General Motors Corp. is in talks about potentially turning its Saturn division over to Renault SA, allowing the French auto maker to use the brand as a launching pad for growth in North America, two people familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. has submitted a bid to acquire GM's Saab unit, people familiar with the situation said.
Renault is one of several auto makers and other suitors interested in taking Saturn over from GM. The U.S. auto maker is surviving on $15.4 billion in government loans and is under pressure to restructure its balance sheet, union contracts and operations by June 1, or face a bankruptcy filing.
GM is considering several options for Saturn, including closing the brand all together.
Any buyer of the Saturn division likely wouldn't put direct cash in the deal, but would need to take on liabilities and the costs of running the business, including production.
Under a deal with Renault — which controls Japan's Nissan Motor Corp. and South Korea's Samsung Motors — the French auto maker could eventually use the Saturn network of 400-plus dealers to sell its own cars, including vehicles made by Renault or Samsung and sold as Saturns, the people familiar with the matter said. The Saturn brand has a strong reputation for customer service but has been hindered under GM's ownership due to a lack of consistent innovation.
By essentially giving the brand to another auto maker, GM could preserve jobs in the U.S. and avoid the messy dispute with dealers that could come if GM just killed Saturn.