I Miss the Saturn Experience

I’ve had a lot of cars in my lifetime, but I’ve only bought one that was brand new. It was a 1998 Saturn SL2. I loved that car. Not only because it got me from point A to point B, but at the time the Saturn folks were embarked on this radical new philosophy in car sales, and I felt like I was on the cutting edge.

Back then, when you bought a Saturn you were joining a family. The list price was the price. There was no haggling, no pressure, no feeling like you might be getting ripped off. I found that extremely refreshing. And when you signed on the dotted line, every employee in the building stopped what they were doing and they came out and cheered. It made you feel like a rock star. Somewhere I still have a picture of me standing next to my salesman at that moment.

And afterward, you were still considered family. They had parties. Bar-b-cues. Classes. You got cards in the mail. People often went to Tennessee to tour the factory. When you took your car in for periodic maintenance, they knew you by name. They welcomed your dogs in the waiting room, and offered you doughnuts and coffee. When they’d finished working on your car, they would wash it and leave candy or a cut flower on your seat.

I was really proud to be a part of that, and I suspect that if Saturn still existed, I’d be a customer for life, even though the cars themselves weren’t sexy or innovative or award winning. I’m sure that had a lot to do with their downfall. But it’s a moot point. Sadly, Saturn is no more.

I don’t know which came first, their financial decline or their philosophical decline, but I did notice that in their last few years, suddenly there were no more flowers, no more parties, and no one took those factory tours anymore. It made me sad.

You just don’t see that level of customer service anywhere nowadays. Yes, all those little extras take time and cost money, but they are priceless. They are unforgettable.

I’m glad that I got to stand at the very pinnacle of the car buying experience, if only for a brief, shining moment. I’m not ashamed to say that when my Saturn was t-boned beyond repair, I shed more than a few tears. I would probably still be driving that vehicle today if it hadn’t been for that.

When I lost that car, I lost a family too. The fact that no other organization seems to be trying to create that kind of family feeling shows how short-sighted corporate America can be.



6 thoughts on “I Miss the Saturn Experience

  1. Carole Lewis

    I know what you mean. Back in 94-95, I had the opportunity to tour and cover, for our local newspaper, the Anniversary celebration at the Saturn Plant in Smyrna, TN. We were welcomed and treated with not only customer hospitality, but respect. This is not usually treatment of the press. All doors opened, all questions answered, and we were invited to meet the visiting celebs and attend all the functions. The best part… we got to drive the new models right off the assembly line.

    One of my top experiences ever. There was a huge storm later in the day with tents blowing and havoc everywhere. Once the weather cleared, things continued on. The Management and all their employees are to be commended for their hospitality. The Saturn car was a joy to drive, I wish I had been able to own one.

  2. Chris

    My wife and I have always owned Volkswagen & sometimes Audi from the day we passed our driving tests, always a new one along with a classic one, sometimes 3 or 4, we always found the after sales with them terrible, like they did you the favour when you bought the car, however our family has one of those bonds with the brand that stretches back years with fond memories. Until…

    Once we did get a car that was non VW, it was a BMW Mini Cooper S, we just loved the fact it looked so retro and turned out to be one of the most fun cars we have ever driven, however it wasn’t just this that stood out, the after sales service was the best we have ever seen, they truly went out there way to make you feel you had bought into something very special. Free tickets to Mini related shows, free gifts, money off vouchers randomly sent to you, coffee and biscuits in a comfortable lounge while your car was being serviced, the list didn’t end and the service was very rare and very special. So now this family has on its driveway one newish VW, one BMW Mini (our 3rd) and I sold my Classic VW and bought a classic American Jeep Cherokee, which I love! So if you have BMW Mini over there in the states you may yet again find that level of service, although this day an age unlikely.

    1. It’s wonderful to know it wasn’t limited only to Saturn! Customer service means more than anything in my book. Sadly, my financial expectations for my future mean I’ll probably always have to buy used cars from here on out, and you can imagine the (nonexistent) service you get in that scenario.

  3. Elaine Lorefield

    I owned a Saturn.. a gold SL2.. drove it for about 10 years….Would have bought another if they had still been in business. I agree that they were a special company. However, now I own a Subaru and guess what! The Subaru dealership is in the same building where the Satun dealership had been located. A lot of the employees are still there and they still have coffee and donuts fresh every day. The buying process of the Subaru was the same.. the price on the window was the price of the car. I had a Chevy in the interim and I haggled with the guy for about 2 hours and still never got what I thought was a great deal..but that is another story. Oh, and the Subaru crew gather around and cheer when you take delivery. 🙂

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