An interesting report today by the UK Newspress service from the Detroit motor show about the GM Saturn brand. Apparently, GM has decided that Saturn is now going to be its 'green' brand, and launched three eco-friendly models at the show.
Two of these cars are supposedly environmentally friendly versions of a clumpy SUV called the Vue, which looks suspiciously like the Chevrolet Captiva and Vauxhall Antara to me. One is a hybrid due to appear late this year, and the other is a plug-in hybrid that's expected to appear in 2010.
That's all very well as far as it goes, but why doesn't GM just make a bit of an effort to get its US buyers off SUVs and US-market bloatmobiles and into something a bit more like its much more fuel efficient (and much better) European cars. A more fundamental objection is this; if we're going to crack climate change, I think GM needs to do a bit more than just offer greenery (or what passes for it) as a bit of a gimmick for one of its smaller brands - it really needs to do something across its whole operations.
Anyway, I find all this chopping and changing when it comes to the Saturn brand a bit depressing. I can remember following closely what GM did with Saturn from the time it was founded as the group's sixth North American brand (next to Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac) in 1985, through to the launch of the first Saturn car in 1990. It was a fascinating story; at the beginning, Saturn was kept entirely separate from the rest of GM, and had its own plants and models. The idea was to get out from under the burden of legacy plants and practices and reproduce some of the conditions that allowed the Japanese 'transplant' factories built on greenfield sites to flourish. At least in the early years, GM's efforts and the products themselves got a fairly good press but Saturn has never, apparently, been that successful in financial terms, which is no doubt why it has lost much of its independence in the last few years, and AFAICT, its cars no longer seem to be produced in separate plants.