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September 30, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Saturn is no more. "Other industries could learn from the Saturn Corporation. Certainly GM is taking what they have learned from their Saturn investment and incorporating it into their existing plants and facilities where practical. It will not be an overnight experience. Like Saturn, it will take time, investment and a strong commitment to regain the role of world leader in the automobile industry."
posted by plexi (89 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by ardgedee at 2:28 PM on September 30, 2009


I was worried about this happening a for a few years. They stopped using the dent resistant body panels, which was a MAJOR selling point. That, and having a workplace where (purportedly) the employees had a bit of power regarding health and safety issues.

So where are these folks going to work now? Tennessee needs a work!

I suppose they could go to Vegas. MGM has started hiring for its new City Centre project, so I expect the unemployment rate in Vegas to drop from 13% to under 10%...

Sad for Saturn. Too bad GM will NEVER implement the good that was Saturn, but instead bury it under decades of legal wranglings...
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2009


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posted by Iridic at 2:31 PM on September 30, 2009


Oh man, for a minute there I thought someone had attempted a landing on Europa.
posted by DU at 2:36 PM on September 30, 2009 [41 favorites]


Saturn may bring old age, but it shall never receive it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:39 PM on September 30, 2009


I thought you were talking about the planet. And I'm like "First Pluto, now Saturn!? Damn that Neil Degrasse Tyson! Someone needs to stop that madman!" Then I realized you were talking about the most boring car company ever.
posted by delmoi at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


Disappointing. I have a late 90's SL1 and the only vehicle I've had with more miles and similar maintenance was an '84 Nissan pickup. The Saturn is, quite frankly, astonishing in its ability to just-keep-going.

In fact, keeping Saturn running was really one of the only good things I saw in keeping GM afloat.

Weird anecdotal story; I was a baseball game recently, and as I parked, the minivan next to me opened the side door and some 11 or 12 year old kid got out. He looked at my absolute beater of a Saturn and got all wide eyed; "Ooh, is that the '99 SL1? That's got a twin-cam doesn't it?"

For a minute, I seriously thought I might be on some kind of candid camera show, because who gets excited over a ten year old beat to shit economy sedan?

I walked away feeling oddly proud of my old clunker though.

posted by quin at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


.

I have a 2000 Saturn SL1, with 140,800 miles of Atlanta traffic on it. I bought it new, and it's been more than I could have hoped for in terms of cheap ($13,500 new) and dependable transportation. I agree with one of the comments on the first link - when Saturn became just another GM brand, everything changed, and not for the better. But I will still be sad to see them go. The people at Saturn of Decatur were always nice and friendly to deal with, and I hope that they are able to find other jobs.
posted by ralan at 2:43 PM on September 30, 2009


Ah, who needed those high-mileage innovative-type cars, anyway? With all those amazing vehicles they're producing over at Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC, I'm sure GM has nothing to worry about.

bye-bye GM
posted by washburn at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I could never get over how evil it sounded.

Saturn Corporation.

It's so... first person shooter.

Of course, they don't have anything on General Atomics, Chemetco, or Nioxin Research Laboratories.

(Then there's Goetze's Candy, which is worthy of a double-take.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Saturn had to die because it was making the rest of GM look bad.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


I had a Saturn for years. I wouldn't say it broke down a lot, and it certainly broke down less often than the Oldsmobile I had before it. But it broke down a lot more often than I would have liked, and I kept it pretty well maintained. Oh, and the sun roof broke about a day after the warranty expired, and Saturn wanted a thousand bucks to fix it. It wasn't a terrible car, and it looked nice, but by no stretch of the imagination was it a good car.

Now I have a Toyota. Man, do I love my Toyota. It's more or less the perfect car. It's three years old now but I expect it to last me about seven or eight more.

Maybe by then the American car companies will have introduced a car that's worth a damn, and I can buy it and feel good about American industry again.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heh, this is timely, considering my homie hit everything but the jackpot in her Saturn last night.
posted by sperose at 2:55 PM on September 30, 2009


In the 90s, any set of Saturn keys would work with all cars of the same model, even across a number of years. In high school, one of my close friends had, say, a '96 sedan, and a girl we knew had the same model from '99. It would take a while, but he could break into her car and start it up using the keys to his car. The we'd move hers all the way across the parking lot. Until she realized what was happening, she was quite confused.
posted by martens at 2:55 PM on September 30, 2009


That's really disappointing. Saturn was pretty much the only GM brand worth saving.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2009


Of course, they don't have anything on General Atomics, Chemetco, or Nioxin Research Laboratories.

My favorite has always been Tricon Global; I just love the idea that Taco Bell is owned by a company that, just based on the name, clearly has a team of well dressed hit men and body removal experts at their disposal.
posted by quin at 2:57 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a 1994 Saturn (it was free).

