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Saturn LLC is a subsidiary of General Motors Company, established on January 7, 1985, in response to the success of Japanese small-car imports in the United Statesmarker. As a "different kind of car company," Saturn operated outside the GM superstructure for a time, with its own assembly plant in Spring Hillmarker, Tennesseemarker, unique models, and a separate retailer network.

Following the withdrawal of a bid by Penske Automotive to acquire Saturn in September 2009, General Motors announced that it expected to shut down Saturn by October 2010. All new production has been halted as of October 1, 2009.


1982–1990: Formation

Alex C. Mair began discussions of a revolutionary new, small-car project codenamed "Saturn" in June 1982. In November 1983, the Saturn idea is publicized by General Motors' Chairman Roger B. Smith and General Motors' President F. James McDonald. Twelve months later, the first Saturn demonstration vehicle was revealed. On January 7, 1985 the Saturn Corporation was officially founded.

1990–2000: "A New Kind of Car Company"

July 1990 GM Chairman Roger Smith and UAW President Owen Bieber drove the very first Saturn off the assembly line in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The brand was marketed as a "different kind of car company," and Saturn operated outside the GM conglomerate, with its own assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennesseemarker, unique models and a separate retailer network.

Results at Saturn were mixed. According to the Wall Street Journal, the project was too overambitious, as "everything at Saturn is new: the car, the plant, the workforce, the dealer network and the manufacturing process. Not even Toyota, everyone's candidate for the world's best automaker, tackles more than two new items on any single project." While Saturn cars proved very popular with its buyers, actual sales never met the optimistic projected targets, in part because of a recession in 1990. It also proved cannibalistic as 41% of Saturn buyers already owned a GM car. Its separation from the rest of its GM parent, plus the fact that it drained $5 billion from other car projects, stirred resentment within GM ranks. Also Saturn opened at considerably higher cost than the Japanese transplants (factories that Japanese automakers established in the United States) and despite the emphasis on quality, 35–40 percent of the car's plastic panels were sent back with defects.

Nonetheless, the brand was immediately known for its 'no haggle' prices. The first Saturn Model, the Saturn S-Series, was significantly successful. A year later, Saturn hit the Canadian market. 499,999 Saturns later, 'Carla' entered the market in 1993. In May 1995, 'Jasper', Saturn's Millionth car is produced. In 1996, the short lived GM EV1 hit Saturn Showrooms, later becoming the subject of the 2006 documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car?. In 1997, Saturn entered the Japanese market. In January 1999, Saturn rolled out its two millionth car. In late 1999, Saturn began production of its all new L-Series.

2000–2008: Model expansion

Saturn's first compact crossover Sport Utility Vehicle was introduced in 2000 as the Saturn Vue, based on a globally-used GM design. In 2003, Saturn introduced the Saturn Ion as a replacement to the Saturn S-Series. In 2005, Saturn began selling the Saturn Outlook, a larger CUV than the Saturn Vue. That same year the Saturn L-Series was discontinued. The Saturn Sky roadster was introduced in 2006. In 2007, the Saturn Aura midsize sedan made its way to dealerships, and the Saturn Ion was discontinued. The Saturn Astra was discontinued a year later. During the 2008 NAIAS, Saturn revealed its Flextreme concept vehicle, which was a rebadged Opel Flextreme.

In 2004, GM and the UAW dissolved their unique labor contract for the Spring Hill, Tennesseemarker manufacturing plant.

2008–2009: Attempt to sell brand, market changes

In US Congressional hearings on December 2, 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). General Motors Chairman and former CEO Rick Wagoner announced during a news conference on February 17, 2009 that Saturn will remain in operation through the end of the planned lifecycle for all Saturn products (2010–11).

In February 2009, GM declared its intent to part with this brand by closing or selling the division, either to investors or to dealers, as part of restructuring plans dependent upon the receipt of a second round of government loans ("bailout" funding). It is the third such action for GM in the 21st century, following those of Oldsmobile, which ceased production in 2004, and Pontiac, which will cease production by the end of the 2010 model year.

