NEW YORK—General Motors Corp. has a tentative deal to sell its Saturn brand to former race car driver and dealership group owner Roger Penske, both companies said Friday.
Penske has signed a memorandum of understanding that would give his dealership chain, Penske Automotive Group, Saturn's 350 dealerships, the companies said. Penske said that he expects to offer all the dealers new franchise agreements and will retain all 13,000 Saturn employees for the immediate term.
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Penske Automotive Group also distributes Daimler AG's Smart subcompacts in the U.S., but Smart has its own dealership network and Saturn dealers will continue to exclusively distribute Saturn vehicles, Penske said.
Initially, GM will continue to produce on a contract basis the Saturn Aura sedan as well as the Vue and Outlook SUVs, the companies said. But Penske said he is in talks with manufacturers around the world about building Saturn cars in the future.
GM had announced plans earlier this year to sell the Saturn brand. The car maker launched Saturn in 1990 with the tagline "a different kind of car company." GM's hope was that Saturn would attract younger buyers with smaller, hipper cars to better compete with Japanese imports. It built a new plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., devoted to Saturn production.
The factory had more flexible work rules than traditional GM plants for the employees who built the cars.
Despite a cult-like following that drew thousands to annual reunions in Spring Hill, the brand never made money for GM. The factory stopped making Saturns in 2007 and currently builds only the Chevrolet Traverse.