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Saturn

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GM’s Saturn Story: Integrated Strategy for Communication and Brand Building
“Untill 1989, Americans thought of Saturn, when they thought of it at all, as the sixth planet from the sun. After 1989, Saturn the planet was preempted by Saturn the brand, a new shape of matter that signaled the comeback of a renovated universe called Detroit.” – Lynn B. Upshaw, Author, Building Brand Identity: A Strategy for Success in a Hostile Marketplace

Genesis of Saturn
On a wintry day in Detroit, the CEO of General Motors (GM), Roger B. Smith (Smith) was about to make an announcement. Since he had taken over in 1981, ‘the cherubic chairman’ 1 of GM had already brought about big changes in reorganising GM’s lumbering organisation structure. He had invested in robotics, space satellites and data-processing for which he had bought over entire companies such as Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Aircraft Company when he could have just contracted their services. On January 8th 1985, Smith was unveiling Saturn, GM’s first new brand in 70 years. It was to be a lot more than just another car brand. At that time, Smith was famously quoted as stating, “Saturn is the key to GM’s long term competitiveness, survival and success as a domestic producer.”2 As an independent subsidiary that relied on innovative technology and was managed by the workers and management in a joint decision making format, its mission was to “develop and produce an American made small car that will be fully competitive with the best of imports……. (and) affirm that American ingenuity, American technology and American productivity can once again be the model and inspiration for the rest of the world.”3 In the early 1980s GM was still the biggest automaker. In the light of recession, GM was losing money for the first time. The import market increased from 13% to more than 24% between 1970 and…...

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