GM accelerates Saturn shutdown to this year

GM accelerates Saturn shutdown to this year

No plans to rebadge Pontiac models

Richard Truett

Automotive News | April 27, 2009 – 9:37 am EST


General Motors plans to build the last Saturn vehicles this year, two years earlier than first envisioned, as it speeds up efforts to shed dealerships and divisions, CEO Fritz Henderson said today.

The Saturn brand still may survive if GM can sell it to another automaker or investor, but GM no longer will build vehicles for Saturn after the 2009 model year, Henderson said on a conference call.

In its Feb. 17 plan submitted to the U.S. auto task force, GM planned to build Saturn vehicles through 2011. Under a revised plan announced today, GM will shed Pontiac next year, leaving the automaker with just four U.S. brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac GMC and Buick.

Henderson also said that GM no longer will build Hummer vehicles after the current model year.

No Pontiacs rebadged

No Pontiacs will be rebadged as Chevrolets, he said. The new G8 sports sedan will be dropped as will the Solstice sports car. Henderson said the Pontiac Vibe could be built into 2010, pending negotiations with manufacturing partner Toyota Motor Corp., which assembles the Toyota Corolla at a joint venture plant in California.

GM has begun talks to sell Saturn to a private equity group working with Saturn dealers.

"If a sale of Saturn does not occur, we intend to phase out the Saturn brand by the end of 2009," GM said in its government filing today.

"As a result, our current Viability Plan does not comprehend production and sales to dealers of Saturn products beyond 2009."

Earlier this month, an investor group called Telesto Ventures said it wants to acquire Saturn’s retail operations and provide dealers with vehicles from GM through 2011 and from mostly overseas manufacturers thereafter. A GM spokesman called the group’s proposal legitimate and "very interesting." He said there also were other parties interested in Saturn.

A Telesto spokesman said his group was in discussions with several unidentified foreign manufacturers.

He said Telesto, which was formed specifically for the Saturn venture, encompasses a private equity firm, Black Oak Partners LLC, of Oklahoma City, and several other investors. It’s unclear how much money is backing Telesto and what automotive experience it has.

Dealer reaction

John Danielson, sales manager at Saturn of the Lakes north of Orlando, Fla., said he has 100 new Saturns in stock. The store sold only eight new Saturns last month. Monday’s announcement confirmed a rumor Danielson said he heard last week.

“Business is very tough right now. Our new and used is down 50 percent over last year,” said Danielson. Some deals for new cars that have not yet been delivered are now in danger of falling through because of GM’s announcement Monday that no new Saturns will be built after the 2009 model year.

Danielson, who worked at the store when it was an Oldsmobile dealership, said he expects GM to come out with new incentives to persuade customers to buy the final models.


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