Lajdziak: World must know Saturn has SUV

Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn sales and marketing, says it makes good sense to use General Motors' engines and platforms, despite Saturn's identity as a different kind of car company. Product Editor Rick Kranz spoke with Lajdziak on Aug. 17 in Monterey, Calif.

The Saturn Vue sport wagon will offer a continuously variable transmission and electric power steering. Will Saturn be the GM test bed for introducing cutting-edge technology at the lower end of the market?

That's not the case. It all depends on the product. It happens that we're kind of in the right place at the right time to be considered for the CVT.

Will the Vue's advertising promote the CVT and electric power steering?

When we launch the vehicle, it will be very important that the world knows we are now in the sport-utility segment. So we certainly are going to focus on product. For years, we knew that Saturn was synonymous with small cars. As we moved into the mid-sized segment and now into the sport-utility segment, we got a communications job to let people know that we are in a new segment and then tell everybody what the vehicle is like.

Will the four-cylinder Vue with the continuously variable transmission and the six-cylinder with the automatic transmission be introduced at the same time?

We're working through the timing of our launch of the various powertrain options. It's not determined yet.

Will both powertrains be introduced on the Vue this calendar year?

We're going through the quality gates right now. We might decide to being out one ahead of the other. It all depends on how we continue to proceed and build toward launch.

Several years ago, Saturn introduced a minivan concept. What happened to the idea of building a minivan?

The CV1 was a concept vehicle. It was just a vision model. It was an opportunity for us to get a concept vehicle on the auto show circuit to get the reaction of people.

A lot of the design themes that were in the CV1 you have seen now in the Vue, and you will see some of those in our product going forward.

With regard to a minivan, we're not planning on that right now.

Saturn was working on a pickuplike vehicle based on the Vue. Why did Saturn kill that vehicle?

We had reservations about that vehicle. Neat concept. Not sure that it would work yet in the market place.

Besides the Vue, will we see other all-wheel-drive vehicles from Saturn?

That is something that we want to entertain on future products. But in the next couple of years, all-wheel drive will be on the Vue.

When will the Honda engine appear in a Saturn vehicle?

We have not zeroed in on the timing.

How many Vues will Saturn produce in 2001?

Not going to call that. We're not going to get caught up in being tracked to any numbers because then you start to make bad decisions. You make bad decisions on getting vehicles out.

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