AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
The struggling Smart brand was set to get a potential savior this year with the introduction of a new four-door based on a Nissan platform. That, however, will not happen now, as part of a new agreement where Smart and Mercedes parent company Daimler has taken back distribution of its mini-car from the Penske Automotive Group.
There are two main reasons behind the change, the first is for simplicity’s sake with the U.S. the only market in the world where Smart and Mercedes operate independently. The more important reason, however, is fuel economy, with Mercedes eager to bolster its CAFE numbers with the 41-mpg Smart fortwo.
After initial sales of 24,622 cars in 2008, Smart managed to move just 5,927 vehicles last year. While dropping the planned Nissan model does seem like a bad move, it shows signs of a long-term plan with Mercedes willing to deal with low sales in the short term in order to properly built up the Smart brand.
In the mean time, however, the future is bleak for Smart with 21 dealers set to loose their franchise rites, while the remaining 58 will be forced to soldier on with what is essentially one model (the ForTwo), as well as an ultra-niche market electric version of the car.
[Source: Automotive News]
Dodge has officially unveiled its 2010 Challenger NASCAR racer (at least from one angle) with an announcement that it will field a two car team in next year’s Nationwide Series, run by Penske Racing.
“As the performance brand of our new company, we are excited to expand our relationship with Penske Racing and introduce the iconic Dodge Challenger as our entry into the NASCAR Nationwide Series,” said Dodge Car Brand CEO Ralph Gilles. “Motorsports are a significant part of the Dodge brand’s legacy. Penske Racing has such a rich tradition in motorsports, and our partnership in the Nationwide Series will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the Challenger and offer our loyal Dodge enthusiasts plenty of excitement in this very competitive series next year.”
Along with the two car effort, Dodge has also committed to supporting Penske’s three teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Initially the two Nationwide Series cars will be Chargers, with the Challenger stepping in for four races, starting with Daytona in July. Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car, with Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Discount Tire car.
Dodge expects to make the move the the Challenger for the full season by 2011.
GALLERY: NASCAR Nationwide Series Dodge Challenger
Official release after the jump:
GM announces plans to dismantle Saturn network in the near future.
Penske’s deal to buy the Saturn arm of General Motors has reportedly fallen through. Back in June the Penske Automotive Group (PAG) had announced it would buy the brand from GM, along with its dealer network.
“This is very disappointing news and comes after months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees and Saturn retailers who tried to make the new Saturn a reality,” said CEO Fritz Henderson in a statement, commenting that the issue was that Penske Automotive Group could not solidify a deal with another automaker to supply vehicles after the contract with GM was scheduled to run out.
Many sources had pointed to Penske rebadging vehicles from French automaker Renault to sell in the U.S., but that appears to have not come to fruition.
GM has announced that it will close the remaining Saturn dealerships and that owners will be able to purchase (hahaha!) or have vehicles serviced at retailers until that point. Afterwards, owners will continue to be able to have their vehicles serviced at a GM facility.
[Source: Globe & Mail]
Future owner of brand would eliminate Canadian operations once sale with GM goes through
According to a recent report on CBC Radio’s French website Radio Canada, the Penske Automotive Group plans to close all the Saturn dealers in Canada once its deal to buy the brand from General Motors is complete.
At one time there were 60 Saturn dealers in Canada, but half of those dropped out of the business during this turbulent year as General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. The business case for keeping just 30 dealers in such a vast country as Canada apparently makes for a poor business decision.
We can also speculate on additional concerns, including the fact that if Penske does plan to rebadge Renault vehicles, as has widely been speculated, then there would be twice as much red tape involved by having to go through not just U.S., but also Canadian bureaucratic regulation procedures.
The closure of Saturn in Canada is expected to effect 2,000 people.
[Source: Autoblog via Radio Canada]
New, ideally-located and available Saturn dealerships the perfect fit as Kia looks to expand in the U.S.
While GM has reached a deal with Penske to sell off its Saturn brand, the future for dealers is anything but certain and Korean automaker Kia is hoping to capitalize on that.
Kia dealerships are often in either rural areas or less popular urban areas because land in high-traffic and densely populated urban areas is just too expensive. With both GM and Chrysler eliminating dealerships in urban areas, Kia intends to take advantage of this opportunity and make a big push. And with many well-appointed and nicely designed Saturn dealers conveniently located in those higher traffic areas, Kia hopes to convince Saturn retailers into switching to the Kia line.
In an interview with Automotive News, Kia executives said that the fact the Saturn dealerships are new and ideally-located is important, but the main factor is their availability.
Kia is targeting Saturn dealers in three main ways. First, it is looking to buy Saturn dealerships that are closing or closed and convert them to Kia dealerships. Second, it is seeing if any operational Saturn dealerships are interested in switching to Kia. And third, Kia is seeing if Saturn dealers who aren’t interested in the first two are interested in opening up a separate Kia franchise.
[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]
The 2010 model lineup for the soon-to-be-terminated Pontiac brand will consist of just one model – the Vibe.
Recently GM interim CEO Fritz Henderson reiterated the company’s position that the G8 would not carry on as either a Buick, Chevy or Cadillac. The G3 and G5 will also cease production this year, while the G6 will only be made available to government, corporate and rental car fleets.
There has been no word lately on the Solstice model. GM had made it known that it would consider offers for the Solstice (as well as the Saturn Sky and Opel GT) as a separate entity, but with the sale of Saturn to Penske, that now seems unlikely.