Worst car ever. Ever.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:58 PM on September 30, 2009


I've got an '03 L200, and it's been very reliable and comfortable, albeit a little underpowered. My little sister's driving my mom's old '01 LS, and all told we've been very happy with our Saturns. Shame about the Penske deal falling through, but Saturn's had a long string of recent fuckups (Ion, anyone?) and saying "the best line GM had" is damning with pretty faint praise.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:01 PM on September 30, 2009


The name really sounded like a committee just pulled it out of an orifice. Their cars were marginally higher in quality and reliability than other comparable GM economy models but just sucked compared to Japanese competition.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:02 PM on September 30, 2009


quin: "I just love the idea that Taco Bell is owned by a company that, just based on the name, clearly has a team of well dressed hit men and body removal experts at their disposal."

Anne Parillaud: Shit! Shit! It wasn't supposed to happen like this! Fuck!
Jean Reno: That doesn't matter. Now help me move him.
Anne Parillaud: Fuck! What are you doing? (crying as they dump the body into the bathtub)
Jean Reno: (Opening his Magic Murder Bag) Making taco filling.
posted by boo_radley at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I always thought it was a bad idea, astrologically speaking, for GM to name a car after the Greater Malefic.
posted by rdone at 3:08 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Saturn is no more.

I knew it! Gas planets can simply dissipate!

Oh right, the car company. For those who didn't notice, the second link is to a document from 1993. That is no post-mortem study of the company through rosy glasses.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:10 PM on September 30, 2009


Saturn had to die because it was making the rest of GM look bad.

From what I've read, that pretty close to the truth, except that it didn't happen today. It happened about ten years ago when they stopped letting Saturn design it's own cars and just gave it warmed over Opel designs and basically folded it into GMs management. Once they had managed to kill off anything that made it a unique company within the larger company, there wasn't really any reason for it to exist. Chevy can rebrand Opels just as well.
posted by octothorpe at 3:12 PM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had a 1995 Saturn SL and it was the best car I'd ever owned, really. Great gas mileage, no problems up to and probably past 100k.
posted by the dief at 3:13 PM on September 30, 2009


I had nothing but good luck with Saturns until I bought an '04 Ion. It's a piece of garbage. So much they so, they retooled the entire Ion line the very next year. Thanks for nothing. Also, the dealership in suburban Detroit constantly had Fox news blaring on the reception room TV (seriously, like on 11) and the employees were generally haughty (despite Saturn's reputation) and condescending.

I finally pay the damn thing off in a couple months, I'll be surprised if it's still running by then.

(end anecdote)
posted by joe lisboa at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2009


By the way, does anyone else remember that episode of the original Star Trek where they found an alternate Earth where Rome had never fallen (but as usual everyone spoke English for some reason) and all of the alternate-1960's cars were named after Roman gods?
posted by XMLicious at 3:18 PM on September 30, 2009


I think that the thing that killed Saturn was that, as it was GM's attempt to emulate and learn from the Japanese car companies, the Japanese (and other foreign) car companies in turn emulated and learned from Saturn, specifically, building factories in America and employing Americans. Diamond-Star Motors started later in 1985--the same year that Saturn started--and, although Chrysler pulled out some years ago, Mitsubishi is still hanging in there, although they've scaled their production back quite a bit.

Oh, and by the way, the Mitsubishi plant is right outside my hometown, so if I were in the market for a new car, I'd look at their product before anything else. They're helping my hometown economy and also producing a decent line of cars.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:18 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Wow, almost a full hour and not a single person has noted that Europa is a moon of Jupiter? Less obsessing over capitalization and more obsessing over astronomical minutia, please.)
posted by DU at 3:19 PM on September 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


I miss Saturn's old (i.e. circa mid-'90s) TV commercials ("A different kind of car company") which aimed to establish the image of a small-town, mom-and-pop operation owned by a kindly grandfather type who spent his days whittling on the wooden front porch of the plant.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I still want a Saturn Astra, basically an Opel Astra but for America, and closest to one of the better American hatchbacks of recent memory (The Ford Focus). And it looks splendid. Too bad nobody knew about it, all the Saturn ads I've seen the last few months have been economy based and how the company is doing "just fine." Whatever.

There's also the business of Pontiac going down just as they start making the G8, which is a damn shame, since it's one of the few V8 4 door saloons with RWD that actually look good and drive better. It also had the distinction of being the first Pontiac that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out.

It's always too little too late, though, since most of these companies were focused on making those awful lumps of metal and plastic known as SUVs for the last decade. Full size, midsize, and small SUVs, like getting a freaking combo meal at McDonalds. None of them are meant to be taken offroad, they're like obese station wagons.

Okay I'm going to leave before this gets embarrassing.
posted by hellojed at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2009


GM is taking what they have learned from their Saturn investment

So, nothing, then?

