Home » The Saturn S-Series Was A Good Car But Also A Dead End: GM Hit Or Miss

The Saturn S-Series Was A Good Car But Also A Dead End: GM Hit Or Miss

Saturn S Series Topshot
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The 1980s were rough for General Motors. After losing significant market share to Japanese imports, GM decided it needed to do something brave in order to build a decent small car: Create an entirely new entity known as Saturn. The brand was founded under a premise that became its slogan: A Different Kind Of Car Company. To escape the muck of GM, the only route forward was a new company, a new factory, a new workforce, new dealerships, a new sales model, new cars, new engines — new everything. It was one of GM’s most radical plans ever, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it took forever to come together. From the time Saturn was publicly announced in 1983, everyone knew it wouldn’t be an easy process. After all, GM was so entrenched in its way of doing things that a clean-sheet company with fresh philosophies was seen as the only way forward, despite the massive effort it entailed.

Welcome back to GM Hit Or Miss, where we rummage through the oddments drawer of GM’s pre-bankruptcy product planning in search of the automotive gold we need.

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1984 Saturn Concept

While the first Saturn concept car was ready in 1984, Saturn itself wasn’t even incorporated until 1985, and groundbreaking at its Spring Hill, Tenn. production site wouldn’t happen until 1986. According to the Baltimore Sun, it took until 1987 for Saturn and the UAW to reach agreement on how workers should be paid. Production didn’t start until 1990, at which point Saturn as a plan was eight years old. According to Time Magazine, Saturn’s ambitious and lengthy start largely sowed resentment among other GM divisions. From the magazine:

Saturn’s long and costly gestation — it took seven years before the first model rolled out of its Tennessee factory — drained $5 billion from other car projects and stirred anger and envy within GM ranks. And Saturn’s special status as a stand-alone company within GM has created a snooty attitude on the part of its dealers toward the turmoil in Detroit. “Most of our customers don’t know who makes the car,” says a Los Angeles Saturn dealer. “So when people come into the showroom and we explain that Saturn is a separate corporation, they think of it as Saturn first and GM second.”

See, the framework that Alfred P. Sloan established ran deep at GM — every brand existed in a hierarchy; Cadillac was at the top, and nobody would challenge anyone’s positions. Having a fresh, semi-separate entity run amok, soaking up $5 billion in the process? That was considered out-of-order, and it’s hard for humans to take advice and absorb all processes from something they hate. After all, part of Saturn’s mission was to be an experimental brand to help build a better GM.

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Saturn Sl Profile

Remember Saturn’s slogan? Once production-spec cars rolled around, they turned out less different from standard GM fare than one might’ve expected. For instance, the concept of plastic panels over a spaceframe was lifted from the Pontiac Fiero. Oh, and there’s more. Look at the greenhouse of the first-generation Saturn SL, then look at the greenhouse of the front-wheel-drive W-Body Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Notice anything?

Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

Eerily similar, right? This wouldn’t be an issue if wraparound glass was simply the style of the time, but in North America, it was largely a recent GM development. Strange how this so-called different kind of car came out looking much like an existing GM product.

Saturn Sl 1

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While the S-series was a much better car than the Chevrolet Cavalier, its protracted development meant that while it was competitive, it wasn’t leaps and bounds beyond established Japanese small cars of the time. As Motorweek summed up the S-Series coupe and sedan, “They may not be superior overall to the best in import subcompacts, but they are in many ways both more advanced and friendlier.”  Spend some good seat time in the original Saturn’s competitors today, and you’ll find that the AE90 Toyota Corolla is surprisingly refined, the Honda Civic was the benchmark for a reason, and the B13 Nissan Sentra is remarkably solid and athletic. While slightly embarrassing for GM given its mission to crush the Japanese, the car itself wasn’t Saturn’s ace in the hole – its production methods and dealerships were.

Saturn Factory

In Saturn’s factory, workers, management, and engineers were encouraged to collaborate to improve the cars being built. From the outset, Saturn claimed it would create a collaborative environment where workers coul “forget about hierarchy, red tape, time clocks, and all the other trappings of bureaucracy that so often come between people and the product they’re building.” While this should be familiar to anyone who’s toured a Toyota facility, this was a novel concept at GM since line workers and managers had been locked into adversarial relationships for years. Historically, problems on the production line were fixed in post, often resulting in shoddy cars. I mean, I once owned something from GM’s Sainte-Thérèse Assembly plant, so I can tell you all about dodgy build quality. As a result, Saturns simply held together better than most similar GM products of the time, and quality was key in fighting in the small car arena.

