Saturn (automobile)

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Uglycar

A 2008 model.

The Saturn is a make of automobile from the United States and was a division of General Motors, but is now owned by U-Haul. It was the second GM division to be named for the founder rather than a geographic location after Pontiac (Antonio Pontiac):

  • Oldsmobile: Named after Olds Creek in Flint, Michigan.
  • Buick: Named after a vantage point at Truman, Indiana. There is a large boulder present with inscribed text stating "The Buick Stops Here".
  • Chevrolet: Nickname of popular petroleum seaport Chevron Inlet, Delaware.
  • Cadillac: Named for Cadillac Williamsburg, VA

The Idea

On November 12, 1982, Tupperware USA's Southwestern field representative Daniel R. Saturn stumbled out to his car at 2am after a raging, drunken Tupperware party in Flagstaff, AZ only to discover a large door ding in his recently issued Chevrolet Caprice Classic company car. He was not amused. The door ding was so obvious that it was unmistakable in a poorly lit parking lot, even while drunk. The angry Mr. Saturn slurred out a couple loud drunken rants and then hopped in the car and drove back to his hotel room for the night.

The following morning started the day that would change his life. He woke up in his hotel room bed with a silver-haired widow next to him and a half eaten assortment of carrots and celery in a Tupperware container on the nightstand. He thought to himself "What the hell happened?" The carrot and celery assortment, the company of a older woman, and a massive hangover were normal and even comforting, but that door ding still ate at his soul. He hopped out of bed and put on a robe to see it in the daylight. He walked out the door and went to the passenger side of the car, eyed the ding, and cursed up a storm again but this time he could be understood since he had sobered up. He was angry.

At about 1:30pm, Saturn was about 15 minutes from the New Mexico border. He was still really angry about the door ding. He decided he shouldn't let his anger consume him. He started to settle down and think straight again. "What if the doors couldn't ding?", he thought to himself. "I, and the rest of humanity, would never have this frustration again! The world would become a happy place for all".

At 9pm, he was again the life of the Tupperware party, this time in Rio Rancho, NM, just north of Albuquerque. He's talking with some ladies about the quality of the Tupperware product and then the idea strikes. "What if there was a car with body panels made out of Tupperware? They'd last forever, never dent, and if Tupperware is top rack safe in the dishwasher, then they should be able to survive a car wash!". Being the dedicated field rep he was, he knew he needed to contact company management about this idea. He was excited because he knew this was just the thing to move Tupperware from a company worth millions to a company worth billions, not to mention the exciting future company cars he could end up with.

Early Development

Saturn was a company man. He had dedicated 17 years of his life to the company and the company responded with great pay, benefits, and a nice new company car every two years. His idea was to be Tupperware's. He contacted the reigning Tupperware CEO Preston Seal on November 15, 1982 stating that he wanted an audience with him for one hour in January. It was agreed they would meet in person at Tupperware world headquarters on January 10, 1983 at 4pm for one hour. Saturn didn't disclose what he was working on, merely stating to Seal on the phone that "This could be a bold and highly profitable product line for the company".

Challenges

The real work on automobiles was to begin. It was going to be an uphill battle for Saturn:

  1. He hadn't made a high profile presentation before. This was offset by his natural ability for personal sales, however.
  2. He didn't have a lot of time. His field representative duties were still fully intact so there was a lot of driving and talking time that he had to fulfill rather than work on the concept 100% of the time.
  3. He didn't have a budget. He funded everything for the project out-of-pocket outside of some Tupperware samples.
  4. He didn't have any real facilities to speak of. Space was limited to whatever he could pack in and out of the company car and still drive to his next destination.
  5. He had no engineering experience.
  6. He had zero experience in model making.
  7. He was used to a hard drinking life on the road with no responsibilities outside of high profile Tupperware parties throughout the southwestern United States.

Presentation Preparation

The biggest challenge for Saturn in preparing the presentation wasn't the lack of experience, but his hard drinking road life. Despite the fact he had a little under two months to prepare, he largely drank it away until he decided to get serious on January 2, 1983 as his New Year's Eve hangover was fading away.

His first action was to decide the scope of the presentation. He decided to cover the product advantages, advantages to the company, and have at least one model car to present. He wanted to keep his presentation simple, so he had plenty of time for Q&A within the hour reserved for his presentation.

Presentation to Tupperware CEO Preston Seal

On January 10, 1983 at 4pm, Saturn meets in the office of Tupperware CEO Preston Seal who was interested in learning about what the leading Tupperware representative in the west had come to present. The men shook hands and as Seal sat down, Saturn folded out an easel and began to run though his presentation with accompanying poster boards.

The first two poster boards read simply "Tupperware good..." followed by "Door Dings Bad!". Saturn then showed Seal a Polaroid photograph of the ding in his Caprice Classic company car. Seal looked puzzled.

The third board read "Tupperware: Top Shelf Dishwasher Safe!", and was followed by the fourth reading "Tupperware Automobiles: Car wash Safe!". Seal was annoyed. He asked, "You want us to form an automobile division, all over a door ding?". Saturn replied that "It's not about me. I hate door dings. Everyone hates door dings. If we can solve this problem and make money, why not?" Seal responded that Tupperware was not an auto firm and didn't have the infrastructure, engineering, manufacturing, or dealer network to support an automotive operation.

