Never owned a Saturn. I know a few people who do. Seemed like a good idea at the time, GM trying to get away from business as usual, since about 25 years ago, the way GM did business pretty much sucked.
No haggle, great customer service, better employee relations — all things you’ve seen car makers adopt in the years since Saturn sprang up in Spring Hill, Tennessee. But, with GM becoming the incredible shrinking car company, Saturn was one of the things that had to go. Roger Penske was going to buy the brand and find another company to actually make the cars. His deal fell through, so the axe fell on Saturn.
Heck, Pontiac and Oldsmobile were already gone, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that GM couldn’t save a much smaller brand. Especially since the company’s leadership had moved Saturn a pretty far piece away from what it originally was. One thing I never quite got about GM. Except for Saturn and Hummer, all its domestic cars were pretty much all the same, with the exception of some minor cosmetic touches. Why get a LeSabre when you could get an Impala… or an Olds 98 or whatever the big Pontiac was? Even when GM partnered with Toyota, the Geo was a Corolla with different trim. What was the point?
It’s amazing to me. GM comes up with On-Star, which is one of the better safety and convenience options for a car since safety glass and the seat belt. And they still couldn’t come up with cars that people wanted? I know that a lot of the costs associated with union-negotiated retirement plans were crippling the company. Insightful leadership would have seen that coming and contracted the organization years ago.
I know everyone wanted an SUV when gas prices were cheap, but we’ve always known that the price of gas in the U.S. was artificially low, and would have climb someday. Well, nothing is permanent. How many brands that seemed permanent has vanished in our lifetimes?
We had a Zenith TV when I was growing up (“the quality goes in before the name goes on”). They invented the remote control and had a big chunk of the U.S. TV market. I haven’t seen a Zenith for years, but there are still TVs with the Zenith name being sold. The company was swallowed up by the South Korean company LG in the late 90s.
They haven’t vanished, but at one point in history, Western Union was the biggest communications company on the planet. The bosses there had a chance to get controlling interest in the telephone. Of course, they thought it was a fad. So now people who can’t pay their light bill depend on the company to get them 20 bucks from their mama to put down on the bill…
Or Western Auto, the car supply business. Didja know it was founded by the same guy who started Pepperdine University? Anyway, I used to go to their store on Poplar in Midtown Memphis. Sears bought the company in ’87, but ran it with the same lack of focus it ran its main stores with, so they couldn’t manage to compete with Auto Zone or the other auto parts stores. Sears sold what was left to Advance Auto Parts. Advance stopped supplying the stores that were left… but a few still use the name. And even though the old headquarters in Kansas City was turned into condos, the Western Auto sign is still on top of the building.