Or did GM learn (as it should have) that competing against yourself through badge engineering is a bad idea and that the more models a brand sells the worse it will do? Because those are the lessons to be learned from Saturn, and I don't see anyone - especially GM - learning them.
posted by The World Famous at 3:22 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, how was Saturn any different from Pontiac? Plus, Pontiac could be plenty innovative, if it wanted to.

As for the American cars not being so great meme in this thread, I'm going to go ahead and say that my PT Cruiser has been known to fail in comedic ways (aside from the time I skidded into a guardrail and needed to get bodywork done). For example, the horn once got stuck down like in Little Miss Sunshine (really), and another time it sprayed freeon in my face because I dared to want AC. All this from a boring as dishwater stationwagon I had nil expectations of. Meanwhile, my mom's Prius (a true future car with plenty of hype to go with it) has been completely dependable, with no real need for repairs thus far, aside from routine tire replacement and basic maintenance.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:22 PM on September 30, 2009


mccarty.tim, I thought that was going to be about the Aztek, a vehicle (is it a car? an suv? a truck?) that I dearly loved for some unknown reason. However, my first car after getting married was also a pontiac, and my wife and I joked that they really built walking excitement because it broke down pretty regularly and would vapor lock mysteriously.
posted by boo_radley at 3:33 PM on September 30, 2009


My husband and I shopped hatchbacks and wagons to replace my old pickup truck during Cash for Clunkers. One of the cars that made the short list was the Saturn Astra. Built in Belgium, it is sold elsewhere in the world as an Opel. We specifically did not buy it because of Saturn's uncertain future, and now I'm glad we chose the Nissan instead.

I find it interesting that GM finally brought some of its successful cars from other countries (the Pontiac G6 and G8 come from their Australian Holden division, and the aforementioned Astra comes from their German Opel group). But why did they bring these cars, possibly GM's best chance for survival, into the US under doomed brands?
posted by workerant at 3:47 PM on September 30, 2009


Saturn died for one reason.

Corporate politics. Saturn was founded by Roger Smith, and was run in a unique deal with UAW. Smit tried to reform the baroque management structure of GM, and GM hated him for it. Thus, after he was forced out, Saturn -- Roger's pet project -- was deemed Shit, and was rapidly shit upon. The unique body and engine of the S-Series dumped, replaced by various GM bodies, and by 2005, everything that was unique about Saturn was dead -- the plants, the contracts, the organization, the cars -- everything.

And so, after Wagoner reformed GM right into bankruptcy, they dumped Saturn, and are sluffing off Saab, Opel and Vauxhall. Well, and Hummer, but Fuck the Hummer. Saturn died because the deal with Penske Auto Group failed -- Penske decided that they weren't really sure they'd actually be able to make the damn things without going broke.

And yet, GM survives. You'd think the taxpayers were on the hook for this damn company or something.
posted by eriko at 3:51 PM on September 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


The name really sounded like a committee just pulled it out of an orifice.

Then it would have been Uranus.
posted by Faze at 3:52 PM on September 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


Shame about the Astra- are they just going to drop it, re-introduce Opel in the States, or badge it as a Chevy?
My parents used to drive an Opel Kadett back in the early '90s and it was one of the best cars we've had.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:56 PM on September 30, 2009


.

My car is a 2000 LS, and I'm going to miss it when it's gone. The upside of this news is that I never have to deal with the shitty salesmen at the dealership trying to hawk a new Saturn at me when I go in. Yeah, it's a nine-year-old car. It also runs pretty well for the (local) driving I need to do, which is why I'm not replacing it.
posted by immlass at 3:56 PM on September 30, 2009


I had nothing but good luck with Saturns until I bought an '04 Ion.

The change seems to have come about in the mid-late 90s. My late 90s SL1 was a trooper. It burned through oil (which I'm told is normal for Saturns) like crazy, but it just kept running with only basic maintenance. Even after being hit numerous times in campus parking lots and sliding along guard-rails, the dent-resistant panels showed little to no damage. Great mileage too.

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posted by Avelwood at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2009


13,000 more people out of a job.

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posted by Joe Beese at 4:07 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


plexi: "Saturn is no more."

I'm driving mine ('01 LS), pretending the company is still making them, until it falls apart around me.



In the words of Charlton Heston: from my cold, dead hands.
posted by subbes at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2009


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Saturn's "no wheeling and dealing, the price is the price" policy. That was certainly popular with a lot of people, including my wife.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:12 PM on September 30, 2009


I miss Saturn's old (i.e. circa mid-'90s) TV commercials ("A different kind of car company") which aimed to establish the image of a small-town, mom-and-pop operation owned by a kindly grandfather type who spent his days whittling on the wooden front porch of the plant.

I thought that was the guy who makes the cars?

Had a 90's model SR1, think '94. Terrible car. It was already heavily used (as is every car I buy), but it had an electric issue that used to drain the battery and was a mystery to everyone who looked at it, so had to get rid of it within a year. I have a '97 Toyota 4Runner now that has nearly 190K miles with nothing but regular maintenance.

I understand some people had great experiences and were very loyal, but I never had much luck with them or love for the cars. I'll miss the guy with the shiny, shiny shirt on the new commercials.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:20 PM on September 30, 2009


"I was worried about this happening a for a few years. They stopped using the dent resistant body panels, which was a MAJOR selling point."

Why Pontiac didn't run with them after originating it is a mystery of the ages.

"I had a 1994 Saturn (it was free).

"Worst car ever. Ever."


Really? Worse than a Pinto? Edsel? Trabant? Yugo? That's pretty bad.
posted by Mitheral at 4:27 PM on September 30, 2009


(Wow, almost a full hour and not a single person has noted that Europa is a moon of Jupiter?

Well, only one person really gets to make the joke and then it's done. I had a whole 2010-Jupiter-Satrun mixup thing ready, but meh, I decided to attempt no landings there.
posted by GuyZero at 4:31 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why Pontiac didn't run with them after originating it is a mystery of the ages.

Presumably because people didn't want and/or care about them. I don't think Toyotas or whatever other better-selling imported cars have dent-resistant panels. Unfortunately for product mangers the world over, not every feature justifies its cost. But who knows - it could just be one of those things.
posted by GuyZero at 4:37 PM on September 30, 2009


I miss Saturn's old (i.e. circa mid-'90s) TV commercials

Nothing beat Nissan's commercials from about the same time period, though; I mean, Johnny Cash covering the Laverne & Shirley theme?
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:40 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


>: Really? Worse than a Pinto? Edsel? Trabant? Yugo? That's pretty bad.

Don't confuse 'awful car' with 'low-performing car'. I was under the impression that Trabis just didn't have much in features and didn't go fast which is just fine with me. Yugos, on the other hand, were truly awful in that they fell apart almost immediately.

It wouldn't surprise me if people in ten years will have completely forgotten the Chevy Aveo.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2009


I KNEW they never should have trusted Costanza with the Penske file!
posted by evilcolonel at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was reading an article in Car And Driver (yes, the actual paper magazine) in which the claim was made that, at one point, 87% of Saturn drivers were unaware they were driving a GM vehicle.

With all due respect to the number of satisfied Saturn owners in this thread, I think that statistic says way more about the typical Saturn buyer than it does about the brand.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:02 PM on September 30, 2009


I worked at a Saturn dealership doing lot maintenance one summer. Craziest job I ever had. The owner was a Promise Keeper who held weekly prayer meetings and refused to sell to lesbians. One of his sons was a gay florist who lived with another man. I was told early on to remember they were just "roommates." The other son was a drug dealer who used his own supply. He was constantly crashing vehicles — and stealing them from the dealership. He used to fall asleep while writing up car sales. But the weirdest thing was the "I say!" chant we used to deliver to people who bought cars. I learned to hide somewhere whenever all staff were called to the delivery pod.
posted by showmethecalvino at 5:02 PM on September 30, 2009


My mistake, it was Jamie Kitman in Automobile magazine, July 2009. (I apparently hate trees, so I subscribe to two car magazines. Sorry.)
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:10 PM on September 30, 2009


Saturn was an innovative start-up that came into existence within, and to some extent in spite of, the mammoth stolid mire of early 90s GM. Their labor relations, marketing and no-fuss buying experience were all pretty novel, and while the original product on offer was tinny and a bit lacking in terms of fit and finish, it was very reliable -- as I know from having owned an original Saturn wagon that JUST WOULD NOT DIE -- and very safe, as I know from having run its immediate predecessor (my first car) head-on into a tree when I was 16.

On the subject of those dent-resistant door panels, it has to be said that while they were a good idea, they suffered from poor consumer reception/perception of Segway-esque proportions and were therefore doomed from the start. The polymer panels cost Saturn far more than steel to fabricate but consumers reliably perceived them as plasticky (which they were) and cheap (which they were not). A few savvy buyers recognized and appreciated them for the clever feature they were, but plastic doors were clearly a no-win proposition for the brand.
posted by killdevil at 5:16 PM on September 30, 2009


Fun fact: Jamie Kitman is also an attorney and the manager for They Might Be Giants. So I'm not jealous of him at all.
posted by The World Famous at 5:17 PM on September 30, 2009


My wife and I left the U.S. in 1985 for Europe and didn't return for a couple of years. When we did make it back I didn't recognize any of the makes of the cars - Hyundais? Yugos? Saturns? The shift in brand awareness was jarring.

There was a certain correlation with drug useage as well, in that everyone I knew back then were potheads, whereas upon our return everybody seemed to have switched to crystal meth. Quite a differance in mentality going on there.

Not an improvement.

Best car I ever had was a late 70s Plymouth Sapporo with a Mitsubishi 4-cylinder engine. The vinyl top was rusted out, so when it rained outside it rained inside as well. I think I had toads under the front seats in that ride (this was in Arkansas.)

Toads under the seats were better than the way the U.S. changed in those couple of years away.
posted by metagnathous at 5:21 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

I bought a Saturn in 1992.

I was a young, single, female professional working for (gasp) a subsidiary of Chrysler. My old Honda Accord was giving up the ghost and since I really liked my Honda, I went in to a nearby Honda dealer to look at the car. The salesman gave me a look up and down. Blond twenty-six year old with my little purse. He showed me some new Hondas and we began to talk price. I whipped out my HP12C calculator and ran through some basic scenarios of what the base price or the interest rate would have to be in order to get me to the monthly payment that would get me to buy that day.

He made a face and drawled, "Why don't you come back with your dad?"

I was pissed.

I walked in to a Saturn dealership the next day and looked at the cars. This was a BIG LEAP for me because, although I worked for a subsidiary of Chrysler, I didn't have a very good opinion of American cars. I had a pretty heavy commute and I tended to drive cars pretty hard. So, for me to even consider buying American was a pretty big deal.

It was a uniquely wonderful customer experience.

The salespeople were polite and deferential, respectful and professional. No one was condescending. Everyone was happy to talk about what was under the hood, within the doors, etc. They had a Saturn that was in pieces in the middle of the showroom floor so you could look inside every nook and cranny. You could put a door on the floor and JUMP UP AND DOWN ON IT IN HEELS to check out the dent resistant body. It was a bit strange but also a bit wonderful not to have to haggle for the car. You didn't stress out, wondering if you had left any money on the table or if someone got a better deal than you did or if you were being discriminated against.

I signed on the dotted line. And the lovefest didn't stop there. You were welcomed into the Saturn family with a whole packet of information about your car before you even got it. Because it wasn't built yet. You selected all of the little custom accessories and then they ordered your car. You were given information about when your car would be "born"...the date that it would roll off of the line. When your car was in at the dealer, they called you and arranged for an appointment. The Saturn Rep would meet you at the door, your car would be in the showroom IN A SPECIAL GLASS ATRIUM with your name on a sign, a red carpet up to the driver's side door, and little velvet ropes next to the carpet. You'd sit at a desk next to your car and fill out the final paperwork and the whole time different people from the dealership would be walking by and saying, "Hey! Congratulations!" (Not just salespeople. Secretaries. The parts guys.) Then, you were given a personal tour of your car. The Rep would would sit in the passenger seat or stand next to the open hood and explain every important thing about the car. At the end of that, he handed you the key. AND (this is the best, most hokey part!) people from the dealership would line up on either side of your car and all the way to the glass double doors. They would do a cheer, the doors would swing open, and you would drive your new car out of the showroom while they clapped.

It was like something out of a movie. Introvert buyers would be diving under the nearest desk. It was hokey. It was wonderful. Above all, it was the first time as a woman that ANY car dealership gave me the impression that my business mattered and my money was as good as any man's.

That was a freaking huge deal.

It was also a great car. Had no problems with it. Ran smoothly. Checking the oil and fluids was a pleasure because the usability under the hood was so unique. When I would take it into the dealer for check-ups, they also offered me the most incredibly personal customer service, lovely waiting area, offered coffee/tea/snacks, they would let me use the phone at an empty desk so I could check up with things at work (pre-cellphone days), whatever I needed. I would get my car back washed and vacuumed with a carnation on the dashboard.

Yeah, I miss THAT Saturn. RIP, Saturn.
posted by jeanmari at 5:25 PM on September 30, 2009 [52 favorites]


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posted by Jade Dragon at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2009


The only worse than an automatic in a Saturn is a stick in Uranus.

Early Saturns, including the 1995 SL2 I have had since new, had a problem with the automatic valve body acting up causing downshifting at times. I had the tranny changed out with a used newer model year one and it's been fine since, tranny-wise. The engine is designed with soft oil rings and hard engine block so while I've had the rings replaced a few times the cylinder walls are still perfectly true. I've had a timing chain let go causing major valve damage. While on an east coast road trip earlier this spring I had an exhaust valve burn through as I was leaving New Brunswick essentially leaving me with 3 cylinders to travel the 1100 kilometers through Quebec and Ontario 'til I got home, traveling at 120 km/hr. The A/C died a long time ago so I have to roll the windows down. There are rusts spots and leaks around the windows. There's a broken quarter panel. But the damn thing, after trips to the garage every so often, still keeps running and gets anywhere from 31 mpg to 38 mpg depending on how I drive. It's up to 656,297 kilometres as of this evening. It needs to go in for repair again soon but this will be the last time. I've stubbornly kept repairing it the last couple of years because it will hit 666,666 (1001 times evil) soon, probably within the next 2 months. I'll be sad when I finally have to retire it.
posted by Randwulf at 5:42 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


