I enjoyed Lindsay Chappell's column about the lost magic of Spring Hill. As far as the awesome powers of General Motors' marketing and strategic thinkers is concerned, here is the real story:
Saturn's Don Hudler and Tom Shaver hired maverick advertising man Hal Riney to position the Saturn brand.
Saturn's Skip LeFauve was never very visible throughout the marketing process. His main task was to see whether GM could build a plant in Tennessee and avoid the UAW, much like Honda had done in Marysville, Ohio.
It was never about the car.
Riney saw the car in the summer of 1988 and told Saturn management it was boring. He then proceeded to create one of the most remarkable advertising campaigns in history.
The early ads hardly showed the car at all. Real people were posed in front of the vehicle, and the copy was all about their reasons for liking Saturn. If I like this person, I will probably like the car. It was that simple.
By Job 1, the Saturn was a good 10 years behind the Honda Civic technologically - not a lot to brag about.
Let the record show that the true GM marketing magician was none other than Hal Riney himself. Unfortunately, the current Saturn agency is about as good as they come creatively, but the wall is now in place at GM.
Mr. Lutz, take down that wall.
Editor's note: Don Hudler is a former chairman of Saturn Corp. Tom Shaver was director of consumer marketing at Saturn. Skip LeFauve was a president of Saturn Corp.; he died in 2003.