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DETROIT -- Saturn -- once dubbed the GM division that sells cars to people who don't like cars -- is creating a new look that draws heavily on Opel.

Saturn Corp. executives say the division will position itself upscale of Chevrolet and Pontiac, occupying the niche once held by Oldsmobile.

The division will unveil the look in January at the Detroit auto show, where it will introduce a rear-wheel-drive roadster and a concept version of a front-wheel-drive mid-sized sedan.

Both vehicles will enter production over the next 24 months. A mid-sized sport wagon will follow in the third quarter of 2006, says Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak.

With new products on the way, the division hopes to increase its sales volume from 271,157 units last year to more than 400,000 units annually by 2007. Saturn also plans to add 80 dealerships.

After nearly 15 years of lagging sales and uninspiring product, Saturn has begun a massive makeover. Internally, Saturn is calling the plan a "revitalization" of the brand, an investment that one GM executive recently described as costing "a couple billion."

But there's a distinct feeling that Saturn has been here before. When it was launched in 1990, GM executives believed Saturn could sell one-half million units a year. But in its best year, 1994, the division sold only 286,003 vehicles.

In an effort to revive the brand, Saturn introduced the Ion compact car, the Vue SUV and the L-series sedan. They flopped. For the first nine months of this year, Saturn sales totaled 170,938 units. That's down 21.1 percent from the year-ago period.

Worldwide collaboration

The new round of product development began 18 months ago at seven of GM's 11 design houses worldwide. Saturn's design studios in Los Angeles and Warren, Mich., collaborated with a Vauxhall design house in the United Kingdom and GM Europe studios in Trollhattan, Sweden, and Russelsheim, Germany.

But GM insiders say Opel's designers and its styling had the most influence on Saturn's new interiors and exteriors.

"A lot of our sharing, from a designer standpoint, was done with Opel in Germany," says Saturn designer Clay Dean. "Opel led the charge."

As a result, Lajdziak says the future products will show a new face of Saturn - one that will be consistent in future Saturn vehicles.

"Your design character has to be pulled through your portfolio, and I don't think over the years we've done that," Lajdziak says.

More dealers

Saturn's dealer network will change as well. Lajdziak says Saturn will add 80 dealerships to its current group of 454 locations. She says Saturn will increase the brand's presence in major markets as well as in smaller places such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Saturn has drawn on Opel before. In 1999, Saturn sold a Vectra derivative as a mid-sized L-series sedan and station wagon. But the styling was generic, and consumers yawned.

GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz says Saturn suffered under the weight of its own mission. "The idea behind the product was that it would be used as a tool," Lutz says. "It was anonymous and faceless. That's totally wrong. It's all about the car."

Lutz also says Saturn relied too much on its customer-friendly dealerships.

"The selling experience lasts one day, but the product experience has to last the other 364 days," Lutz says. "I started to ask, 'Why can't we have it both ways?' Let's have wonderful dealers and have consumers who are enthusiastic about the product."

Dealers who have seen the plan have welcomed it. But, then, there have been other plans before.
 

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gmmerc5 said:
Saturn Corp. executives say the division will position itself upscale of Chevrolet and Pontiac, occupying the niche once held by Oldsmobile.

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Wow, they'll have 10 years of brain-washing people about economy and dent-resistant panels to undo. Not sure I agree this is a good move for GM.
 

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mceb said:
Wow, they'll have 10 years of brain-washing people about economy and dent-resistant panels to undo. Not sure I agree this is a good move for GM.
Oh man, I totally agree. Saturn has always been seen as an econo-brand to compete with imports. Their image is one of cheaper cars, both in price and materials quality, but having good reliability and a friendly sales environment.

Now GM is going to say, hey buy one of our upscale Saturns. All the features, ammentities, and treatment you want after you outgrow your Chevy.

Um, ok. Maybe their dealer network is the best in GM to pull it off. They can easily treat customers like royalty. But nobody is going to buy Saturn as higher than Chevy or Pontiac brand. Heck, Chrysler is struggling to get some of its more premium image back and it at least had a higher image at one time!

