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Old 07-21-2005, 08:11 AM   #1
crj1
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Default The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn
July 6, 2005
by Jonathan Yarkony / American Auto Press



Saturn Continues to Shed its Polymer Body Panels in Favor of Stylish European Metal

If you keep up to date with automotive news, youll know that GM has recently been feeling the sting of shifting markets and slow sales (their employee discount sales event providing temporary relief). A myriad of economic pressures have forced the worlds largest car manufacturer to take a closer look at any ideas that could potentially help it cut costs and increase sales, and therefore profits. From cutting 25,000 jobs, and possibly more, to axing health care benefits for retirees, to closing down plants, GM is considering every possible option.

One victim of tightening the Generals belt wont be the Saturn plant in Tennessee, however, but dont expect it to continue its exclusive relationship with Saturn. The Spring Hill plant, which started life producing the SL and now builds the ION compact sedan/coupe combo and VUE compact SUV, is currently one of GMs most expensive plants to run as it creates the polymer body panels that, up until the 2005 model year and the introduction of the Relay minivan, have been Saturns signature.

With Saturn gradually being weaned off of plastic, however, it only makes that the black sheep of GMs production network be retooled to accept additional GM models. Saturns Relay minivan is being produced at the Kansas City, Kansas, plant, alongside its three GM mid-van clones. The upcoming Sky, also featuring steel body panels, will be made alongside its Pontiac sister, the Solstice in Wilmington, Delaware. Production of the all-new Aura will take place in Fairfax, Kansas alongside the Chevrolet Malibu. The new VUE, which has been spied testing in Germany, is based on the same architecture as the Chevy Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, and could easily be produced alongside those two at GMs CAMI Automotive Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.

So that leaves Spring Hill with only the ION. But wait, the ION is also being redesigned to follow Saturns new corporate digs and the new incarnation will once again share architecture with the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac Pursuit, both of which are assembled in Lordstown, Ohio. This leads to the conjecture that the ION will be made there too, and though the plan seems a no-brainer under the circumstances, GM has yet to confirm or deny anything on the subject. Despite sharing much with the Cobalt and Pursuit clones, the next-generation ION is expected to retain the Saturn brands new brand identity to a greater extent.

If Spring Hill survives it will not likely be as a Saturn plant. Unless it manages to absorb production of vehicles based on GMs upcoming Lambda architecture, of which one variant will be a Saturn crossover, it will likely be one of the casualties in the Generals campaign to return to profitability. Seeing as how Lambda vehicles are slated for one of the Lansing, Michigan, facilities, hope for a rejuvenated Spring Hill plant is slim.

What does all this mean to the average Saturn shopper? For starters, no more dent- and scuff-resistant plastic body panels. But how can a Saturn be a Saturn without plastic panels?

If you noticed any of GMs hype from the Detroit auto show, Saturn will try to make its name as the Generals North American-built Euro-sport/entry-luxury brand. Although that may get sticky with Saturn dealers sharing floor space with Saab, Saab is starting to make its push as a performance-oriented marque to match such brands as BMW and Acura.


What sort of credentials does Saturn have, originally GMs economy-import fighting brand, to make a stand against the likes of Volvo, Audi and Subaru. Not much, really, but I doubt that will stop plucky little Saturn from getting a step up and taking a stab at the Generals cookie jar. Most of Saturns newfound design language is derived from GM of Europes Opel, as well as its British outlet, Vauxhall. The upswept cat-eye headlights, the thick chrome bar with a bold center logo in the middle of the grille opening, the flared wheel arches and strong shoulder creases running along the sides of the car, all evident in the brand new Opel Astra and shared by the Saturn Aura.

Though the Aura leans to the midsize sedan segment and the Astra is a compact hatch, its likely that Opel, Vauxhall and Saturn will all be a big badge-swapping, panel-sharing happy family, with the biggest difference being that the Saturns will be made in North America.

So with the Sky expected to arrive in showrooms later this year and the Aura already slated for production, what else can we expect from Saturn? The 2006 VUE already shows that it is leaning towards the European flair of the Aura and Sky, but only the Red Line edition sports the new grille and chrome. The VUE is going to be completely new for 2007, and judging by spy shots it will sport the same arcing roofline and flared wheel arches of the Aura and Opel Astra, and no doubt the rest of the front end treatment.

For clues to the next ION, check out some of the Opel Astra photos and imagine a Saturn badge in the middle of the grille. Why mess with it? Its near perfect as far as I can tell. It will likely start as a sedan in North American markets, but keep your fingers crossed for the hatchback, which in European Opel trim is trimmed out in an OEM tuner edition known as the GTC, complete with a slammed body kit just begging for Saturns boys to drop in the Red Lines 205-horsepower supercharged Ecotec monster. Get in line!

