Abandoned Saturn Dealership Is a Reminder of What Could Have Been

Saturn was supposed to be a “Different Kind of Car Company,” but GM shuttered it over a decade ago.

byRob Stumpf| PUBLISHED Jul 27, 2020 1:13 PM
Abandoned Saturn Dealership Is a Reminder of What Could Have Been

Remember Saturn, the blue-collar brand that lived under the GM portfolio and offered the promise of being "A Different Kind of Car Company?" The ones with a then-modern approach to car building that strayed from its parent company and had a famous no-haggle pricing policy? Despite the marque going-belly up more than a decade ago, the world still carries some traces of the brand's existence. One such crumb was uncovered by an automotive YouTuber, showcasing an abandoned Saturn dealership frozen in time.

It's the old Bob Rohrman Saturn dealership in Lake County, Illinois. From what we can tell, the building kept its doors open until GM announced the dissolution of the Saturn brand in 2009.

Today, the grounds seem to be stuck in their original customer-ready condition. That means complete with Saturn signage and colors, though the paint on the building has faded and the grass has begun to take back the concrete in a post-apocalyptic wasteland kind of way. Sorta uncanny considering it's right next to a busy shopping mall.

While the cameraman doesn't go inside, we do get a peek through the windows. You can see the barren showroom, offices with boxes stacked to the ceiling and even a small sign celebrating being open for 15 years (meaning that the dealership would have been founded just a few years after the Saturn brand was minted).

Everything about the dealer just screams the 2000s, and visiting an archive of the dealer's old website is even more nostalgia you didn't know you wanted.

Perhaps one of the most interesting tidbits about this dealership is its welcoming aura. Looking closely through the sliding glass front doors into a room that was once bustling with salespeople and customers, you'll immediately notice the sign that reads, "Welcome Friends." Despite the brand being long gone, it gives a gentle reminder of just how the Saturn brand was so focused on building an otherworldly connection with its customers.

In fact, the entire GM spin-off brand was founded around the premise that the most important thing it sells was a direct relationship with the people who drive Saturn cars. And boy, did it work. In 1994, GM hosted its first "Saturn Homecoming" at the Spring Hill Manufacturing plant in Tennessee. More than 44,000 Saturn owners gathered to celebrate a sense of community, with tours, crafts, food, entertainment and even tightrope walking.

Sadly, Saturn's success was also its own Cadmean victory. Sales were cannibalistic to GM's other brands, and the higher-ups simply didn't see a need to reinvent the wheel of car buying, despite doing exactly that when it began shaping the brand in the late 1980s.

The simple wording on the glass is a gentle reminder of what once was.

According to a local resident, the store was briefly used as an overflow lot for a Hyundai dealership, and Google Street View also shows a number of Volkswagens being stored there.

The sight of an in-tact Saturn dealership is a pretty huge throwback for me. I was just graduating high school in 2009, and a close friend who was working as an apprentice at a local Saturn dealership was loaned a Saturn Sky Redline off the showroom floor for the weekend as a congratulatory gift. We spent the time with the car being typical teenagers and gawking about how the Sky was such a cool roadster. Six months later, the building—which had the same awning and color scheme as Bob Rohrman Saturn—was packed with Volkswagens and the slightest mention of "Saturn" was just a memory.

Brands come and go, but there's something about Saturn that makes this particular piece so special.

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