Last Rites for GM's Saturn

GM's innovative marque goes into the graveyard and receives some less-than-fond obituaries

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The imminent death of GM's Saturn brand after negotiations collapsed on Wednesday has prompted pundits to administer their last rites to a marque that what was once hailed as the automaker's re-invention. Some writers, thinking of the thousands of lost jobs, are mourning its demise. But many harder-nosed business analysts, citing the division's inability to turn a profit, bid it good riddance.

  • An Experiment Gone Horribly Awry, says Alex Taylor III at Fortune. Former GM CEO Roger Smith "tried to do it all at once. He tried to bypass GM's balkanized manufacturing system by combining all of Saturn's factory operations in one place. He tried to whitewash GM's sorry union relations by giving workers a piece of the action in exchange for more cooperation."
  • A Tragedy for Workers, laments Patrick at Political Byline. A conservative blogger, he says that others on the right "would use this opportunity to bash the unions and the Democrats and Obama for their polices; I am just not going to do it...As a Son of an autoworker; I know the feeling of Dad being laid off, not knowing if he was going to be working again or not. I have been there. So, I am just not going to politicize this at all. I will leave that the other heartless bloggers, who get their kicks on trashing those who actually work for a living; unlike some of the bloggers who trash them. I could name names, but I think you know who I mean."
  • A Blessing in Disguise for GM, suggests David Welch at BusinessWeek. "While GM wanted to sell Saturn, the automaker may have dodged a bullet. Saturn's retail network consists of some of GM's best dealers."
  • A Gift to Taxpayers, says Evan Newmark in the Wall Street Journal. "America doesn't need Saturn, its brand or its cars. And it certainly doesn't need another plaything for Washington's industrial planners. So taxpayers rejoice, Saturn is dead."
  • A Business Model Destined to Fail, says Mark Ritson at Harvard Business Review. "The brand should be remembered as a failure from the start for three reasons. First, it failed to deliver on its mission to fend off the Japanese imports that now dominate the US market. Second, it managed to lose billions of dollars at a time when GM needed every penny it could muster. Third, Saturn represents perhaps the single biggest explanation for GM's current precarious situation. Saturn's demise did not take place on Wednesday of this week. It started on a cold morning in Michigan a quarter century ago with the launch of a business model fatally flawed."
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