er, the only thing worse
posted by Randwulf at 5:54 PM on September 30, 2009


I was okay with Saturn for a long time. It seemed like someone at GM was finally paying attention to good design. Then I tried to change the oil in a 1994 SL1. The oil filter, which is the one part you can count on replacing every 3000 miles, is located on the back side of the engine, under the intake manifold, behind the belts, above the A/C hoses and CV boot. There are two ways to get to it: have the special $400 tool that the Saturn dealer uses to get it out, or go in behind the passenger side front wheel, take off the plastic splash guard (which is held in place by little plastic pop-fasteners that aren't reusable), and stick your left arm all the way up in there, at which point your face is against the tire and you've got two fingertips on the filter, which is probably a slick finish covered in a light coat of used oil because your valve cover gasket has been leaking. So you get your two fingers up in there, because there's no room for a typical oil filter wrench, and you wrestle with it with whatever might your left hand can manage, and finally break it loose. Then the used oil pours out of the filter (because it's mounted sideways) onto your belts, A/C hoses, CV boot, and garage floor.
For comparison: on both of my 90's-era Dodges, the oil filter was right on the front of the engine, in a vast wide open space, easily accessible from top or bottom, with nothing above or below it, and enough room to fit half my toolbox in there and still get an oil filter wrench in. No, they weren't exactly great cars, but neither of them burned half as much oil as that Saturn did, and I didn't mind oil changes.
I know I'm a bit of an anachronism and that most people don't do their own car maintenance anymore, but I also know that someone has to do it, and any additional pain in the butt in doing it gets translated into pain in the customer's wallet.
posted by leapfrog at 6:00 PM on September 30, 2009


Certainly GM is taking what they have learned from their Saturn investment and incorporating it into their existing plants and facilities where practical.

No. They're not. And they won't.

(Former satisfied '98 SW1 and '00 SC2 owner.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:06 PM on September 30, 2009


OK, when you have just read an astronomy article... Then you read "gravity" and your brain says "OK, more astronomy. Go on..."

And then you see "Saturn is no more." And then your head explodes.

And now I must go finish reading the rest of this not-quite-as-disturbing bad news.
posted by Nauip at 6:16 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a Saturn 1993 SL2. Worst car I've ever owned. My previous car, a Renault Alliance, was far more dependable.

In the first 84,000 miles, the damn thing broke down on me 4 times. I had 2 alternators die & replaced. Then, the final icing on the lemon cake......at 84,000 miles the automatic transmission self destructed.

One of the happiest days of my life was when the tow truck came and hauled that sucker off to the Kidney Foundation.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 6:51 PM on September 30, 2009


I have a 14 year old Saturn SW2 wagon. It is, without exception, the best car I have ever owned. It is my best friend. I weep at this news. (C'mon, pal. Let's cruise.)
posted by SPrintF at 7:32 PM on September 30, 2009


For a minute, I seriously thought I might be on some kind of candid camera show, because who gets excited over a ten year old beat to shit economy sedan?

Saturn owners. From the outset there has been a sort of marketer-designed attempt to cultivate a mystique to the vehicle, and Saturn owner in my experience seem to feel themselves to be in a club with other people who drive the same car in a way that Honda Prelude drivers do not. My favourite manifestation of the Saturn Club was an early adopter friend of mine (who, incidentally, went by Firstname Middlename Lastname so we called him Threenames).

Threenames bought one of the very first Saturns sold in Canada and regaled us all with tales of the things the company did for the owners. A prime example would be when the company would rent out an entire drive-in and held a party for the Saturns, where the owners all get to go and see the double bill and get free popcorn and a drink in between the flicks. Threenames mentioned how he loved this... until he went for his complimentary popcorn and Coke between shows, stepped out of the concession stand, went to head back to his car and realized that he was standing in a field of eight hundred identical cars. He was reduced to pacing the rows of vehicles, balancing a double armful of popcorn and Coke, peering through the gloom to see if he could recognize his license plate, while all his fellow Saturn owners did likewise.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:56 PM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course. I just bought a Saturn.
posted by Eideteker at 8:06 PM on September 30, 2009


CLEARLY WE HAVE TO PROTECT URANUS
posted by Pronoiac at 8:16 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My previous car, a Renault Alliance, was far more dependable.

As someone else who owned a Renault Alliance, I can honestly say that I never expected to see those words strung together in that particular order.

In the space of one year, I went from an Alliance to Ford Escort with a damaged pneumatic support for the rear hatch which turned it into what was, in essence, a giant serrated rusty bear trap, and then a Datsun 210 with no front struts and dodgy brakes.

