Bloomberg (“GM Said to Study Shedding Saturn, Saab, Pontiac to Win U.S. Aid”) is reporting that Pontiac’s sales peaked in 1978 and are down 21% this year compared to an industry wide 15% decline. Saturn’s sales peaked in 1994 and are down 19% this year, while Saab sales peaked in 2003 at roughly 48K units and declined 31% this year. Pontiac offers little differentiation from other General Motors (GM) models, with the exception of some unsuccessful rebadged older (GM Australia) models. Likewise, Saturn offers a “plastic coated” version of the Chevy Malibu and a rebadged Vauxhall (GM Germany). No value added for either Pontiac or Saturn. For that matter Buick could be a China only product with nothing lost here in the States.
That leaves Saab. The accountants might conclude that it is a dying brand by its eroding sales and only 105 dealers. But Saab spells the automotive future, high quality small and midsized cars. Saab cars are nicely sculpted, or at least uniquely shaped. They have smaller engines with good handling and performance. Even though they share GM platforms, they retained differentiation. Saab is the perfect complement to Cadillac and should be built up rather than destroyed. And by the way, kill that ridiculous Saab SUV. Saab could be believable as a European sports sedan, Buick will never be.
Lexus became successful by being a better luxo-barge than Buick and Cadillac. Cadillac revived itself by becoming German-like. Yet it retained its bouncy DTS for its loyal herd of seniors. Saab is not dragged down by legacy seniors. Now Buick is being redirected to compete back at Lexus. Trouble is Lexus is so yesterday.
GM did show passion in recent years with the Cadillac CTS line. Now it’s time to show the same passion with Saab. Copying Lexus will get them nowhere.