Saturn Dealership

Then there was the dealership experience. Although markup gouging has reared its ugly head over the past few years, many younger folk haven’t heard tales of how cocky Japanese car dealers were in the ’80s and ’90s. They knew their products were better than the American competition at the time, so sales staff could have a, um, unique attitude. Infighting certainly didn’t help. As Nissan Master Technician Dave Murray wrote about his back-of-house time in the ’80s in Hemmings, “The sales managers kept an overly large crew of “land sharks” on hand, as the cost of commission-paid staff was low and having everyone hungry all the time led to keen competition for each potential sale. Those guys were always wary of their coworkers, and more than a few physical confrontations took place.”

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When my dad was shopping for a new car in the late-’80s, his local Honda dealership treated him so poorly that he just walked down the street and bought a Colt. Granted, Chrysler dealers of the time weren’t paragons of customer service either, but the new car game in the early ‘90s was due for a shakeup, and Saturn delivered with no-haggle pricing that consumers liked. So what if it ended up more expensive than the traditional dealership model? It reduced hassle.

See, Saturn’s sales model was to make its customers comfortable. According to Saturn, its retailers aimed to “Bring a welcome end to the hassle that typically muddies the buying experience.” Instead of business attire, Saturn dealership employees were decked out in non-threatening sweaters, and the sales consultants, as they were called, sold cars at open tables rather than closed-off cubicles. The whole concept was to elevate transparency and customer service to the point where the cars virtually sold themselves. Oh, and the attention to customer service didn’t end after customers signed on the dotted line. The new car delivery process was moved indoors into glass pavilions, giving buyers the opportunity to really check out their new cars, even in inclement weather.

Saturn Sl 2

Let’s set aside the dealer experience for the time being and answer a more pressing question. Even though Saturn’s cars weren’t groundbreaking, were they any good? By 1991 standards, absolutely. The available twin-cam engine was reasonably gutsy, while lightweight construction and good suspension tuning made the cars easy to chuck about. In a 1992 Car & Driver comparison test, the magazine noted that “Ride is pleasantly firm without being harsh. Chassis controls body mo­tions well, and the car seems nicely tied down,” and that the Saturn S-Series offered “Good chassis composure and lots of stick.”

For years, twin-cam Saturns made for great rallycrossers, as the plastic panels could shrug off stone chips without fear of rust. Plus, for the most part, the cars were fairly reliable. Twin-cam models were consistently solid and although single-cam engines from 1992 to 1998 occasionally developed cylinder head cracks, that issue seemed to only affect a small percentage of Saturns.

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Saturn Sw 1

You could buy the S-Series as the SL sedan, the SC coupe, and later, the SW wagon, a level of choice that feels unthinkable in 2023. Compact front-wheel-drive coupes are dead, and small wagons are all jacked up and sold as crossovers. Oh, and Saturn loaded these things up with standard equipment you just wouldn’t get in Japanese cars at the time. By the early ’90s, Toyota would’ve charged you for all the air inside a Corolla VE if it could. All things considered, the original Saturns were competitive cars that remained relatively smart used buys through the ’90s. Sure, fuel economy could’ve been better, but what’s life but a tale of compromise?

Saturn Homecoming

Thanks to the quirky cars and unusual business practices, Saturn quickly developed legions of fans, some of whom would make pilgrimages to the brand’s Tennessee plant for Saturn Homecoming events. The Washington Post reports that 28,000 Saturn owners made the trip for 1994 from as far and away as Taiwan, sometimes spending hundreds of their own dollars to attend. Saturn even made special edition models to commemorate Homecoming events, which are somewhat sought after today. For a few short years, it felt like the whole Saturn experiment was working, that some sort of change was happening at an oddball division of General Motors.

