Saturn a Victim of Neglect


I own a 2008 Saturn Vue.  I bought it at the end of September when I traded in my Saturn Sky. At the time, I was having my two-seat sky convertible serviced at the Eatontown NJ Saturn dealership.  It turned out it was the last day of a cash-back promotion that GM was offering.  While I loved my little roadster, it was proving to be impractical and I decided the bigger Vue would be a better value. That, plus the deal that was offered to me and the trade in price made it a no brainer.

I had been a big fan of Saturn over the years because it indeed was a different kind of car company as its past slogans had advertised.  At one point in the early 1990’s, we had three Saturn’s parked in our driveway.  I joked with a local dealer that they should feature my family in a future cable ad.

What had attracted me to Saturn was the no haggling price. When you walked into a dealership you were left to browse, knowing full well what each vehicle was going to cost.  When it was time to sit down with a sales rep they couldn’t be more helpful.  Saturn had definitely taken on a persona as a different car company.  I remember reading about treks customers made down to Tennessee to visit the plant and headquarters.

 By the end of the decade though, we were Saturn-less.  Two of the cars were in accidents and one, we decided to sell.  We moved on to Toyota and Honda but that Green Saturn S series car kept popping up in my mind as the favorite car I had owned.

Then, while in Ohio for a drag racing event, I saw the new roadster convertible model that GM was releasing under the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky brands.  I fell in love with the car and convinced my wife that we deserved this special treat that we could call our own.  We quickly bought the Sky. I was back in a Saturn and felt special again. When my son, a new driver, was looking for a car, we settled on a Saturn Ion as well.

As I drove my Sky around, many people would come up to me amazed that the vehicle was actually a Saturn.  Always know as an affordable brand, Saturn was launching even newer models that were even more upscale.  They were also eliminating some of the affordable models like my son’s Ion.

Suddenly there seemed to be confusion in their marketing message, a point that was well-made in David Welch’s piece in this week’s Businessweek.

Even while trading in my Sky for a Vue this fall I knew from reading the financial stories on GM’s woes that Saturn was in danger of being folded up. It still did not deter me from making the purchase, but what did strike me was how this situation had affected the way Saturn operated all the way down to the local dealership level.

While the sales person could not have been more helpful in structuring my deal, what struck me that night was that for the first time I pulled out of a Saturn dealership after purchasing a new car and did not feel special.  There were no balloons with the car and no salesmen outside applauding my purchase.   It was all by rote.

About a month later I needed servicing and when I picked up the car, noticed it had not been washed, something that was always done as a courtesy.  The dealership had already been told that it was going to close. Obviously, there was no desire for providing added services. Then, in trying to receive a refund payment for the extended warranty I had with my Sky, I experienced a two-month delay due to first, inaction by the dealership’s finance department and then a mistake that was showing my car with a lien.  After several calls to the corporate office and faxing a sales slip, I finally received payment.

What all of this told me was how a brand that once truly connected with customers could quickly falter and slip into oblivion from neglect.  It is truly a shame. While one never purchased a Saturn for its resale value, the thought of buying an affordable, safe, American-made vehicle and receiving great customer service was appealing enough.

Now, I have two Saturn’s and two car payments.  I’ll continue to make them and hope that another manufacturer may buy the brand and restore the feeling that all Saturn owners once received.

Tom Cosentino


One Response to “Saturn a Victim of Neglect”

  1. Great post on Saturn. A brand that tried to be remarkable and ended with being ordinary.

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