It’s not every day that an automaker gets to be named after a rocket (especially a famous rocket like the Saturn V), but such was the case with the Saturn car brand. Founded by General Motors on January 7, 1985, Saturn was GM’s response to the need for smaller, more fuel-efficient, more practical, and more reliable cars after the oil crisis of the ‘70s. Unlike how it set up other brands like Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile (as in-built divisions), GM initially established Saturn as a separate company. Saturn was marketed as “a new kind of car company”; one that would give Americans better offerings in the small car segment than those that Japanese automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Datsun were offering at the time.
When General Motors referred to Saturn as “a new kind of car company”, it meant every word. Everything about the Saturn Corporation was new, from its production plant and its workers to its car designs and engine options. Saturn even had its own dealership network. Besides all the above, GM also used Saturn to test a new ownership structure that would give the technicians and engineers in the production plant a say in how Saturn cars were to be designed and built. Through their United Auto Workers (UAW) union, the production plant workers could tell the engineers and the management what they felt would work in the car building. Saturn was the first automaker to use this private, employee-owned company concept. It made the employees more loyal, which translated to high productivity. However, in 2004, GM bought out the Saturn employees and the Saturn Corporation’s operations were integrated with the rest of GM.
Another new concept that GM rolled out with the Saturn Corporation was haggle-free pricing. With haggle-free pricing, the price showed on the car’s sticker was the price that the car buyer would pay, regardless of whether the buyer would order the car from the production plant or would buy it at one of the Saturn dealerships. Also, to further enhance the dealership experience for car buyers, Saturn dealership employees would also applaud the car buyers when they would purchase a car.
In 1991, Saturn debuted its first car series – the Saturn S-series. The SL sedan and the SC coupe models of this series were released to the public that year; an SW station wagon model was added in 1993. The Saturn vehicles that followed were the L-Series midsize sedan/station wagon in 2000, the VUE compact SUV in 2001, the ION compact car in 2002, the Relay minivan in 2004, the Sky roadster, the Aura midsize sedan, and the Outlook full-size crossover SUV in 2006, and the Saturn Astra compact car (which would later be renamed as the Opel Astra) in 2007.
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