GM to sell Saturn to Penske

Penske Automotive Group, owned by racecar legend Roger Penske, will buy GM's castoff brand.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By David Goldman and Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writers

saturn_aura.03.jpg
Penske will buy the Saturn brand, but GM will continue to make select models, like the Aura.
Photos
Pontiac's road to oblivion
The Pontiac most of us know today really started in the early 1960s. Over the years, there have been several attempts to bring it back.

Find your next Car


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Bankrupt automaker General Motors Corp. announced Friday that it will sell its Saturn unit to car dealership operator Penske Automotive Group.

Penske (PAG, Fortune 500) is owned by former race car driver Roger Penske, who owns NASCAR and IndyCar racing teams.

The deal gives Penske the rights to the 19-year old brand including its five different models. GM would continue production of only the three highest-selling models: the Aura sedan, and the Vue and Outlook cross-over SUVs, for the next two years. The Saturn Sky and Astra models will be discontinued.

Penske, which has no Saturn dealerships in its network, will act only as a distributor for Saturn cars and parts to the brand's dealer network. Like almost all car dealerships in the U.S., Saturn dealerships are independently owned businesses.

Penske has no plans to open any Saturn dealerships, said Anthony Pordon, senior vice president at Penske Automotive.

The arrangement is similar to the deal under which Penske distributes Daimler AG's tiny Smart car in the United States. Penske does operate a small number of its own Smart dealerships, however, in addition to handling wholesale deliveries of the car to other dealerships.

The deal, which GM expects to be completed in October, would save more than 13,000 jobs at Saturn and its roughly 350 dealers nationwide. All of Saturn's dealerships sell only Saturn vehicles, so they are reliant on the brand's continuation for their survival.

"There has been a groundswell of support for Saturn, with our retailers and owners urging us to save the brand," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn's general manager. "We heard their call loud and clear, and it inspired us as we worked to secure Saturn's future."

Saturn's 51 Canadian dealerships are not part of the deal.

The sale is part of GM's strategy to shed its four "non-core" U.S. brands -- Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac and Saab -- as it restructures the company.

On Tuesday, GM (GMGMQ) announced a deal to sell its Hummer line to China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd.

In search for a maker: GM has said it would stop producing Saturn vehicles by 2011. To replace GM as the brand's manufacturer, Penske is in discussions with several global automakers. One likely replacement is Renault Samsung Motors of Korea, Automotive News reported.

"We have been in discussions on a worldwide basis with many people that have an interest in this marketplace," Penske said.

Penske indicated that the post-GM brand will focus on fuel economy. An expert said that move would likely return Saturn to its more successful roots of a lower-end, competitive-priced car company. Still, much will depend on the quality of cars that it sells.

"It's really going to depend on who Penske partners up with," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com. "Even if it sells good, global-standard vehicles, Saturn will need to stand for more than just the retail experience."

Anwyl said Saturn had not been hitting its sales targets as it moved to better-quality -- but more expensive -- cars over the past few years. He said the no-haggle pricing turned off many potential buyers who thought that they could get a better deal elsewhere.

Saturn's new management: Penske said he wants Lajdziak to stay on at the company, and he also offered former Chrysler President Tom LaSorda a top spot at Saturn. Penske hired LaSorda in May as a consultant for the Saturn deal.

Lajdziak would not yet say if she would accept the position.

"My total focus every waking minute has been to get to this point, to get a memorandum of understanding," she told CNNMoney.com.

The Saturn brand has been highly rated in customer satisfaction surveys for its no-haggle policy. Though Saturn sales have slumped badly this year, the brand actually far outsold Buick and Cadillac in 2008, when it was GM's fourth highest-selling unit. GM has sold more than 4 million Saturns since 1990.

Roger Penske told CNNMoney.com that he's "happy" to get Saturn's 3.5 million customer base, though it's too soon to start talking about global growth for the company.

Penske Automotive is the nation's second largest auto dealer and currently sells over 40 brands at its 310 dealerships, half of which are in the United States. Shares of Penske rose 3% in afternoon trading. To top of page

Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
Most 'one percent' moments of 2014 This year was all about more money, more problems. Here's a look at the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the 1% over the last year. More
6 products to keep the skies friendly Plane travel can be stressful, especially during the holidays. These things can help keep the peace among travelers. More
2014: Helluva good year for stocks The bull market has been going for 2,115 days. If you put you're money in stocks, it's been a very happy year. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.