Saturn Turns Sweet 16, GM Throws a Product Party

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Dec 17, 2006.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz hugs Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak at the Sky Red Line introduction.

    By Paul Lienert

    Twenty years ago, General Motors' brain trust figured it needed a radical "clean sheet" solution to stem the alarming erosion in GM's sales triggered by Japan Inc. Then-Chairman Roger Smith's novel approach was to create "a different kind of car company" — the entity we know today as Saturn.

    Many of the grandiose schemes and early vision for GM's new import-fighting brand were watered down or shelved by the time the first Saturn cars hit the street in 1990. But the brand has never abandoned its one bedrock principle: terrific customer care.

    Saturn's unique selling proposition subsequently has been copied, with considerable success, by such premium competitors as Lexus (even though the basic concept was never totally embraced or properly leveraged by GM's own management). Ironically, it may be the single biggest reason Saturn has been able to survive what can only be described as a shameful product drought these past 16 years.

    As the current GM product czar Bob Lutz revealed last week at the New York International Auto Show, that dearth of new hardware is about to end with a virtual torrent of vehicles slated to flood Saturn dealers over the next three years. Whether this sudden burst of products will help ensure Saturn's long-term survival, at a time when at least four other GM brands are on the bubble, remains an open question.

    Let's take a quick look at what's in the pipeline.

    Saturn's product renaissance really begins this spring with the arrival of the Sky roadster, to be followed this fall by the hotted-up Sky Red Line — the third Saturn model to wear that special badge.

    The group's product planners were smart enough to understand the almost schizophrenic dichotomy in the market between performance and environmental concerns, and thus created the Green Line sub-brand as a counterbalance to the Red Line series. As the name implies, Green Line vehicles will carry gas-electric hybrid powertrains with cleaner exhaust and better fuel economy. The first of those models, the Vue Green Line, arrives this summer.

    Also due in late summer is the long-awaited Aura, a slick midsize sedan that heralds Saturn's growing reliance on GM's Opel subsidiary in Germany for design, engineering and product development. A Green Line version of the Aura will follow in spring 2007, and a Red Line variant is expected in 2008.

    One of the most important new products for the brand is the Outlook, an eight-passenger crossover vehicle that debuts around Christmas. This companion to the Buick Enclave and the GMC Acadia is intended as a replacement for the lame-duck Relay minivan, and is aimed especially at women, who represent 60 percent of Saturn buyers. The Outlook is significant on several fronts: It will be Saturn's largest and most expensive model ever, and it may well be the last Saturn product developed primarily in Michigan.

    That's not necessarily a bad thing. The remaining overhaul of Saturn's existing lineup should be complete once the Relay is phased out of production in 2008, and the two holdovers — the Vue and the Ion — are replaced by new Opel-based designs.

    Beginning with the Sky, most of Saturn's future products will be sold on both sides of the Atlantic. The catch is that, in Europe, they will carry Opel and Vauxhall badging. Thus, the Sky will morph into the Opel GT, while the next-generation Vue (previewed in New York as the PreVue concept) will become the Opel Antara; the Aura is a precursor of the next Opel Vectra sedan, and the '08 Ion will share sheet metal and underpinnings with the next Opel Astra. There will also be both Saturn and Opel variants of a new smaller-than-Vue crossover that will debut in 2009.

    And, of course, you can expect Red Line performance and Green Line hybrid editions of many future Saturns.

    Despite the obvious (and understandable) exuberance in New York of Lutz and Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak, it's still a fair and valid question to ask whether Saturn even has a future. Lajdziak insists the turnaround already has begun, pointing to robust sales of the face-lifted '06 Vue in the first quarter of this year. But the Ion has stumbled badly, despite a similar upgrade, and the Relay is nothing short of a disaster, probably causing more harm and confusion to the brand than any positive impact.

    The short version is that Saturn loyalists, after 16 years of waiting for some decent products to go along with that storied sales and service, are finally getting a bit weary, and those new products can't reach Saturn dealerships a moment too soon.

    With Cadillac's overhaul and resurgence in recent years, GM has demonstrated that it's possible to resuscitate even a moribund brand. It just hasn't demonstrated a similar commitment to its many other distressed franchises, from Pontiac to Saab.

    For the moment, however, the General is lavishing some intensive care on Roger Smith's baby. Now it's up to Lajdziak, Lutz and Co. to ensure that the troubled teenager makes it all the way to adulthood.

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    Astra

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    Aura

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    Outlook

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    Sky

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    Vue

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Very impressive.

    I would seriously consider an Astra, Outlook or Sky. I couldn't say that about any Saturn just months ago.
     
  3. Chadder007

    Chadder007 OG Diamond Member

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    Im starting to actually like a lot of their designs now. :o
     
  4. sub9lulu

    sub9lulu LSx RX-7 in progress krew

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    good for them i guess
     
  5. AJF GTO

    AJF GTO OT Supporter

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    Aura looks good.
     
  6. got milk?

    got milk? New Member

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    Did they have a Ferrari cake?
     
  7. saxman

    saxman Burninating the peasants

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    The vue was so fucking hot as a concept :(

    damn those extra doors
     
  8. ChineseSpoon

    ChineseSpoon OT Supporter

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  9. AJF GTO

    AJF GTO OT Supporter

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    I am kinda pissed that a Saturn gets a 6 speed auto, but somehow I'm stuck with the 4 speed. :wtc:
     
  10. operationrob

    operationrob OT Supporter

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    my aunt and uncle are obsessed with vues. they have had them for their last two cars and dont plan on getting anything else.
     
  11. BlazinBlazer Guy

    BlazinBlazer Guy Witness to The De-Evolution of Mankind.

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    I gotta admit, the more I see the Outlook, the more I'm starting to like it....

    Too bad it's still just a FWD/AWD; I want my RWD dammit!!
     
  12. wicked max

    wicked max New Member

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    i :love: trishield gm threads!!!


    hey how big is that outlook?
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Slightly smaller than a Tahoe, but it has more interior space. FWD/AWD is good for dedicated people carriers.
     
  14. AllDay AllNight

    AllDay AllNight All right, I gotta know. What the hell does "kree" OT Supporter

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    They all look like they should cost more.

    I really like the Outlook, Vue, and of course the Sky.

    Is Saab really doing that badly though? I think that the "Born from Jets" thing is stupid, but otherwise they seem to have a really nice product line.
     
  15. wicked max

    wicked max New Member

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    :eek5: so they based it off the tahoe platform? I sell chevy's btw:o
     
  16. HighTachPres

    HighTachPres New Member

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    yawn, same cars, just snazzy photos

    The sky has potential, but wtf is up with all the "chrome"
     
  17. rockinpandas

    rockinpandas Active Member

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    cant wait to get my sky redline
     
  18. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    No, entirely new and unique chassis called Lambda developed specifically to be a crossover vehicle.
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    They still sell the Ion, look inside it and look at the new products and you won't believe they're the same brand. About as far removed from "same" as you can get.
     
  20. wicked max

    wicked max New Member

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    do you work for gm trishield?
     
  21. wicked max

    wicked max New Member

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    yeah...our gm rep told us something about that...t-blazers are going to be extinct. I'm still waiting for our stealth HHR. :o
     
  22. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    No.
     
  23. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Chevrolet will have their own flavor of the Outlook to replace the Uplander and Trailblazer.
     
  24. Ivy Mike

    Ivy Mike New Member

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    I saw this and was like :eek3: thats a Saturn?
     
  25. the slowness

    the slowness OT Supporter

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    the outlook has a nice interior:cool:
     

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