Also of note is lumping Chevy and Pontiac together. Pontiac’s position in GM had always been that of a more upscale Chevy. So now Saturn is higher than even Pontiac, but maybe not as high as Buick? Geez, GM has too many divisions if they want them to all rank on varying levels of a luxury scale. Chevy should be bread and butter cars. Pontiac should be more performance oriented cars and niche vehicles, Buick should be entry level luxury and Cadillac full luxury and up. (Its similar to Ford’s setup. Ford is bread and butter (Chevy) Mazda is performance oriented and more niche vehicles (Pontiac) Lincoln is more upscale (Buick) and they have Jaguar at the high end (Cadillac).

Anything else, such as Saturn, tramples on divisions that are already there. IF anything, they should take Saturn and try to target Scion to attract young buyers into GM. That’s somewhat where Saturn has been positioned all along, but they only have offered that group the S Series and Ion. They should do a raft of “hip” vehicles off one or a few platforms (how about a Scion Xa/Xb like wagon built on Kappa) to appeal to younger buyers. It would make more sense than taking the brand up market where they already have coverage. Also don’t forget Saab is sitting up there around Buick too, but I left them out since Saab and Volvo are somewhat Niche brands to begin with.
 

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Fformula88 said:
...GM has too many divisions...

I think this is the essence of the problem...

My advice: get rid of all divisions that start with "S" and supply less than 300,000 vehicles worldwide :smash
 

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They might have a chance of moving Saturn upscale only because I think alot of people are simply ambivilant to it. I don't think there is a strong feeling one way or another, it simply exists, and they do have good dealerships, so maybe it could work. It's not what I'd do with Saturn, but it should be able to climb a little if the products sell themselves that way. However, I wouldn't lean to heavily on Opal, or make big affiliations with them, that has proven time and time again to be a failure. Nobody really cares about Opal here. It's ok to share styling and other ideas with the Europeans, but Saturn will have to succeed on it's own and be uniquely American.

I had thought that Saturn could fulfill a different role at GM. Again I'm playing armchair exec, but what the heck. With the demise of Oldsmobile, I would structure the car divisions like this: Push Cadillac into a more exotic and upscale brand abandoning "Entry level Caddys" and truly working towards amazingly well made ingenious and desirable luxury rockets. Think Sixteen. :thumbs Then I would work to move Buick to fit the more affordable luxury market. They have decent quality, again they just need to work on products that are attractive and relevent to the times and ease away from the "Floating Cloud" sedan. I beleive that with hot designs that look as sharp as a Jaguar or 300, and drive like a Lexus, people will get over the Buick stigma.

I believe that Chevrolet should keep doing as it always has. Building great value and entry level sedans as well as the "Hot Rod" market. At some point Corvette could almost be it's own brand, but keeping it part of Chevy's OK too. Pontiac is the obvious performance division to build things like the Solstice and GTO as well as performance sedans to go after BMW etc. They're already on this, they just need to refine it and work on their sedan designs. They need a little help in the style dept.

That leaves Saturn. I think Saturn should go to what they sort of started out to be, the technology division. Saturn should scale back and be the hybrid, electric and fuel cell division. GM should use them to go after the growing hybrid market and go after Prius, Honda, Ford and even the Smart should it come. By using Saturn to debut new technologies, GM can protect the other division's brand reps, and keep GM on the cutting edge and competetive in the new market segments. The enviromental urban commute car nitch is going to grow, and Saturn could lead that segment, but for now it seems to Toyota that's in the lead.

Saturn already has a history there with the EV1. Appearently the EV1 had a pretty strong following and many people really protested turning them in. It's a very small market, but it will get bigger and from all accounts the EV1 was the cream of the crop of that era. It would have to be a transitionary stratagy so as not to wreck their dealer network by starving them of product, so I think they could stay in business by working the urban car and unique sedan market. Conventional drive trains, but things that set them appart like plastic panels and clever design.

Anyhow it's just an idea. I'm not crazy about moving Saturn upscale, and at some point they really don't need Saturn any more than Oldsmobile, but I guess they'll do what they'll do. :rant
 

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gmmerc5 said:
occupying the niche once held by Oldsmobile.
This cracks me up too. Olds goes down the tubes mostly for over-lapping Buick in many ways (plus too many GM divisions) so now let's make a new Olds out of Saturn? I thought Buick is the upscale Lexus-wanna-be?
 

