Saturns Gamble Slowly Paying Off

By: Anthony Fontanelle

General Motors' Saturn division has always been given less priority as compared to Chevrolet or other General Motors marques. But recently, the Detroit automaker has enlisted the help of one of its subsidiaries to turn around Saturn's fate. German automaker Opel has helped Saturn in designing the latter's new lineup.

With the help of Opel, Saturn has become one of the fastest growing brands in the United States auto market. With the European-styled vehicles from the General Motors brand, consumers are increasingly becoming more and more aware that American automakers has what it takes to take on Asian and European automakers.

One of the fruits of the working relationship between Opel and Saturn is the new Saturn Aura which replaced the L-Series. The said sedan has already received positive responses from critics and consumers. In fact, the said midsize car was adjudged as the North American Car of the Year earlier this year. The Aura edged out two established nameplates for the distinction, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

With that distinction going to the Aura, General Motors initiated an aggressive marketing campaign which saw Saturn dealerships offering customers the chance to drive not only the Saturn Aura but also the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. This bold move by the company is highlighted by the tag line for their ads which says: "For a car company to put one of their competitor's cars on their lot, they must be crazy."

But General Motors surely knows what it is doing. Analysts pointed out that the belief that Asian cars are better than American cars have been deeply ingrained in the minds of the majority of new car buyers. Therefore, to attract the attention of auto buyers, they have mounted this marketing campaign with the confidence that the Saturn Aura is better than the Camry and the Accord.

Michelle Krebs, the senior editor for Edmunds' AutoObserver.com, says: "It's a really smart, bold thing to do." With General Motors's market share in the United States on the decline, the automaker is doing everything in its power to regain the trust of the American auto buying public.

The only way to judge the effectiveness of Saturn's marketing strategy is by looking at the sales figures. But General Motors pointed out that they are not expecting the Saturn Aura to immediately challenge the Camry and the Accord for the supremacy in terms of sales.

In fact, while sales of the Saturn Aura are posting an increase, it is still way below sales figures posted by the Camry and the Accord. For the first half of the year, Saturn sold 27,229 units of the Saturn Aura. In comparison, Toyota sold 240,530 units of the Camry and Honda sold 182,346 units of the Accord.

This disparity though does not discourage General Motors. In fact, the automaker is confident that they are already creating a huge buyer base for the Saturn brand. With the European styling of the Aura and other new Saturn auto models and their improved auto parts such as the , steering and suspension components and other auto parts, General Motors is showing auto buyers that American cars are now as reliable as Japanese ones.

With General Motors now in the middle of pushing through with its turnaround plan, it needs the Saturn brand to rack up sales fast. Similar to Ford's predicament, General Motors is fighting against time in their quest to regain the attention of American auto buyers.

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