Saturn Set To Tout Its Green-iosity With 'Rethink' Tag

Saturn will be green this year. The company, which used the stage at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to unveil one of them, will roll out two hybrid vehicles.

At the show, Saturn unveiled a two-mode hybrid version of the Saturn Vue that gets 50% better mileage than the standard Vue. It is currently building hybrid versions of its Aura sedan.

The GM division had an active year in 2007, launching some five vehicles and boosting retail sales and transaction prices. This year, the company will promote fuel efficiency as it launches new vehicles and continues to promote itself as "Different."

Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager, said that while Chevrolet has put a lot of the PR and marketing focus on GM's fuel-efficiency efforts over the past year, Saturn won't be the "fuel efficiency brand" for the No. 1 automaker.

"I don't think any brand today within GM or within any of our competitors can be [the] 'fuel efficiency' brand. [We all] have to be fuel-efficient. That, today, is like having four wheels on a vehicle."



Lajdziak says Saturn will use GM's "Gas Friendly to Gas Free" corporate fuel-efficiency campaign to support its green message. "We will tackle the marketing part of that differently than Chevrolet," she says.

Also different this year is Saturn's tag line, which has been shortened from "Rethink American" to just "Rethink." Lajdziak says the change wasn't made because of Saturn's vehicle-platform relationship with GM's European Opel brand, but because the division wanted to get back to a modern version of its famous "A different kind of car company; a different kind of car" from the 1980s, when Saturn really did have just one car.

"We always had in our sights that once we launched we would transition to 'Rethink'," she says. "It goes back to the core of what the brand is all about. We like 'Rethink' because we think it's a contemporary execution [of the 'Different' campaign]."

Lajdziak allowed that this year will bring grassroots efforts, street teams and product demonstrations at venues targeting more affluent and well-educated consumers. "It will fall in a number of different buckets, including street teams taking products to unexpected places. This past year, for instance, we had vehicles displayed at art shows."

She says the targets are individuals "with a progressive mindset who are predisposed to an import product. That will point us in the direction of the media we use and how we use it."

It has been Saturn's mantra to target import buyers, but Lajdziak, pointing to last year's sales stats, says it's not a stretch.

"Last year, the first year of our revitalization program, was one of rapid-fire product rollout: right now, the oldest product in the portfolio is Saturn Sky [a roadster introduced in 2006]. It was the first year of revitalization," she says, adding that the company delivered on a 12.6% retail increase year-over-year.

"That's particularly strong, given there were a lot of competitors launching products in 2007 who did not post a year-over-year retail increase," she says. "We will come in number one or two in the industry on year-over-year increase in retail sales. That gave us a 20% improvement in market share for the brand." She said transaction prices are also up 43% since 2006, or around $7,000, "and that's a direct result of a growing portfolio in the different segments in which we are now competing."

She says about 57% of buyers of the Saturn Outlook--a crossover that launched late in 2006 as a 2007 model--are current or past owners of vehicles from competitors. "It's one of the higher-conquest vehicles in GM's brand lineup. It is delivering on average income levels north of $78,000, and it is also actually the youngest demographic in our portfolio."

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