June 16, 2009

Forget the Whales, Save Saturn

Do you remember your first car? I’m sure you remember when you first got it—how liberating it felt to hold the keys to your very own car. My first car arrived as a Christmas present from my generous grandparents. It was the perfect car. Shiny, clean, fast, fun.

It was a 1996 Saturn, and man, it was cool. My friends drove around in brand new 2002 VW’s, Jeeps, and Hondas. But 1996 was a great year for car manufacturers, and my car was better. The windows had to be rolled up manually, this is how major league baseball players used to build arm strength, before steroids. The stereo system sported a state of the art cassette deck. But best of all—it had a rubber bumper. Okay, maybe it was plastic, but if functioned like rubber. I could back into anything from a tree to a public library and just bounce right off. Perfect for new drivers.

Saturn built a brand around experiences like mine. Launched in the late 1980’s by General Motors, Saturn quickly became positioned as a family friendly brand. Their smaller, affordable, comfortable and safe models suited customers of all ages. New car buyers chose Saturn vehicles not only for the car, but for the Saturn experience. The Saturn sales staff quickly became your new family friend, concerned not only about your financial limitations but about your safety, your life, your children, your family. Saturn also cares about the bigger picture. Community involvement is a Saturn standard, they participate not only in sponsoring national causes but also make an effort to contribute to each local community that hosts a dealership.

As General Motors recently filed for bankruptcy protection, executives announced that they have a plan in motion for the company to quickly rebound and maybe even one day turn a profit again. Hummer was sold. Pontiac may dissolve. The future of the Saturn brand has yet to be set in stone. If it is sold, how would it be integrated into a new brand, and would the new ownership change Saturn’s core values, personality and voice? A possible sale to Penske Automotive Group is in the works, some say the pending sale could change the face of the way cars are manufactured and sold in the US. There are rumors of Penske shopping for a foreign manufacturer.

General Motors is proceeding with caution, as they should. The disappearance or tarnish of the Saturn brand would truly be a shame, and not just to Saturn owners. Saturn is an icon for the American family, and a model to branders everywhere for how to build a brand that embodies its core values in every internal and external communication outlet available.

Now, only time will tell what will happen to the Saturn brand. In the mean time, I hope whoever ended up with my old ’96 Saturn is taking care of my favorite car. And anytime they want to trade, I would be glad to have it back.

Contributed by Laine Beyerl

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *