Those of you who followed General Motors' descent into bankruptcy and almost equally inglorious "ascension" from it into government stewardship are aware that the so-called "New GM" consists of just four brands: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC.
As for the others, Saab is in the process of getting offloaded to Swedish exotic carmaker Koenigsegg. Hummer is currently in tenuous negotiations to be taken over by a Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer. Pontiac, as you likely know by now, is finished. And Saturn? Roger Penske appeared set to take over the brand this week. The plan was for Saturn to continue selling GM-sourced cars on a contract-manufacturing basis for the immediate future, after which a different, foreign supplier would take over the duties of producing and supplying cars to Saturn under a similar arrangement. It really looked looked like Saturn had a future. And then yesterday everything went to pieces. Quickly.
Saturn, once known for its unique plastic-bodied, dent-resistant cars and friendly no-haggle dealerships, had, in recent years, been transformed into just another division in GM's bloated constellation of brands; its main nameplates were little more than rebadged, rebranded Chevrolets. In Penske, it appeared that GM had found someone to carry the Saturn brand forward into a new, post-General Motors era. But it all came crashing down when, on September 30, 2009, Penske Automotive Group formally announced that it was walking away from the Saturn acquisition because it couldn't cut a deal with a third-party automaker to supply cars for the brand once GM stopped doing so. (The Detroit Free Press reports that the unnamed third-party that left Penske standing at the altar was, in fact, Renault-Nissan.) Within minutes of the official Penske announcement, General Motors issued a release of its own, announcing that given the changes to the situation, it had made the decision to "wind down" the Saturn brand and its dealer network. Like Pontiac and Oldsmobile before it, Saturn will soon be history.
What does it mean to consumers? General Motors moved quickly via Twitter to assure current Saturn owners that warranty claims would be honored, and that vehicles could be serviced at any General Motors dealer. Consumer Reports notes that for affected customers, finding a new dealer to use for service needs may, at the very least, be an inconvenience. Keith Griffin, About.com's guide to used cars, warns his readers that with Penske formally bowing out, they should stay away from Saturn certified pre-owned vehicles, as GM's responsibility for the Saturn CPO program officially expires on October 1. Griffin does point out that since the brand is officially on death row, there should be some good used-car deals to be had on Saturns outside of the CPO program anyway. (Note: About.com owns ConsumerSearch, but there's no editorial affiliation shared between the two.)
Now that you know Saturn's a goner, will you miss it? Would you consider pulling the trigger on a new Saturn if the prices get too good to resist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.