Saturn: From a Project to a Distinguished Name
Saturn Corporation started as a General Motors project in 1982. The then management decided to create compact cars that could compete with those Japanese makes in terms of quality, design, and cost. It was said to be an ambitious project for having everything new upon startup, including the plant, the dealer network, the workforce, and the process. Although its production ended in 2006, Saturn became
The Z-body platform
a different kind of car company that succeeded in the industry in its own respects.
This automobile platform that was developed in-house at Saturn used a spaceframe design made from dent-resistant polymer panels. This body platform allowed Saturn to alter the look of the models as often as needed. This design soon became Saturn's major selling point, as the vehicles used plastic pieces instead of metal for the cars' side panels. Also, the Z-body platform has a front-wheel-drive configuration, unlike the Y-body that operates on rear-wheel drive used in Chevrolet Corvairs.
The I4 engine
This was a unique engine type shared only by the models belonging to the S-Series. It has a straight 4-aluminum piston engine that underwent a foam-casting process to mold the engine block and cylinder head. This single-overhead camshaft engine used a water-cooled block made from aluminum alloy and liners made from ductile iron. It utilized eight valves for each cylinder head, which houses the camshaft in the center. This SOHC engine was rated at 85-horpower, while the DOHC engine was rated at 124-horsepower.
Red Line and Green Line
Saturn introduced the Red Line and Green Line vehicles to distinguish cars according to performance and environmental friendliness. The Red Line vehicles include the Saturn Vue, the Saturn Ion, the Aura, and the Sky. The Green Line, on the contrary, includes mild hybrids like the 2007 to 2009 models of the Vue and Aura. These hybrid models have a Belted Alternator Starter that uses an electric motor to add power to an engine's crankshaft through a serpentine belt.
Saturn: A Different Auto Company, Making a Different Car
Two and a half decades-that's how long Saturn Corporation lasted in the auto-making industry. But its fervent inception in 1984 by the Group of 99 never foresaw the company to be killed solely by being a money-loser, as per the General Motors management's view. After all, Saturn kept to its promise of reinventing the automobile-making it affordable, efficient, and stylish. Plus, the company was so dedicated to consumer satisfaction that it put the buyers on the front line of its service. No wonder why Saturn bagged several awards in various aspects through the years. Although the Saturn brand has just become a marketing arm for the GM brand Opel, there is no doubt that it was able to raise its own flag of being a different car manufacturer in the American market.
A company built by teamwork
In February 1984, a group of 99 people was formed to gather ideas on various areas of auto production. The group was split into seven teams, with each team designated a production aspect: stamping, paint and corrosion, metal fabrication, body work, heating and air conditioning, trim and hardware, and powertrain and chassis. The Group of 99 exerted voluminous efforts to gather data about the best way to start a car company envisioned to crease a different car. Two million miles of travel and 50 thousand hours of work brought about a new plant, a new workforce, a new process, and a new dealer network.
Saturn Corporation received several awards for its outstanding community relations, manufacturing process, and for its cars' easy maintenance, among others. Two Silver Anvil awards were given in 1991 for community and internal relations. A Design and Engineering award was also given in the same year by Popular Mechanics. Several media outfits also extended recognition to the company:
Driver's Choice awards for the best small car in 1991 and 1992 from MotorWeek,
Technology of the Year in 1993 from Automobile Magazine, and
Best American Car Value under 13,000 in 1995 from IntelliChoice.