The Loss of A Gorgeous Giant Planet
yeah, I’m actually talking about cars... The loss of the Saturn is a loss of safety, financial savings... and sanity

Janet Kuypers editorial, 02/18/09

    Oh boy. I can’t believe I’m going to write something about cars (like I know anything about cars), but I have to. I just heard on CNN during my lunch break that GM is planning on killing the Saturn line by 2011.
    Okay, I suck at this car talk, but here goes...
    I bought a Saturn 1992 Medium Red SL1, their low-end car, after only their second year of production. I studied the car before I made the decision to purchase the car, and found that as a sedan (I wanted a 4-door car with a trunk), it was by far the safest car in my price range. I went to the dealership with my mind made up. Nick, the car salesman, even asked me if I would like to test-drive the car I decided to purchase. Well okay, I suppose I should do that... I did, and thought it was a little small in legroom (I am a really tall woman), and decided I could cope for the safety. The car dealer didn’t have to lift a finger to make the sale to me.
    That car survived assorted break-ins in Chicago when I didn’t have garage parking (when people stole the insurance card repeatedly out of my glove box), and survived outdoor winters in Illinois too. It ran fine, and even was my car for a drive around the country in 1997 and 1998. While driving through the Mohave Desert, “certain kinds of clay and dirt, when driven on repeatedly, start receding in grooves that resemble the waves of ocean water on the sand below” (from the book Changing Gears), and while driving through Montana (when it did not have a legally posted speed limit in the 1990s) I went 125 mph for a while. Throughout all of the driving in Chicago and driving around the country, I never had any problems with my little Saturn.
    After I had finished my drive around the United States (and before I planned my Europe travel), I drive from Chicago to the suburbs to visit my parents, when my SL1 was pushed into oncoming traffic while I was stopped at an intersection. Another car hit me; there were skid marks from my tires for 108 feet. Good think I was almost killed only 2 miles away from the hospital I was born in, so they didn’t bother waiting for a helicopter to expedite my arrival. I was unconscious for 11 days, and relearned how to walk and talk and eat.
    Oh, I’m suppose to reiterate that I lived (yeah, I’m the one writing this), and both me and my sister are sure that if I was in a similar car to mine (but not a Saturn), I would have been killed. Even though it was an early model Saturn and didn’t even have airbags, that was a safe car, and I’ll always be grateful for owning that car. My sister was even stunned that I got as much as I did for the totaled car (it wasn’t a lot, but she was sure that if her car was totaled that she wouldn’t get that much money for her damages)

    Okay, so that story explains my love of safety in a car. Let’s go on to part 2 of this story...
    After I got out of the hospital, I said I needed a replacement car, so I looked at a better Saturn (and SL2, still the same class of car, but better – with a sun roof and a CD player instead of only a cassette deck, power doors). Then I thought, wait a minute, there may be a better car out there for the cost. So I decided to consider a Mazda Protege and a Honda Civic.
    So first I sat in the Saturn, Feel right, this is what I’m used to. Okay, check out the competition. Went to the Mazda dealership, where the guy told me the cost of the car was basically just under their sticker value (since I once owned a Saturn, he assumed I wouldn’t want to bargain, so he’d give me a higher cost than the Saturn to compare to). The salesman then told me that this was the safest car made in its class (which I knew was a lie). So I went to the Honda dealership, and saw that the Civic was even more expensive than both cars. So for cost (I guess also for safety and comfort), buying my 2nd Saturn was a no-brainer.
    Someone even ran into my car while I was stopped (waiting to turn right) at an intersection, but they barely tapped my car, and we went on our ways. And this car even had the nickname of “Mister Man,” because men always give cars female nicknames, and it was good at getting me where I wanted to go. But what’s funny is that probably 7 years after I bought Saturn #2, the SL2, 3 men from Tunica (the driver without a driver’s license) ran though a red light in a suburban street as I was about to make a left-hand turn. No damage to me, but Saturn #2 (“Mister Man”) was totaled, and I had to purchase a car within 30 days for my insurance to cover the sales tax costs.

    Okay, so quick search for a used car to replace my totaled car. Well, because it’s cheaper and safer and I know how they drive, I’ll go with a used Saturn. Car #3 was a used L200, with the sun roof and the 6 disc CD player and the cassette deck and automatic everything, the anti-lock brakes and the traction control, blah blah blah. And since then someone hit my car while I was stopped at an intersection (that seems to be my track record, people crashing into my car while I’m stopped at an intersection), but, as I jokingly say, I haven’t had the car 7 years yet, so the car won’t be totaled until then. I’ve only had this Saturn for 4 years, so I have 3 more years to go before another careless driver totals my Saturn.

