Penske, the Man and His Dream


How is it that with General Motors you always get the cruelest possible outcome? Rather than being allowed to die with some shred of violated-in-every-orifice, burned-beyond-recognition dignity, the Saturn brand will be kept alive beyond its two-year death sentence.

Roger Penske, a Michigan-based businessman with interests in auto racing, truck leasing, and most importantly manufacturing and auto dealerships (Penske Automotive Group is the second-largest dealership chain in the United States), has signed a memorandum of understanding with GM that would allow Penske to "obtain the rights to the Saturn brand, acquire certain assets including the Saturn parts inventory, and have the right to distribute vehicles and parts through the Saturn Dealership network."

Penske press release here. Green Bay Press Gazette article here, which says Penske's best claim to Saturn is that his dealerships market Daimler's 8'8″ Smart (or smart) cars. Smart cars are getting blown off the highway like so many, um, Smart cars getting passed by an 18-wheel fuel truck on an interstate. Fewer than 30,000 Smart units move per year at 75 dealerships, while Saturn sells a rapidly declining 188,000 vehicles per year at 380 locations. Penske Automotive already deals Cadillac and other GM brands, so it's possible he wants to buy Saturn for the dealerships.

Penske has lines in parts manufacturing, and GM will stop building the Saturn in two years. Penske claims to be looking for somebody to come in and take over production. Assuming the deal goes through, best of luck to Penske in managing a brand GM could have made something out of but ended up finding too girly and greenish for its refined taste.