Business

After 18 years, local Saturn owner has no regrets

Scott Davies is resigned to the fact that the Saturn of Wichita dealership he built over more than 18 years will soon be no more. "It's going to be tough when we walk out of here, but the sun will come up," Davies said Friday, two days after Penske Automotive Group dropped its bid to buy from General Motors the brand once billed as a different kind of car company.

Davies said the past two days have been full of uncertainty.

But by Friday morning he said "it's clearer."

"It's all going to be fine. We're all walking out of here with our heads held very high knowing that we did a good job."

Davies said the optimism comes from knowing that the dealership's 60 employees will have a place to go if they so choose.

Saturn's service technicians have been hired by Scholfield Automotive Group, which will handle the servicing of Saturn vehicles — including warranty work — at its Buick GMC dealership on the east side and the Hyundai dealership on the west side.

He said he thinks the dealership's other employees — managers, salespeople and finance workers — will be able to find work at Scholfield Automotive's other dealerships.

"It looks like everyone who wants a job will have a job," Davies said.

Scott Hatchett, a Scholfield managing partner, couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Davies started the Saturn dealership in Wichita for Scholfield, and about 10 years ago purchased the franchise.

He said he first learned of Penske's canceled bid Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday, he participated in a conference call with Saturn and GM officials, whom he said indicated that without Penske, the brand will be scrubbed.

"It wasn't a poker play (by Penske)," Davies said.

GM gave dealerships until October 2010 to wind down their operations.

Davies said he has officially informed GM by letter that his preference is to close "well before" the end of the year.

GM spokesman John McDonald said GM estimates it will take four months to sell the existing inventory of 12,000 Saturns.

There are no plans to offer any special incentives to help sell remaining vehicles, McDonald said. Other brands that are winding down, like Pontiac, are still selling well without any extras.

Davies said he should have a better idea of when he'll close his stores — at 11200 E. Central and 8800 W. Central — by next week.

"Until then everything's normal around here — as normal as it can be," he said.

Davies said he'll be the last person out of the building. He said he'll keep his office at Saturn East until he can get the building leased.

He'll also send letters to all his Saturn customers with his contact information, in case they need help once the stores are closed.

"We have some great customers," Davies said. "We're going to take care of them. There's no question about it."

As for Davies, he guesses he's retired for now.

"I'll sit down and figure out what's next," he said. "Right now I really have no idea."

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