During the 70s, GM, the quintessential American car brand, began having troubles with sales as the oil crisis gained in intensity. Their big gas-guzzling engines were no match for European and Asian imports and as a result the company’s image suffered. To fight this, GM launched a new brand of cars, Saturn Motors, on January 7, 1985. The name was taken from the Saturn rocket, the one that carried the astronauts to the moon in the 60s.
An interesting fact is represented by the number who started out this company: 99 people from all backgrounds: design, production, marketing etc. known from that day on as “the 99”. OK, they started out as 100, but one of them dropped early on hence the 99.
Production of Saturn cars began in the early 90s and the purpose from the get-go was to emulate foreign marketing strategies such as the Japanese ones in order to put up a fight on the American market. Such strategies included better quality control which translated into better reliability of the finished product and more control for the workers in the plant.
Soon after the first cars hit the streets of America, favorable reviews start pouring in. Sales go well as Saturn cars start earning one award after another. In 1993, Saturn reported it’s first profitable year and everything seemed to be going well for the small GM-owned brand. By 1995 they had made their first million cars. A unique feature on Saturn cars in the beginning were dent-proof body panels (Z-Body) but after 2000, they were slowly put out of production.
Also after 2000 GM starting taking a more active interest in Saturn as a company and interfered with its line-up and general policies. Today, most models in the Saturn line-up are copied after Opel cars, just like Vauxhalls are in the UK.
Starting with 2003, sales for Saturns began to dwindle which forced GM to retire several models like the L- series and the Ion. Latest reports say that GM is now looking to sell or even shut down Saturn in order to alleviate the financial pressure it’s under at the moment.