General Motors has announced its intention to shut down the Saturn Corporation after a plan to sell the car builder to Penske Automotive group fell through late Wednesday. The "different kind of car company" GM launched in an attempt to combat the success of Japanese automakers in 1985, lasted less than a quarter century.
The New York Times reports, "Penske Automotive Group said on Wednesday it has terminated discussions with General Motors Co to acquire the automaker's Saturn brand. GM said in a separate statement it would wind down the Saturn brand and its dealership network."
Under the terms of the sale the two sides had pursued, GM would have continued to build several of Saturn's most popular models until 2011. Penske planned to buy those cars from GM and sell them through the Saturn dealership network while contracting with other automakers to design and build future cars. Saturn dealerships, under Penske's vision, might one day sell cars built by several different automakers, including foreign companies that don't currently build cars for the U.S. market.
But those plans fell apart Wednesday. CNN Money explains, "Negotiations with another manufacturer fell through after an agreement was rejected by the unnamed manufacturer's board, according to Penske." In a statement, Penske said, "Without that agreement, the company has determined that the risks and uncertainties related to the availability of future products prohibit the company from moving forward with this transaction."
At least a few of the roughly 350 Saturn retailers nationwide held out some hope of survival. Tobin Oberhoulser, sales manager at a Saturn store in Lafayette, Indiana, told Automotive News, "I stay confident in [Penske Automotive Chairman] Roger Penske. He's a guy that's got unlimited resources, and I have a feeling that come once everything settles down, since we've pushed it back so far anyways, I think it will end up being worked out." Oberhoulser also raised the possibility that another bidder might step in to buy Saturn from GM.
But GM, apparently, doesn't expect a savior to come forward. In a statement on the collapse of the sale, the company said, "This is very disappointing news and comes after months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees and Saturn retailers who tried to make the new Saturn a reality. We will be winding down the Saturn brand and dealership network."