General Motors Corp
GM said it expected to phase out Saturn in its viability submitted to the government on Tuesday, and later that day GM executives said all options were on the table.
Among the options, GM and its Saturn dealers will investigate a spin-off of the Saturn Distribution Corp, an independent GM subsidiary with which Saturn dealers have their franchise agreements, GM said in a memo sent to Saturn owners late Wednesday.
If the plan moves forward, Saturn dealers would source products from other automakers, Jill Lajdziak, general manager of Saturn, said in the memo obtained by Reuters.
The goal -- from a product perspective -- would be to find future vehicles that match the Saturn brand: fuel-efficient, safe, reliable and affordable, Lajdziak said.
From a retailing perspective, we would build on our core strength of unmatched customer service, she said.
GM created Saturn in 1984 in a bid to compete head-on with Japanese vehicles for quality and customer service.
The first Saturn dealerships opened in 1990 and pioneered a no hassle, flat price sales model that took much of the negotiating out of buying a car.
But the brand languished over the past decade as GM throttled back on new investments. An attempt to reinvent the brand under the stewardship of retiring GM product chief Bob Lutz failed in recent years to revive sales despite strong reviews for products like the Saturn Aura sedan.
Sales dropped 22 percent in 2008, worse than the 18 percent decline in the overall market.
GM said in December it would review the Saturn brand, along with Saab and Hummer, as part of a sweeping restructuring mandated by the U.S. government under the terms of a federal bailout.
GM received $13.4 billion of government loans and has asked for up to another $16.6 billion, saying it would run out of cash as soon as March without new federal aid.
(Additional reporting by Gerald E. McCormick in New York and Jeffrey Benkoe)