On this date in 1990, Saturn sold its first car. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the first Saturn - the blue SL2 sedan shown above - was sold just after midnight to Elaine Terry at Saturn of Clearwater. "I wanted an American-made car and decided to give it a try," Mrs. Terry told the newspaper. It was a 25th wedding anniversary present. USA Today and CNN were reportedly at the retail facility to document the event. "I kept it for 10 months and put over 5,000 miles on it. People all over the country wanted to buy the car from me. One man in Las Vegas was talking up to $100,000 for it."
From Saturn: On October 19, 2009, we sent a letter with the news that the sale of Saturn could not be finalized and as a result, the Saturn brand will be phased out over the next year. Reading letters you sent in, as well as the thoughts that were posted on saturn.com has been an emotional and uplifting journey.
From AutoWeek: "All of our efforts will be to sell down our remaining 2009 inventory," Susan Docherty, GM's vice president of U.S. sales, said today at a press event. "We'll have a little bit of carryover of that into the first quarter of 2010, but the objective is to keep our inventory somewhere between 425,000 to 450,000 units." Docherty said she is confident that GM will clear out the 2009-model-year inventory by January. Meanwhile, the company likely will shutter its Pontiac and Saturn brands by the end of the first quarter, Docherty said.
Barbara Wieland from the Lansing State Journal: Sherrill Freeborough is finding there is life after Saturn. Freeborough was one of 340 Saturn dealers left hanging when GM's deal to sell the division to Penske Automotive Group collapsed September 30. GM quickly halted Saturn production - including dropping the Outlook crossover made at its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant - and began shutting down the brand. "It was sickening, disheartening," said the normally upbeat, optimistic Freeborough. "It took some time for the reality of it to sink in."
Joseph Szczesny from the Oakland Press: The theory of the virtual car company is a favorite concept of a lot of consultants and analysts that are part and parcel of the car business, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The idea draws a lot of its energy from the idea that a virtual company wouldn't need to have expensive engineering labs and assembly plants. Instead, they would belong to a supplier. In addition, the virtual company would limit the need to keep many expensive employees on the payroll and the "legacy" costs for pensions and health care benefits, leaving more money for critical things like executive bonuses and, of course, very lucrative contracts — or so the theory goes anyway.
Cindy Wojdyla Cain from the Herald News: Saturn will shut down completely by October 2010, said Eddie Larson, general manager of Saturn of Joliet. Larson, 29, has worked for Saturn since he was 21. He has never even had to write a resume other than one for a college class because he has continually been promoted within the company.
David Booth from the National Post: So, Saturn is no more. One more bastion of the U.S. auto empire sinks into the quicksand that has been The Great Recession. Its would-be saviour, Roger Penske, has pulled out of the deal quite dramatically one day prior to taking over the "Saturn Homecoming" brand.
Michael O'Rourke from the San Antonio Express-News: First came the news that Pluto is no longer a planet. Now, Saturn will no longer be a car? These are strange times to be living in our universe. I never owned a Saturn. My brother had one. When he bought it my first question was, "Did they do it? Did they all come out and clap for you?"
Dan Gearino from the Columbus Dispatch via the Boston Herald: The toughest part for Saturn fans was the suddenness. For months, Penske Automotive Group worked on plans to buy the Saturn brand from General Motors. And then, in an instant last week, the deal evaporated. Saturn is now slated to wind down over the next year. "We were caught off guard as much as everyone," said Steve Whitman of Clintonville, vice president of the Central Ohio Saturn Car Club. Penske walked away from the deal after being unable to find a manufacturer to make Saturns after a contract with GM runs out in 2011. There's been no word on another buyer emerging.
Don Hammonds from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: When Rikki Kirchner of Santa Clarita, California, heard that Saturn was going out of business, she marched out to her Saturn Astra and ripped the General Motors emblems right off the car. "I know a guy who did that too. Heck, Saturn's an orphan right now, and it's a sad day," she said.
Random Article from the SaturnFans.com Archives
Saturn launched its lineup of compact sedans and coupes in the fall of 1990 as an relatively unknown and untested manufacturer of "a different kind of car." The Saturn team did the impossible by implementing a set of strategies that included building quality vehicles and crafting an intriguing message that attracted car buyers who had written off domestic cars long ago. That was no small feat. In his book, "Building Strong Brands," author David Aaker set out to "not only to describe what was done but also to suggest the logic behind the strategies: why they were pursued, and how they were intended to contribute to the brand." He concluded that "although certainly some elements of the Saturn strategy may have been critical, it was the synergy of the total program rather than the power of any single element - that led to its success."