1996 Saturn Sl

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However, after a promising start, Saturn started to develop the same malaise that enveloped GM as a whole. For 1996, Saturn rolled out the second-generation S-Series and although it looked markedly different from the original, it was still quite similar underneath. You still had a choice of 1.9-liter engines, either in single-jingle or twin-cam guise, both without recent developments like variable valve timing. The interior wasn’t a huge step up from that of the original S-Series either, and it all added up to a car that wasn’t revolutionary compared to its predecessor. As the Toronto Star summed it up, “Saturn still has some work to do to reach the top rung of the small-car ladder.” Adding insult to injury, the Chevrolet Cavalier had made its leap into the ‘90s a year earlier, transforming from a blocky economy car into a sleek entry-level vehicle for less money than a Saturn SL1 commanded.

1999 Saturn S Series Facelift

Just three years later, the second-generation car got a facelift with all the bits you see above to become the third-generation S-Series. New plastic panels were hung on a familiar frame, the interior received a refresh, but this was largely new skin draped over old bones. The mechanicals were still largely similar to the ones on offer in 1991, and it showed. At that point, Toyota had the all-aluminum 1.8-liter 1ZZ-FE four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing in the Corolla, and it only took a five-minute test drive to feel the difference in refinement between it and Saturn’s engine lineup. At the same time, Honda was wrapping up production of the brilliant EK Civic, Nissan had rolled out the roomy B15 Sentra, and Ford had the brand new Focus on offer.

Saturn Sc 1

Mind you, by 1998, Saturn already felt like it had an uncertain future. No truly new ground-up product, no decisive plans to follow up the earth-shaking first act, no idea how lessons learned during the program would carry through to the rest of GM. However, because GM was simply considered too big to fail at the time, Saturn soldiered on. First came the lackluster L-Series midsize sedan, followed by the unusual Ion and popular Vue. With each new product and especially full absorption into the GM hivemind, Saturn grew less and less unique, repackaging the bones of existing GM products and eventually selling Opels wholesale. The brand itself was finally extinguished in the Global Financial Crisis, but Saturn as it was promised had flatlined long before that.

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Saturn Factory 2

As much as I like the Saturn S-Series, there are two ways of looking at it. On the one hand, it was a miss because it didn’t actually have a long-term impact on GM. It was a big, ambitious experiment that resulted in zero change whatsoever. It was a good car, but it was an awful business decision, as everyone should’ve known that you can’t un-sink the Titanic on hopes and dreams. Hubris is infectious, and rot can only be cured by cutting it out and starting fresh. While it represented an idyllic future for Detroit’s most-sprawling automaker, it’s impossible to not wonder what could’ve happened if GM ploughed the initial $5 billion investment into existing brands. Then again, maybe that $5 billion was worth it for a quick burst of joy.

Viewed simply as a car, the Saturn S-Series was a hit — an unorthodox small car with impressive longevity and a forward-thinking design. As 187,000-mile Saturn SL2 owner Carol Baber told the Washington Post, “We haven’t had any real problems, and whenever there was a recall or something, they really took care of us.” While part of this longevity comes from love, part of it comes from ease of servicing. As Saturn collector Jessieleigh Freeman told Hagerty, “You can drop the entire engine and transmission cradle together, and aside from a few common issues, they’re mechanically solid.”

I’m going to call this one both a hit and a miss — The S-Series was great, but Saturn as an entity was always destined to float in space. Something this great could never survive the belly of the American industrial beast. What do you reckon?

(Photo credits: Saturn, Google Maps)

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Edward
Edward
9 months ago

Ex Saturn dealer master tech here. Spring Hill ’96. Qualified on the EV1 there.

Saturn really was different, and better than the rest of GM at that time. I was a Chevy dealer tech, then master tech from ’93-’94 prior to moving to Saturn. And yes, the Honda and Toyota dealers near us were abysmal with their shameful crooks of salespeople.

At Saturn, we frequently led our district in customer satisfaction, swapping #1 and #2 with our local LEXUS dealership. They sold $40,000 cars, we sold $13,000 cars.

Saturn dealers really did treat the customers well. Unlike most brands, when we techs found an under-$300 +/- problem on a customer car that the customer was unaware of, we could fix it under warranty on the spot, without needing to file a warranty claim and get permission from corporate in advance. Do you know how rare that was back in the 90s? Or now, where too many corporate attitudes are “if the customer doesn’t complain about it, the problem does not exist under warranty”.

And the cars were designed to be easily maintained and repaired. One front brake rotor. two spark plug numbers. Two air filter numbers. One front brake pad number. One top engine mount. And so forth.

