What GM can learn from the rise and fall of Saturn

Fortune

Saturn Vues, Outlooks, Auras and Skys still motor on the American road, as do plastic-body Saturn SC sedans. The discontinued models of a discontinued Saturn brand are rolling, bittersweet reminders of an earlier – and ultimately, unsuccessful – attempt by General Motors to reinvent itself.

Saturn, introduced 30 years ago, was intended to be more than a new GM [fortune-stock symbol=”GM”] brand. The name heralded advanced manufacturing techniques, a revolutionary labor agreement with the United Auto Workers union and a no-haggle style of retailing – GM’s answer to Honda and Toyota.

Reinvention will be high on GM’s agenda next week as the embattled company faces a new round of scrutiny in Congress.  Five years after its bankruptcy and government-led financial rescue, GM finds itself in the throes of massive recalls and questions about the attention of its engineers and lawyers to safety. The automaker’s chief executive, Mary Barra, has been summoned…

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