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About Saturn

Saturn is a division of the General Motors Corporation and a brand of automobiles. It was established on January 7, 1985. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM, it manufactures automobiles in the United States. GM began manufacturing Saturn cars in 1990, largely in response to the success of Japanese & German small-car imports in the United States, such as the Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

Saturn was named after the Saturn rocket that took American astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 70s, and not after the planet Saturn, even though a logo with an image of the planet is used.

Saturn's motto was initially "A different kind of company, a different kind of car," but it has changed that several times throughout its history. Drawing from experiences gained through its NUMMI and CAMI Automotive joint ventures with foreign manufacturers, GM organized the Saturn Corporation differently from their existing divisions, attempting to emulate the Japanese management techniques, which emphasize quality control and high product reliability. At Saturn, union workers would have more control and involvement in the plant.

The Saturn Corporation also created its own distribution network from scratch, which was both independent and different from those used by older GM divisions. There was much emphasis put on the quality of customer service, with insights drawn from travel and hospitality as well as consumer retail industries, rather than traditional automotive sales. The uniqueness of Saturn's distribution network was emphasized by referring to what would usually be called "dealers" as "retailers", and conversely "retail facilities" in lieu of "dealerships". Such "retail facilities" served non-competing "market areas". They are noted for their no-haggle pricing, where the cars are sold at their exact sticker price, their no-pressure sales environments, and professional sales staff. The Saturn Corporation strove to build a community spirit among their customers by hosting annual "homecoming" events at its former Spring Hill, Tennessee manufacturing plant, as well as day-to-day special events in retail settings.

The Saturn Corporation began in December 1982 with a group of 99 people from various areas of the automotive industry. Everyone from production and assembly, design and prototyping, sales and finance, as well as the corporate "white collar" positions, were represented in this group called "the 99." Originally, there were 100, but one dropped out, thus it become "the 99."

In 1993, Saturn announced its first profitable quarter, and later, its first profitable year. However, there is no evidence that GM has ever recouped its large investment in the company. In any case, the company struggled so much that, in the new millennium, it was decided to integrate the company into the GM infrastructure in 2003, with Bob Lutz aiming to bring the brand closer to its GM European franchise, Opel.

Saturn's headquarters, retail employee training facility and primary manufacturing facility were originally located in Spring Hill, Tennessee. This location was chosen in 1985, after a highly publicized nationwide search for a site. The Spring Hill manufacturing of Saturns was ceased after the end of production of the Saturn Ion (2003-2007) and first generation of the Saturn VUE (2002-2007) at the end of March 2007. Saturn VUE production was moved to Mexico for the 2008 Model Year, where the 2nd Generation Saturn VUE is now being built. The plant has been retooled, and it is scheduled to assemble the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse.

Saturn was originally established as a fully-owned, but independently administered subsidiary of General Motors, with the GM executive Bill Hoglund at its helm. In 2006 Saturn became a Division of GM. It was hoped that lessons learned from Saturn would trickle down to the rest of General Motors - to make it more competitive against foreign automakers and to improve labor relations. During the 2000s, Saturn has been gradually losing its autonomy. New models, for example, do not utilize polymer side panels, and they are derivatives of other GM models. Production has since been moved to other GM plants, such as in Delaware. Production of Saturn vehicles at the Tennessee facility ceased on March 30, 2007. Initially, the Saturn Corporation was headed by a president who consulted with a Union local counterpart and reported to the GM Board of Directors. As the role of Saturn changed within General Motors, the chief executive role was shifted to be a Vice President of Sales, Service and Marketing. Since 2005, Jill Lajdziak, previously a VP of Sales, Service and Marketing, has been the General Manager of Saturn, who reports to the Vice President of the GM Small Car Group.

Saturn is known for its company-wide "no-haggle" sales philosophy. Saturn dealers (called "retailers" by the company) are encouraged to sell vehicles at listed MSRP price. Customer satisfaction with dealer service is among the highest of any car brand in the US. The company also won praise for its environmentally conscious manufacturing processes and for its innovations such as using flexible plastic side panels on its cars to avoid minor dents. However, in 2005, the Saturn Relay became the first Saturn vehicle without polymer side paneling. The Saturn Relay was built in the Doraville, Georgia production facility, which also manufactured Chevrolet Venture and Chevrolet Uplander minivans. The lack of polymer side paneling in Saturn Relay production has carried over to all new vehicles produced from the 2008 model year forward.