No timing belt to be replaced every 60k to 90k. No distributor or cap or rotor – coil packs. A spin on automatic transmission filter and a drain plug on the trans, literally 10 minute trans fluid and filter changes. Lots of common parts, so the parts department was small yet had most parts in stock, no waiting to order common things. No coming back for another visit once parts came in. I could knock out a complete 30k service in 60 minutes, properly. (engine oil and filter, PCV, Trans fluid and filter, coolant drain and fill, tire rotate, torque lugs by hand with torque wrench, check brakes, check fluids, check tire pressure).

And the SOHC engine cracking the cylinder head under the cam journal was a one year only issue, 1996. We replaced those heads for free, even well out of warranty for customer goodwill.

The only real achilles heel of those S series cars was oil consumption, and they often burned a quart per 1000 even when new. Corporate wouldn’t re-ring them under warranty until it hit a quart per 500 miles, which was scandalous. The one thing they did wrong.

But if you changed the oil on time and kept an eye on the oil level, they would run forever, or until the rockers or floorpan rusted out around the rear suspension locating arms. We still have our ’96 SL2, with ice cold A/C running like a top, burning a quart every 500 miles like clockwork for the last 18 years we have owned it.

I wish it hadn’t been starved for new models and updates by GM (IMO) driven by the resentment of Chevy dealers and division officials who had much more power in GM once the CEO changed. Chevy sold a full line of profitable vehicles, Saturn just sold tiny profit compact cars. The Vue and Sky were the only decent additions (also IMO), as the Uplander, Ion, L series were all cynically half assed rebadges of some of GM’s most mediocre product, something that Saturn was explicitly founded to NOT do.

Matt Huber
Matt Huber
10 months ago

The 1994 SL1 my dad bought used in 2001 was the most reliable domestic car my family has ever owned. In five years, only the odometer quit working. It also got 40+ mpg highway and was the car I learned to drive stick in. We still miss it.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
11 months ago

Find me a first-gen SW2 in Forest Green for a reasonable price, please.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
11 months ago

I have a soft spot for Saturns. When I was shopping for my first car in 1999, I had $3k to my name and was looking at late-80’s sports cars that likely would’ve killed or stranded me. Seeing as I would be commuting to college later that year, my parents offered to assist me in leasing a new car instead. I wanted a Civic Si or Impreza 2.5RS, but both were too expensive. With GM employee discount (thanks to my grandfather, RIP), we settled on a ’99 SC2 3-door Coupe 5-speed.
It was a great car to reliably commute in and even made a great introductory autocrosser. As a teen, I slam-shifted that tranny in the 1-2 shift hard enough to require 2 shift cable replacements and I wore out the 2nd gear synchro enough that it required learning how to double-clutch my downshifts when it was cold (sorry to the future owner).
While I have several fond memories in that car, the standout was when I was attending my 2nd autocross ever. I had done pretty well (surely amplified by a long time gone by), beating a Porsche 944. I went into the dealership the next day for another set of shift cables and was asked “do you race the car?”. Well, I didn’t considrer autox racing, so I said no, but they had had a few employees at the event, who had taken notice of my runs. I was told that the warranty was being pulled. I now doubt that that took place, but it ended my autocrossing of that car. Fortunately, my friend’s stepdad, who had introduced me to autox, let me run an event in his MG A with an MG B motor, which was such a huge departure for me. My next car was a 2.8L BMW Z3 Roadster, which went on to get lots of autocross time over the years.
I have a few current friends who raced Saturns under ScR motorsports and we all have gone on to have significant careers in motorsports. Was Saturn to thank in all that? I have to think they deserve some bit of credit!

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
11 months ago

What is the question? Is the SL a hit or miss or is Saturn a hit or miss? I think the SL was a hit. I think Saturn, as it was born, was a hit. Ultimately, after becoming just another GM brand, it became a miss.

ScottyB
ScottyB
11 months ago

I was totally smitten with the first generation Saturns because they were so unexpectedly good looking (thank goodness we didn’t get the very Corsica looking prototype styling). Before the 1991 SC1, the last time US buyers were offered such a sexy face on an affordable sedan was the 1985-1989 pop up headlight Accords, and Honda had abandoned the fun, sporty look for full-on basic front ends by the time SC1 arrived.

