Dealership revved up by Saturn sale

Among those kicking tires after General Motors Corp. put its Saturn brand on the market, Roger Penske was near the top.

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Among those kicking tires after General Motors Corp. put its Saturn brand on the market, Roger Penske was near the top.

That’s the assessment of Gary Moe, whose Red Deer Saturn dealership is part of the North American network that Penske’s automotive group is poised to buy. A tentative deal was announced by Penske and GM on Friday, with closing slated for the third quarter of this year.

Moe, who is president and general manager of the Gary Moe Auto Group — which consists of Gary Moe Saturn, Gary Moe Mazda, Gary Moe Hyundai and Gary Moe Volkswagen — said he and his counterparts at other Saturn dealerships are pleased with the development.

“Everybody is just jacked, everybody is pumped,” he said.

A number of prospective buyers were rumoured to be interested in the Saturn network after GM disclosed it was dropping the brand as part of its restructuring, but few have the stature of Penske. Through his Penske Automotive Group, the former race car driver operates more than 300 automotive franchises that carry dozens of brands.

“He’s big time,” said Moe. “He represents 45 different manufacturers, which would just about be every manufacturer in the world.”

GM is expected to continue manufacturing the Saturn Vue, Outlook, Aura and possibly the Astra on a contract basis for Penske, said Moe. It will also produce parts for existing and new Saturns, he added.

Penske has said he’s looking at other global manufacturers to supply his new dealer network, and Moe thinks China could become the source.

“If you read between the lines, what does he need a big network like Saturn for?”

Moe said he was always confident that Saturn would be sold.

“We never made any plans for what we were going to do with this building if we didn’t have it. It wasn’t even on our radar.

“We have not laid one person off.”

But he acknowledged that there were concerns among consumers.

“Obviously, our traffic’s been down because our customers lost confidence.”

The Penske deal should change that, said Moe, adding that Saturns continue to be covered by a government-backed guarantee and will have ongoing access to GM parts.

“So customers can buy a car from us with real good confidence.”

The Saturn brand dates back to 1983, when it was launched as an alternative to Japanese imports.

Based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., the Penske Automotive Group owns the second-largest U.S. automobile retail chain by sales and also has race teams in the IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am series.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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