The Saturn brand for GM was an ambitious project. It was launched as a “different kind of car company” in 1990 with its own unique models built at the brand’s assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and “no haggle” prices. It was a private, employee-owned company that had its own dealer network and aimed to compete with Japanese vehicles that were dominating the compact market. It was a promising brand that opened its account with decent sales figures, but not quite the success that was expected. Those sales also ate into GM’s existing customer base and ate into the development budgets of other GM divisions.
Saturn kept pushing, though, and even expanded into Japan. However, its initial launch was just in time for the early 1990s recession. Its entry into the Japanese market started just as the real estate and stock market bubble was beginning to pop in the country. Ultimately, though, it was too ambitious of a project, managing to both overreach and cannibalize sales of other GM division vehicles. In 2004, Saturn’s operations were integrated into GM, and in 2008, GM decided it would either sell, consolidate, or close down Saturn along with Pontiac, Hummer, and Saab so it could concentrate on its core brands: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC.
It looked like Saturn would be sold to the Penske Automotive Group in 2009, but the sale fell through, and GM announced the end of Saturn in 2010.