Originally created as a “different kind of car company,” Saturn was established as a wholly-owned entity of General Motors before it was pulled into the company’s brand matrix early in the new millennium. In 2010, GM canceled the brand, 20 years after its first model was produced.
Officially formed as the Saturn Corporation in 1985, Saturn was operated independently by GM for several years before it gradually became yet another GM brand. The company was established to provide a fresh alternative to Japanese brands such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda, which were dominating the small car market of that era. An assembly plant was built in Spring Hill, Tennessee, to handle production.
In 1990, the first Saturn S-Series models were produced — compact SL, SC and SW vehicles. The Saturn SL was a sedan, the SC a two-door coupe, and the SW represented by a four-door wagon. The S-Series remained in production through 2002 and was followed by the Saturn Ion from 2003 to 2007. The Ion was replaced by the Saturn Astra in 2008.
Saturn immediately became known for its “no haggle” pricing, an innovative method for selling cars with no negotiating necessary. The initiative changed the way consumers bought cars as the high-pressure sales negotiation process found in other dealerships was eschewed by Saturn. The move helped create brand loyalty and placed Saturn among the top brands in customer trust.
In 1999, Saturn introduced its second model line, the Saturn L-Series. This midsize model, available in sedan and wagon configurations, was based on the Opel Vectra platform. It was built in Delaware alongside other GM models.
In 2002, a third model, the Saturn VUE compact crossover utility vehicle was introduced. The VUE was powered by four- and six-cylinder engines, the latter supplied by Honda, including a transmission.
Beginning in 2005, the first Saturn model based on a U.S. GM platform came to the market: the Saturn Relay. This four-door minivan was also sold as the Chevrolet Uplander, Buick Terraza and as the Pontiac Montana. In 2006, the Saturn Sky roadster came to the market, a two-seater that shared its components with the Pontiac Solstice.
In 2007, the Saturn Aura midsize sedan arrived. This five-passenger model was based on the Opel Vectra and similar to the Chevrolet Malibu. The Saturn Outlook made its debut in 2008 and was a larger crossover SUV that was related to the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.
The Saturn brand’s future was threatened when GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. As part of its reorganization efforts, GM decided to go with its four core brands: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC, leaving Hummer, Saab, Saturn and Pontiac out of the mix. GM attempted to find buyers for three of the four brands (Pontiac was canceled), but deals for Saturn fell apart. Production came to an end in October 2009 and Saturn was officially dissolved one year later.
Saturn owners searching for new models might consider various Chevrolet, GMC and Buick vehicles. Besides Toyota, Honda and Nissan, Saturn competed with Dodge, Mitsubishi, Kia, Volkswagen, Ford, Mazda, Hyundai, Chrysler and Subaru.