Friday, October 16, 2009

Saturn and the death of a brand.

The end, when it came, was sudden. Just when it looked like the Saturn car company had been rescued by the Penske Group, the deal fell through and now, despite a loyal customer following, U.S. car company Saturn is no more.

As faithful Loyalty Redefined readers know, I have blogged about Saturn in the past, noting its social media miscues and also about the course correction the brand took to try and make things right. No matter what your take on the company is, for many the loss of Saturn is the loss of a beloved brand.

As David Aaker, author of Building Stronger Brands, put it "it was the only organization in the US that really had a quality culture to it…the loss of Saturn is a blow to a loyalty group attracted to the company's no pressure sales approach and solid customer service."

Some put the blame squarely on parent company GM. Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, (angrily) said: "It's criminal negligence. They got attacked internally, constantly, until today they were finally destroyed. How do you take something that was such a good idea and wreck it deliberately?"

As I write this, the Saturn Web site hums along, oblivious to the brand’s demise. It’s animated home page still buzzing with moving cars and people. I can still go thought the motions of ordering a new Saturn Aura that, alas, will never come.

The brand loyalist site Saturn Fans continues to provide news updates from around the Web, all related to the brand’s final days. They read like obituaries really, with headlines such as and “The Ride’s Over for Saturn Lovers” and “Farewell to Saturn’s Utopian Dream”.

Over at the company’s ImSaturn social network site the news was broken via a posted press release on the brand’s pink slip day, September 30. About 50 people have written in to what may be the site’s final post, with many customers either “heartbroken” over the “sad news” or bitter at GM vowing they “will NEVER get my business again.”

One more passionate fan wrote: “I hope someone can come along and bring the brand back as a proud American automobile company but that's a dream and the way things have gone, in so many ways lately, dreams don't stand much of a chance. Good luck to us, the true American dreamers...and believers.”

RIP Saturn, you have left a void in the hearts of a lot of American car buyers, another good idea put on the junk heap due to a lack of funding and foresight and commitment. For many, there appears to be no car company out there who can take your place.

This post was originally published on Loyalty Truth, October 8, 2009, by Tom Rapsas. Tom is an independent Creative Director/Writer/Strategist and can be reached at and via Twitter @tomrapsas.

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