October 2, 2009 in Business

Saturn of Spokane dealing with Penske sale collapse

Owner looking for other relationships, strategies
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Saturn of Spokane General Manager John Agost sits in a Saturn Vue on Thursday.jesset@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)

Saturn of Spokane General Manager John Agost said dealers were so confident a proposed sale to Roger Penske was imminent that many were scheduling meetings with their new boss for next week.

But the deal collapsed Wednesday, putting the brand’s remaining 350 dealers on the verge of extinction.

Agost said that will not happen in Spokane.

Owner Jeff Barton is already looking for potential relationships with alternative brands, Agost said, and they are also discussing other strategies for the day after Oct. 1, 2010, when Saturn will ride into the sunset unless a new buyer materializes.

Agost said Penske, who reportedly waved off GM because he could not find another manufacturer to make Saturn cars, might just be seeking better terms.

If not, he said, dealers who once considered making their own buyout deal with GM no longer have that option.

The Spokane dealership has 21 new cars on its 1002 W. 2nd lot, about a two-month inventory, Agost said. There are 45 used cars.

He said the store will maintain Saturn’s ground-breaking no-haggle pricing on its remaining cars, but will adjust stickers to reflect market conditions.

The dealership employs 38. Agost said he has been with Saturn since the Spokane location opened in 1990, and with Barton for 26 years.

“He’s a good guy to work for,” said Agost, expressing confidence the dealership will remain open.

“That’s really our strategy, is to stay in business,” he said.

Barton also owns Barton Jeep in Spokane Valley.

Agost said Saturn, founded to counter the influx of imported vehicles, did not get the resources needed to compete because GM had several brands, compared to just two or three for Honda and Toyota.

For years, critics condemned what many considered bland Saturn products, but newer vehicles like the Vue and Aura were well-received.

Agost said the current mix is the best Saturn has ever offered.

Meanwhile, GM terminated Pontiac, has a pending sale of Hummer to a Chinese company, and is shopping Saab.


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