WI: General Motors decides to offload Oldsmobile, Saturn, Holden during the 2000s and 2010s?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by saltburn861, Mar 15, 2019 at 7:27 AM.

  1. saltburn861 Active Member

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    In OTL, Oldsmobile was closed on April 29, 2004, but here in this ATL, a millionaire / venture-capitalist, pre-Great Recession, decides to negotiate to buy Oldsmobile off General Motors.

    In the ATL, the millionaire (a noted car enthusiast like Jay Leno is in OTL), who doesn't exist in OTL, decides to reboot Oldsmobile as "Classic Americana" and focus on smaller volume, high profits and luxury.

    However, I'll have to take the 2007-2012 recession into account in any ATL.

    Saturn got closed in OTL on October 7, 2009 for production, but October 7, 2010 for sales.

    In the ATL, Saturn is refocused into an eco-friendly, hybrid-only brand (at around the same time as Lexus in Europe doing exactly that), and General Motors decides to offload it during the 2008-2012 recession, perhaps to Magna (in OTL, Penske Motors was negotiating with Nissan).

    Saturn slowly, over the years, stops using GM platforms and IP, and expands internationally, beyond the U.S. and Canada for the first time, marketing itself as a tech-focused, "cool" automotive brand, pre-dating Tesla. I haven't fully worked out how though.

    Then there's a third one which hasn't happened yet in OTL - Holden being offloaded, perhaps at around the same time as Vauxhall/Opel got offloaded to PSA in 2017, due to General Motors finding Vauxhall/Opel unprofitable.

    GM wouldn't offload Buick, as they want a presence in China.

    I'm trying to work out how to make this plausible for an alternate history and where you could have the POD for each, since it's effectively three separate ATLs for one company.

    Sorry if some of this doesn't make sense - I'm not a frequent participant here but I want to try and make this seem plausible.
     
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  2. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    To me personally, I would think the optimal POD for Saturn would be for there to be an earlier spin-off of Opel and it to be included as effectively then Opel's NA nameplate, such as the proposed sale of Opel/Saab/scraps to Magna Steyr in OTL.

    Oldsmobile is a lot tougher, because what you've proposed is to spin it off as an independent upscale auto manufacturer at a time when all of the trends in the global market is for independent upscale auto beans to get bought out and merged into bigger companies. In the era of emissions and efficiency standards the economies of scale of the big conglomerates are just too much of a competitive advantage to overcome.

    EDIT: Throw Holden at Magna with the rest.
     
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  3. SwampTiger Kicked

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    Take a look at Tesla's founding from 2003 to 2008. Use a similar baseline with engineers approaching several tech company owners/developers to build a dedicated platform from which several models can evolve. Initially use a small constant speed diesel for a generator to provide power to the batteries and electric motor until high capacity batteries are available. Use the initial Espace, Audi A2 and Honda Insight for inspiration, but start larger. In other words, a very long range Tesla. Develop an early variant SUV/Crossover to further undercut competition.
     
  4. Coiler Well-Known Member

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    Where's "Independent Oldsmobile" getting the actual cars from? Are they buying out [to be otherwise closed?] GM plants? Building new ones will all the mega-costs involved? Or are they like ATL/the OTL Penske plan Saturn and just putting badges on imports supplied by someone else? If the latter, who can make viable cars for the US market and target demographic who isn't already in there by themselves? And if they aren't, why would they be successful with an Oldsmobile badge that had absolutely no brand image left by the time of its OTL closure? It's not a Cadillac/BMW/Mercedes brand that people are willing to pay really big bucks for.

    Option A probably ends up like OTL Rover in the 2000s-there's little money for future models, so recession or not, it keeps the plant and dealers running for a few years and then falls down. Its hope is getting a bailout for political reasons, but even that can only keep it going for a little longer and once the economy improves, it has all the same problems and there's less pressure to keep it open.

    Option B either collapses quickly (most likely case), finds a tiny niche like OTL Volvo or Mitsubishi, or has the supplier use it as an opportunity to get their foot in the door of the US market.
     
