Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saturn: The No Time Continuum Auto Company

You've probably all seen the TV commercial that the auto maker Saturn "had" been running lately. It has a "relatively" long-term Saturn auto dealer (since 1999 or something like that) in a horrible-looking silky-green shirt with a Saturn logo on it who says that he's tired of all those pundits who keep saying that American car companies don't sell cars that people want. Then he says: "Saturn makes cars that people want."

Every time I hear that commercial, I have to laugh.

If you simply listened to what is being said in that ad, and maybe if you somehow lived on that planet of the same name, you'd have thought that the Saturns were some of the hottest selling cars in the country. Instead, that commercial is really an effort to try and put some lipstick on this pig of the American auto industry. That's because Saturn hasn't really made a penny of profits for GM since it was established in 1985. This year, sales are down to a trickle with less than 100,000 units expected to be sold. That's way down from a high of 350,000 units in its first year of operation.

In the last few months, GM has been in talks to try and sell Saturn to the Penske Automotive Group and eventually get this dog off its hands.

However, as of yesterday, we learned that the talks between GM and Penske had completely broken down. Now, the company that supposedly "sells cars that people want" will have to go the way of the other GM losers like Oldsmobile and Pontiac (Click to See Full Story: "Sun sets on Saturn: GM kills fading star brand"). Once again, we, the taxpayers, the true owners of GM, are getting screwed when it comes to the overall bailout of General Motors.

Until yesterday, there was a glimmer of hope that the taxpayers might actually get some of their money back on all of those billions of dollars that had been poured into GM to keep it afloat. Instead, the they will have eat a complete write-off of Saturn. Worse yet, additional taxpayer monies will have to be paid out to cover the unemployment benefits for nearly 13,000 auto workers jobs and probably as many dealership and parts supplier jobs that will be lost when Saturn finally closes its doors. What a deal! I'm really glad that Obama appointed an Auto Czar, a Czar with no experience in the auto industry, to make sure the taxpayer's interest was being taken care of.

My personal opinion is that this won't be the last of the disappointments that we hear from General Motors. With Obama's people and the United Auto Workers now really running GM, my guess is that GM will continue to need more bailout money in the months to come. That's because their sales have continued to suffer. Even though the Cash For Clunkers program helped to clear the lots of a GM's poorly selling inventory, they were still outpaced by the Japanese car companies in the selling of their cars under that very same program. With a supposed 19% market share, GM fell short of that number by only selling 17% of the total vehicles sold as a result of that incentive program.

Since the government took over GM, the push by Obama and his Auto Czar has been towards the abandonment of selling any higher profit, conventionally-powered SUV's and light trucks. Instead Obama's plan has been to have GM sell a lot more of the less profitable and less appealing cars like the hybrids, compacts, and sub-compacts. This isn't selling cars that people want. Instead, this is selling cars that Obama and the environmentalists want you to buy.

Once again, the "nanny state" mentality is at play here. This is "the" mentality that seems to think that the government, and not you or I, knows exactly what is best for each of us. When it comes to the government running a business like the auto companies, I always think back to what Ronald Reagan once said: "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away."

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