Saturn:

GM's Chips Begin to Fall – HUMMER and Saturn Sold

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General Motors’ June 1 bankruptcy declaration was quickly followed by the announced sale of HUMMER to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company (June 2) and Saturn to Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group (June 5). Having the futures of both of these brands out from under the General Motors umbrella can give many American dealerships and their communities cause for celebration.
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Exhaust Notes #32: More Detroit Merger Talk

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Are we nearing the end of Chrysler? Or the beginning of a new blended family? Or just another day at the rumor mill?
Late on Friday, the first stories began appearing about GM and Chrysler in possible merger talks. And at least in Detroit, dominated the weekend news cycle. GM’s stock went up this morning, but given that the Dow was up 5.6% and GM went up only about 3%, the stock bump might have happened without merger talk. GM closed on Friday at $4.89, a number some say is actually less than the company would be worth in capital assets alone.

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All of this merger talk, whether these deals are realistic or not, does nothing good for public perception. The economy is weak, last week’s events on the stock market don’t reassure anyone, and talking about GM and Chrysler perhaps needing to merge to survive only further erodes confidence in American business. While GM and Chrysler LLC, as well as any other maker in trouble right now, needs to consider even unthinkable options and test our common assumptions as they get out of this trouble, this merger does not inspire hope.


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2008 Saturn Astra XR 3-Door: "American" is Not Its First Language

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For years, many automotive enthusiasts have bemoaned the fact that both GM and Ford make beautifully executed vehicles for Europe, while we Yanks get cheap and plasticky land yachts with marshmallow suspensions. It killed me that – for example – we would get crusty old Ford Tauruses while Europe got the slick Mondeo – the latest generation of which Europeans genuinely consider to give the BMW 3-Series a run for the money, despite its everyman market positioning. It also annoyed that American GM owners on a budget were stuck with Cavaliers and Ions while Europeans got the stylish Opel Astra – a sporty and stylish small car with build quality that most American GM cars of the time could only dream of.
Sometimes, GM and Ford’s American operations would bring over Americanized versions of their European cars. For the most part, however, they were simply sad shadows of what they were in Europe, with all the appealing features and finish removed for cost. Why? The rationale was that Europeans pay a lot more for their vehicles than we do, and in order to bring those costs down to levels amenable to price sensitive American customers, all the cool stuff had to come out.

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The best looking US-brand GM small car…ever?

Things have changed though. Gasoline’s $4.00 per gallon now, and GM is undergoing something of a product renaissance. Saturn, as a GM brand, is undergoing a transformation as well with customers being asked to “rethink American”. The new Aura, Outlook, Sky, and Vue are clear winners (the latter two are AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Award winners in their respective segments), and the new Astra aims to continue that success.


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2008 Saturn Lineup – The Newest Lineup in the USA

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It’s official. Saturn is no longer the brand with quirky composite commuters we remember at launch in 1990 and their recent transformation has been made with a swift but calculated hand from the European market.

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2008 Astra

Saturn’s lineup of completely new vehicles brought to us by way of Opel integration brings the brand up-market and solidifies Saturn as GM’s answer to fight foreign competition.
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2007 Saturn Sky


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2008 Buick Enclave – Top Line GM Lambda Crossover SUV

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General Motors has now completed the launch of its Lambda platform Large Crossover SUVs. The Lambda platform includes vehicles from Saturn – the Outlook, GMC – the Acadia (not ARcadia) and Buick – the Enclave). Eventually, a Chevrolet version will be added as well.
These are the landmark vehicles that represent the end of the classic body-on-frame V8 powered SUV. They are that good.
I just returned from a driving event for the recently introduced Buick Enclave in St. Louis, Missouri. When I got into the office there was a Saturn Outlook in the parking lot for the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staff to evaluate. Great opportunity for a back to back comparison of two Lambda crossovers. This story will concentrate on the Enclave – a future story will showcase the Outlook.

