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Dealership’s future remains uncertain

As doomed Saturn brand begins to fade away, local dealer eyes options

Posted: February 10, 2010 10:40 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2010 12:25 p.m.

The Saturn dealership show room displays pre-owned cars of various makes.

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Saturn of Santa Clarita will never again sell a new vehicle.

The dealership, which is part of the Galpin Motors Inc. family, sold its last new vehicle from the ill-fated brand Jan. 13 and has been operating as a used car lot since, sales manager Jon Bresson said.

As the Saturn brand is phased out, all of its dealerships will disappear.

But during the local dealership's final months, sales have been "excellent," Bresson said, declining to give specifics.

Bresson also wouldn't elaborate on any impending changes to the dealership - which might change brands and begin selling another type of car in coming months.

"They're working on several things, but they're not at a point where they're ready to make any announcement," Bresson said. "It's going to be soon."

General Motors announced in late 2009 that it would stop production and phase out its Saturn brand. At the time, Saturn of Santa Clarita had about 50 new Saturns on its lot, Bresson said.

Saturn dealers nationwide sold 405 of the remaining new Saturns in January, GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson noted that GM will continue to honor warranties and Saturn owners can still take their cars to GM dealers for service.

Saturn of Santa Clarita officials "hand pick" used vehicles from any of Galpin's 10 other dealerships, Bresson said. Brands include Saturn, Ford and Toyota.

Santa Clarita Valley Automobile Dealers Association President Don Fleming was cheery about the Valencia Auto Center's future.

"Here's what I do know: Both of those people that own the (former) Hummer (dealership) and the Saturn (dealership) are great people with years of experience and they'll do the right thing. ... When the time is right, they'll put something else in."

Fleming rattled off a number of "viable franchises" he could see being a good fit for Santa Clarita: Audi, Subaru, Kia, or a sporty brand like Porsche.

Fleming said auto center sales are down "probably 35 percent, collectively" over better times two years ago.

"We've all beefed up our certifieds, frankly," he said. "We're beginning to sell some new. It's not great by any means but it's a hell of a lot better than it was. It was a struggle all through 2009. There was an uptick in the latter part of 2009. Some of that carried over to 2010, which we're very happy about."

Both the Westfield Valencia Town Center and the Valencia Auto Center are key revenue generators for the city of Santa Clarita. They combine to generate almost $6 million in sales tax revenue annually.

That's about a quarter of the city's total $24 million sales tax revenue for 2008-09.

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