When Chris Groves was ready to trade her PT Cruiser in late 2007, she looked for a 2008 model — or even a 2007 — but couldn’t find one within a 200-mile radius of Springfield. So she bought a Jeep. But she’d still rather have a new PT Cruiser, one of several types of vehicles that may disappear from car lots because of slumping sales.
When Chris Groves was ready to trade her PT Cruiser in late 2007, she looked for a 2008 model — or even a 2007 — but couldn’t find one within a 200-mile radius of Springfield. So she bought a Jeep. But she’d still rather have a new PT Cruiser.
The news that there won’t be any more new Cruisers saddens Groves, a Springfield resident. Chrysler said it would eliminate the retro-looking car as part of its survival plan announced in the week.
“I just loved my PT Cruiser and even named her Margarita, because it was such a cute car,” she said. “It was a great car. But I guess nothing lasts forever.”
Many local owners of car models that are to be spun off or discontinued, such as Amanda Mueller of Chatham and Paula Gentry of Sherman, show similar loyalty.
Chrysler plans to eliminate the Dodge Aspen and Durango as well as the PT Cruiser. The Aspen and Durango, both large sport utility vehicles, have sold poorly, and the PT Cruiser, released to much fanfare in 2000, also has slumped in sales.
General Motors intends to sell or spin off its Saturn brand, and if those attempts are unsuccessful, GM will phase it out by 2011. GM also is discussing the sale of its Hummer division and is seeking buyers for its Saab unit.
That would leave GM to focus on Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick, with Pontiac reduced to one or two models.
“My husband and I are now on our third Saturn, and I love them,” said Mueller.
Mueller’s husband, Christopher, had a 1995 Saturn SC2 when he was 16 years old, and the couple didn’t get rid of it until it had almost 200,000 miles on it. By then, they’d bought a second Saturn. They replaced the ’95 with another Saturn two years ago.
“I’ll be very upset if they go under,” Amanda Mueller said. “We always look at Saturn first.”
Gentry has been driving Saturns for 18 years and hopes to continue that streak.
“I get terrific mileage, great comfort, they look great, and hold up really well,” she said. “My current car is a Saturn LS and it has 110,000 miles on it and still runs great.”
Nick Stabler of Chatham has been a Saturn owner for 12 years.
When he graduated from college in 1996, he and his fiancee, now his wife, needed a new car to replace “college cars.”
They were lured to Saturn of Springfield by Saturn’s original sales pitch: “A different kind of car ... a different kind of car company,” he said.
“The gimmick was great cars, friendly no-hassle sales, and a non-negotiable ‘price is price’ manner of selling their product,” he said. “Of course, at the time, Saturn’s efforts to establish themselves included getting your picture taken with your new Saturn, getting invited to the Saturn-owners barbeque at the factory in Tennessee. ... Different for sure.”
But when the Stablers bought a mid-size Saturn in 2002, they got a car that caused them problems.
“Saturn had, it seemed, just became another cookie-cutter GM franchise, slapping its logo and a different name placard on the same style of vehicle as each of its other brands,” he said. “It’s sad that GM has chosen to let Saturn — potentially — go the way of the Oldsmobile.”
GM’s Saab unit also is on the block, and a former Saab employee thinks the same GM corporate practices have befallen that brand.
Scott Hartz, who worked for Saab before the GM buyout, owns a 1998 9000 SE with 220,000 miles.
Saab was a niche brand that, in the 1980s, held its own against BMW, Audi and the then-new brands Infiniti and Lexus, Hartz said.
“It lacked a marketing budget and relied on customer satisfaction and word of mouth for growing sales,” he said.
Saab’s quality suffered, however, after GM took over the brand, Hartz said.
“In a sense, I am glad that the Saab brand is destined to be out of GM’s draconian hands,” he said. “I love the older cars and have owned four Saabs over the years — all used and at the end, each of them had over 250,000 miles with no major problems.”
Hartz suggests a new company combining Saab and Saturn, “if somebody had enough money.”
Not everyone will be upset at the demise of some of the brands.
Seth Passfield of Rochester, a college junior, has had a PT Cruiser for three years.
“I thought their look was very intriguing and I like that a lot,” he said. “But when it comes to the car itself, it doesn’t perform very well for being a small car.”
But Dan Tavine has had three Cruisers and would buy another if he could.
“You can slide in or out of them without having to step in or out,” he said.
He currently owns a 2005 Dream Cruiser IV convertible, which was discontinued by the company last year.
“ “I can only hope by dumping the model, mine will hold its value longer as a collectible,” he said. “Ten years from now, if somebody wants a Cruiser convertible, I’ve got one.”
Chris Dettro can be reached at (217) 788-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The endangered list
Saturn: To be phased out by end of 2012 model year unless sold.
Hummer: To be phased out in 2010 unless sold by March 31.
Saab: To be spun off, GM hopes, by Jan. 1.
Pontiac: To be de-emphasized, though some models will continue to carry the Pontiac name.
Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen: Similar models of full-size SUV to be eliminated.
PT Cruiser: to go out of production this summer unless it is sold.