I remember back in 1994 when I bought my first Saturn and in 1996 when I bought my second Saturn. I didn’t buy another after that.
In the beginning, Saturn was a brand built on differentiation and word-of-mouth marketing. It was a brand that created expectations and lived up to them. It was a brand with a clear brand promise, “a different kind of car company,” and it lived up to that brand promise again and again. The result was a powerful cult brand with a large band of loyal brand advocates. It became a relationship brand that relied on brand experiences — in the showroom, in the service department, at the manufacturing plant, and even at the annual Saturn owners picnic, which drew thousands of loyal Saturn owners from around the United States each year to share their love of the Saturn brand.
In just a few years later, everything changed, and Saturn has never been the same.
When General M0tors decided to abandon the Saturn brand promise in return for higher profits, loyal customers noticed. They left the brand finding no value in the relationship anymore. Saturn never recovered.
But is there a chance for the Saturn brand to get back to its roots and become a powerful relationship brand again now that Penske Automotive Group has acquired Saturn from GM?
I think the answer is yes. The Saturn brand still has value. Consumers remember the early days of the Saturn brand when it truly did make the car buying and owning experience different. Will Penske Automotive Group try to recapture the strength of that brand promise or try something different to regain power for the brand? It’s hard to say, but the fact that the Penske brand is powerful unto itself and well-respected by both the auto industry and consumers should bode well for the future of Saturn.
I’m still hopeful for Saturn. How about you?
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