I thought the second generation cars were a step backwards in looks though, and to this day I do loathe Saturn a bit for popularizing the faux-coupe concept with a hidden back door via the 1999 SC2. Yuck.

Last edited 11 months ago by ScottyB
Ray Cornwall
Ray Cornwall
11 months ago

I think a lot of car companies should look at the customer experience with the Saturn.

I’ve been in nicer showrooms, drank better coffee, and been given free oil changes by lots of dealers. But buying a car from a Saturn dealer was far easier than anywhere else I’ve been. I’m not built for haggling. I’ve had some Hyundai experiences that were insane in retrospect (only did that because the ex loved Hyundai). My last Honda experience was quite nice, especially as I was going through a divorce at the time.

Saturns were decent cars that ran well and didn’t make you emotionally regret the purchase at the dealership.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
11 months ago

If there’s anything that can be said for Saturn, it’s that in the Northeast, there are still Saturns moving about that look brand freaking new. Sure there’s got to be some serious rot underneath, but every other GM car from the 90’s around here was junked nearly a decade ago.

The dealership model and customer service experience would do well today. I remember that once we got a dealer (early 00’s) people who bought Saturns were hyped about the various get togethers and even an annual Lobster banquet. I’m in the minority, but I wish GM had kept Saturn alive a little bit longer.

Michael Hess
Michael Hess
11 months ago

My brother burned his sc to the ground (weed and weeds) and all that was left was a steering column, seat frames, and some skinny pieces of metal here and there. It was hilarious!

J Money
J Money
11 months ago
Reply to  Michael Hess

sounds like it.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
11 months ago

I don’t know about poor fuel economy – I had a ’93 SL2 Manual for a while, and was regularly making 100 mile trips between Worcester, MA and New Haven, CT – and I would fill up upon leaving and arrival, to calculate mileage. I was pulling a solid 50mpg highway. I’ve found very very few ICE cars since that could pull that off – managed to best it once in a 2019 rental Sentra on a trip down to NC and back, but that’s it.

Maymar
Maymar
11 months ago
Reply to  Tristan Hixon

Yeah, EPA figures don’t back up the poor fuel economy thing either – looks like across base models, a ’95 Civic was slightly better than a ’95 SL1, but a ’95 Corolla was slightly worse.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
10 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

Note that I was running the SL2, the twin-cam with 124hp – in ’93, the SL1 had an 85hp single cam. By ’95, it had been upgraded to 100hp, but either way, the twin was supposed to get worse fuel economy by far, but I consistently crushed it on the highway.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
11 months ago

People who say GM would have been better off spending $5 billion on their existing divisions miss the point: A 5 billion dollar turd is still a turd. The whole point of making Saturn its own division was because it had to be. That was the only way to get out from under GM’s business-as-usual — which was a disaster of product, management, and worker culture.

By the time Saturn ended, I was driving an Aura — an exceptional car for the time. The fact that it was “just” a car from mainstream GM shows you how far GM had come during the previous 17 years — dragged kicking & screaming by Saturn, in my opinion.

BTW, that 2nd-generation SL was the sweet spot in terms of exterior & interior design. (I had a 1999 SL2.) The refresh cheapened the exterior a little, and uglified the interior. They did a nicer job on the SC refresh IMO, but the previous one was pretty sharp too.

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I’ll disagree, I prefer the 3rd gen over 2nd. I think 1st has the most unique character. 2nd looks fine. But maybe it’s because, even though my family had owned all three at some point, it was the 3rd-gen wagon that I learned to drive on and became my first car. But, y’know, opinions 🙂 (That 3rd-gen coupe, though, MAN. Loved it.)

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
11 months ago

I had a ’97 SL2 that I absolutely loved. I wish Saturn had stuck around and kept its original premise

William Eby
William Eby
11 months ago
Reply to  Dinklesmith

I absolutely loved my ’97 SL1. Then I bought and drove better cars. When I test drove a 2002 SL1. It drove just like the ’96. It was just not that good anymore, and I didn’t buy it.

