Saturn Corp. hatches plans on Oct. 30, 1998, to offer what it called the auto industry's first three-door coupe and end production of its slower-selling two-door cars.
A smaller third door on the driver's side of the 1999 SC1 and SC2 offered easier access to the rear seats.
Saturn added the third door in hopes of broadening the car's appeal as Americans were increasingly shifting to light trucks, notably SUVs. Across the industry, sales of small cars -- particularly small coupes -- were sluggish at the time.
Saturn kept the third door a secret until unveiling it Oct. 30, 1998, at the New England Auto Show in Boston.
The door could be opened by first opening the driver's door and pulling a handle inside the car.
The design feature was suggested by New Jersey dealer Stuart Lasser, whose son, Hal, then 8, complained about how hard it was to climb into the rear seat of the two-door model. Lasser's idea: Why not add a third door?
Minivans were already been marketed with four doors, and extra doors were being added to extended-cab pickups. On the auto show circuit, design studies such as the Pontiac Rageous and Mercury MC4 -- both ostensibly coupes -- had small back doors intended to make them somewhat practical.
Within six weeks of Lasser's suggestion, Saturn had engineered a prototype of a three-door coupe, The New York Times reported. The model scored well in consumer clinics, and Saturn decided to put it into production.
The cars went on sale in November 1998 and provided an immediate boost to Saturn.