General Motors to eliminate Saturn brand, phase-out Pontiac

General Motors announced at press conference Tuesday evening the closure of the Saturn brand, and a de-emphasis on Pontiac. Saturn dealerships will be closed by 2011, and no new models will be introduced under the nameplate. Meanwhile, Pontiac will be phased out as a distinct division. Certain "niche" models will still cary the Pontiac name, but they will be sold at Chevrolet dealerships.

The announcement is part of GM's viability plan being submitted to the U.S. Congress and President Obama today. The brand pullback comes in addition to the planned sale of Hummer, and the potential spin-off of Saab. GM notes Hummer might be shut down after March 31st if a buyer for the brand is not found.

In its 20-year history, the Saturn brand has never been profitable for GM. Most auto journalists would agree Saturn's new models are vastly improved, but for reasons possibly related to a poor brand perception, sales have not improved proportionally.

Since most of Saturn's new cars are rebadged Opels, it's conceivable that GM could attempt to sell certain imported Opel models under the Chevrolet name, though that is purely speculation at this point.d