I still consider the Renault to be the worse of the three.
posted by quin at 8:37 PM on September 30, 2009


I was thoroughly charmed by this Saturn commercial from about ten years ago, and will remember it forever. Good job, ad men! Of course, never spent a thin dime on a Saturn.
posted by Kwine at 9:43 PM on September 30, 2009


> The Saturn is, quite frankly, astonishing in its ability to just-keep-going.

I have a 2000 SL2 with 130k miles that has required zero maintenance beyond oil/tire/brakes since I got it pre-leased on the cheap. Still gets great gas mileage and looks new. I will miss this company. :( I don't see myself buying American again for a long time.

> My previous car, a Renault Alliance, was far more dependable

Oh my god, is this a joke? This was my second car and it was the worst thing ever. And being in the US, the only parts I could get were expensive. It went through 3 starters in a year before I just relied on getting friends to push-start it or parking on a hill so I could pop the clutch (I was poor!), the CV joints were so bad I thought my wheels might come off at any second, none of the electrical system worked, and then finally the transmission literally fell out in pieces one fateful evening. It had 3/4 the miles of my Saturn. I get the shakes just seeing "Renault".
posted by cj_ at 10:08 PM on September 30, 2009


Meanwhile, Bombardier is getting a $4B contract for high speed trains in China. Maybe GM should take a step back and reconsider their aspiration to be "world leader in the automobile industry" and consider just being the leader in just getting people around?
posted by msittig at 11:44 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a 2000 SL2. Best mid-sized subcompact I've ever owned.

The buying experience was also much better than that at other dealers. Their no-hassle approach worked for me. I remember that I was able to walk onto the lot and look around during business hours without a salesman sprinting over to me and immediately annoying me with his asinine banter. Dude, if I wanted your opinion I would beat it out of you, was the thought I had had at the Honda, Toyota, Ford, and Chevy/Pontiac dealers.

Still, like my father used to tell me, there are no good brands of cars, just brands that suck less than others. I'll not mourn Saturn (after all, it was just a corporation that made stuff), but they did make, at least once, a really good car for me.
posted by moonbiter at 12:00 AM on October 1, 2009


> The buying experience was also much better than that at other dealers. Their no-hassle approach worked for me.

Yeah, I didn't touch on that, because I imagine people who've never bought one think it's bullshit. But I genuinely had a pleasant experience. My understanding is Saturn was unique (or at least, very rare) in that their sales force did not work off commission or kick-backs.

I'm still rocking my 2000 SL2, and I love it, but a hybrid of some sort is my next car, so I don't mourn them so much as feel sad that a division dedicated to user experience and economical cars sank under the lack of demand for this. GM's SUV's and pick-up lines are vastly more profitable.
posted by cj_ at 2:40 AM on October 1, 2009


I had a '97 SL2 for a company car...I put 30K miles on it in the 9 months I had it before the company retired it with 157K on it. Despite the fact that the front end rattled, and the fact that at interstate speeds when you stepped on the accelerator to pass, the car only laughed at you and made more noise rather than actually going faster, it never failed to turn in at least 35mpg, usually 40, and religiously sucked up 1 1/2 quarts of oil between oil changes. No other issues.

Just a boring, small sedan. It did its job with no drama.
posted by rhythim at 6:02 AM on October 1, 2009


I bought a Saturn at around the same time as jeanmari (and was the same age, early 20s) and had an identical experience. Plus, my salesman taught me how to drive stick - the week before my delivery date I'd drop by after work and we'd go for drives up in the hills. Post-sale, whenever I'd drop by for an oil change or a car wash (which were free) everyone would still remember my name and it was a huge deal for me that they were still friendly after they sold the car.
posted by superkim at 6:20 AM on October 1, 2009


We love our 2002 Saturn; it's never given us a moment's trouble and we'll hang onto it as long as we can. Also:

> It was a uniquely wonderful customer experience.

Yes. I dread having to buy another car because we'll have to go through all the haggling and bullshit. Dammit, GM!

.
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on October 1, 2009


Popping back in with a correction: 2000/1 SL1. Beige. Scuffed.

The interior rattles on the interstate enough to give me an excuse to turn my music up; the transmission goes " whum-whum-whum" between 1.5 and 2.5k revs in D in a way that used to worry me but hasn't killed it since it started 2 years ago. The plastic door panels resist denting AND the paint is lovebug-guts proof (my husband's Totota, on the other hand, looks like someone shot gravel at the paintwork because dead lovebugs ate through it). H

er name is Sylvia and she's lovely.

The local dealership, however, can suck it. The service department (Saturn/Mitsubishi) seems to think if they don't service my car properly, I'll buy a new Mitsubishi from them instead. Also they send me letters addressed to a Mr. (I'm a lady) about aforementioned Mitsubishis. This has put me right off Mitsubishis.
posted by subbes at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2009


The no-haggle sales policy and the sales experience in general was a large part of me buying my first Saturn back in 1997. I was in the market for a car after my old Honda had been totalled in a four-car pileup. I went back to the Honda dealership and they tried to upsell me and talked to the male car geek friend I'd brought along to advise me, to the exclusion of the woman with the checkbook who'd be driving the car. If that was how I was treated on a test drive, I didn't want to know what the haggling experience would have been like.

