Saturn Buyer

I have been a Saturn owner since I think 1996 when my family got a used 1994 Saturn from a dealer in Illinois. I remember it occurred when I had flown out to Boston or California to do on-site administration... and the 82 LTD had finally died on my wife. She had gone to a couple of places and found the usual "Hey little Lady" treatment until she went to the Saturn dealer. They only asked if she had any questions and to look around as much as she pleased. She found the car she wanted and when I got back I got the exact same treatment from them (which was refreshing from dealing with car dealers in the past where the guy gets a different story from the lady.) We were sold and when the car had problems two weeks later, they came got it, fixed it and got it back to us without any hard times (again a change from what I had dealt with). It was exactly what the motto said "A different kind of car company."

I remember being send flyers to drive to Tennessee for summer BBQ's... and knowing that if I went into a store there would be no haggling. They told me the price and I paid that price. When we moved to NC in 1997, we found the dealer in Chapel Hill used the same play book and things were covered. They knew what problems I had had before and would let us know that they had checked them. They had BBQ's and we had invitations. It was exactly the type of relationship I liked with a dealer/company.

And then there was dealing with GM. GM was a pain in the ass. I had a GM Credit card I had gotten in college. It had paid for college and had lots of points on it... Could I use it for buying a new Saturn? No... GM didn't allow that? If I went to a Chevy dealer did I get a one stop? No I got a pain in the ass "Well how much do you think this car is worth? Oh let me check with my boss in the back room" game. So when it was time to get a second car, we went with Saturn again.

However, it was clear that GM wasn't happy with Saturn anymore and as they started shuffling it around inside the company... VP's came and went.. BBQ's became less common and Saturn became more and more like another stagnant GM brand.

Anyway, I heard today that another company bought the brand. I wish them luck and I hope they are able to make cars that can attract the people who want "A different kind of car company" again.


Jef Spaleta said...

I definitely feel what you are saying.

I'm sort of violently ill thinking about going to a non-Saturn dealer again and having to do the haggle ritual.

It's weird. Buying a used car off of an owner is a haggle situation as well. But I've never got the same "I'm being toyed with" feeling like I've had at non-Saturn dealers.

I'm not looking forward to shopping for a pick-up truck later this year for exactly this reason.


Oli Warner said...

I seriously thought you were talking about the Sega Saturn until about half-way through.

Stephen Smoogen said...

And the funny thing is that there seems to be some population who LOVE to haggle. I remember a person I worked with long ago saying he hated going into Saturn because they didn't haggle..

Humans are so complicated.

Paul W. Frields said...

My wife and I bought a 1993 Saturn SL2 (the four-door sedan) and loved it. It ran like a tank and we sold it in 2001 (~157K miles) to a friend of mine at work whose teenage daughter needed a car. It ran pretty well for them until around 2007. I loved the no-haggle method, but more than that I loved the fact that the entire culture of their dealership was about making the customer happy. I seem to recall around 1993 or 1994 that they were placing in customer rankings in the Top 5 next to Lexus and Jaguar. I hope that wherever they go next they will be able to refocus on customers in that way.

Stephen Smoogen said...

I am still driving our 1994.. even though it has plastic falling off etc. I think it was the whole partnership of building, selling, fixing, and retaining that I found fascinating. It was much like the VW culture I remember as a kid (1960's->1980) where going into a shop was more about the long term relationship than any one sell.

Its what I see in the various Linux communities in one form or another. When we live by those goals we seem to grow and be happy... when we forget.. we don't.

Jim said...

If you don't want the usual dealership runaround, go through the internet department. A couple of emails to set up a test drive and then signing the paperwork was the extent of my interactions with the dealership, no fuss no muss.

Though that was five years ago, they may have wised up by now and no longer give online buyers to the fleet department where they're used to doing business without any haggling.