Four months ago, during the General Motors government bailout, bankruptcy and restructuring process, Penske Automotive Group agreed to buy the rights to the 19 year old Saturn brand. One of the components of the deal would have enabled GM to continue making the three very popular models (the Aura sedan and the Vue and Outlook crossover SUV models) for the remainder of 2009 and throughout next year.
Penske Automotive is owned by Roger Penske, former race car driver and owner of NASCAR and IndyCar racing teams. They also distribute Smart cars for Daimler AG in the United States.
Penske is in the auto distribution business but does not manufacture vehicles. In 2011, they would have had to have an agreement with another manufacturer to produce new Saturn models.
When negotiations with a third-party manufacturer broke down after an agreement was rejected by the third party’s board of directors, Penske decided to pull out of the deal to buy Saturn.
“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,” Penske said in a statement.
As a result of the decision, General Motors has decided to shut down the Saturn brand. GM CEO Fritz Henderson 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.”
The Penske deal would have saved 350 Saturn dealerships and more than 13,000 jobs after it went into effect this October. GM says this turn of events is “very disappointing” but has stated that Saturn owners will still be able to have their vehicles serviced and repaired at GM dealerships following the brand’s shuttering.
However, “no anticipated impact on plants or related losses” are expected by GM as a result of the deal’s falling through.
Saturn has a history of 4 million units sold since 1990, and has seen a recent jump in sales of their most popular products like the Sky, Vue, Aura and Outlook.
In addition to closing Saturn, GM has also slated Pontiac for closure due to restructuring efforts. Preliminary deals are in the works for the sale of Hummer, Saab and Opel.