After months of nonstop hype, the 2007 Saturn SKY is now entering dealer showrooms. This two seat roadster marks an important turning point for the Saturn brand long identified with building nondescript, but dependable vehicles. With an MSRP of $23,690, the SKY is certain to sell for several thousand dollars over the dealer’s sticker price as demand is expected to far exceed capacity. Let’s examine the Saturn brand and the car behind the hype to see if the SKY was worth the wait.
Since Saturn’s first cars became available in 1990, the brand has attracted a loyal following of owners who liked the company’s simplicity and consumer friendly dealer network. Indeed, Saturn’s “no haggle” pricing revolutionized the relationship between dealer and customer changing the typical adversarial business transaction into a partnership benefiting buyer and seller alike.
Originally, Saturn was established as a separate company, but wholly owned by General Motors. The idea behind Saturn was that the company would build import fighting small cars to compete against the likes of Toyota and Honda. The S-Series, made with “ding proof” polymer side panels was an immediate hit and Saturn relied exclusively on this line of compact coupes, sedans, and wagons for nearly a decade before a second, larger model was introduced.
The dream of keeping Saturn separate from GM eventually died and the brand was brought into the GM fold to be managed much like Chevrolet, Buick, etc. are today. Indeed, the Spring Hill, Tennessee factory, which was exclusively designed to build Saturn vehicles remains in business, but many of the division’s cars are now being built elsewhere including the SKY.
So, the SKY has caught your attention, has it? Who could blame you? Pictures of the SKY have been circulating heavily online for months and it is certainly an attractive vehicle. Based on GM’s new Kappa platform, the SKY shares some components with the earlier released Pontiac Solstice, another two seat roadster. The SKY, however, has its own look with a very pronounced fender peak and sleek body style. Here are some of the attributes of the SKY:
– Front engine, rear drive, two seat roadster
– 50/50 front/rear weight distribution
– Manually operated cloth covered top folds down into the trunk
– Front pivoting hood
– 2.4L I4 engine producing 177 h.p. paired with a 5 speed manual or 5 speed automatic transmission
– 18 inch wheels; 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS
– Power galore: air conditioning, locks, windows, doors, AM/FM/CD, etc.
The SKY was priced and designed to compete against two other roadsters, the Honda S2000 and Mazda’s Miata. Although the SKY is technically a sister car to the Solstice, it appears that it is better suited to compete against the Japanese brands as the Saturn roadster comes fully equipped and incorporates a sleeker body design. Taking nothing away from the Pontiac, the SKY is definitely the more competitive of the two.
For Saturn, the SKY improves the brand’s image immeasurably. Much in the way that the Corvette is a “halo” car for Chevrolet the SKY will be the same for Saturn. Production will be limited to just 10-12,000 vehicles annually and purchasing a SKY will likely mean buyers paying well over sticker price for their car. Indeed, some reports are indicating dealer mark ups as high as $5000 in the face of stiff demand.
Beyond the SKY, Saturn will also be introducing a second new vehicle this year, the Aura. Replacing the L-Series, the Aura midsize sedan borrows heavily from GM’s European division, Opel, and incorporates the bold design of SKY in its front end.
Yes, the days of being known as a builder of compact plastic cars in Tennessee is over; a new Saturn is rising and if all the hoopla related to the SKY is any indication, Saturn’s future is certainly very promising.