Saturn’s hometown stunned as car company calls it quits
By Aaron Cooper
SPRING HILL, Tennessee (CNN) — The town that Saturn put on the map is
worrying about its future, and hoping its giant auto plant and jobs won’t go
the way of its most famous product.
General Motors announced this week that it would close its Saturn line
after a sale to Penske Automotive Group fell through.
At the end of “Saturn Parkway” in Spring Hill sits the huge plant where
— as the ads touted — “a different kind of car company” produced a “different
kind of car.”
The first Saturn, a red S-Series, rolled off the line in 1990. The
factory, the town, and its workers have played a major role in the company’s
image and advertisements, even hosting tours and “reunions” for Saturn car
There is a community pride attached to Saturn. That first car is still at
the factory — now on prominent display in the visitor’s center. In city hall,
the walls are decorated with old photos of the small town that Spring Hill was
before Saturn came to town.
“I think people are very proud an American-made car was made here,” said
resident Barbara Williams.
Mayor Mike Dinwiddie credits a lot of that growth to the Saturn plant.
“GM back in the mid 80s is the reason this town began to grow in the
first place” he said.
Eventually, however, GM decided to move production elsewhere. The last
Saturn made in Tennessee rolled off the line in 2007. After retooling, GM
started building the Chevrolet Traverse in Spring Hill, but that production is
on its way out, too.
In November, it will be moved to a plant in Michigan, leaving Spring
Hill’s plant idle.
The move to shut down Saturn has left some in town disappointed and
“It’s been a great car,” said Keith Slep, who runs an auto repair shop a
few miles from the factory. He had hoped Penske would make the car work because
“he has a track record that won’t quit of being a great business man and a good
leader. I don’t know what happened.”
Barbara Williams, who was eating lunch in a Spring Hill park with her
granddaughter, had the same question.
“I’m like everyone else, how can this happen? GM has been a forerunner in
the automobile industry, and it’s just a really sad indictment on what is
happening,” Williams said.
The mayor said the proposed plans are close to where Saturn was decades
“We are kind of curious as to why the decisions have been made that have
been made …,” Dinwiddie said. “I do know that what GM is trying to do now as a
company, as far as how they are trying to operate and what they are saying,
the improvements they need to make almost mirror what Saturn was 20 years ago.”
Resident Joyce Avello said the federal government is to blame.
“It’s an abomination what the government is doing to the automotive
industry … Get it out of the government’s hands. They don’t know how to do
cars. They can hardly do the government.”
Dinwiddie is optimistic about the future of Spring Hill.
“I have to believe the plant is going to come back. It all depends on the
overall economy,” he said. “I hope that Americans start buying American
products and start supporting the American auto manufacturing industry, and if
that happens we’ll get a product in this plant.”
Dinwiddie said he has been working with General Motors on a daily basis,
and has invited the president and the auto recovery czar to come and tour the
“I don’t think they understand what this plant is capable of doing, and
once they see that, I think that they will be well aware of the situation and I
think they could probably give us some help,” he said.
G.W. Bowman, 94, has lived in Spring Hill most of his life and remembers
stories of his grandfather collecting the mail in the area during the Civil
With Saturn gone and the local plant preparing to idle, he said, the city
“Of course it’s going to hurt, but it’s not going to kill Spring Hill,”
Bowman said. “Spring Hill was here a long time before they came in.”
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