GM to Sell Saturn Brand to Penske

Will save 13,000 jobs and 350 dealerships

General Motors has reached a deal to sell its Saturn brand to the Penske Automotive Group in a move saving some 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs in the U.S., GM said on June 5.

The Saturn deal would grant Penske, a big auto dealership operator, the rights to the Saturn brand and its distribution network and assets including its inventory.

GM said a memorandum of understanding calls for the automaker to continue to produce Saturn cars on a contract basis, including the Saturn Aura sedan, and the Vue and Outlook sport utility vehicles.

If completed, it said, "the deal would save more than 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs at Saturn and its retailers in the United States, and would preserve the customer-focused Saturn brand." It is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"This is the combination of two iconic teams: Saturn and Penske," said Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak. "GM had the vision to create Saturn and has the desire to see it succeed in the future."

Penske chairman Roger Penske, an ex-race car driver, said Saturn had a "passionate customer base and outstanding dealer network."

"For nearly 20 years Saturn has focused on treating the customer right. We share that philosophy, and we want to build on those strengths," he added.

Saturn began selling cars in 1990 and has sold more than four million vehicles. More than 80% of those vehicles are still in operation, GM said citing data from RL Polk.

GM is in the process of eliminating or selling four of the eight brands it sells in the U.S. as part of a massive restructuring plan. It hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection as a new, leaner company in 30 to 60 days.

GM announced the sale of its hulking Hummer brand to Chinese industrial machinery firm Sichuan Tengzhong earlier this week and has also reached a deal to sell its European brand Opel to a Canadian-Russian consortium.

It is also in the process of finding a buyer for Swedish mark Saab, which is currently under bankruptcy protection, and plans to phase out its Pontiac brand by the end of 2010.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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