  5. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    Of those three Saturn is the easiest to offload - as long as it does not expand into the Vectra-based L-Series. Once Saturn expands beyond the dedicated Z platform into other GM platforms and becomes "conventional-ized", then Saturn becomes harder and harder to offload. To make it easier to offload Saturn during the 2000s, then what GM should do to boost sales is to stretch the Z platform for the L-Series, indirectly replacing both the Toyota Sprinter-based Geo Prizm and the Isuzu-based Geo Storm - essentially making it a "boutique brand" that could be easily disposed of once GM got its original use out of it (which it did, up to a point).

    Oldsmobile and Holden, OTOH, are the hardest to offload, for a host of factors, though if you do Holden at the same time as Opel and Vauxhall that could do the trick (problems will arise with the GM-derived models, such as the Barina and Cruze). Oldsmobile could be as per OTL or sold off to Ratan Tata and thus become part of the core of what is now IOTL Jaguar Land Rover, since Oldsmobile's presence in Tata Motors would be a bit too disruptive for Tata Motors' strategy of low-cost automobiles for the aspiring middle classes of the Global South. As part of the Tata Group Oldsmobile could probably be allowed to be itself and thus come close to what you're thinking, even if it would sound weird to some people.
     
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  6. saltburn861 Active Member

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    OTL Oldsmobile is a sort of niche brand like Volvo, and as for you suggesting it becoming part of the TATA Group, that could make some sense.

    Makes more sense than it becoming owned by a millionaire.

    It's re-invented as a sort of way to fit in with Jaguar Land Rover - with the minivans getting no replacement.

    Oldsmobile would be below Jaguar and Land Rover on the luxury brand food chain, so to speak.

    TATA uses it as a way of getting a foot in the door of the U.S. market, and brings the Tata Sumo Grande to the U.S. (under the TATA brand name, with a different name) to capitalise on the U.S. trend for SUVs.


    As for Saturn, the Z-platform is used for a Geo Prizm replacement, which includes a new minivan based off the platform (think of one around the size of a Toyota Corolla) to capitalize on popularity of small minivans in the 2000s - think of the Mitsubishi Space Runner as an example.

    The Saturn L-Series would not exist in this ATL, instead that would be a Pontiac sedan and stationwagon rather than a Saturn (not sure what to call it), sold only with the 2.2-litre/137hp 4-cylinder, and also a 2.0-litre/173hp 4-cylinder turbo version, along with the V6.

    It would probably compete with the Pontiac Grand Prix, but then again GM did sell competing products, like you had the Chevrolet Malibu and Vectra sold simultaneously in Mexico in 2005-2006.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019 at 12:43 PM
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  7. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    There's a problem with that strategy - if I'm reading the tea leaves right, at the time Saturn was not expected to be Opel NA but was basically trying to court American buyers away from Japanese cars by trying to adopt a Japanese-style customer service experience (which partly explains why when Saturns were imported into Japan they just simply bombed). In effect, what Saturn was in the 1990s was basically another Geo but more so - instead of using the marque to rebadge various products from Japanese automakers which GM had some sort of interest, here was a totally in-house designed product based on the polls and focus groups. Instead, what could have been done - the Cadillac Catera excepted - is to court Oldsmobile or a combo of Pontiac and Buick. The reasoning for this is because generally outside of the comfy confines of North America the general trend was to create a variation of the One Ford strategy with multiple nameplates for localized markets. Had this been allowed to prevail, then Opel would have been the main GM brand outside North America, with some variation for Latin America (read: Chevrolet - even more so if GM could ramp up production at Colmotores and Mexico to accomplish this end as secondary production for Brazil and thus keep the rest of LatAm + Caribbean on the same page where for Mercosur it would be harder due to the craziness going on in Brazil at the time), Oceania (Holden), and the UK (Vauxhall). If the Pontiac-Buick option was chosen, it would also benefit North America in another way - in Canada, Pontiac did not have the same reputation that it had in the US; instead, Pontiac was the family brand, while Chevy was more the bargain basement (with some exceptions like the Corvette and Camaro), and when combined with Canadians' preference for purchasing smaller cars Pontiac flushed out their range by relying on the same strategy it always did since the 1950s (rebadging Chevrolets, as can be demonstrated by this ad for the Quebec market for the Pontiac Tempest and its cousin, the Chevrolet Corsica - penguins not included). As for Oldsmobile - while it had no brand identity per sé in the 1990s except for nostalgia, division management wanted to steer Oldsmobile away from this and towards a more "Europeanized" model, so if there was an earlier spinoff of Opel then Oldsmobile would be Opel's natural.
     
