GM, Saturn Dealers Split on Playing Up Penske Name

By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2009 7:01 AM CDT
Team owner Roger Penske stands on the track before the start of the IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet 550 auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, June 6, 2009.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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(Newser) – Saturn dealerships around the country have been using the brand’s planned acquisition by Roger Penske to attract customers, the Wall Street Journal reports. "People want to buy from someone they like," said the owner of a Saturn dealership in Wichita. But dealership owners nationwide have since received letters from GM asking them to downplay the Penske association.

In GM’s view, the focus on Penske’s name recognition threatens to overshadow the Saturn brand. But dealers may be right to try a new strategy: customer loyalty to Saturn, once a brand strength, has been faltering. Only 37% of Saturn owners who bought a new car in 2008 chose another Saturn, down from 45% in 2007 and dismal compared to a 65% loyalty rate for Toyota.