Wagoner Let the Import Fighter Lose its Fight

Saturn was the face of a new General Motors when it started making cars in 1990. By 2000, the cars just looked old. Money for new products was going into quick-selling SUVs for Chevy and GMC instead of the cult favorite compacts, and they were falling further and further behind in the marketplace.

While the cars the brand built back then were never a match for the imports they tried to imitate, a commitment to service and no-haggle prices kept a small cadre of customers happy, but it wasn’t enough.

Saturn was bleeding billions, and by mid-decade, Wagoner was faced with the choice to keep it or kill it. He decided to try to save it, investing heavily in an all-new lineup based mostly on cars designed and built by GM’s German brand Opel. The import fighter had become an importer.

Sales this year are down 47 percent so far, and the company is on the chopping block once again.

He Bought Low, Then Bought Out