Far from feeling betrayed by GM’s decision to phase out its Saturn brand by 2012, Eric Lane, general manager for Gerry Lane Enterprises, Saturn’s local dealer, says it’s a good thing. Lane says Saturn’s relationship to GM in the past was much more autonomous than with the automaker’s other divisions. When GM began to exert more control over the division, Saturn’s core values — a small car at an inexpensive price — were abandoned, Lane says. The brand was launched 19 years ago to lure buyers of small Japanese cars. “Now we don’t have a $12,000 car,” Lane says. “Now the cheapest car is $22,000.”
GM has told retailers to expect a total reorganization in 60 days. Lane predicts Saturn will wind up another owner and manufacturer, and individual retailers will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to be part of the new network. Lane says he hopes it means Saturn will get back to its core values and start making affordable cars again.
“Really all it’s doing is, Saturn is coming around full circle around the way it used to be,” Lane says. “It’s been refreshing to me to get this back to where we belong.”—Steve Clark