The prospect of better product is doing little to raise the value of Saturn's dealerships.
The estimated value of a Saturn franchise is two to three times the dealership's net annual pretax earnings, said Todd Berko, a partner at Bel Air Partners LLC, a Skillman, N.J., investment firm that specializes in automotive retailing.
By comparison, a Lexus franchise commands 6 to 10 times earnings, according to brokers recently interviewed by Automotive News.
These price estimates are dubbed "blue sky" - that is, the value of a dealership's intangible assets. Blue sky does not include tangible assets such as buildings and equipment.
"There's not a lot of blue sky in Saturn dealerships right now," Berko said. "There are some people who think Saturn is coming back, and there are some people who say 'Show me,' who are much more skeptical."
Saturn did succeed in selling dealerships in Saturn Retail Enterprises, a holding company formed in 1997. The last of the stores was sold last year, said Saturn spokesman Mike Morrissey.
General Motors formed the Charlotte, N.C., venture to acquire and operate stores when dealers failed to find buyers for them. It hoped to use funds from an initial public offering to acquire more Saturn stores. The IPO never happened, and the venture began shedding dealerships.
Saturn shed the dealerships by quietly putting them up for bid, a source told Automotive News. Brokers were not solicited. Instead, most of the bidders were other Saturn dealers, the source said.
You may e-mail Leslie J. Allen at [email protected]