Saturn responded by saying he had a crude model of what he called the Tubberwaregen Van 1N. It was simply a Tupperware 1337 container with four toy car wheels added. Saturn showed it to Seal, illustrating the convertible top which was the lid of the 1337. Seal was not impressed.

"I'd be angry if a stranger off the street wasted my time with this.", said Seal. "You have led our southwest sales for over a decade. Your idea is well intended. It will not work for Tupperware."

Saturn understood and thanked Seal for his time. He left the office sad and torn between his loyalty to the company and his dream of cars that would not door ding.

Post-Tupperware

After his meeting with Preston Seal, Daniel Saturn was at a pivotal point in his life, deciding between his love for Tupperware and his hatred for door dings. He pondered both, with the core thought that Tupperware brought joy to the world, and door dings brought anger. Although spreading joy was a wonderful and rewarding occupation, he understood that removing anger from the world was a harder and more noble task. Saturn ultimately took the challenge and left his comfy, rewarding job for the unknown.

Saturn Motors

Daniel Saturn was now focused on Tupperware paneled automobiles. He spent a year generating concepts to humor venture capital money. With backing, on February 29, 1984, Saturn Automobiles, LLC was announced.

First Model

The 1337 inspired wagon was released to the world as the "Ding Free" 1333 Van on August 2, 1994. This first of all Saturn vehicles was offered by the first round of 21 dealers, 18 of which were in the southwest United States. Of the 18 southwest dealers, Saturn had put his mac attack on 12 of the dealership owner's wives[Citation not needed at all; thank you very much]. To simplify startup costs, engineering costs, and infrastructure costs, the initial Saturn cars relied 100% on American Motors components, rather than selectively raiding the parts bins of Chrysler, GM, and Ford.

Origin of the Saturn name

Originally, the name Uranus was chosen for the new division, as a cadre of drunken marketing students envisioned ad slogans such as:

  • "Uranus is unusually smooth yet powerful"
  • "Driving Uranus is simply the most rewarding way I can think of to spend an afternoon"

The only recorded evidence of this alternate product name is found in a rough draft of a sales brochure, where servicability was highlighted - "SERVICING URANUS Should Uranus ever need servicing, our team of eager technicians (who are factory trained to know Uranus inside and out) will be happy to attend to all your motoring needs. After all, their careers are focused on Uranus, and they’ll do anything to keep Uranus running until you get tired of it and sell it to your brother in law. Other features that may make Uranus trouble-free for many years:

  • Uranus is lubed for life. You’ll never have to pay a mechanic to grease your ball joints or tie rod.
  • Thanks to platinum electrodes and lean burn fuel injection, Uranus won’t need any plugs for about ten years.
  • A stainless steel exhaust resists corrosion, so it won’t leak and poison you with the deadly gases Uranus emits. A double walled muffler ensures that Uranus will be quiet, with no embarrassing buzzing or rasping tones that will draw sneers of contempt from among your peers."

Then, in a sudden shift of sanity, they changed the name from Uranus to Saturn for these reasons.

  • To name the company after (and thereby giving props to) its founder, Danny "DentMeister" Saturn (see above)
  • It is obvious that Saturn is a prettier planet with rings ("Uranus is an ugly green rock that looks like a giant booger", said Roger Smith, chairman of GM at the time).
  • They considered Jupiter, but as everyone knows, "Boys go to college to get more knowledge, but Toyota Camry owners go to jupiter to get stupider." So they feared a Toyota lawsuit.
  • The planet Saturn is closer to Earth than Uranus, and the snoggered marketing teams felt that the closer proximity suggested the car would be closer to the possibility of ownership for Joe Punchclock. They tried to use the name Mercury - a planet even closer to Earth - but were dissuaded by 750,000 attorneys retained by the Ford Motor Company.

Early Marketing

Thankfully, the company slogan was changed shortly after being announced. The original slogan was "It may be grossly underpowered, but you'll still want to sing. Other brands are more reliable, but we save you from the door ding."

The company flipped through an astonishing amount of slogans in the first year:

  • "No one has died in a Saturn." (this was abandoned after 10 days, when there was finally enough Saturn cars on the road for someone to get into a fatal accident.)
  • "The plasticy car of your dreams" (especially poor timing after the fatal accident and subsequent lawsuit)
  • "Top Rack Safe" (wisely abandoned because no one puts their car in a dishwasher)
  • "Style. Safety. Saturn." (created when Saturn finally hired a decent marketing manager by the name of Danny Ross and demoted the prior manager)
  • "Top Rack Safe" (Manager Danny Ross left Saturn for a better job at General Electric and prior marketing manager Roberto Pluto regained his prior position, and returned to the prior slogan even though "Style. Safety. Saturn." had been effective.)
  • "Drastic, Fantastic, Enthusiastic, and made with Plastic"
  • "No need for a chauffeur when you roll with space age polymer"
  • "This driver was trapped in a Saturn in Alaska for three weeks, and, look; No Freezer burn !"
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