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AD, I agree that it is not out of the realm of possibility to move Saturn up market. But I wonder what the cost of doing it will be, and whether it would be worth that cost. It will take tons of marketing money for advertising, tons of money into new or improved vehicles to sell. GM doesn’t have the money now to market the divisions as they are and significantly improve their vehicles. That is why they are spending millions to market the G6 as a competitor to the Accord, Altima, Passat, etc but in comparison drives reviewers say the G6 definitely falls short. Now they are going to devote even more money to Saturn’s marketing to take it up scale, and by the sounds of it they are hoping to do that by using Opel influence (which sounds a lot like badge engineering Opels for US sale as Saturns to me). Its another Oldsmobile in the making in more ways than one!

If GM wants a Olds like upscale division, it should create one and scrap Saturn. All it would take would be an announcement that Saturn is dead after year 200X and all Saturn dealers will be getting this new exciting upscale division in 200X which will adopt similar sales practices. Maybe overlap the two for a couple years too. Let people see these better, nicer upscale vehicles next to the Saturns. Of course, it still only works if the cars are up to the task. Plus they need to devise a new division name.

Hmmm… more upscale than Chevy/Pontiac. Maybe they should name the new division Oldsmobile!
 

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Think Opel, Opel, Opel..... and you'll know where Saturn will be. It will have all the European styling, so it will be the European car built for the U.S. I've seen pictures of the Roadster and the mid-level sedan and I have to say I like them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think you guys are putting too much thinking into this, my opinion in this matter is this, I think most of us here and a part of the car buying public do want some Europe styling in the car we buy, as we all know, the big 2, GM and Ford doesn't offer any, that's worth mentioned anyway, Opel fit that bill just fine, by the way, Opel is not up scale by any mean, yes, if you do load them up with options, I guess you could call them upscale, what Opel offer are their Europe exterior styling, their better interior styling, that is what we are getting.
As we all know, most of the GM new cars were design with shared platform; engines and the likes, and if the Solstice are well build, then the Saturn/kappa will reflect that, the Chevy Cobalt so far getting good press, then the Opel Astra (build on the same platform as the Cobalt) should be good as well, assuming GM use the Astra to replace the Saturn Ion, then all we will have are Saturns with Europe styling with better interiors and better driving experience. Saturn can certainly use some of these new products by now.
 

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laffer98 said:
Think Opel, Opel, Opel..... and you'll know where Saturn will be. It will have all the European styling, so it will be the European car built for the U.S. I've seen pictures of the Roadster and the mid-level sedan and I have to say I like them.
Are the roadster's body lines curved liked the Solstice or angular and sharp like the Vauxhall?
 

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gmmerc5 said:
As we all know, most of the GM new cars were design with shared platform; engines and the likes, and if the Solstice are well build, then the Saturn/kappa will reflect that, the Chevy Cobalt so far getting good press, then the Opel Astra (build on the same platform as the Cobalt) should be good as well, assuming GM use the Astra to replace the Saturn Ion, then all we will have are Saturns with Europe styling with better interiors and better driving experience. Saturn can certainly use some of these new products by now.

Reality is a little contradictory to your assumptions here. Look no farther than the Ion which is seen as terrible and the Delta platform. If we assume all Kappa’s will be great because the Solstice is great (and that is assuming Solstice lives up to expectations) then we would also assume the Cobalt, also built on Delta would be as bad as Ion. So far indications are that the Cobalt is pretty good. Yet, nobody has really driven one yet, and everything that has been written is speculation. We’ll see if its much better than an Ion when people can actually get their hands on them.

The Epsilon platform is another place where this inconsistency rears its ugly head. The Saab 9-3 is a very nice vehicle. Yet the new G6 is turning into a disappointment in the auto press. It doesn’t have the fun handling characteristics of the 9-3. Its 200 HP engine (and even pre-production 240 HP 3.9L engines) have not felt all that quick in these cars, and the interior is definitely a step down from top vehicles in its class. It’s a fine car, but its not as good as one would have expected based on the Saab 9-3, or even the Malibu.