General Motors announced in June 2009 that it was selling the brand to Penske Automotive Group. The arrangement was similar to the deal under which Penske distributes Daimler AG's Smart Car in the United States. Penske was not planning to buy the factories and would eventually had to have other car companies build cars sold as Saturns. GM would have built the Aura, Vue, and Outlook for Penske for two years. To replace GM as the brand's manufacturer, Penske was in discussions with several global automakers, including Renault Samsung Motors of Korea.

By the end of 2009, GM will close all of its 46 Saturn dealerships in Canadamarker. GM and Penske decided that they could no longer make a business case to distribute Saturn vehicles in Canada after the sale of the brand. Saturn's customer service, parts, and warranty operations will move to other GM dealerships in Canada. Saturn dealerships in Canada also selling Saab vehicles will sell exclusively Saab vehicles after GM shuts down Saturn, and sells Saab to Koenigsegg.

2009: Sale falls through

On September 30, 2009, Penske terminated its discussions with General Motors Company ("GM") to acquire its Saturn subsidiary. The tentative agreement was for GM to continue to produce the Saturn line until 2011; after that time, an undisclosed third company would assume production responsibilities. Penske's decision to back out of the sale came after this undisclosed company's board rejected plans to take over production of the Saturn line. The undisclosed company was later reported to be Renault.Subsequently, GM stated they will shut down the division and dealers will have to shut down by October 2010. Saturn owners will still be able to take their cars to Saturn dealerships for service until closure in 2010, after which point Saturn vehicles will be serviced at other GM dealerships.


Previous models

The company's products used a dedicated platform called the Z-body and a dedicated engine, the 1.9 L Saturn I4 engine, and a dedicated plant in Spring Hill, Tennesseemarker. All of the original Saturns featured dent-resistant plastic body panels which were also touted as allowing the company to change the look of the vehicles readily. However, in practice, the company did not take advantage of this capability often, due to flammability concerns.

Saturn S-Series cars were produced from 1991–2002. There were 3 Generations of S-Series Cars. First Generation S-Series cars were produced from 1991–1994. For the 1995 Model year, Saturn implemented a "First Generation" exterior, and "Second Generation" interior. The exterior of the 1995 model year looked the same as the first generation cars, but exhibited larger gauge faces on the instrument cluster, and a redesigned middle console. First Generation engines were rated at for the Single Overhead Cam Engines, while the Dual Overhead Cam Engines were rated at for the entire run of S-Series cars (1991–2002). In 1996, the Second Generation S-Series Sedan was introduced and remained virtually unchanged for the rest of the vehicle's production run. In 1997, the Second Generation of the Sport Coupe model was introduced with a more "scooped" headlight front. The S-Series was produced in three variations: Coupe (SC), Sedan (SL), and Wagon (SW). The Wagon was introduced for the 1993 Model year and was produced until 2001.

The first real change came with the 2000 Saturn L-Series mid-size car. It shared the GM2900 platform with the Opel Vectra, along with its engine, and was built at a GM factory in Wilmington, Delawaremarker. The Saturn Sky is now being produced in the Wilmington factory along with the essentially identical Opel GT and the closely-related Pontiac Solstice.

In recent years, sales have been in decline. Ion production lines were halted for two weeks in 2003 to allow dealer inventory to reduce. The L-Series was canceled after production of the 2005 models, and the Ion was canceled after 2007.

Final model line

2009 Saturn Vue

As of 2009, the company shared GM's Delta, Epsilon, Kappa, Lambda and Theta platform, and the company's Ecotec engines—including the new 2.4L LE5 I4, Turbo 2.0L LNF I4, and DCVCP 1.8L I4—and the High Feature LY7 3.6L V6 and High Value LZ4 3.5L V6 engines. The Saturn Vue used a Honda engine in the past, and the plastic body panels have been discontinued on all current vehicles.

The 2009 Saturn models were the Sky roadster, the Aura sedan, the Astra hatchback, the Vue small crossover SUV and the Outlook full-size crossover SUV built off the GM Lambda platform (replacing the Relay minivan).

Some recent Saturns are virtually identical to certain Opel/Vauxhall models. For example, the 2008 Saturn Vue was a rebadged Opel Antara, while the Opel GT was based on the Saturn Sky. The Opel Astra was imported from Antwerp, Belgium as the Saturn Astra (replacing the Ion as the entry-level car). On the other hand, the Saturn Aura, while sometimes compared to the Opel Vectra, is a unique model for the North American market similar to the Pontiac G6.

