Like every other Saturn dealer, Lou Sobh is clinging to one last hope: Roger Penske.
"I had eight Saturn stores," says Sobh. "I'm now down to three. I will soon be down to one.
"We need to have some quick results."
Saturn dealers have their fingers crossed that Penske, 72, an auto magnate who saved Detroit Diesel, will take control of the cast-off General Motors brand. Penske and his team at Penske Automotive Group in suburban Detroit won't discuss the takeover until it is completed, which could happen this week.
But dealers already know two things:
1. If Roger Penske takes up the challenge, he intends to remake Saturn with shaved dealer profits, less generous operating rules and a smaller factory organization to support it.
2. They have no choice in the matter.
"Roger is one of the only people in the auto industry capable of saving Saturn," says Joe Serra, president of Serra Automotive Inc. in Grand Blanc, Mich.
"Let me rephrase that: He is the only person in the industry who can do this."
Serra was one of the first Saturn dealers Penske contacted when he considered bidding on Saturn. Serra remains in close contact with Penske and is part of a group that has worked to bring Penske up to speed on the brand.
Beleaguered by the global industry crash, long starved for relevant products and muddled by the shifting attitudes of its parent company, Saturn was cast to the wind last December as GM appealed to Congress for billions in operating cash.
Serra, a multibrand dealer with 23 stores around the country, was one of a small number of Saturn dealers who proposed that dealers buy the brand from GM. He and other retailers had spent millions through the 1990s to open customer-friendly Saturn stores in GM's bid to reclaim a market that was slipping away to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other imports.
But Saturn sales peaked in 1994 below the level GM had envisioned. The number of Saturn franchises dropped to 350 at the beginning of 2009, from 435 a year earlier.
Penske's publicly traded company owns 160 dealerships in the United States and Great Britain. Not one of them is a Saturn store.
The question on dealers' minds now is not will he revive Saturn, not even can he do it -- but how fast can he do it.