Now lets look at Opel’s that have not done well here, yet did ok in Europe. The Saturn L series comes to mind. The engine was not powerful enough, the European mid-size car was not big enough to compete with American mid-sizers, and overall it was a mediocre at best offering. A second Opel to bomb was the Cadillac Catera. The Caddy that Zigged… into irrelevance. The platform underneath was solid, but it did not have the handling ability, engine power, or interior appointments to justify the Caddy name, plus it too was a little on the small size for American tastes.

Finally, the GTO is Holden Manaro based, but both are really based on an Opel platform (same platform Catera was on). Its not a bad car, but again its no success. There is something about it that isn’t right, and it is expensive to import.

Based on all this recent experience with US badged Opel’s, I don’t think it is out of line to be concerned with using Opel’s in the US. Its something GM has tried and not done too well with. Plus their styling isn’t that great anyway.
 

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Fformula88 said:
gmmerc5 said:
...then the Opel Astra (build on the same platform as the Cobalt) ...
..Look no farther than the Ion which is seen as terrible and the Delta platform. If we assume all Kappa’s will be great because the Solstice is great (and that is assuming Solstice lives up to expectations) then we would also assume the Cobalt, also built on Delta would be as bad as Ion....
Just a few mid-course corrections:

1) The Opel Astra is not a Delta platform car. It is an improvement upon the previous Opel Astra platform,

2) Fformula88, the terrible portions of the ION are 90% related to interior choices, strange customer interfaces (including gage location, seat non-supportiveness, steering wheel size/appearance, general choice of colors and interior materials). Most (probably >75%) of the early assessments of the ION were very positive for ride, handling, and moderately positive on steering. Since then, the electric power steering has had a directly negative effect on steering feel. Noise was also not thought of as a strong point.

Assuming the Cobalt fixes these deficiencies, it should be an excellent car.
 

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solsticeman said:
Just a few mid-course corrections:

1) The Opel Astra is not a Delta platform car. It is an improvement upon the previous Opel Astra platform,

2) Fformula88, the terrible portions of the ION are 90% related to interior choices, strange customer interfaces (including gage location, seat non-supportiveness, steering wheel size/appearance, general choice of colors and interior materials). Most (probably >75%) of the early assessments of the ION were very positive for ride, handling, and moderately positive on steering. Since then, the electric power steering has had a directly negative effect on steering feel. Noise was also not thought of as a strong point.

Assuming the Cobalt fixes these deficiencies, it should be an excellent car.
Isn’t that partially what I was saying? This is what I said:

Reality is a little contradictory to your assumptions here. Look no farther than the Ion which is seen as terrible and the Delta platform. If we assume all Kappa’s will be great because the Solstice is great (and that is assuming Solstice lives up to expectations) then we would also assume the Cobalt, also built on Delta would be as bad as Ion. So far indications are that the Cobalt is pretty good. Yet, nobody has really driven one yet, and everything that has been written is speculation. We’ll see if its much better than an Ion when people can actually get their hands on them.
gmmerc5 was saying that if the Solstice turns out good, we could assume all GM cars on kappa will be good. My point was that if we followed that logic, we would assume Cobalt is bad because Ion was not too good. I followed it up by saying that is likely not to be the case because the Cobalt looks like it will be much better. In essence, GM has made up for the Ion deficiencies.

To follow through on the idea, what I was getting at is that say a Chevy Nomad could turn into a disaster even if GM does the Solstice right. What if the stretched Kappa doesn’t work out well. Or they both the interior, or don’t get its handling tuning right, or add electric power steering and have a numb on center feel.

My point is, each car must be judged individually, and not compared to another car on the same platform. I agree Cobalt could be an excellent car, as long as the improvements are as good as promised. They should have distinguished its styling a little more from the Cavalier, but at least it will be recognizable to long time buyers.
 

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I guess what I was sensitive to is the assessment that the ION was terrible in all aspects. I have always been concerned that the lackluster choices in quirkiness would overshadow what is probably one of the best small cars GM has actually ever made from a general ride and handling standpoint.

Just because the ION is bad (as you have said) does not tarnish (or should not tarnish) the entire Delta platform.

Now, if the ION was bad because of architectural reasons, then we COULD carry on judgement of the successors based on same crappy architecture. My point being the ION was not bad BECAUSE, but rather IN SPITE OF the architecture.

Lesson 1) a good architecture is a requirement for a good finished product.