The other big project already confirmed to be in the works is a crossover bred from Lambda architecture. Something to slot in between the VUE and the Relay, it would be logical to expect more of a tall sport wagon than a stretched SUV. The crossover will most likely also be sold in European markets as an Opel. Initial reports indicate it will compete with the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, but surely Saturn should be aiming more at the Chrysler Pacifica, Subaru Tribeca, and at the top end, Volvo XC90. One of the possible names that Saturn has rights to is Outlook, but such a name could confuse the market considering Subaru is well established with its similar sounding Outback models. A little too much crossover? No doubt.

So that just about covers the upcoming Saturn range, unless GM can actually come up with a surprise like delivering a production car true to its concept form. Im not saying such a car would need to be identical to its prototype, but it should at least be able to check off the emotion boxes on buyers wish lists like GMs concepts often do.

GM offered an exclusive preview of the upcoming Saturns, as well as a host of other GM products to a select group of automotive journalists last month. According to reports, the completely overhauled Saturn lineup is one of the automakers highlights, but dont expect too much too soon. It will take almost two years for all of the products mentioned to make it to Canadian showrooms.

Until then, youll just have to make do with the excitement of dent-resistant plastic body panels.

...
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Old 07-21-2005, 09:38 AM   #2
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Yeah, since when is Subaru a premium brand? Saturn isn't going to be up there with Volvo and Audi in the comparison tests...unless Motor Trend decides to do that the same way they have a Subaru B9 Tribeca, Caddy SRX V6, Dodge Magnum, and Volvo V70 Cross County in a comparison test this month.

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Old 07-21-2005, 11:16 AM   #3
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Not again...

Please don't remind me that plastic and most of the original ideas are going away. I liked Saturn the way it was. It may not have made money, but it sure made an impact. (insert impact jokes here )

This article has nothing new to tell us that hasn't been discussed to death already. Move along people there is nothing to see here. I am so burned out on this topic. Etc...

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Old 07-21-2005, 05:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Not to worry,the Hype, suspense, flooding the tv with ads and magazines with pictures will convince the future Saturn buyer that this is "A different kind of company and a different kind of car" again.Or at least that is what GM thinks anyway.Lets hope they are more sucessful then Ford was back in 1958 when they tried something similar.

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Old 07-21-2005, 07:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Quote:
Originally Posted by walt
Not to worry,the Hype, suspense, flooding the tv with ads and magazines with pictures will convince the future Saturn buyer that this is "A different kind of company and a different kind of car" again.

Different? The next-generation IONs will look nothing more than European Hondas. If I wanted a Euro car, I'd get one. If I wanted a Honda, I'd get that.

I drive a Saturn because, as a former SL2 owner, I bought into that "Different" aspect. Though the ION is not as unique as the older Saturns, some of its features, the center instrument panel and yes, the polymer still make it "different" and thus a Saturn.

I'm pissed but not furious. Maybe because of happenstance that I found myself getting a new car this year and managed to get an '05 ION. Had I still owned an SL2 and it crapped out on me in say, three years - and still leaning towards another Saturn to replace it, I peobaby would have been screwed.
Or maybe I'd be driving one of them Prius thingies..

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Old 07-21-2005, 07:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Where are you getting "European Honda" from?

The Astra is a Civic sized car, and they are both small family cars by Euro standards-compact cars by US standards. The ION falls smack into that category as well and shares the Delta architecture with the Astra too (I think, two different opinions kept getting batted back and forth ).

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Old 07-21-2005, 08:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Thanks for posting the article. I am happy to hear about all the new product coming out and the use of Opel designs for the AURA and the ION replacement. In a few years, when it's time to trade the L, I'll definitely consider one of those if they turn out to be as cool as expected.

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Old 07-22-2005, 10:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Saturn is dead. Long live Saturn.

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Old 07-22-2005, 11:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Folks...please get over the resentment....As the old Saturn is very much dead and the new is attempting to rise from the ashes.

Just to prove to all of you how much the old is dead. I recieved my GM Badge yesterday at work and the time clocks are installed. In the next couple of weeks there will no longer be any Red Badged Saturn Employees. We will all be Blue Badge GM Employees.

Hopefully the new Saturn will have the styling and inovations that will sell better than the old style did. At least their first couple of offerings (SKY & Aura) look to be good...hopefully the rest of the lineup will meet with the styling of the first of the new Saturn.

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Old 07-22-2005, 11:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: The End of an Era: Reinventing Saturn!

Thanks again Seamus for your input.

What surprises me most is how nothing groundbreaking was mentioned in the article. And he gets a paycheck for it.

Three weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Charlie and a bunch of other SaturnFans as we toured the Spring Hill facility. By piecing together what I learned on the tour, read here, and heard in other "unofficial" conversations, I could've written a better article.

Saturn will always be special in the hearts of the owners that bought a car and the relationship that came with it. People like Seamus, on the inside, and Charlie, on the outside, have made our experiences richer because they have taken the time to help us continue this cyberworld called SaturnFans.

Whether or not we miss polymer, or being different, it's knowing what makes Saturns different from other makes that helps us retain our identity as owners of vehicles that have been "special" to us.

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