Saturn Corp. President Cynthia Trudell doesn't believe her company's historically distinct culture and brand identity is disappearing into parent General Motors Corp., as the world's largest automaker tries to streamline its operations. In fact, Saturn is more prevalent than ever, says Ms. Trudell.

“Saturn's DNA can be found globally throughout GM. In Europe, Japan, China and Mexico, GM operations have shown greater interest and have learned from Saturn's approach to customer enthusiasm and to the product development validation process,” Ms. Trudell explains.

“I believe change can go the other way. That Saturn can continue to aid in the transformation of GM. As a child matures, the relationship with parents changes and becomes more interdependent. We see the same applying for Saturn and General Motors,” she adds.

Ms. Trudell believes Saturn can provide GM with a mold for cultivating healthy relationships with areas that recently have provided GM with a lot of headaches: the United Auto Workers union, suppliers and dealers.

She insists the Saturn-UAW relationship remains strong, despite last year's first ever strike vote. Some longtime local UAW leaders also were forced out earlier this year by the rank-and-file during a union election. “In the past year, our partnership with the UAW has been put to the test. All organizations, at some point in their history, are tested to determine how strong their value systems are. Saturn passed one of these tests last summer when our employees voted to keep our Memorandum of Agreement, and we believe we have emerged stronger today as a result of this test,” says Ms. Trudell.

Meanwhile, Ms. Trudell says Saturn has more products coming beyond the sport/utility vehicle officially approved earlier this month by the GM board of directors “that will be aimed at meeting emerging segments, as well as products targeted at maintaining leadership in existing segments.”

The 3-door coupe that debuted in late 1998 has increased coupe sales by 25% January-April vs. year-ago.