  8. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    By the time the Obama bailout happened OTL Saturn was already selling rebadged Opels, this was a strategy that GM more or less stumbled upon on accident because they didn't know what to do with Saturn but Alan Mulally recognized the genius of and used that as the inspiration for the One Ford policy. GM couldn't properly capitalize on its own discovery because by that time they were already bankrupt and facing the fedgov dictating what they were going to do with their spare parts.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019 at 12:53 PM
  9. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    True - however, historically Opel was more associated with Buick until stagflation, in which case the "Opels" were initially rebadged Isuzus, which were then pushed downmarket to capitalize on the Japanese car craze - hence Geo, Saturn, Asüna in Canada (pronounced ah-SOO-nah, for some reason), the NUMMI and CAMI factories, and all that jazz. So in effect Saturn was not the obvious choice for becoming the de facto North American subsidiary of GM's European operations; it would have been something higher up on the food chain, but only came to Saturn by chance as the obvious choices were either killed off (Oldsmobile) or went their own different ways.
     
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  10. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Fair enough, though by the time of this POD there's no way GM is giving up Buick because of the Chinese name recognition. So it would have to be Oldsmobile going along with Opel. If that happens Saturn is likely doomed unless it becomes a dummy nameplate for captive imports from an Asian marque that didn't have access to American markets (maybe a Chinese company like Geely or BYD?)
     
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  11. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    To take one of my two options a bit farther (had Olds remained a GM brand):
    For example, if we decide that Oldsmobile remains part of GM and in its lower range would be GM North America, we could probably get somewhere by people who started off with Chevrolets or Pontiacs and now want to "graduate" to something more "sophisticated" (Alfred P. Sloan's ladder of success at work here). Now, before I start, keep in mind that what would happen here in Oldsmobile for the US would be in Canada for Oldsmobile and Buick. The reason for that is traditionally GM's Canadian dealers were, because of necessity due to a smaller market than the US, divided into two supply chains - one Chevrolet-Oldsmobile and another Pontiac-Buick-GMC. (This in part explains a good portion of the rebadging of Chevy vehicles into Pontiacs for Canadian consumption - that and also because Pontiac was a huge cash cow for GM Canada due to its family brand image.) Therefore, when the Japanese car craze came north of 49 in the form of Geo, Pontiac-Buick-GMC had to have a similar captive import brand of its own - hence the original Passport Optima (< Opel Kadett E), and in fact the entire Passport network as well, before settling on Asüna (which their halo models, the SE and GT, were basically the Pontiac LeMans, aka a rebadged and more downmarket Opel Kadett E).

    To begin, let's start with what North Americans in general and Oldsmobile in particular would consider the "low" end of their model range, and that would be their midsize (NA: compact) range. This brings us to the late 1980s/early 1990s, and in this case would be Oldsmobile's Cutlass sub-range - the Cutlass Calais, the Cutlass Ciera, the Cutlass Cruiser, and the Cutlass Supreme. All of these were relatively larger than their European equivalent, the Opel Vectra, though each was a mess of its own:
    *Cutlass Calais: N-body (~ Pontiac Grand Am, Buick Skylark)
    *Cutlass Ciera/Cutlass Cruiser: A-body (~ Chevrolet Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, Buick Century)
    *Cutlass Supreme: W-body (~ Chevrolet Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal)
    What we have here is one midsize (= compact [NA]) car and two full-size (= midsize [NA]) models hogging the same space. Leaving the Cutlass Supreme alone, both the Cutlass Calais and Cutlass Ciera/Cruiser could use some, well, inspiration. With the Cutlass Calais (which only came in 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan models) we could start by designing the new 2-door around the Calibra, with the same external design cues used around the Vectra A sedan (butterflying away the Achieva). The Cutlass Ciera/Cruiser can solder on until it becomes time for a new model - which, in fact, happens around the same time the Vectra B is introduced (which also happens to coincide with the Antares concept car which IOTL previewed the Intrigue). Then the Cutlass Calais could be built on the same GM2900 platform as the Vectra B (and in its sedan configuration could be built around the Vectra B), the Cutlass Ciera and Cutlass Cruiser could be built around the Omega B (despite the Omega's RWD bias), while the Cutlass Supreme (read: Intrigue IOTL) could remain as before. Now, below the Vectra we have two cars which in North America are conventionally grouped together as "subcompacts" even though they are very different in terms of size - the Corsa and the Astra, which in the latter case would fill in the void left by the LeMans but on the higher end of the scale. By the time the Astra F comes onto the scene, the LeMans is already obsolete and could suffice for a downsized Firenza; when the Astra G and later the Astra H come on line, they - like the Astra F - would be about 1-2 years after their European introduction for North American consumption. The Corsa would be problematic to fit in and thus - like OTL - could be omitted, as long we get the Tigra as an Oldsmobile somewhere. A new Olds Intrigue for TTL would replace the Eighty Eight much like how the Aurora replaced the Ninety Eight.

