Another clue came when there was no homecoming in 2004.
But as we have learned, there are no permanent victories in the auto business and just at the apogee of success, Saturn would begin a long, tragic fall to irrelevancy and failure.The company assembled its own bodies and engines at Spring Hill and after its favored status began to wear off, had to compete with other divisions for attention and capital from the fourteenth floor.By now, Saturns small car was no longer among the class leaders.Then the hammer fell from the UAW: In 2004 the unions special relationship with the company was dissolved and for all practical purposes, the Saturn experiment had ended.( first posted 10/18/2011 earlier in this space we traced the promising birth (and rapid maturation) of GMs first new nameplate since the depression.It is not too much to say that the operation was a success but the patient died.A wagon was added in 1992 and by the end of the millennium, the company was celebrating job number two million.
And by the mid 2000s with GMs market share shrinking with every ten day sales report, the Saturn experiment was a luxury that the company could no longer afford.After early 2006, the parent company was in such a freefall that it couldnt even save itself, much less an experiment that might never show a real money in / money out profit.The seeds of the descent had been sowed at the founding, but it was only after the car was history that we understood that part of our narrative.Milestones (and milestone cars) seemed to fly by for the half decade after launch as Saturn went from one product triumph to the next.But as well see, the descent of the division was a slow, painful experience that revealed that the old GM way cabbage patch 1990 first edition was not dead, just dormant.Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer were cut loose as the company desperately sought to save something from the wreckage that had been the old.The L series was a major disappointment for GM and its failure began the slide to oblivion for its maker that ended in October 2009.The car was the Saturn and in its earliest days, it offered the hope that a new way of designing, building and marketing cars would revitalize its parent company.By this time, Saturn was on life support, with the final models little more than renamed Opels.In the fall of 1999, the long awaited new Saturns began rolling off the line at Spring Hill and in Wilmington, Delaware.SUVs were taking off explosively then and even though the traditional Saturn owner was not a trend hopper, the project went ahead.(despite good attendance at the previous two events as above) And finally the mediocre, badge engineered L series was another top down GM program from the bad old days.The enormous outlay could never be recouped.
How could a company with a dynamite product and excellent customer service possibly fail after just a few model design cycles?