Retail sales at Saturn were up a solid 12% in 2007, thanks to new models like the full-size Outlook. But critics have charged that its sales should have been even higher. The Outlook's sales results for last year are often referenced to make their point.
You'll hear them say that Saturn only sold 34,768 Outlooks during the 2007 calendar year, a far cry from GMC which sold 72,765 Acadias during the same time period. The Outlook, Acadia, and Buick Enclave are built in the same Michigan plant and share the same GM Lambda architecture.
But there's more to the story. Saturn has a fraction of the retail stores that GMC has around the country. According to the most recent Automotive News Dealership Census data from May of 2007, there are more than five times as many GMC dealerships (2225) as Saturn stores (42
. Using these figures, on a store-by-store basis, SaturnFans.com calculates that Saturn sold on average more than 6.7 Outlooks per facility per month in 2007, compared to about 2.7 Acadias per month at each GMC dealership.
Even more amazing is that Saturn accomplished this feat with an Outlook ad budget that was less half of the Acadia in 2007. In 2007, Advertising Age says that GM spent $56 million to promote the GMC Acadia compared to $25 million for the Saturn Outlook. A similar argument could be made for the often touted "hot selling" Buick Enclave whose 2751 dealerships sold 29,286 models in the seven months that it was on sale in 2007. Following the same methodology, when adjusted to a seven month scale that equates to roughly 1.5 Enclaves per dealership per month. Its advertising spend was more than $20 million more than the Outlook's at $45 million.
So is the Outlook really selling that bad? Not given the circumstances.
But despite Saturn's "per store" successes when compared to other GM makes, the brand still has some catching up to do when it comes to its primary competition. While Ford only sold 2.9 Edge crossovers per store per month, Saturn's Japanese rivals did better. Honda and Toyota each sold more than 9.5 Pilots and 7.2 Highlanders per store per month last year, respectively.
Advertising figures for the Pilot or Highlander weren't available at the time this article was posted, but based on the GMC and Buick ad comparison above, boosting Saturn's ad spend on the Outlook certainly would be a quick way to give the Outlook more exposure and add some pizazz to its sales. General Motors has given Saturn some great product to sell, but it should give the brand the extra budget it needs to get the word out. Challenge the growing brand to show what its capable of doing. Will GM do it?