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 ...view middle of the document...
The new Japanese automakers were making cars of top-notch quality with half the
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Paul Ingrassia, “Saturn was supposed to save GM; Instead, GM crushed Saturn. Here’s how”, Newsweek, April 13th 2009 “GM’s new baby”, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1985/02/04/65521/index.htm “Saturn was supposed to save GM; Instead, GM crushed Saturn. Here’s how”, op.cit.
This case study was written by Dr. Srividya Raghavan, Professor, Department of Marketing, IBS Hyderabad. It is intended to be used as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. The case was prepared from the generalised experiences. © 2010, IBSCDC. No part of this publication may be copied, stored, transmitted, reproduced or distributed in any form or medium whatsoever without the permission of the copyright owner. License to use for the Class of 2011, Semester III, IBS Hyderabad. Course: Integrated Marketing Communications
GM’s Saturn Story: Integrated Strategy for Communication... work-force required by the GM factories (Exhibit I). GM then decided to fight back with the project, Saturn Corporation, named after the rocket that launched the Americans on the moon. 4. To achieve this they blew up the corporate model and started over by employing new techniques all the way from the assembly line to the showroom.5
Exhibit I Market Share of General Motors and Imports
Source: “Saturn: GM fights back”, Automation, Oct 1990
This new company was started as a ‘laboratory’ to find better ways to manufacture and market cars. From the beginning, GM wanted Saturn Corporation to be ‘a different kind of company, a different kind of car’. T achieve this o goal, GM made Saturn an independent, wholly-owned subsidiary rather than a division like Chevrolet or Buick. T o remove Saturn from the traditional auto-building mentality in Detroit, GM located Saturn’s manufacturing facilities in Spring Hill, T ennessee, some 45 miles south of Nashville6. Apparently seven governors of states went on Phil Donahue Showto plead publicly forthe Saturn plant tobe located in theirstate7.According tothe Newsweek, “morethan a dozen others trekked to Detroit to state their case in person”.8 The latest and most efficient manufacturing technology was built into the high-quality cars. (Annexure I)
The name Saturn was decided for this project from the Saturn rocket that carried the Americans to the moon and helped to win the race against the Russians in the space mission. Once again, Saturn was designed to beat the Japanese competition in the small car market. “Saturn was supposed to save GM; Instead, GM crushed Saturn. Here’s how”, op.cit. Nashville is at least 500 miles from Detroit, the home of big automakers, whose practices Smith wanted to completely change. “Saturn was supposed to Save GM; Instead, GM crushed Saturn. Here’s how”, op.cit. Ibid.
GM’s Saturn Story:...