Saturn gets the ultimate line item market adjustment

A few years ago I went with my neighbor (Tai) to help him purchase a new convertible.

Our first stop was the local Saturn dealership home of GM's first "no haggle pricing" brand to test drive and perhaps purchase the new Sky with the bigger turbo engine.

We spotted several of the non-turbo Sky models in the parking lot but inside the showroom was beautiful gun metal gray Sky topless roadster with the bigger engine.

We were both smitten and immediately jumped into the car and began day dreaming about carving the local canyons on a warm sunny afternoon.

The salesmen approached with that "I'll just real these fish in" smile and asked if we wanted to buy it now or a minute ago.

I was too busy lusting after the car to notice the sticker or the odometer, but after I calmed down a bit I checked and to my surprise the car had about 5K on the odometer.

"Is this car used," I asked the salesmen hoping for a chance to get a bargain on a pre-owned car for Tai?

"We like to think of them as pre-loved," said the salesmen with a cat like twinkle in his eye.

"Oh…K," I replied and gave Tai that "can you believe this guy" look.

This salesmen was not the young and hip eager-to-please, happy-go-lucky, and ambiguously-ethnically-diverse guy I had come to except from the Saturn TV commercials.

With my senses now on full red "you're about to get screwed" alert I cautiously looked at the sticker on the car's windshield.

And sure enough there it was under the final tally in black and white hand written script: Market Adjustment: $3500.00

I knew immediately what it was, but I decided to ask Slick Sam, or whatever the salemen's name was, just to make sure.

"Soooo, what's the $3500.00 market adjustment premium for," I asked now on full "you trying to screw me alert"?

"We'll," said the still confident salesmen thinking this was just a slight bump in the road to the sale, "the Sky is such a popular convertible that unfortunately we have to adjust the price because of the high demand for the car."

With that Tia and I walked out and drove to the Mini dealership were he (on the spot) purchased a more expensive and equally "in demand" Mini turbo convertible at a genuine "no haggle" sticker price.

Ironically, yesterday the entire Saturn brand got the ultimate market adjustment and 350 Saturn dealers are now closing their doors.

It seems that the once famous risk taking 72-year-old Roger Penske became very risk adverse, and pulled out of the deal at the last possible moment when he could not get Renault to agree to supply cars after GM stopped building Saturns for the brand.

Or perhaps he and his accounts did their due diligence and concluded that the Saturn dealership network and brand have little to no real value.


Because incidentally that's the same conclusion that GM must have reached as it immediately announced that it won't try to sell, mortgage, or maintain the brand, instead it will just shut Saturn down.

I can't help but wonder how many hundreds of millions GM spent on advertising, brand building and employee training in the initial years of Saturn to build good will and customer loyalty. 

Do you remember that annual pilgrimage and huge picnic that Saturn owners made every year to the factory?

And yet…greed and stupidity on the part of at least one local dealership saw all of that good will disappear for me in a handwritten line item on the sticker price of the brand's halo car.

Of course there are many more complicated reasons that Saturn went under but still, I can't help but wonder what could have been had Tai, and perhaps thousands like him, put a Saturn in their garage instead of a competing brand?

Roman Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early
years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars
for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and
writing about endurance sports for, Mica is also the Endurance Sports Examiner.