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]
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]
If all goes as planned the Penske-owned Saturn brand could be selling rebadged vehicles from French automaker Renault in the U.S. Thought to be a wild rumor at first, Renault has now confirmed that Penske has in fact approached the automaker to supply both parts and cars.
Currently Penske Automotive Group has a tentative deal with General Motors to buy its Saturn brand. Penske is expected to take full control of the company by September. The deal would see GM continue to supply vehicles for two years and does not include any manufacturing abilities, meaning that Penske must forge an alliance with another automaker to obtain vehicles.
Renault spokeswoman Frederique LeGreves would not comment further on the proposed deal but did say that it would not involve any part of Renault’s Nissan division.
Penske Automotive spokesman Tony Pordon wouldn’t comment specifically either but did say that his company is in talks with several different manufacturers.
In Europe Renault sells a full line of vehicles including the popular compact Clio as well as high performance models like the Megane RS (pictured above).
[Source: Automotive News]
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 next General Motors product to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, like the one that will be introduced in the Chevy Volt, may be a Buick.
This new PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) was supposed to be a version of the Saturn Vue, but as GM has now sold off the Saturn brand to the Penske Automotive Group those plans have most likely been scrapped. After all, we can’t see GM parting with its fancy new PHEV system so easily after all the time, effort and resources it has poured into creating it.
Speculation as to which model would get the powertrain immediately turned towards similar GM crossovers, but according to the folks at GM-Volt.com, the doner chassis will be an all-new small crossover which, according to GM’s design boss Ed Welburn is due out in 2011.
If GM does decide to go this route, we will most-likely see Toyota develop a similar PHEV platform shortly afterwards. Or perhaps just a PHEV-version of the Lexus RX.
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]
With news of a tentative deal to sell off Hummer coming yesterday, GM still hasn’t made any decisions about its Saturn or Saab brands – but apparently it has plenty of offers to entertain.
GM CFO Ray Young said that Saturn has as many as 16 suitors, while the Swedish Saab brand has three.
The list of Saturn buyers is reported to include Penske Automotive Group, Malcolm Bricklin, Mitsubishi, Nissan/Renault and investment firm Telesto Ventures.
Young did say that it is interested in working with the Saturn buyer when it comes to vehicle assembly.
As for Saab, Swedish business paper Dagens Industri is reporting that the three buyers are U.S. financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group, Fiat and Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg.
Japanese automaker could use Saturn dealerships to almost double its retail network
Oddly, it seems as though Saturn is far more interesting and far more loved as the up-for auction arm of a doomed for bankruptcy company than it ever was as regular old car brand. To date the Penske Automotive Group, automaker Nissan/Renault and investment firm Telesto Ventures have all been cited as potential buyers. Now we can add Mitsubishi to that list.
According to a report in the Detroit News the Japanese automaker is in talks with GM to supply its vehicles to the existing Saturn dealership network. The move would see Mitsu expand its number of dealerships in the U.S. by 380 – up from the current 430 dealerships.
The move seems unlikely as Mitsubishi is suffering in the current economic downturn. In April the company sold just 3,919 vehicle in the U.S., down 55.9 percent from the same month in 2008.
Mitsubishi is, however, eager to gain a larger percentage of the U.S. market and until recently was even engaged in talks with Chrysler to bring a small electric car called the Peapod Mobility to the U.S.
The company does appear to be beefing up it’s product line and rebranding its existing products. Company representatives have made it clear that the i MiEV electric micro-car (pictured above) will come to North America and a coupe version of the car has been explored in concept form. Additionally, Mitsu recently launched the Sportback version of the Lancer. As far as rebranding, the company is finally picking up on the success of the Lancer and Evo models and is giving that look to the rest of its line. We’ve already seen it with the 2009 Eclipse and the next generation Outlander promises to have an Evo-style nose.
[Source: Detroit News]
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]