General Motors launched the Saturn Corporation, marketed as a ‘different kind of company’, in response to the success of Japanese car imports in the US

Monday 7th January 1985

General Motors launched the Saturn Corporation, marketed as a ‘different kind of company’, in response to the success of Japanese car imports in the US. The company marketed itself as a “different kind of car company”, and operated somewhat independently from its parent company for a time, with its own assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, unique models, and a separate retailer network. The name was taken from the Saturn rocket, the one that carried the astronauts to the moon in the 60s. Production of Saturn cars began in the early 90s and the purpose from the get-go was to emulate foreign marketing strategies such as the Japanese ones in order to put up a fight on the American market. Such strategies included better quality control which translated into better reliability of the finished product and more control for the workers in the plant. Soon after the first cars hit the streets of America, favourable reviews start pouring in. Sales go well as Saturn cars start earning one award after another. In 1993, Saturn reported it’s first profitable year and everything seemed to be going well for the small GM-owned brand. By 1995 they had made their first million cars. A unique feature on Saturn cars in the beginning were dent-proof body panels (Z-Body) but after 2000, they were slowly put out of production. Saturn’s first compact crossover SUV was introduced for the 2002 model year as the Vue, based on a globally used GM design. For 2003, Saturn introduced the Ion as a replacement to the S-Series. For 2005, Saturn began selling the Relay, a minivan and the first Saturn based on similar models from other GM brands. That same year, the L-Series was discontinued. The Sky roadster was introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model. Also for 2007, the Aura midsize sedan made its way to dealerships, alongside the Outlook, a larger CUV than the Vue, and was the last year the Ion was produced. The Ion was replaced by the European-built Astra in 2008. During the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Saturn revealed its Flextreme concept vehicle, which was a rebadged Opel Flextreme. In 2004, GM and the United Auto Workers dissolved their unique labor contract for the Spring Hill manufacturing plant, allowing Saturn operations to be integrated with the rest of GM. In 2008 General Motors announced its intentions to focus on four core brands (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC), with the sale, consolidation, or closure of Saturn and the remaining brands (Pontiac, Hummer, and Saab). Following the withdrawal of a bid by Penske Automotive to acquire Saturn in September 2009, General Motors discontinued the Saturn brand and ended its outstanding franchises in October 2010.

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