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October 11th, 2009
11:39 AM ET

Dude, you drive a Saturn?

Every so often, there's a story in the news that hits home. That was the case for me recently, when GM's deal to sell Saturn to a new owner fell through, apparently dooming the brand.

I own a Saturn.

Once upon a time, owning a Saturn was a little like being a member of a special little club, or as some less charitable observers put it, a cult. There was all the "different kind of car company" advertising; the round of applause when you drove your new car off the dealer's lot; the annual "homecoming" at the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. There was, to my knowledge, no secret handshake, but that may just have been an oversight.

Today those of us who bought Saturns are in a different type of club, The same club as the folks who bought Oldsmobiles and before that, Desotos and Studebakers, not to mention Edsels (and please don't!). We own defunct cars.

Compared to what the people who build and sell Saturns are going through, my problems are admittedly miniscule. Other GM dealers will service Saturns, and GM will continue to honor Saturn warranties. Kiplinger's Personal Finance predicts that resale values will fall a little bit, but considering all the coffee and soda spills I've inflicted on my car over the years, I never really expected its eventual resale to fund my retirement.

This is more of a wound to my dignity because yes, I worry about What People Will Think. This is, after all, the car I'm seen in almost every day. It's not like the old leisure suits I keep safely hidden in the back of my closet.

Will people reflect on my lack of foresight for buying a car that would eventually go dodo? Is this like buying shares in White Star Lines just before the Titanic sank or cornering the market on sundials shortly before the invention of the clock? Will people on the street point at my car, laugh at me and ask incredulously, "Dude, you drive a Saturn?"

Or on the other hand, will my extinct car become a distinct car? Maybe my Saturn will be a collector's item, a nostalgic reminder of happier days when Detroit thought it could stop the rising tide of imports with "no haggle" deals and dent-resistant doors. Maybe I'll be able to take my Saturn to a car show, and proudly put it on display between a 1957 Chevy and an original Volkswagen beetle.

I can dream, can't I?

For now, I'm just going to put the key into the ignition and keep on driving as if I don't have a care in the world. Nothing lasts forever, after all, and eventually we're all defunct. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Sheet metal to scrap metal.


Filed under: Anchors • Fredricka Whitfield
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Mary Lewis

    I'm a member of the club too. My bluestone 2008 Sky will become a collector's item (she says with a hopeful prayer). However, I've been fretting about Saturn's fate and grousing about GM's mismangement of the brand through this whole process like everyone else. Jim, these days it is admirable to drive a car until its wheels fall off. With most Saturns, that'll be many years off. If I see you on the road, I'll flash my lights at you – it's not a secret handshake, but it works just as well.

    October 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Andrea Z.

    We own a 2002 Saturn station wagon. Prior to that, we owned a 1995 saturn sedan (my college car). that '95 was the best car I've owned – it was comfortable, reliable, and was always cheap to fix. In fact, my grandfather is still driving it. We grew up, got real jobs, and thought we'd 'upgrade' to a newer, bigger one in 2002. It was a huge mistake. Sometime between 1995 and 2002, Saturns became just chevys with dent-resistant door panels. it has been plagued with rattles, noises and major problems from the get-go. it seems saturns were no longer 'special', but just another American car of questionable quality. while I'm sad to see saturn go, I understand it really was the market's decision not to continue buying poor quality vehicles.

    October 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm |