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Saturn Corp., an automaker that has thrived on its positioning as "a different kind of car company," is extending its marketing into the gay community.

The General Motors Corp. unit is running a spread highlighting safety in the May issue of Out, a gay and lesbian lifestyle magazine published 10 times a year.

The ad itself, created by Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, has run in other general publications and makes no allusions to sexual orientation. It features a woman Saturn engineer who helped design an airbag system.

Saab Cars USA ran a print ad from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York, in the November issues of Out and Genre, believed to be the first time an auto marketer ran a national ad in any publications targeting gay men and lesbians.

Saab, however, is a niche marketer that sold only 21,679 cars in the U.S. last year, compared to Saturn's 286,003.

"The Saturn experience is based on trust and respect for the individual," said a company spokesman, who added the ad represented a chance "to reach an affluent and loyal market."

The spokesman wouldn't say whether more ads were planned for gay media. Saturn was also an advertiser in "Serving in Silence," a recent made-for-TV movie about a woman who was kicked out of the military after disclosing she was a lesbian.

Saturn's marketing success has been credited to its devotion to customer care. GM established the company to battle small-car imports, and Saturn claims its customer profile has the high-education demographics similar to import brands like Honda.

Out President and Editor Michael Goff said the 86,000-circulation title "had to prove we're a serious magazine of the highest quality" in order to land Saturn.

"It's very much about connecting with their customers. We connect with our readers more than most magazines," said Mr. Goff.

With automotive being the No. 1 category in magazine pages, getting carmakers to advertise would be an important step for gay and lesbian publications.

There's no evidence that Saab was hurt by any backlash to its ad. Saab sales for the first three months of 1995 were 7,088 units, up 32.5% from the same period a year ago.

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