Monday, May 04, 2009

Saving Saturn

She just keeps running. At 232,000 miles, my Saturn definitely fits the description of a "clunker". It actually goes "clunk" sometimes when I take a hard turn or hit the brakes fast (ball joint going bad). The sunroof leaks. I keep towels in the car. It burns oil like crazy. I'm pretty sure I've replaced the entire exhaust system by now. The radio is gone, something to do with the wiring that was screwed up, but that is partly my fault; I ripped out the center console looking for a short in the system that was causing the seat belt mechanism to tick. Never did find it, but I did have to replace the alternator eventually, and it has been fine ever since.

And that's really about it. She just keeps running. I've had this car for seven years now, and up until last year I pretty much babied it, trying to stretch its life out for as long as I could. In 2008, I decided the pursuit of pictures of Obama (and various others) would be a noble death indeed, so I drove it all over the state and back again, fully expecting something big like the transmission to give out at some point. Nope.

She is still running, and if the body hadn't been through 16 Michigan winters, I swear she would run forever. But alas, there comes a point where even a plastic fantastic like the SC2 reaches the end, and I find myself in negotiations with my financiers to really start looking for something that will get me over to the wind farm in Pigeon, or to the UP. I really don't want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere because I pushed it one too many times. If and when I find a replacement, it will be very hard to give this car up. I'm going to miss it, and remember it fondly.

I do know one thing - I want another Saturn. I am one of those Saturn freaks now. We are quite insane, but we know what we like, and I bet I'm not the only one out there today that is thrilled that GM has "numerous" buyers interested in the brand. S.J. Girsky & Co is advising GM on the sale, and it is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Last week, GM President and Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said there were three suitors who had submitted "concepts" for acquiring the brand and its retailer network. One bidder, Telesto Ventures, proposed to initially distribute GM-built vehicles through Saturn's 439 dealerships in North America and eventually offer small, fuel-efficient vehicles produced by several manufacturers, most of which would be sold under the Saturn brand.

The group, which includes Oklahoma City-based private equity firm Black Oak Partners LLC and several Saturn dealers, submitted a bid last month, terms of which were not made public.

How would this work out? Don't really know right now, but it would be great if someone would put the attention and marketing into the brand that it deserves. Scott Burgess at the Detroit News pointed out how GM had a winner here, but they let it languish over the years...

Sadly, these brands were murdered by General Motors Corp. over the course of two decades through neglect, indifference and arrogance. Technically, it was negligent homicide, but no charges will ever be pressed when Saturn goes down at the end of this year and Pontiac follows in 2010.

Hidden behind the low sales figures and global platforms are a handful of excellent vehicles that should have been homeruns but fell short of the fences due to consumer indifference, poor planning and a collection of other factors.

He goes on to point out models like the Sky (I love the Sky), the Aura, and the Astra should have been big hits, because they are great cars. There was even brief talk of moving Astra production to America (it's an Opel) before the bottom fell out. But by the time GM got around to paying attention to Saturn again, it was too late. He also takes a look at a few Pontiac models as well, and then chews out GM for letting them all die... but they aren't dead yet. As Christine pointed out, there is interest in Pontiac too, and numerous articles now have pointed out the interest in Saturn.

An AP story also mentions that the plan is to have GM manufacture Saturn for now, but move to "other global manufacturers" to produce smaller, fuel-efficient (electric?) vehicles in the future. Not sure who or what that means - but perhaps after the restructuring, GM could find the way to keep the contract to make those cars, even if they don't own the brand. You never know.

Have a good thought for Saturn - would love to see them stay an "American" car. As for me, I'm looking for another SC2 at this point. They stopped making them in 2002, and they are hard to find right now. For some reason, people are reluctant to give them up...

When I was younger, I never understood people who were so brand-loyal when it came to their cars. I do now.