Saturn was to be a plant to produce a brand new car; GM had not been introducing a brand new car for some time. The name Saturn bears the name of the rocket ship the astronauts used to go to the moon. Saturn was to combine innovative technique in labor relations and innovative manufacturing technique. Roger Smith said that Saturn was the key to GM's long-term competitiveness, survival and success, and its mission was "to develop and produce an American-made small car that will be fully competitive with the best of the imports ' [and] affirm that American ingenuity, American technology and American productivity can once again be the model and the inspiration for the rest of the world." (Ingrassia)
After careful planning, with intervention from governors of different states to have the plant built in their jurisdictions, Smith proceeded with the project in Spring Hill, Tennessee. More than two decades later, a new brand of recession hits the world. GM has a pending application for a bailout by the White House. And Saturn is about to be sold out to whoever wants it. What happened to the GM savior after all these years'
It was Smith's dream - the savior concept of Saturn to put GM back on track. In the 1980s, GM was still struggling or was just recovering from the harsh realities of the recession. Yet, it was threatened by other auto giants of the time, like Ford, and the Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota. These companies had their own brand competitive cars and a distinct but effective management.
Issue No. 2: How effective was the new brand of management and new technology on Saturn to bring GM to its desired leadership in the industry'
The innovative technique in labor relations indeed materialize, but not the technology that Smith envisioned. Smith and the UAW agreed on a Memorandum of Agreement to implement plans for innovative technique in labor relations. Smith and UAW head Donald Ephlin signed the MOU which stated this principle: "We believe that all people want to be involved in decisions that affect them, care about their jobs and each other ' and want to share in the success of their efforts."
This kind of effort proved effective and beneficial for the plant employees. They were now part of the management of the plant and even in hiring new employees. They felt they were part-owners of Saturn. But this produced resentment inside GM. Other GM brands viewed Saturn as unfair to them.
The first Saturn cars went on sale in the fall of 1990 to great fanfare. When the Japanese auto makers bought one Saturn car and opened it up, they all laughed to what they discovered: "the dashboard had overlapping plastic panels that made it look cheap, and a harsh-sounding engine that stemmed from inferior motor mounts." (Ingrassia)
Issue No. 3 - Did Saturn bring GM financial successes, and otherwise'
Saturn was behind arch-rival Ford in earnings, quality and every other measure. GM's financial performance was lagging. The quality or different kind of car that Saturn was to build as envisioned by Smith did not materialize. Smith had bought whole companies, like Ross Perot's