It’s pure conjecture, but many feel that if GM had just pumped enough money into the brand in the mid-90s to keep its wildly popular SL and SC lines fresh and competitive, the brand would be uniquely poised to sell big in this down market with a collection of small, efficient, and funky-fresh designs. Legions of fans once attended Spring Hill
love-inshomecomings, foamed at the mouth while describing dent-resistant polymer bodyside panels, and gushed about haggle-free dealer pricing. Homecomings for a car brand. How did GM fritter away public enthusiasm at a level eclipsed only by the Obama campaign?
GM’s “huge bundle of money” invested into Saturn resulted in the atrocious Ion, followed by nothing less than a spasm of badge-engineering. They took some pretty decent Opels and plopped Saturn badges on them (L-series, Astra, VUE). They also dismantled the hallowed Spring Hill plant, re-tooled it for Chevrolet Traverse crossover production, plopped a Saturn badge on that crossover’s platform, and called it an Outlook.
Every Saturn owner I know bought their cars largely because of the dent-resistant body panels. When the division gave up on them – and gave dealers rebadged Chevrolets, like the Relay minivan (anyone ever seen one on the road?) – Saturn’s fate was sealed.