Late on the evening of September 30th, 2009, the death knell was finally sounded for Saturn. Although it had been on life support for some time, talks had been ongoing between GM and the Penske Automotive Group since June. Local advertisements wherever Saturns were sold in North America even mentioned this, and it seemed to everyone like it was a done deal—even Saturn’s dealership network, who’d just received brand new two-year franchise contracts from Penske just recently. However, it was not to be. Penske abruptly cut off discussions with GM and a formal announcement was made on the 30th. What was the sticking point?
Under the terms previously agreed to, GM would continue to manufacture the Saturn Aura, Outlook, and Vue for the next two years. Penske, who would by then have taken control of the Saturn brand and dealership network, would be responsible for everything from that point forward. To that end, they’d been in talks with other manufacturers about creating small cars to be sold under the Saturn brand in North America. While their official announcement didn’t name any specific names as holding up the deal, apparently Renault-Nissan came up more than once in their official discussions, according to Nick Bunkley and Bill Vlasic of the New York times—which is all the more interesting, considering why the Saturn brand was created in the first place all those years ago.
Since the announcement, GM has said it will cease production of all Saturn models after the 2009 model year has completed production—essentially immediately. This also means that the entire Saturn dealership network will be no more. GM will continue to honour its warranties on Saturn-branded products through other GM dealerships.
There are rumours that GM may still try to sell Opels in North America…but badged as Buicks. They’re only rumours, but we’ll keep an ear to the ground and share anything we learn on that front in the future.