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Buick Enclave – First Drive
First, lets talk about the Buick. This is a vehicle that I have been waiting to drive for two years now. I think I have been to three events where Enclave was a featured subject, but this was the first opportunity I have had to drive it. Why was I looking forward to the Enclave? From my perspective it is a good size, has expressive styling inside and out, and is an example of the latest General Motors platform architecture.
Was it what I was expecting? Yeah, I guess so. First, I had to calibrate myself to the fact that the Enclave is a BUICK and what General Motors was attempting to achieve when they developed the vehicle. They wanted a vehicle with Buick ambiance – expressive, upscale styling inside and out. They wanted a spacious crossover capable of seating seven or eight passengers in three rows of seats. It was to have excellent ergonomics and be very pleasant to drive. It was to be very quiet. Check the boxes and the Lambda design and development team appears to have achieved their objectives.
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Buick Shows Off its Enclave

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In this case, the Enclave is not really a country lying within the boundaries of the Buick, but the company’s preview of a vehicle to replace the Rendezvous crossover SUV (and Rainier?). Buick’s replacement for the Rendezvous moves to a new platform (the Lambda platform) and will carry the new Enclave name. The choice of “Enclave” demontrates how tough it is for any car company to identify catchy names for its vehicles.
The Enclave is due in early 2007 as a 2008 model-year vehicle and was shown at GM’s first press conference at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to get the scoop. And while getting the scoop several agreed that the Enclave may, indeed, be the first Buick they would actually consider and that this Buick may actually appeal to other than geriatric buyers.
2006 Concept: The New Vision of Buick Style
The 2006 Enclave concept closely previews the vehicle, though it still offers a significant amount of concept eyewash. Unless there is too much confusion and laughter, Enclave is the name the product is due to wear in production. The Enclave concept focuses on furthering Buick’s luxury position, with a highly sculpted and detailed design. Buick describes the Enclave name as evoking images of style, luxury, and the privacy of a quiet, protected space. The style and luxury association with the word Enclave seems a bit of a stretch when compared with the definition of the word, but the Buick concept does succeed with demonstrating images of style and luxury.

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While the concept of the Enclave may be suspiciously similar to the Chrysler Pacifica, the Enclave styling is much more upscale and serious looking. Additionally, there is likely little risk that Enclave will be confused with a Minivan or station wagon.
The interpretation of the Buick grille is nicely proportioned to the rest of the nose, and moving the portholes from the fender to the hood gives them the appearance of being functional, whether they are or not. The chrome accents are nicely done and not overdone. Among the styling elements that are more concept than production is the way the front and rear fascias completely hug the twenty-one-inch wheels. More bumper would be needed for production, and it is unlikely twenty-one-inch wheels would be offered. The jewel-like headlights incorporate GM’s version of cornering headlights, and those will be included on the production car.
Note: All Enclaves will have portholes (Cadillac calls them “gills”). Six-cylinder vehicles will have three portholes per side while eight-cylinder vehicles will have four per side.


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Saturn Sky Quietly Introduced in Los Angeles

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Spring 2006 Sales for Saturn’s First Convertible
The wait is nearly over. After the 2002 Saturn Sky concept sparked speculation about when and if Saturn would add a convertible and was followed by a concept version only twelve months ago, the production vehicle arrives at showrooms in spring 2006. The concept introduced at the Detroit auto show and the production car on display at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show are nearly identical, though the two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster is basically the opposite of the front-wheel-drive 2002 concept.


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Land Rover LR3 for First Snow of the Season: To SUV or Not To SUV

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After an unusually warm fall, in southeastern Michigan we are experiencing temperatures more typical of January and February than November or December, complete with early snowfall well ahead of the average. By December 11, we had seen more snow than our average for the entire month of December and more snow than we’ve seen in December since 1974, according to a local newscast. Four to eight inches of the month’s ten-plus inches dropped on the evening of December 8, when snow started coming down heavy about 6 p.m. By about 9:30 p.m., it sure seemed as though three-quarters of the total had fallen. I was attending a holiday party and needed to drive about fifteen miles before I could be snug at home, I found myself grateful to be driving a Land Rover LR3. But: Grateful enough to opt for an SUV for our household fleet?

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