Lesson 2) you can ruin a good architecture with poor non-architectural choices

Lesson 3) you can't make a bad architecture good with polish (Cavalier Sunfire/Sunbird?). Otherwise known as the "you can't polish a turd" lesson.
 

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solsticeman said:
Lesson 1) a good architecture is a requirement for a good finished product.

Lesson 2) you can ruin a good architecture with poor non-architectural choices

Lesson 3) you can't make a bad architecture good with polish (Cavalier Sunfire/Sunbird?). Otherwise known as the "you can't polish a turd" lesson.
I agree with all. I wasn't trying to start an Ion bashing thread either. I just saw GM's numerous mistakes with Ion as a good example in my argument. I wish it were a lot better. If it were, I might be driving a Redline right now! I just cannot bring myself to the point where I can accept the quirks and live with it.

So I take it you didn't like the Cimeron? That is about as much polishing as one can do to a turd. :lol
 

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Now, really, the Cimmaron wasn't that bad of a car. Just a bit small for a caddy...

FWD V6 with P215/55R14 Eagle GT tires? They actually ran pretty darn well, for a J-car :D
 

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solsticeman said:
Just a few mid-course corrections:

1) The Opel Astra is not a Delta platform car. It is an improvement upon the previous Opel Astra platform,

2) Fformula88, the terrible portions of the ION are 90% related to interior choices, strange customer interfaces (including gage location, seat non-supportiveness, steering wheel size/appearance, general choice of colors and interior materials). Most (probably >75%) of the early assessments of the ION were very positive for ride, handling, and moderately positive on steering. Since then, the electric power steering has had a directly negative effect on steering feel. Noise was also not thought of as a strong point.

Assuming the Cobalt fixes these deficiencies, it should be an excellent car.
all of those problems have been fixed for 2005! minus the center IP, but that is not a drawback once you drive the damn things for a day or two, personally i've never seen it as a drawback...
 

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No offense meant, Vita, but that center IP is where you and I differ.

The center of the car is a stupid place to put any information regarding car operation (IMHO!).

-Vehicle information is for the driver alone - nobody else in the car has a say in driving, what speed I go, whether the check engine light is normal, how accurate the speedo is, or anything else.

-Regardless of the height, you should never have to look away from neutral vision position (meaning you should never have to look toward a biased direction from straight ahead) for important information. We turn both left and right, the center of the car is the wrong place for speed, check engine lights, etc. I toasted an engine in my Fiero because the low oil light and pressure gage is in the center of the car (and the oil starves in a severe left turn). Funny thing is, I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO DID THIS!

-The left turn signal should always be indicated on the LEFT F*CKING SIDE OF THE STEERING WHEEL :smash

-The natural place for the gages is in front of the driver. If you want better distance, get a HUD, or put the gages at the base of the windshield if you can. Some things should be sacred - turn signal stalks on the outside of the steering wheel, accelerator on the right, headlamp hi-beam either on the floor or on the turn signal stalk... these are where they have been on nearly every car. And the gages have been in front of the driver in 99.9% of all cars out there, up until everyone thought it was cute in the old mini and tried to be different...

-When all of my cars except one has the gages in front of me, the acclimation time is not insignificant. And it it VERY annoying.

-BOTTOM LINE: I buy cars. I want my gages in front of me. Set deep in freakin tubes, thank you. This is non-negotiable, and I have walked away from cars because of this. The ION actually drives and handles great - but I turned it down, even with all the great deals, SPECIFICALLY because of the center gages.

Sorry, some people can "get used" to it. But to those who use that weak excuse (are you listening GM?), pardon me, but please kindly have intercourse with yourself. If I'm spending $12,000, $15,000, $25,000 or $40,000 for a car, I should NEVER HAVE TO "GET USED" TO ANYTHING!!!

There is nothing wrong with driver-centered gages. It should never have been moved to the center - that was a stupid decision in an effort to be different. Other than "being different", it serves absolutely no other purpose (despite the pathetic efforts of the marketing boneheads to come up with the "on the same level as the oustide rear view mirrors" idea... gimme a break!!! :rolleyes ).

I know this post took a turn for the worse at the beginning, and has turned into a rant. However, this may show how vehemently opposed I am to this stupid center gage trend.
 
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