Saturn: 1982-2009

Don Sherman
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Saturn's fate is sealed. The brand will die alongside Pontiac and seems to have a plot next to Oldsmobile lined up. Here are the most significant moments in Saturn's brief history:

1982 GM establishes a small car study named after the rocket that carried Americans to the moon.

1983 GM chairman Roger Smith announces plans to create a subcompact import fighter.

1984 The first Saturn prototype is completed.

1985 Saturn Corporation is incorporated as a GM subsidiary and Spring Hill, Tennessee, is chosen as a plant site. Joseph Sanchez dies three weeks after he's named Saturn's first president.

1986 Ground is broken at Spring Hill for a $1.9-billion manufacturing plant.

1987 Saturn's logo is created.

1988 The Spring Hill plant is completed and 3000 workers are hired.

1989 First Saturn dealers are appointed.

1990 Production begins in Spring Hill and retail sales commence. The first year sales tally is 1881 units.

1991 An engine coolant problem necessitates replacement of 1836 sold Saturns.

1992 The 100,000th Saturn is sold. Saturn wins top spot on J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction index list.

1993 More than 300,000 Saturns are recalled to fix a wiring problem.

1994 Saturn reports its first profitable year. Slow sales force a major production cut. The first Saturn Homecoming is held. Part of a company-wide reorganization is folding Saturn into GM's Small Car Group. Saturn sales peak at 286,003 units.

1995 The one-millionth Saturn is produced.

1996California and Arizona Saturn dealers begin leasing GM EV1 electric cars.

1997 Sales of right-hand-drive Saturns commence in Japan. Price cuts are announced for 1998 US models.

1998 Spring Hill is the only GM plant that continues working during a wide-ranging UAW strike. Saturn's three-door coupe is introduced. The Saturn showroom count rises from 350 to 500 locations. The new L-Series Saturn is manufactured at GM's Wilmington, Delaware, plant under a conventional labor agreement. Saturn SL is the first car to earn a double 5-star crash rating from NHTSA.

1999 The 2-millionth Saturn is sold. The second (and last) Homecoming is held at Spring Hill.

2002 The new Vue compact SUV is the last Saturn to feature molded-plastic body panels.

2005 The Saturn L-series is cancelled.

2006 The Sky roadster joins the Saturn lineup.

2007 Saturn's new Aura sedan earns the North American Car of the Year award. The Outlook three-row crossover and a new Opel-engineered Vue are introduced. Spring Hill ceases Saturn production when the Ion is replaced by the imported (from Opel) Astra. 2008 GM chairman Rick Wagoner testifies during Congressional hearings that Saturn could be sold, consolidated, or terminated along with Hummer, Saab, and Pontiac brands.

2009 Negotiations between GM and motor mogul Roger Penske, Saturn's potential savior, collapse when Renault-Nissan decides against supplying cars and trucks to 357 Saturn dealers after the GM pipeline is closed.

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