After several months of silence, it appears Penske has opted to retract his offer to purchase Saturn from General Motors.
Following a script so eerily similar to my earlier prediction that it prompted me to buy lottery tickets, Penske had planned to use the Saturn dealer network as a domestic channel for future distribution of Renault-Samsung’s line of rebadged Renault and Nissan products. In the interim though, GM was going to continue supplying some existing vehicles to the Tupperware Car Company through 2012, give or take.
So it’s so long to the plastic-fantastic arm of General Motors. Unlike Pontiac, we hardly knew ye.
I suggested the #GMTech hash tag to a friend, and it snowballed.
As the upfitted GMC TopKick blogger-hauler crossed through fortified gates into the forbidden General Motors Tech Center, I felt like a spy. A time traveler. A trusted friend, but a careful messenger. I was one of 100 “social media influencers” invited to the most holy automotive land to preview the General’s powertrain research and future design direction. My camera was taken, my cell phone was blinded by a serialized PicPatch, and photography was further prohibited by smiling security guards posted in every presentation room. However, at no point were my microblogging colleagues told not to reveal our observations through text.
Most program attendees’ passions lay in non-automotive areas. Therefore, most didn’t realize the deeper magnitude of many minuscule details revealed. @RaymondKing and I were an exception. One overexposing tweet could destroy my career. Thankfully, years of practice crafting oblique automotive prose helped to preserve my integrity while capturing followers’ interest. Until Automotive News and Autoblog pieced together most of what I was nervous about reporting, that is. Now that GM’s secrets have been told with varying degrees of accuracy, I’ve got a few blanks to fill in — while preserving a little mystery. And my career, of course.
Sometimes, I wonder if “esteemed automotive journalists” are just “failed ad copywriters.” When every new vehicle launch is met with a cacophony of praise, the legitimacy of an automotive critic certainly fades. I personally preserve unabashedly glowing reviews for well-engineered vehicles that represent something more than a blacker bottom line — vehicles that “give back” to car culture. In hope that I’ll maintain your trust, I present my video review of the Chevy Camaro. Over the course of several months and 2500 miles of testing in five states, I’ve forged lifelong friendships and have the Facebook to prove it. The Camaro has changed my outlook on honking: now, when I hear a blast at a stoplight, I’m sure it’s just another ally eagerly hoping his thumbs-up is well-received. That’s moderately embarassing honesty. That’s not hyperbole.
Blame management, the unions, asymmetrical trade regulations or tough competition — because the blasé love to blame. But no matter where your armchair analysis pins responsibility, the fact is that America’s once-proud R&D and manufacturing powerhouse has been reduced to bankruptcy — a fate that almost no other government has allowed to befall their automakers.
The President is priming the country for a bankruptcy that will affect assembly workers, suppliers, dealerships, and an already economically battered Midwest. We’ll liveblog his comments after the jump.
Back on April 1st, an article appeared on NewsTimes.com claiming that Saturn had found a suitor. While many initially dismissed it as an April Fool’s joke, Saturn of Danbury owner (and early Saturn insider) Todd Ingersoll was telling anybody who would listen that a deal was in the works that would assure Saturn’s long-term future. While Ingersoll didn’t come forward with the specifics of the deal or the name of the interested party (or parties), it seemed like an honest attempt at reassuring consumers that Saturn wasn’t a dead brand walking.
Weeks have come and gone, however, and nothing seems to have come of it. Meanwhile, the Pontiac and Hummer branches have been lopped off the future GM family tree, and Saab and Saturn have degenerated to sell or scrap status. While GM’s overall attitude toward a potential sale of the Saab brand seems fairly positive, the future of Saturn doesn’t look so rosy. Earlier estimates predicted the Saturn network would stay around until 2011 or 2012 — plenty of time to court new ownership — but GM is now saying that it’s on the chopping block for the end of this year.
So what is the key to Saturn’s future? It all comes down to Chrysler.
For those who are trying to pick the important details out of the GM restructuring stories flying around today, here’s what we know so far:
(Updated 5:00 p.m., 4/27) — Pontiac is to be phased out entirely by the end of 2010; Hummer and Saturn will be phased out by the end of 2009; Saab will hopefully be sold off shortly, and it seems GM is fairly confident this will happen. — The G8 will be gone as of the end of this model year (2009). — The G6, G3, Solstice and Torrent will slowly disappear through the 2009 and 2010 model years. — The Vibe will likely be the final production vehicle in the lineup. — More than 20,000 layoffs are expected, though it’s not known yet which divisions (obviously, Pontiac-related is a safe bet here) and facilities will be impacted. — There will be an “acceleration” of plant idling and shut-down along with a significant reduction in the dealer network — reportedly up to 40%. — The restructuring plan will result in the taxpayers and union trusts owning a hefty chunk of General Motors. — Bankruptcy is still not off the table. — There is currently no viable offer on the table for the Saturn dealership network.