Reader Question: Saturn?

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Here’s the  latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mark asks: The other day I saw a Saturn for the first time in quite a while. Do you know what happened to those? They used to be fairly popular and I think they are out of business now. I was just wondering if you knew what happened there.

My reply: Saturn was a division of GM – until it was cancelled back in 2010. It was created to be GM’s new small car brand back in the ‘80s – when GM small cars were in general disrepute. The idea being to start with a “clean slate.” 

Initially, Saturns were not just rebadged and re-sold Chevys. The early cars, like the SL and SC, had unusual design features such as space frames and non-structural composite  plastic exterior panels. They were also fun to drive little cars that got good gas mileage and they sold well.

But over time, Saturn  – like GM – drifted into a kind of ennui of mediocrity and many of its models became rebadged other-GM-brand models.

The division lost market share and after GM went bankrupt circa 2009, it was cancelled.

That said, Saturns – even the latter-era ones – aren’t bad cars and even though the brand is no more you can still easily get necessary parts. And because the brand is no more, you can often find great deals on these things.

For a beater/commuter car, I’d buy one myself for precisely this reason.

Remember: Popular almost always means pricey… .

I’d also buy a solid (and cheap!) Pontiac Aztec, by the way – for the same reasons. Of course, I am weird!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I own three SL-2 (twin cam) Saturn 5 speed sedans all designed & mfg in Tennessee. Oldest 1996, newest 2001. Excellent suspensions hold up on our local gravel roads. Easy 40 +mpg below 75 mph (now age 84 I yield to 600 HP pickups pulling loaded 5th wheel trailers I-25 at 90 mph!). Single cam SL-1’s are underpowered and less durable.
    Fully independant rear susp, polymer body panels, excellent crash tests, steel timing chain when all competition had rubber belts. Weight < 2500 lbs. I easily haul several 10ft long poly pipes or 2x4s angled into empty pass seat from trunk.
    Fuel shut-off for twincam sedans occurs 110 mph (4th speed redline or 5th). Relatively rare coupes w/"faster" more expensive factory tires reportedly maxed out at 125.
    Top GM management then decided to "replace Oldsmobile" w/bigger Saturns. They shutdown Tennessee including separate engineering moving everything North. Those bigger cars never were very good.

    • Hi Bob,

      The early Saturns were neat little cars for all the reasons you’ve adduced: Light, efficient and fun to drive. GM would have done better to retire Olds, which by the time had been converted into a line of FWD, smallish cars – which was like marketing margarine as butter.

  2. I put 150k on a 2002 Saturn SL. Cheap to buy….great mileage (40 on the highway)…good car.

    Pontiac Aztec?

    Fond memories of Walter White.

  3. Saturn: Proof that it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys.

    Or in the case of GM, chickens.

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