Roger Penske: 'We're going to build a Saturn team'

I want to say this: There is risk associated with these types of things. I don't want anyone to think this is a walk in the park. This is a serious business. This is a serious opportunity for us. But more importantly as I think about what's going on today in the world, in the U.S. and especially in Detroit, 13,000 jobs will be saved (along with) 350 dealerships and a great brand — an iconic brand that has been developed by General Motors over the years. We don't lose that. We start with a tremendous foundation of product, of people and, more important, we have 3.5 million consumers that are driving Saturn vehicles today. If you came in from the outside as a manufacturer from anywhere in the world, you wouldn't have that base.

Q: With all you have going on, are you afraid you might be spreading yourself thin?

A: Well, I would say this: People work hard. I work hard. The key thing about our organization is we've got great people, and the great thing about Saturn is that inside the organization we're going to develop a key team. So it isn't like we're starting from a green field. We have people that know the brand, know the network, and many of these retailers I already know.

Q: The question everyone seems to have: How will Saturn supply its dealers down the road?

A: We have a couple years of supply from GM, and one of the first jobs for us will be to find out who will be a partner for us. But the great thing is we get to look on a worldwide basis to people who have the best product that we can compete with in the U.S. Then the goal will be, obviously, to have the volume so that it's viable to come in and manufacture the product in the U.S. So step one: Take GM product. That saves jobs in the plant. It gives them the opportunity to (make) more cars to cover their fixed and variable costs because Saturn will be taking (on) those. Then we take a look at who's out there that wants to enter the United States and we give them a great base of dealerships, a customer base and hopefully a good management team. And after that, we have the opportunity to manufacture cars here with the particular partner we would choose in the near-term.

Q: Saving 13,000 jobs. Do you see yourself as a savior or hero, at least to these people?

A: This is like a race. They've thrown the green flag. There's a long way until we get to the finish. This will not just be me. My name's on the door (but) it's all the people that work for us. I'm passionate about the U.S. My life has changed since I became an automobile dealer. GM gave me a chance over 40 years ago. To me, this is an opportunity to do something for the country, but, more importantly for all the people that work at Saturn and all the other people that are in the auto business, because there are suppliers, dealership employees (at stake). We love teamwork and that's what we're going to do. We're going to build a Saturn team.

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