The company offers two sub-lines of vehicles: "Red Line" Saturns are performance-oriented, while "Green Line" cars are more environmentally friendly hybrids. The Vue and Ion Red Line models, launched in 2004, have been joined by Vue and Aura Green Lines for the 2007 model year and a Sky Red Line the same model year. Saturn's Green Line vehicles utilize mild hybrid technology.

Model lineup

Model Class Production
Saturn S-Series compact sedan and coupe 1991–2002
station wagon 1993–2001
Saturn L-Series mid-size sedan and station wagon 2000–2005
Saturn Vue compact crossover 2002–2009
Saturn Ion compact sedan and quad coupe 2003–2007
Saturn Relay minivan 2005–2007
Saturn Sky roadster 2007–2009
Saturn Outlook full-size crossover 2007–2009
Saturn Aura mid-size sedan 2007–2009
Saturn Astra compact 3– and 5-door hatchback 2008–2009



  • 1991
    • Saturn receives two "Silver Anvil" awards for community and internal relations.
    • Saturn receives Popular Mechanics "Design and Engineering" award for "manufacturing processes that result in exceptionally high quality for an all-new vehicle."
    • Saturn receives "Driver's Choice awards for best small car" from MotorWeek
  • 1992
    • Saturn receives "Driver's Choice awards for best small car" from MotorWeek
    • Saturn is in the "Top Ten Domestic Buys" according to Motor Trend magazine.
    • Saturn receives the "EVE" award for Saturn's attempt to employ women and minorities.
  • 1993
    • Saturn receives the Best American Car Value Under 13,000; Lowest Total Cost To Own—American Car; Best Overall Value—Compact Class under 16,500; from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn receives Technology of the Year from Automobile Magazine
  • 1995
    • Saturn receives Best American Car Value under 13,000; Best Compact Under 17,000; Best Subcompact over 12,500; from Intellichoice.
  • 1996
    • Saturn receives Best American Car Value under 20,000; Best Compact Value under 17,000 (import or domestic); by Intellichoice.
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Small Wagon (import or domestic).
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Subcompact value under 12,000 (import or domestic).
    • Saturn receives the award for Best Subcompact value over 12,500 (import or domestic).
  • 1997
    • Saturn receives Best Car Value Under 20,000; Best Compact Value under 15,000; Best Subcompact Value under 14,000; Best Small Wagon Value; from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn is the Leader in "Brands under 20,000"
  • 1999
    • Saturn receives awards for Best Compact Value under 20,000; Best Small Wagon Value.
    • Saturn S-Series gets a Double 5-Star rating in Driver & Passenger in front-collision tests.
  • 2000
    • Saturn is voted MotorWeek's "Best Family Sedan".
    • Saturn receives "Best Overall Value of the Year" for SL and SL1 from Intellichoice.
    • Saturn in Spring Hill receives "Most Valuable Pollution Prevention."
  • 2007
    • Saturn's 2007 Aura claims North American Car of the Year.
  • 2008
    • Saturn's Outlook receives Parents Magazine/ "Best Family Car 2008", "Best Crossover Utility" by MotorWeek Drivers, "Best New Family Vehicle" from

Advertising slogans

  • 1985
    • "What Kind of Car Is That? It's A Saturn!"
  • 1989–1994:
    • "A Different Kind of Car Company" (US)
    • "We've reinvented the automobile." (Canada)
  • 1994–2002: "A Different Kind of Company, A Different Kind of Car."
  • 2002–2004: "It's Different in a Saturn"
  • 2004–2006: "People First"
  • 2006–2007: "Like Always. Like Never Before."
  • 2007–present:
    • Formerly "Rethink American.", later "Rethink.", then "We're Still Here." (US)
    • "Like Always. Like Never Before.", later "Rethink." (Canada)
    • "Passion for the Road." (Spanish-speaking US slogan)



  1. GM to sell Saturn to Penske
  2. Confirmed: Renault-Nissan killed Saturn

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