the fall of Kronos…

with the 30 September termination of talks between Penske and GM on the sale of Saturn, another American car company is relegated to historical status. and, like the vast majority of failed car companies, deservedly so.

Saturn was an interesting experiment in the 1980s, an attempt to beat the Japanese in their own specialty. acknowledging the superiority of cars from Honda, Toyota and others, GM decided circa 1982 to build a new small car different from anything they’d done before. by 1985, they’d made the decision to do it with a new company. for a corporation that already had at least ten brands, what was one more?

the early Saturn cars were fairly sophisticated and forward-looking vehicles, as well. the plastic-paneled Z-body was lightweight and durable (if somewhat flammable). the aluminum castings in the car (including the engine block) were made using a (at the time) revolutionary lost-foam casting process. cars were sold at a set price, without the off-putting haggling other dealerships had. the EV1 was leased and serviced through Saturn dealers.

but before long (in historical terms, anyway), Saturn became just another brand at GM. instead of building its own cars, it used common platforms and engines with other GM models. the same thing that poisoned Pontiac/Buick/Oldsmobile/Chevrolet/Cadillac killed Saturn; instead of building cars people wanted, they built the same car as Pontiac/SAAB/GMC/Buick/Chevrolet/Opel/Vauxhall – just with a slightly revised grille or plastic on the dash.

and so the experiment ends; but this time, without a Golden Age to follow. Saturn is condemned instead to Tartarus.

quote of the day:

“A failure is a man who has blundered but is not capable of cashing in on the experience.” – Elbert Hubbard

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