Plesiomorphus primitivus
Plesiomorphus primitivus
11 months ago

They needed a time machine to go back and change the capitol-labor relationship at GM in 1916. Not treating workers as fungible parts, and creating a Japanese-type relationship would have done the trick. And treating vehicle quality as a priority. There is a reason 10 year-old Toyotas are so expensive.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

Its as big a hit you are likely to get with one arm tied behind your back. Never truly different but worth it for marketing points and incentive to crappy union build standards. If a new company without UAW United Auto Weasels this would have worked.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Let’s not shit on unions. The UAW builds some high quality cars. Toyota proved with the Nummi plant that UAW and a friendly work environment could lead to quality automobiles.
Post-bamkruptcy GM now uses the Toyota manufacturing system which is why their cars are much better put together than they used to be (even if GM still specs shitty parts that fail sooner than Toyota parts do)

The UAW isn’t why Saturn failed

Matt Huber
Matt Huber
10 months ago
Reply to  Dinklesmith

I’m pro-union through and through, but the UAW can suck a wet fart from my ass. I’ve worked for all three of the Big 3 manufacturers as a mechanic, and I’ve worked for half a dozen import brands. The UAW is a cancer.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago

I cared for-I think-about 7 different Saturns, ranging from a 92 Sl1 to a 2000 SW2. GM did a few stupid cheap-out things—one of the biggest (aside from the ignition problem that actually killed people) was not having drain-back holes in the piston ring-lands. When people neglected oil-changes, or over-heated them, they quickly became oil-burners.

One of the smart things they did was to have the valve-body on the top of the transmission and easily accessible: took me 4 hours to change a solenoid the first time. The last time was under an hour.

the automatic transmission >would< grenade if you spun wheels frequently. But, if I’m remembering this correctly, the proactive fix was to install new input and output shaft bolts after you got up around 100k miles. Not a bad job: just drop the engine cradle down a bit over an inch (still held by its bolts) to access the cover. Grind a 12pt socket (22mm??) down a bit to make it thinner, voilà!

One stupid thing that constantly made me cuss was the location of the oil filter: it would spill the old oil all over the backside of the motor. Yes: I used all sorts of shields, but I never did it clean. Also, don’t volunteer to change a Saturn PS pump: not the worst job, but I’d rather have a mild case of the flu. There’s way more-but I’ll stop here

>>shoutout to Saturnfans! Great people on there: encouraging & and way helpful

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Ah yes, the ol’ diff pin. Getting unstuck from a snow drift could be a risky game.

Also, I second the Saturnfans shout out. I spent a lot of time on that forum.

3WiperB
3WiperB
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Another shoutout to Saturnfans from me too. I spent a lot of time there between my Vue and my Astra.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

My 97 SL2 burned a quart every 700 miles and needed new rings. I absolutely loved that car otherwise

Jay Miller
Jay Miller
11 months ago

I excitedly test drove an SC2 when they came out, but the engine NVH was shockingly bad, even by the standards of ’80s GM four-bangers I had before. A ’97 I tested out a few years later was just as bad, if not worse (to the point the hood vibration resonated throughout the cabin). I really wanted to like them, but the lack of refinement was a dealbreaker.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
11 months ago
Reply to  Jay Miller

My friend had a goofy purple one. Hard to judge them because we were driving them when they were “high school kid hand-me-down” cars but compared to all the worn-out Japanese cars we drove it sounded like a blender.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
11 months ago

It’s probably time GM brought back the Ribwich. Oh, wait we’re getting hummers now. Mmmm…hummers.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
11 months ago

Saturn always annoyed me because of how they played up their “no haggle pricing.” If you looked at the margin and dealer holdbacks they were exactly the same as any other GM product. You could have had the same no haggle pricing if you went into any other dealer and just told them you were willing to pay sticker price.

J Money
J Money
11 months ago

It was a commitment to do the sales process differently from the common, high-pressure, back-room tricks bullshit. And they largely stuck to it.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
11 months ago

Saturn was the Plano Real of GM, in more ways than one

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
11 months ago

I’d say this is a fair assessment of Saturn.
The S-Series was a hit but left to whither.
The company had almost Tesla-levels of loyalty. Seriously, they had two very popular Homecomings…completely unheard of in the 90’s.
Unfortunately, the brand didn’t really fit in the GM fold. The existing brands already overlapped and competed with each other. Import fighter? Don’t forget about Geo.

If Saturn as a concept was a well-funded organization outside of GM, I think the brand would still be around today.

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