The Saturn people let me investigate the models on the floor and talked to me when I asked questions, and didn't try to upsell me on the car I wanted. Also, and this is very important in Texas, the air conditioning wasn't a $2K dealer add-on the way it was with the Honda. I think the Saturn I got was slightly more expensive than the Honda I wanted without the AC, but who drives in Houston without AC anyway?

I wouldn't expect to have that kind of experience at the Saturn dealership in Austin, but the folks at the VW dealership here where we get warranty work done on my husband's Beetle don't hassle me and don't treat me like an idiot. I'd like to think it's easier to buy a car as a woman without being condescended to or otherwise treated offensively than it was 10-15 years ago, but I'm setting my expectations low for when I do have to replace my old Saturn in a few years.
posted by immlass at 9:06 AM on October 1, 2009


I thought that division went under years ago with Oldsmobile. I've only seen the older ones on the road. The ones with those 2 auxillary lights (running lamps I guess) in the center of the grille that were always burning your retina because they were aimed too high.

American cars are not quaint and quirky. They suck and they are boring to drive. I had a late 70's Fiat 124 that was more fun to drive than recent rental of a 2009 Mustang.
posted by Zambrano at 9:17 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


My 98 Saturn station wagon (Batly, because the Maryland DMV actually gave me a license plate that said BAT on it, which was awesome) has almost 170,000 miles on it and except for a couple of clutch issues over the last couple of years, has never needed anything beyond routine maintenance. I love my car. I loved buying it for all the reasons listed above (although the whole cheering routine, flowers and stuff did have me wanting to dive under the nearest desk; I can still remember how red my face was as I drove it out through those glass doors.) and I love how long it has lasted. Even the cassette deck still works. It's still getting great mileage and I'm perfectly content driving my 11 year old car all over the east coast. I drove it to New Orleans and back for the 10th party and it made the 1300 or so mile round trip without an issue. Plus I can park it anywhere and know that nobody will ever bother to steal it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2009


Well, at least someone is learning lessons from Saturn. I had a great experience buying my car from a no-haggle dealership. It's the largest Toyota dealer in the state.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2009


.
It's really too bad. They made really great cars and had great service before GM bought them.

My husband and I both love our Saturns. :(
posted by threeturtles at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2009


GM didn't buy Saturn. They were a wholly owned GM subsidiary from day one.
posted by Mitheral at 11:31 AM on October 1, 2009


They made really great cars and had great service before GM bought them.


Saturn was a divison created by GM.
posted by Zambrano at 11:31 AM on October 1, 2009


A few years ago, my sister rear-ended me. I was driving a '90 Toyota Camry, and she had a newer Saturn (don't remember the exact year). Our bumpers hit. Her Saturn was totaled - major front end damage, bent frame, the works. My Toyota had a slight, painty scuff on the bumper.

A bit sorry to see Saturn go, but only because of the innovative no-haggle deal they had. Otherwise, Toyota all the way!
posted by dorey_oh at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2009


A few years ago, my sister rear-ended me. I was driving a '90 Toyota Camry, and she had a newer Saturn (don't remember the exact year). Our bumpers hit. Her Saturn was totaled - major front end damage, bent frame, the works. My Toyota had a slight, painty scuff on the bumper.

The newer car had crumple zones and collapsed intentionally to protect the passenger compartment.

That said, I was once in an accident while driving my old '85 Saab 900 when I was hit from behind by an early '90s American car. The Saab had some of the American car's paint on the rear bumper and on the tail lights (which did not break or crack). The American car was totalled. That almost redeemed the Saab for all of the things about it that sucked. Almost.
posted by The World Famous at 9:03 PM on October 1, 2009


I have a 2000 Saturn wagon that has been a workhorse. I whitewater kayak, and often have 4 guys, 4 kayaks, and gear in the car and rumble down forest service roads in the thing. The stick shift is its saving grace; I think it would feel well-underpowered without it. I'll drive it into the ground.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:08 AM on October 5, 2009


Here is where I will express gratitude to my dearly-missed former Saturn sedan, for leaving me with only a concussion and airbag burns, after I got into a major accident. Thanks for doing a good job of shielding my weak-ass soft body in that godawful wreck, though you gave your life to do so.
posted by Coatlicue at 2:20 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I return to this thread, again, with more Saturn. Because mine just hit 90K and now all the bits are starting to fall apart because of aforementioned dealership lack of proper work, and I think it might be time for a new car. and I don't want to have to haggle, so I'm sort of fucked.
posted by subbes at 1:34 PM on October 10, 2009


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