    Just one idea (when I should be getting ready for work!).
     
  12. ScrewySqrl The Nutty One

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    I liek the idea of Saturn becoming the Electric/Hybrid/Eco-friendly brand. The Volt would be a Saturn instead of a Chevy, but could GM get a hybrid to market in time to make Saturn worth saving?
     
  13. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    No, it could not.
     
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  14. Nick P Well-Known Member

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    Was it possible for Tesla to take over the Saturn setup and turn it into the worlds first major all-electric car maker?

    Ready to go dealerships, a solid name, knowledge of how to build cars cheaply. Maybe even the factory too.
     
  15. ScrewySqrl The Nutty One

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    another possibility: If GM can't get a hybrid up, it coudl go for 'super fuel effiecent' cars:
    The Metro could go to Saturn from Chevy/Geo, with its 53 MPG, maybe a remade, modernized Chevette with better computer controlled engine and a completely new name could avoid its 'Get out and Shove-it' reputation?
    In teh early 2000s era of $3+ gas in the US, small, fuel-efficient cars would have a niche.raise the roof on the SW wagon and call it a mini SUV for the SUV crowd.
     
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  16. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    It would be interesting, that's for sure. That is, if Elon's up to it - that and a transitional period where Saturn is still using GM stuff.
     
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  17. Coiler Well-Known Member

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    I'm very, very skeptical. My family members owned two Saturns in the early 2000s and they were thought of as nothing more than any other GM blandmobile of the time period. Not bad cars, but certainly none of the "coolness" that OTL Tesla has
     
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  18. melpax Member

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    The 'problem' with Holden is that it also has substantial R&D facilities, namely the technical & design centre in Melbourne, and the proving ground at Lang Lang, about 2 hours out of Melbourne.

    When the announcement was made that Australian Manufacturing would end, the proving ground was initially earmarked to be sold off, and the design centre kept. It wasn't too long until GM decided to keep the proving ground as well - I suspect that any logical purchaser of the facility would have been a Chinese or Indian firm, and GM would not have wanted them to get one of their ready-made facilities on the cheap, along with a whole bunch of available staff with current GM knowledge. I suspect this is also why there is still a GM design centre in Melbourne - the current head of GM design is an Australian who was previously in charge of design for Holden.
     
  19. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    I had much the same question. Beyond that, what about the legacy issues? Is the *New Oldsmobile absorbing the warranty/maintenance/parts supply issues of the older cars? Is GM selling off all the plant & tooling & parts stocks? What about dealer network? Do current Olds dealers convert, or does the new company get all-new franchises?
     
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  20. saltburn861 Active Member

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    I haven't fully worked out the ATL in detail yet, but, a basic gist of things:

    • 2004-2005 cars rely on GM legacy platforms under licensing agreement (like with today and PSA moving away from that with Opel)
    • The Buick Rainier is introduced in 2004, as in OTL, but the Oldsmobile Bravada name moves to a different vehicle.
    • Plants and tooling may be sold off
    • Dealer network is a mixture of current Olds dealers (as in the U.S. where you can have multi-franchise GM/Toyota/KIA dealers) and new standalone stores in different cities.
    • In Canada, post-2004, Oldsmobile dealers stop selling under the Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Chevy Truck and Chev-Olds-Pontiac-Buick-GMC Truck, with them renamed Chevrolet-Chevy Truck and Chev-Pontiac-Buick-GMC Truck in Canada, as ties with Olds are cut for legal/licensing reasons since Canada does not allow mixing of franchises under dealer franchise law (for example, no Chevrolet/Toyota/Kia dealer as in the U.S.)