A different kind of car company, Saturn was set up in the mid-1980’s in response to the Japanese invasion of small, fuel-efficient cars. While technically a subsidiary of General Motors, initially Saturn operated with a great deal of autonomy from its corporate parent in Detroit.
Saturn cars were built in their own factory in Spring Hill, Tenn. The company had its own model lines, none of which were shared with any other GM brand. It even had its own dealer network, though in actuality, most Saturn dealers had other GM dealerships. Also, all Saturn models were constructed with a steel frame over which were hung plastic body panels. The idea was this would make the cars easier to change, style-wise, over time. There was one other concept peculiar to Saturn, one no other manufacturer could, and frankly still can’t claim.
Saturn was set up with a no-haggle pricing policy. The price on the sticker was the price customers paid; there was no “horse-trading” back and forth between buyer and seller. The idea was to take the adversarial relationship out of new car buying, making the dealership more friendly for women, younger buyers, and people in general who simply did not like the hassle of the haggle.
The first Saturn S-Series car rolled off the assembly line in 1990, and by all accounts, the Saturn idea worked—at first. Then, quality problems started showing up. (Hey it was still a 1990’s GM product after all). Further, the model line was left to languish with no significant updates, or truly new models added to it for 10 years from 1990 to 2000. In 2000 Saturn’s L-Series mid-size car debuted, a few years later the Saturn Ion debuted. Woefully uncompetitive, neither car made it past one generation of production.
However, there was one bright spot in there, the Saturn Vue.
Introduced in 2001, as a 2002 model, Vue was GM’s first small car-based crossover. This alone attracted attention to the model. Helped considerably by Saturn’s no-haggle policy and an extremely reasonable price, Vue quickly became Saturn’s best-selling model. Despite its success, with Saturn being killed off in 2009, there were but two generations of Saturn Vue offered, between 2002 and 2009.