Dealer Group Rings Up GM’s Saturn

DALLAS – Will Saturn become a retailer? Very interesting way for the brand to survive.

An investor group that includes private equity firm Black Oak Partners, LLC, working together with a number of Saturn retailers, announced today that it has approached General Motors about buying and operating the principal assets of Saturn Distribution Corporation as a diversified automobile distributor and retailer. SDC is the legal entity that franchises Saturn retailers.

A “new” Saturn Distribution Corporation would be built on Saturn’s customer-centric, low-hassle sales and service model. The company will leverage Saturn’s brand and source products from OEMs for distribution through Saturn’s existing network of approximately 440 US and Canadian retailers.

nSDC will initially source vehicles from GM, but expects over time to offer smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles from a range of manufacturers under its traditional business model of high customer service. It will retain a light vehicle design function that will help other manufacturers tailor their product offerings to meet Saturn’s brand style and customer needs. As envisioned, nSDC will engage in no direct manufacturing activities itself.

A press release said that the nSDC model could leverage the strengths of the existing Saturn retail network and distribution management team to pursue opportunities created by the changing structure of the global auto industry. nSDC’s role will be product sourcing, quality assurance, distribution, competitive analysis/positioning and national branding.

“As an independent retailer, the creation of nSDC will satisfy the primary interests of all existing stakeholders,” said John S. Pappanastos, a spokesperson for the investment group. “GM will be relieved of liabilities related to retailer franchise agreements and avoid the downstream financial fallout on their other brands that would result from closing Saturn retail facilities. Saturn retailers, on the other hand, will be provided with an exciting opportunity to secure a return on their existing investment. And taxpayers will be able to salvage more than 10,000 retail jobs that might otherwise be lost in a GM reorganization, as well as mitigate the potential for substantial local economic impact from Saturn retailer bankruptcies.”

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