GM Bailout Plan Could Cut Pontiac, Saturn and Saab

Cash Crunch May Spell the End for Weaker Brands

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It looks as if Pontiac, Saab and Saturn could be on the General Motors endangered-brand list -- and with them some $300 million in measured-media spending.

According to a report from Bloomberg that cites unnamed sources, the country's largest automaker is weighing whether to jettison those brands to ease its tightening cash crunch. The company, which is leading the three U.S. automakers in seeking a $25 billion federal bailout, has until next week to present a business plan to Capitol Hill that will appease lawmakers.

Pontiac, Saab and Saturn are among the weaker brands on the marketer's roster, which also includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Hummer (the company is already seeking a buyer for the last). Indeed, handicapping the brands most likely to be axed by GM earlier this year, Ad Age said of Pontiac that it'd likely be the first to go. In the same July 14 story, we also said that experts would like to see Saab sold too. Those same experts said Saturn was a brand worth salvaging.

Pontiac, Saab and Saturn account for 20.7% of GM's total measured-media spending and 16.5% of its sales, according to an Ad Age analysis of TNS Media Intelligence and Automotive News figures. The three brands together had $286 million in measured spending through August and $400 million for full-year 2007. According to Automotive News, Pontiac sales through October tallied about 239,000 units, down 20.9% from the same period in 2007. Its peak sales year was 1978, when it sold 896,980 units. The brand is handled by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett; Pontiac had measured spending of about $90 million through August.

Saab sold 19,000 units through October, down 30.8%. Its agency is Interpublic's McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich. According to TNS Media Intelligence, measured spending was $22 million through August.

While at first glance it may seem as if Buick should have made the list rather than Saturn, consider that while its U.S. sales are low, Buick is thriving in China. Saturn sales were 167,000 units through October, according to Automotive News. TNS Media Intelligence puts its spending at $174 million through August. Saturn is handled by Interpublic's Deutsch.
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