Can Saturn be saved? ~ Brand Mix

Friday, February 20, 2009

Can Saturn be saved?

The very first Saturn rolls off the assembly line in Spring Hill, Tenn: Saturn on Flickr

Amidst all the doom and gloom coming out of Detroit, perhaps a spark of hope?

When I first heard the news that Saturn dealers were going to try and save the brand, I was only half-listening and I just assumed that they were going to try and do some buy out or try and find private equity (a la MG Rover) . ºDoomed to failureº, I thought.

But now, as I read this report, I think that well maybe this plan might work. The deal, still being negotiated, would spin off Saturn's distribution network and open it up to products from other automakers.

"The goal - from a product perspective - would be to find future vehicles that match the Saturn brand: fuel-efficient, safe, reliable and affordable," Jill Lajdziak, general manager of Saturn, said in the memo sent to the dealers.

Now, on the one hand, we're not exactly short of dealerships right now and everyday there's news of dealers closing up shop. On the other hand, it's the dealership experience that has always been the true differentiator for Saturn ever since it opened up back in 1990 with its "no hassle" flat price promise. So to create a new business that focuses on the dealerships and allows them to source cars from different manufacturers makes a lot of sense. It plays to the real strength of the brand's equity.

It certainly seems a lot more promising than Saab's approach. It has just filed for creditor protection and will be leaning on the government to protect the jobs of its workers. Here GM's failure to invest in the brand is much more damaging because Saab is all about performance and having a technological edge, something that can't easily or quickly be restored.

1 comment:

Denise Lee Yohn said...

how timely! i was just thinking about saturn for my blog series on brands that have failed to live up to their potential (http://deniseleeyohn.com/bites/category/brand-disappointments/) and the thing i kept on coming back to was that back in 1985 the company had based its launch on the idea that it wasn't just a different kind of car, it was a different kind of car company.

saturn certainly lost that focus over the years, but i don't think it's a lost cause -- i believe they have latent brand equity in the idea of its singular focus on people. if they can get back to being about the people who buy and drive their cars, there is indeed hope for the brand.

don't know if their dealers should be the ones to, er, drive that, but let's hope someone figures it out.

 
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