Can’t Somebody Save Saturn?

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I have a soft spot in my heart for Saturn. The first new car I could truly call my own was a bare bones Saturn SL. The sticker price was around $11,000, and with Saturn’s original no-hassle-no-haggling policy, I happily paid the sticker price. I delivered pizzas and drove cross-country in that super reliable, unsexy, no-A/C vehicle, and I loved it.

And so I’m bummed that, barring a miracle, Saturn will be no more. Penske was supposed to buy Saturn, but now the deal is dead, and it looks like Saturn is as well.

In all honesty, I guess I should have mourned the death of Saturn long ago. At some point around the millennium, the brand changed. It began making more car models, including SUVs, and its flat, no-haggling-sticker-price policy—a pleasant alternative for many, many buyers who sweat out the aggravating “come into the office and let’s talk” game that car dealers play—began to get jumbled. Basically, a Saturn was becoming just another GM car, in many ways indistinguishable from a Chrysler or Chevy. And sales fell just like they did with other GM cars.

I’m not sure who is more at fault for Saturn’s demise. Did Saturn simply sell out and lose its original sense of mission? Or did American drivers fail to buy into Saturn in large enough numbers, leaving the car maker no choice but to tweak that mission? If more people had chosen Saturn sedans over Ford Explorers, perhaps Saturn could have stuck with the original game plan.

What Saturn had in the early days was rare: It was an American brand that many consumers (not just me, that’s for sure) believed in. The company produced a product that, shockingly, consumers believed was worth the retail price. Plainly put, a Saturn was a good value. You knew what you were getting, you knew what you’d pay, and you were happy about both. Why is that such a rare thing?