NEW YORK — General Motors Corp. has a tentative deal to sell its Saturn brand to auto racing magnate Roger Penske's dealership group, both companies said Friday.
Penske has signed a memorandum of understanding that would give his dealership chain, Penske Automotive Group, Saturn's 350 dealerships, the companies said. Penske said that he expects to offer all the dealers new franchise agreements and will retain all 13,000 Saturn employees for now.
"I would expect that the model that we're putting together, the distribution model, will be profitable day one," Penske said. "We'll have less costs. We'll not be in the manufacturing side."
Neither Penske nor GM would say how much Penske is paying for the brand. Penske said he expects the deal to close in the third quarter. Initially, GM will continue to produce on a contract basis the Saturn Aura sedan as well as the Vue and Outlook SUVs. But Penske said he is in talks with global car manufacturers about building Saturn cars in the future.
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The sale marks a new chapter for Saturn, which GM had been trying to sell since earlier this year as part of its turnaround plan.
GM Chairman Roger Smith first unveiled the Saturn brand in November 1983, describing it as a revolutionary new way to build and sell small cars in America. But the project was slow to develop and the brand did not officially launch until 1990. It featured the iconic tag line "a different kind of car company."