Stranded on Saturn: An Open Letter to GM

SATURN_logoDear GM:

I don’t understand a thing about bankruptcy, or what it means to file for Chapter 11 versus Chapter 7, so I can’t comment on your actual financial status.  Nor would I presume to tell you about business practices or pretend to understand whether you are truly worth the huge amount of tax dollars that we — make that I — am investing in you.

But hear me out here for a moment.  I’ve bought American cars my entire life, starting with a 1978 white Trans Am with a gas guzzling 434 horses under its hood — which I totaled (not my fault!) and then promptly bought a 1979 blue Trans Am, with a, uh, much more efficient 403 at its front end.  After spending more than a decade carless, I bought a Jeep Wrangler, and a Ford Explorer which I later traded for a Saturn sedan, in an effort to ratchet up my fuel efficiency.  So, you can’t say I haven’t played ball.  You can’t say I haven’t been supportive.  I’ve bought American, even when others were pointing and laughing.

But now, in the midst of all this mess, I see you’re phasing out the Saturn.  You’ve officially lost me. 

Say what you will about the Saturn — that it’s stodgy, non-sexy, non-soccer or non-hackey Mommish — it’s still one of the best cars I’ve ever owned.  At seven years old, it’s got nearly 130,000 miles on it, it’s on its original transmission, it’s only grudgingly needed new brake shoes and new tires, and has never been in the shop for any major work.  It has, without a doubt, earned the nickname we’ve given it: the Man of Steel.

Further, my local Saturn dealer in Frederick, Maryland is perhaps the most honest dealership I’ve ever seen.  Every time I bring my car in, convinced some odd noise or herky jerk behavior means a major, expensive repair, they inform me it’s a minor problem that can be fixed easily and inexpensively.  When a tail light went out, they charged me six dollars for the light itself, and nothing for the effort of installing it.

Further, they’ve picked up my business for maintenance on our Jeep Wrangler.  When our local Jeep dealer, which shall remain nameless (*cough*Fitzgerald*cough!*), kept finding one absolutely critical problem after another — each of which, I was told, had to be repaired right then and there or the Jeep would implode on the spot like the Bluesmobile — I finally decided I had had enough.  I took it to our Saturn dealer, told them we had been informed the Jeep was teetering on the edge of disaster and gave the mechanics carte blanche to find the problem.  After an hour, they came back to me with puzzled faces, saying it needed new spark plugs, and there was a minor repair that needed to be made in the passenger-side wheel well, but that was about it. For someone who can’t diagnose a car problem, much less fix one, that’s the kind of service I need. 

Look, I get it.  You need to downsize and become more efficient.  But really, you’re demolishing the one room of the house that seems to be structurally sound while trying to salvage the other rooms that might be prettier, but have already been corroded by termites.

The management at my Saturn dealer informed me that they’re hoping the Saturn brand can survive independent of GM.  I hope so.  As one of your millions of newly-seated stockholders, I’ll be watching  carefully — but so far, you’ve not done much to persuade me to stick around.  You’ve kept your showhorses while letting your workhorse go.  Not a promising start, in my book.

As I said above, I’ve been in your corner all along.  Convince me to stay there.

Your pal,

Brian

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7 responses to “Stranded on Saturn: An Open Letter to GM

  1. I work for Saturn. Happened across your post. Send me your address, I’d like to send you a thank you for such a nice blog. Please stick with us, we are working hard to make sure there is more to come from Saturn.

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  2. Tom — Thanks for the kind comments, and believe me, no thanks is necessary. Here’s hoping Saturn makes it — that’s the best thanks I could receive.

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  3. Brian –
    Great post. Thanks! Saturn owners such as you are why we are working so hard to find a buyer who will keep the brand alive. Stay tuned.

    Mike
    Saturn Communications

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  4. Dear Mike from Saturn Communications:

    We are in the market for a new car and are literally waiting to see what will happen with Saturn. If you are staying – our checkbook is ready…

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  5. I have known a few Saturn-owners who were always happy, satisfied, and driving well over the 100k-mile mark. But, while we’re on GM, I was immensely satisfied with a Chevy that I only turned in a couple summers ago after 12 years on the road (9 with me). Minimal work over all those years and it survived living in multiple states with over 160k miles. I’m on a Ford now and I’m happy with it too!

    But, let’s not forget that, though some of the credit goes to the company, much belongs in the hands of the owner/caretaker. Most cars should really last (and last) if properly cared for. Except for Jeeps. Good luck with that. :)

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  6. Mike: Believe me, we’re staying tuned!

    Rob: I can ditto on the Chevy thing. My younger brother drove my Mom’s 1976 Monte Carlo and my dad’s 1979 Chevy truck well into the 2000s. Both were driven hard and performed well until my brother finally put a bullet into them a while back.

    The Jeep has its moments, but it’s the most fun to drive of any car I’ve ever had (well . . . the 79 Trans Am with the T-tops was a really close second…). And when it gets dirty, you can just hose it out, then drive it with a wet butt.

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  7. I’ve gotta say, as a Saturn Owner I was quite worried to see what was happening with GM and Saturn. I was very happy when I heard about the Penske deal.
    I am sad that the company my Grandfather spent most of his life working for has pissed it all down their leg, and can’t support itself anymore, but am glad he never lived to see it happen!
    Thank you for such a great blog about a great product!

    Mikey D, Proud Saturn owner
    2007 Saturn Ion3
    2009 Saturn Astra (switched because I liked the Astra styling more! :D)

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