General Motors launched its Saturn automobile manufacturing company in 1990, largely in response to the success of Japanese small-car imports in the United States. Saturn's headquarters and primary manufacturing facility are located in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Saturn is known for its company-wide "no-haggle" sale policy. Saturn dealers (called "retailers" by the company) are encouraged to sell Saturn's at list price. Customer satisfaction with dealer service is among the highest of any car brand in the U.S. The company also won praise for its environmentally-conscious manufacturing processes and for its innovations such as using flexible plastic side panels on its cars to avoid minor dents. It has never made a profit.
When it was launched, Saturn was a real departure for GM. The company's products used a dedicated platform (the Z-body), a dedicated engine (the 1.9 L Saturn I4 engine), and were made at a dedicated plant (in Spring Hill). In fact, the company's three car models (SL, SC, and SW) were all just a single car in three different body styles, and the company referred to all three as Saturns. 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 at will. However, in practice, the company kept the vehicles mostly unchanged for years.
The first real change came with the 2000 Saturn L-Series midsize car. It shared the GM Epsilon platform with the Opel Vectra, along with its engine, and was built at a GM factory in Wilmington, Delaware. It did not use plastic body panels.
Today, the company shares GM's Delta and Theta automobile platforms, along with the company's Ecotec engine, and vehicles are built at many GM plants along with the Spring Hill factory. The Saturn VUE even uses a Honda engine, and the plastic body panels will be discontinued on most future vehicles.
In recent years, Saturn has been criticized for not keeping pace with the rest of the automotive industry. Sales have been declining, and the ION production lines were halted for two weeks in 2003 to allow dealer inventory to reduce. The L-series line was canceled after production of the 2005 models.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:12:24