Shift at Saturn

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Saturn is more than a brand. It is a philosophy, a way of business, a place and a product -- and all of this communicated through exceptionally smart advertising. As General Motors Corp. prepares to fold Saturn marketing into its corporate towers in downtown Detroit, we hope GM doesn't destroy a great asset.

Saturn delivered on its promise to be a "different kind of car company" -- a factory and philosophy in Spring Hill, Tenn., that treated customers with respect. Exceptional customer coddling made up for the fact that Saturn was just an average kind of small car.

Shifting Saturn's marketing, sales and service into GM's central marketing organization will save money -- a good thing given that Saturn is losing money as it invests in upcoming models. But Saturn's chairman now will oversee the factory, not the marketing.

Saturn's brand philosophy may be strong enough to keep its unique virtues pure even as its marketers settle in next to the handlers of other GM brands. Maybe Saturn marketers can teach their new cube mates how to take care of customers; we hope Saturn's marketers don't pick up bad habits from the insular GM contingent.

It's no longer spring in Spring Hill. It soon will be winter in Detroit. Despite the change of address, Saturn should remain something far more important than just another vanilla General Motors brand.

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