Friday, June 05, 2009

Deal To Sell Saturn
To Penske Reported

by Michael J. de la Merced and Micheline Maynard - June 5th, 2009 - New York Times

General Motors has agreed to sell its Saturn brand to Roger Penske, a major auto dealer, and a deal is expected to be announced on Friday, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.


Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Penske, a former race car driver whose
Penske Automotive Group is one of the largest dealerships in the country, will initially buy Saturn vehicles from G.M. But he is expected to eventually buy cars from other carmakers like Renault, through its Samsung Motors Unit in Korea.

Penske buying Saturn is an amazing story. Every article I see calls Penske a major auto dealer. Auto dealer? I wonder if these writers have even talked with anyone who knows Roger Penske?

The Saturn line of cars was started by GM to build the same fuel efficient cars that Obama says he wants while using the management style pioneered by Americans during WW II (which became known as the Japanese style after W. Edwards Deming persuaded the Japanese to use it even as America abandoned it). Of course Saturn and the new style of management was not effective inside GM due to the TOTAL OPPOSITION of the UAW, who sabotaged it at every turn. It should have been huge. Now it has a chance to become huge. Why?

Roger Penske is not just a former race car driver. He is a legend. Using home built race cars, Roger took on the major European sports car racers of the early 1960s and beat them. He was an amazing driver, an amazing mechanic, an amazing engineer and an amazing businessman. Retiring from driving, as Team Manager he led the famous Chaparral Team of Jim Hall to total dominance of road racing for over a decade, always with creative and brilliantly engineered cars.

Yes he was successful as a car dealership owner (today ranked by Forbes as the #1 Most Admired Dealership Company in the world), but another success was his purchase of Hertz Truck Rentals. In a deal rumored to cost him nothing but his management talent, he turned a division losing money into a massively profitable corporation. His contract ultimately allowed him to take over ownership and rename it into Penske Leasing. It is now part of the huge conglomerate
Penske Corporation.

Penske owns several major manufacturing corporations of automotive, components, including complete engines, and has proven that you can still manufacture here in America and make a profit. He is also a major provider of logistics management. In all of the years I have followed his career I never heard of Penske failing at anything he tried. Quite the opposite in fact, Penske always succeeds when everyone else fails.

You often hear of huge corporations that started in their garage at home. Penske is a multi-billion dollar corporation that literally did. Not just start in a garage but beat some of the world's greatest racers from that garage. And Penske is still at it. Winning this year's Indy 500 again, his record fifteenth Indy 500 victory, something no one else even approaches.

I doubt there is a more competitive individual of engineering and business brilliance anywhere in the world. And he is also well liked. Incredible combination. We may yet get to see what an American automotive company can do in the competitive world of 21st Century cars with Roger Penske running it. Don't be surprised if Saturn Cars is soon called Penske Cars.


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