In an effort to spice up sales of the final run of the Vibe, Pontiac will offer the car with air conditioning standard, and make it available in a new color – Ignition Orange.
GM’s official line is that it wants to work with Toyota on a new vehicle to build at the joint GM-Toyota NUMI plant in California where sister cars the Vibe and Martix are produced, but our sources have indicated that GM wants out.
While the Vibe is a great car, we hope the sad irony of a vehicle built for utilitarian purposes being the last one offered by the company’s performance brand is not lost on the folks at GM.
Official Announcement Expected Later Today
General Motors has reached an agreement with the Penske Automotive Group on the sale of its Saturn brand. An official announcement is expected to be made by both parties later today.
The Penske Automotive Group was thought to be one of the front-runners in the bidding war, which also reportedly included Nissan/Renault, Mitsubishi and investment firm Telesto Ventures.
The news comes just days after GM sold off its Hummer brand to Chinese industrial equipment manufacturer Tengzhong.
The Penske Automotive Group is comprised of several key automotive related companies and boasts the second largest dealer network in the U.S., accounting for sales of 171,872 vehicles in 2008.
Penske also distributes the SMART car throughout the United States under a deal with Mercedes parent company Daimler.
As a former race car driver, Roger Penske continues to be involved in motorsports, and currently runs teams in three major racing series: the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Indy Racing League (IRL).
The sale of Saturn would leave GM with just the Swedish brand Saab to dispose of. It has been reported that buyers for Saab have been narrowed down to just two: Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg and the U.S.-based Renco Group.
The news was reported this morning in the New York Times, which also said that after an initial contract with GM runs out, the Penske operated Saturn brand is expected to sell Renault vehicles in the United States. Does this mean North America will finally get cars like the Clio and Megane…. or even the Megane R.S.? (pictured above)
[Source: New York Times]
The possibility that Penske Automotive Group may in fact purchase the Saturn brand from General Motors has just increased significantly. Penske has acquired the services of former Chrysler President Tom LaSorda as an adviser on the bid.
Penske is the second largest dealership group in the U.S. and also distributes the SMART brand of cars in the U.S. for Mercedes parent company Daimler.
The Detroit News is reporting that the Penske bid may involve other partners, including Serra Automotive Inc. and the Suburban Collection. Serra Automotive is the 15th largest dealership group in the U.S. with 21 stores in six states. The Suburban Collection is the 13th largest group and boasts 7 Saturn dealerships.
While many of GM’s brands have received little attention from prospective buyers the list of parties interested in Saturn seems to grow daily. Bloomberg is reporting that Canada’s Magna International is interested in Saturn, while other recent reports indicate Renault/Nissan is interested.
Saturn has said it has engaged in talks with the investment firm Telesto Ventures about a possible sale.
Currently GM is eager to part with Saturn as it faces a June 1st restructuring deadline.
[Source: Automotive News]
Possibility that sporty Renault models could be sold through Saturn dealer network
The sale of Saturn to Nissan-Renault could see cars like this Mégane Renault Sport roaming U.S. streets.
The rumor mill keeps churning out new and exciting candidates interested in buying GM’s Saturn brand. The most recent speculation is that Nissan/Renault might be interested.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Nissan-Renault interest in Saturn, while Bloomberg says that company may team up with the Penske Automotive Group (rumored yesterday to be an interested party) to take over the brand.
With Nissan struggling worldwide the thought of such a buy seems unlikely and yet it may pave the way for Renault to bring its lineup of fuel-efficient compact cars to North America. Currently the Saturn brand has 400 dealerships in the United States and Canada that could be used to distribute Renault products like the Clio and Megane… or even performance versions like the 250hp 2.0-liter turbocharged Mégane R.S. (shown above).
While French vehicle might not normally be attractive to North American consumers, the Renault brand has a strong awareness with younger consumers due to the Gran Turismo video game series.
Under the latest General Motors viability plan, Saturn is scheduled to be sold by the end of the year.Currently GM says that is has several offers, the most recently publicized ones being from Penske Automotive Group and Telesto Ventures, which would transform the Saturn dealership network into a retail chain selling several brands of foreign-made cars.
Roger Penske and Daimler Chairman Dr. Dieter Zetsche take a ride in a SMART car. Penske currently distributes SMART cars for Diamler in the U.S. and is rumored to be interested in purchasing Saturn from GM.
A day after General Motors released a vague statement declaring that it is moving to “the next step” in the sale of the Saturn brand it appears as though Roger Penske is one of the interested buyers.
Penske, a former race car driver and now the man at the top of an automotive empire is no stranger to the business, owning numerous dealerships. In fact, Penske’s dealership chain is listed as the second largest in the United States, accounting for 171,872 vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2008.
The Penske dealership network is not immune to the current economic climate, with Q1 profits down roughly 50 percent from the year previous. Still, the company managed a 16.2 million profit.
The Penske Automotive Group even distributes the SMART car for Mercedes/Daimler throughout the United States.
Currently Penske oversees three major racing initiatives in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Indy Racing League (IRL). He is also a well-known supporter of the city of Detroit and the U.S. auto industry, having helped bring the racing back to Detroit’s Belle Isle in recent years as well as assisting in bringing the Superbowl to the struggling city.
The Wall Street Journal cited an unnamed source in regards to Penske’s interest. The individual said that while Penske is interested, no offer has been made.
[Source: Automotive News]
[Photo Credit: TheAutoChanel]