Lets see if he can get rid of the UAW and make a good car.
The man who brought the compact European Smart car to the U.S., now will focus his efforts on revitalizing the Saturn brand.
General Motors Corp. announced a tentative deal Friday that Michigan businessman Roger Penske would acquire GM's Saturn brand and distribution network.
John Bergstrom, chairman and chief executive officer of Neenah-based Bergstrom Automotive, the state's largest vehicle dealership group, said he spoke to Penske on Thursday evening.
"We've known each other for a long time," he said. "He's been working on (the Saturn deal) for quite a while."
GM this week said at least 16 parties had expressed interest in buying Saturn.
Bergstrom said Penske taking over Saturn is an exciting development for the brand, which GM launched more than 20 years ago.
"Penske is a proven winner, and the Penske brand is iconic," he said. "Roger is a strict disciplinarian. He's focused on putting together a plan that works, whether it's in Detroit Diesel Corp. or his racing business."
Penske's Saturn will continue to receive GM-made vehicles for two years, and is looking for another manufacturer to make vehicles that will bear the Saturn brand.
"We will have a supply of vehicles for at least two years with existing brands, and we have been in discussions during this diligence period with a number of manufacturers on a worldwide basis," Penske said Friday. "We would expect to have a line up going forward, which would be manufactured by a worldwide partner."
Saturn would be wholly owned by the Penske Automotive Group.
The deal is expected to close in the late third quarter. A price was not disclosed.
As part of its effort to narrow its offerings from eight brands to four, GM has been trying to find a buyer for Saturn.
A deal to sell Saturn caps a week of sweeping restructuring efforts tied to GM's bankruptcy filing, including the announcement that GM plans to sell Hummer to a Chinese manufacturer.
"We are bringing together two icons: the Saturn brand and the Penske organization," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn's general manager and native of Brillion. "When completed, this deal will save more than 350 dealerships and more than 13,000 jobs in the United States."
Saturn dealers will be offered a franchise agreement, Penske said.
Penske's purchase of the Saturn brand and its dealer network appealed to franchise owners, who would have seen their businesses phased out by year's end if a deal wasn't reached.
Saturn, which has 380 U.S. stores, sold about 188,000 vehicles last year, down 21.7 percent from 2007. Through the end of May, 35,256 Saturn vehicles have been purchased, representing 0.9 percent of 3.95 million vehicles sold in the U.S.
Brian Jacobsen, senior analyst with Wells Fargo Advantage funds in Menomonee Falls, sees the Penske acquisition as a good move.
"It made a lot of sense," Jacobsen said Friday. "Penske probably will manage it better, more effectively and quickly."
Jacobsen believed one of GM's downfalls was its size.
"The original model was building a product for every person and every purpose," he said. "There were some benefits with economies of scale, but GM got so big that those benefits no longer were an advantage."
Penske won't have those issues, Jacobsen said.
It's possible Penske could contract with a foreign partner to produce future Saturn cars, he said. GM's Chevrolet brand partnered with Suzuki for its Geo line in the early 1990s.
"It wouldn't surprise me if Penske did something similar," Jacobsen said. "There could be sharing of technology and development … vehicles could be customized for specific markets."
In 1999, Penske invested $83 million into United Auto Group Inc., now called the Penske Automotive Group. The group is the second-largest auto dealer in the United States and is the sole U.S. distributor of the Smart car.
Penske said Friday he would not be combining Saturn and Smart car operations.
Looks interesting, I bet he will sell it back to GM in a couple years.
If he rids of the UAW, and builds a no BS product following his reputation - I may just own a Penske Saturn one day...
Penurn or Satske?