    So this is my story of my love affair (so to speak) with Saturn. It has always worked well, and it has been the safest car in its price range. Although they originally said they would never manufacture a convertible because they could never be safe enough, they broke down to the markets and released the Sky (a car my husband loves, by the way). They’ve got a car that’s almost a truck, and they’ve got an SUV (that they call the VUE) that’s even available as a hybrid (as is the Aura, their newer sedan, that won the North American Car of the Year in 2007).
    No, I need a better-sounding irritation noise than that.
    Maybe I’ll have to settle for “grrr.”
    Hearing this news makes no sense to me (but then again, most decisions by corporate giants in recent years make no sense to me). So I search for news of this decision anywhere else and find nothing. I know that report say that Saturns will remain in production through 2013, and even if the line closes parts will always remain available for the cars, but the depreciation of the line will be amazingly fast and horrendously huge. I’m not quite sure what to make out of this news, or if I should take it with a 50 pound block of salt (since it was only mentioned once in a CNN report in the middle of the day and can find no corraborating evidence for the truthiness of the news).

    But you see, I heard this after CNN was reporting that GM and Chrysler, after bailout #1 went to them in December 2008 (yes, just a few months ago), are asking for another bailout. It is February 18th, and GM says they could run out of money next month, and Chrysler warns of bankruptcy (as outlined in Consumer Affairs’ “GM, Chrysler Say They Need More Money”, GM would need another $30 billion – more than double of its original loan amount in December (Chrysler said it needs another $2 billion). You see, GM is trying to avoid declaring bankruptcy by thinking that “government-funded restructuring” is a better choice.
    Ah, in this article is where I see my evidence of the destruction of Saturn. “GM said in the report that it would close or sell its Hummer and Saturn lines to cut costs.” But once again, I am lost as to how they come to the conclusion that dropping Saturn is the way to go (I get dropping the Hummer, it is insanely expensive and insanely fuel-inefficient), since according to Consumer Affairs dot com, “The GM Saturn (was) the most fuel efficient line offer by GM (and) was the most improved over last year with consumer satisfaction up almost 5 percent.”
    And I’m sorry, I know that the “crucial existence” for major companies like GM ( means that saving these drowning companies has already meant (despite the bailout) the cutting of jobs for tens of thousands of people (and trust me, that job-cutting number will get higher). And I understand that these companies have become icons to what our country knows. But I also know that large U.S. car companies have not thought about how to run their business efficiently to effectively compete with global needs. I know that laws may be a Hell of a lot more lax for employees in other countries, and U.S. Unions keep asking for more pay for their Union employees. The cards are in some cases stacked against these U.S. auto companies to begin with. But the decisions U.S. auto companies have made (like inefficiently building new plants, so that production machinery could not be interchanged for changing demands of what to produce to stay ahead, like other non-U.S. companies have done in building their plants) have also held them back – meaning that they are in part the cause of their problems.
    I think the U.S. auto companies have made — and continue to make — a lot of bad decisions... including picking the wrong car line to kill to keep afloat.
    Sorry, that was just the editor’s note about keeping the Saturn. Listen to common sense for once. Stop asking for bailouts and start learning to make better decisions with what money and what product you have. Personally, we have been losing money over the years, and still manage to pay our mortgage and continue to successfully function, all without asking for a bailout to save us from our mistakes.
    Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said the bankruptcy risk at Chrysler and GM would remain high for the rest of 2009 and into 2010 (see the New York Times article), and the Detroit Free Press even shared survey results that most Americans reject more loans for automakers ( So I guess I’m not the only one who’s sick of the U.S. auto companies making the wrong business decisions and wanting a bailout from the Government.
    Let me remind you, to the U.S. National Debt is already at $10,793,272,238,998.23 as of 3:53 p.m. CST 02/18/09, which translates to each U.S. citizen’s share of this debt as $35,310.06, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock. And don’t worry, it will get higher with President Obama throwing money we don’t have (and have to borrow form the likes of China) at any economic problem the largest group can ask for. So the question begs itself: does it make sense for us to send more money we don’t have to them? If a huge U.S. auto company like GM is willing to pitch Saturn, probably despite bailout #2, I wonder how much longer we’ll be throwing money at a problem instead of trying to fix it.

Janet Kuypers
Editor in chief

    P.S.: I like my husband’s thoughts on the eventual after I told him of the loss of Saturn:

    What will happen to its rings?
    Actually, I’m sorry to hear that. I really think that its the best line that GM has to offer to move the company into the future. I guess as the bastard stepchild of an abusive money wasting family it was embarrassing its older and larger brothers. Like Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, perhaps someday Saturn will return to rule the family.
    In a GM press release dated Jan 8, 1985 in Warren, Michigan; Chairman Roger Smith stated, “Saturn is the key to GM’s long-term competitiveness, survival and success as a domestic producer... American ingenuity, American technology and American productivity can once again be the model and the inspiration for the rest of the world.”

    Ah well, so much for looking ahead, when you can ask the Government to give you more money to save you from yourself instead...

See this Internet Editorial in the Internet issue of cc&d magazine v194, March 2009/



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