my butt and paid off my house in 11 years so I would have no chance of losing it. BTW I paid it off May last year, just before everything dumped!

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Old 03-21-2009, 06:31 AM   #19
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

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The best sellers have always been a good small car with a good price.The ION replaced the S-series as a volume seller.You need this as a base for sales and service. The ION is a good but not great car but still sold well because it met the small car small price criteria. That went away. The Astra was far from a replacement,importing from Belgium brought the price way up. Small car yes but big price.The base numbers went away.GM's use of Saturn as a test group did not help(Can you say CVT trans). The Eco-tech motor started with us to make sure it worked before using it across the board.The Aura was developed under Saturn turned out to be a great car so now we can slap a Chevy bowtie on it.(VUE turned Equinox).No doubt the Astra was the future Cobalt(former ION) but it tanked and was dropped.Thanks GM. Job well done.
I so totally agree, well put. btw - looks like the upcoming Cruz might be the based on the new Opel Astra chassis(?). GM's "there ya go" take on producing vehicles for Saturn was lackluster and their marketing was lackadaisical at best. There was chatter back in 2004 about building the Astra here, instead GM waited till the end of the 5 yr life cycle of the ION and "snuck" it into showrooms with no fan fare. Building the Astra as a captive Import was huge mistake. It is a great little car but should have been handled much differently, built here and actually marketed. As Saturn has been the GM guinea pig they have had privvy to many good models and designs though only until GM pulled them over to other brands. The lack of marketing for Saturn on top of that led the average consumer to believe that the other GM clone brands were the originals and that Saturn was actually the copycats.

This is just one of many reasons that a possible spin-off would be a good thing, no more GM and a FOT team that wants to take Saturn back to it's roots - being Saturn. We will just have to wait and see what resolves out of these months of closed door meetings.
They will be exciting times - if Saturn can pull it off and regain the consumer confidence that GM has dissolved. We will just have to wait and see.

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Old 03-21-2009, 01:04 PM   #20
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Default Re: What Car Brands Can Learn from Saturn

The Astra was not a proper replacement for the ION, IMO. I honestly believe it was the first attempt by GM to market a premium small car, though the Buick version of Delta II is likelier to bear the fruits of those labors. I suppose had Astra been a proper sedan, like the one built in Poland, it might have met with greater success, though GM would still need to deal with the currency exchange rate issues that come with bringing captive imports over to our market.


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