AUTO NEWS: Got advice for Roger Penske?
What should Roger Penske do with Saturn? When the business legend and motor sports icon bought the brand from General Motors, he promised to keep Saturn's 350 dealers supplied with vehicles after GM stops building Saturns in 2011. "Saturn has an ...
What should Roger Penske do with Saturn?
When the business legend and motor sports icon bought the brand from General Motors, he promised to keep Saturn's 350 dealers supplied with vehicles after GM stops building Saturns in 2011.
"Saturn has an outstanding dealer network and a passionate, loyal customer base," Penske said in a statement provided to the Free Press. "We look forward to serving these customers and dealers as we work to redevelop the Saturn brand."
How will he do that? What kind of vehicles will Saturn sell? Where will they come from?
Nobody knows. That leaves a lot of room for kibitzing, so here's your opportunity to give our most successful Detroiter some unsolicited advice.
What should the post-GM Saturn look like?
Post your suggestions at freep.com or e-mail me your ideas. We'll print some of the responses next week.
I don't have the answer, but here are some questions Penske's team will have to answer.
--Should Saturn return to its roots as a maker of inexpensive little cars or continue the move to become a full-line brand, offering everything from a sporty roadster to an eight-passenger crossover SUV?
--Should it keep the no-haggle approach to sales and prices?
--Should Saturn go back to building vehicles with dent-resistant plastic bodies?
--Should Penske dump Dodge and put the Saturn badge on the cars he races in NASCAR?
--Do future Saturns all need to have a common styling theme, or can they be a mixed bag?
--Should Penske talk to Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach about sourcing cars from GM Europe, which developed the Saturn Astra and Aura? Stronach's company, Magna, just bought 20 percent of GM Europe.
--Should Saturn hire an outside company to develop and build one or more vehicles for it?
--Should Saturn get all its cars from one manufacturer, or shop around and offer a variety of models built by different automakers?
--Which foreign automakers can supply Saturn's new model line? Peugeot-Citroen has a wide range of fuel-efficient models and a long-standing desire to get back into the U.S. market.
--What about growing automakers from India? Should Saturn approach Tata about selling the $2,500 Nano in the United States? How about Mahindra's line of small pickups and SUVs?
--How about Chinese manufacturers like Chery, Brilliance or and BYD? They all want to sell cars in the United States. A ready-made distribution network would save them years of work and millions of dollars.
--Should Saturn emphasize green technology and alternative fuels with diesel engines, hybrids and electric vehicles?
--Does it matter whether Saturn vehicles are built in the United States?
--Can Saturn cooperate with Smart, the minicar brand Penske also distributes?
--For a young brand, Saturn has a very distinct identity and passionate fans. How does Roger Penske cultivate that and lead Saturn to a new level of success?
You tell me. And Roger Penske.