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Mike's Vote: Put Roger Penske in charge of GM

Roger Penske, now Mr. Saturn, is expanding his already vast automotive empire (Photo: IndyRacingLeague)


   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Hey, how about Roger Penske as boss of General Motors?
   Sounds good to me.
   He's already one of the country's biggest car dealers, and he is buying GM's Saturn brand – thus saving 13,000 jobs and 353 Saturn dealerships, as well as the iconic car line.
   Why not put him in the corner suite too?
   "Listen, I'm too old and have too many things to do," Penske says with a smile. "Not even a chance…."
   Penske, in the NASCAR shadows last season, with his Sprint Cup teams struggling, is suddenly back in the headlines this year, on a number of fronts. The Indianapolis 500 win, the Atlanta 500 win….And now with Saturn as part of his portfolio….
   Hey, and when are we going to see a Saturn in the Daytona 500?
   "Everyone is talking about racing," Penske says. "But racing is about no. 50 on the list of things we have to get done, before we can think about going racing with Saturn. It's just not in the cards right now."
   Still, Penske is racing, it's part of his DNA, and Saturn's Aura comes right off the Chevy Malibu platform.
   "But we have a long-term commitment right now with Dodge, and we're going to stick with them for sure," Penske says, of his NASCAR operations. "I don't want anybody to get confused – we have a long-term contract with Dodge, and we're committed to that. We're not going to waver off that at all.
   "Everybody is asking me about 'financials,' but we are a vendor to Chrysler and General Motors in many other aspects, and we feel very comfortable with it all, the communication, the process. I don't think there will be any issues."
   Penske, of course, has his hands on more angles of the car business than just about anyone else anywhere….including the largest Toyota dealership in the world.
   And Penske does more racing than just this NASCAR thing.
   Maybe a Saturn in the 24 Hours of Daytona?
   But first things first.
   And first Penske wants to reassure NASCAR fans that he's sticking with Dodge…and he wants to reassure the country that things are getting better in Detroit, and not just with the Red Wings and the Stanley Cup.
   "We've got a lot of good things going on in Detroit," Penske emphasizes. "Like the Red Wings
   "I know there's a lot of meltdown, but as the city comes out, and the Big Three….
   "Ford has done a great job, and GM and Chrysler will come out stronger, with less debt. And as they rationalize their 'downstream dealer network,' which has to happen…they've got a lot of good people, and this gives them the opportunity to go forward on a level playing field."
   Rebuilding Saturn will be a challenge for Penske, and he wants to make it a global car maker, but with the cars made in the USA.
   "We'll be looking for potential partnerships around the world, and hopefully they'll come here and build the cars in America," Penske says.
   But the potential racing angles……
   "There is nothing I do in my life that isn't associated with racing," Penske says with a grin.
   "Racing has been a common thread through our business, and if there is a way to take racing and create value for the Saturn customer and brand we would do that.
    "Saturn is an iconic brand. This customer base of three and a half million, that's the asset. You can always build cars.
   "We have some fabulous people, and they are so excited, and what I want to do is steer the ship so there is value returned. And if racing and performance could be part of that…."

Hey, Danica, how about buying one of my new Saturns? (Photo: IndyRacingLeague)



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