June 5, 2009

Penske close to Saturn deal with GM

Auto dealership owner Rodger Penske is closing in on a deal to buy the Saturn brand from U.S. automaker General Motors Corp., sources close to the deal said.

Penske, a former race car driver, is an iconic figure in Detroit who organized the city's Super Bowl event and a downtown revitalization program. The Penske Automotive Group Inc. is the nation's second largest auto retailer, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.

GM is in bankruptcy court and looking to sell or cancel out at least four brands, including Saturn, Hummer, Saab and Pontiac. Earlier this week, a Chinese manufacturer emerged as a buyer for Hummer, which GM will continue to produce under contract.

Auto industry analyst Aaron Bragman at IHS Global Insight said Saturn's future was far from certain. However, if anyone is going to make a go of it, Penske is one of the better people to try, he said.

Sources close to the deal making said Penske was looking for a manufacturing partner to continue production, while he took over the Saturn dealership network, the newspaper said.

GM said it had 16 separate buyers looking into the Saturn brand. Penske said last month he was interested in Saturn, which sold 188,000 vehicles in 2008 through a network of 380 U.S. dealerships.