To the Editor:
Regarding the June 19 letter and picture of Saturn's 100-mpg car from Louis Pappas ("Saturn forerunner was a 100-mpg car"): It would be helpful if someone would provide some context to that story and juxtapose the explanation against the following facts that have stayed in my mind these last 20 years.
Saturn was General Motors' attempt to create a new business model, from simultaneous engineering principles to simplified, cooperative, agreements with the UAW and customer-oriented marketing. I think (GM executive) Bill Hoglund was once quoted as saying that he and GM's marketing types fooled the GM board by promoting the P-platform as a 2-place urban commuter and economy car; it ultimately became the Pontiac Fiero.
Both Fiero and Saturn had plastic panels over steel spaceframes, and both vehicles were promoted as fuel efficient. Later, reports surfaced that the spaceframe technology ate up whatever weight savings were afforded by the plastic-panel design, just as the complicated and nonflexible "mill and drill" body shop ate up efficiencies on the manufacturing side.
Could it be that with plans in place for two platforms that should have been high-tech and fuel efficient, and with the demonstrated lack of consumer interest in B+ small cars like the Ford Fiesta, the GM board had little interest in building such a vehicle?
It is amazing that GM achieved 100 mpg, even by employing advanced design technologies and materials.
Finally, might it be that in the vehicle pictured with Pappas, one can see the greenhouse of the Fiero?