As GM remains curled up in a fetal position, prone to futile outbursts of 'we're still #1' and emboldened by their legions of suckers, err, fans, who have been proclaiming a rebirth for the struggling car maker, let's take a step back and look at just what the current darling of the GM stable, Saturn, is doing.
Think back like the Boot Camp song, to about 15 years ago. Such bright eyed optimism and verve. Saturn was to be the Zach Morris to GM's Screech of the 90's. Malaise had set in. The Japanese were in the process of obliterating GM and Ford in the compact and midsize car markets. But hey, profits were rolling in still because of truck and SUV sales. Someone must have had some inkling of what was going on, and decided that GM had to start fresh- thus Saturn was born. The different car company for the common person. No mention of GM anywhere. It was like a bigger version of those initial Infiniti ads, with the added benefit of GM actually talking about their cars in their commercials.
Look! Plastic doors! Look! Shopping carts don't ding them! Look! The sales staff clap when you buy their car! Look! They're cheering you out the door! Look! No haggle pricing! Look! It's just like a Japanese car, but it's American!
After a decent enough initial offering, Saturn quickly became a lame duck. An extremely expensive lame duck, but a lame duck nonetheless. And so it went for the next 14 years or so. Remember how the L-Series was supposed to be the saviour of the brand? Yeah, that worked out well. What about the Ion? Yeah, that was a chart topper too. The brand, to put it simply, stunk. And not so coincidentally, so did the cars.
A related side story to all of this is the fact that during this time, Oldsmobile was in their own death throes. Forced to move into the 'Euro' niche for GM, they had finally started making decent vehicles, but due to a number of debacles (the Aurora initially being released without an Olds badge on it anywhere being but one such example), the brand was headed for the history books. Keep that in mind.
Back to Saturn.
So fast forward to the last couple of years. The Saturn lineup- Ion, Vue, L-Thing, Relay, umm. Hmm. Yup. Quite the revolution. A small turd, a fake SUV turd, a minivan turd, and a bigger turd. In their infinite wisdom, GM decides to give Saturn a pipeline into Opel, their European mainstream division. Makers of the mundane Vectra, and a number of other German engineered vehicles. The strategy? To make Saturn the Euro inspired marque of GM.
Now think about that for a second. The Euro inspired marque for GM. GM, the company that owns Saab. GM, the company that already axed their previous Euro inspired marque. Saturn, the brand that started off as a fake Japanese brand, and had progressed to real American shit. Square peg, round hole, no?
The first fruit of their labour was the Sky. I will not be capitalizing all the letters in the name, mainly because I feel it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. To be honest, I have no issues with the Sky. Fantastic vehicle. It's basically an Opel Roadster/Pontiac Solstice, but it's still very nice.
From the Sky, Saturn really crapped their pants.
Said crapping came in the form of the Aura. Initial reports had it as a carbon copy version of the Opel Vectra. As were were soon to find out, such reports were false. What we basically got was a tarted up Pontiac G6. The same Pontiac G6 that sucked balls in just about every respect for the previous 3 years before the introduction of the Aura. Check it out- they're almost identical in width, length and interior volume. They have identical wheelbases. They use identical engine sets, with the Aura lacking a 4 cylinder option.
The zealots have bleated that they drive differently. Yup, they do. But not by much. And saying they drive differently is like saying a donkey is less headstrong than a mule. Where the G6 is firm with a cloying softness, the Aura is soft with a cloying firmness.
Through all this, GM has undertaken what I have to say is a somewhat amusing marketing strategy with the vehicle- nonstop 'Euro' commentary and descriptions, and planted pre-launch stories talking about people mistaking the vehicle for a Lexus, Acura or
Most amusing is that the Aura has been whipped in every comparison out there, besting only the Camry and Sebring. And sales have followed suit, not even coming close to 10k a month for a vehicle that has now been out for almost 6 months on dealer lots. Still ramping up production? Still not enough vehicles on lots? Are we supposed to believe this drivel? The little car company that could is now marking up vehicles over MSRP (see the Sky after it first came out), no longer offers dent resistant panels, and now has a name sullied by 15 years of neglect and misuse.
Why did they kill Olds again?
Saturn is a perfect example of how GM can do the right thing and still completely screw up the money. The brand should have been axed. Every Saturn you see on the road in the next 2 years should have been a Pontiac. Instead the geniuses at the Ren Center have decided to try and rebuild a dead brand with a limited amount of dealerships nationwide, while letting what used to be their second highest volume brand languish on the vine.
I will give credit where it is due however- the next stage of the rebirth is to bring over the Opel Astra and the Opel Antara to be badged as the Astra and Vue in Saturn guise. Unlike the Aura, the vehicles will be carbon copies of their European ancestors. Probably only until GM stops importing them and starts making them in America.