GM to sell Saturn brand to Penske

General Motors Corp. has a tentative deal to sell its Saturn brand to former race car driver and dealership group owner Roger Penske, according to two people briefed on the deal.

GM has scheduled a conference call for 9 a.m. EDT Friday to discuss the sale, and Penske will be on the call along with Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deal has not been made public.

Penske would get Saturn’s dealership network, which consistently has scored highly in customer satisfaction surveys.

Penske has said his company, Penske Automotive Group Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is interested in the Saturn brand and intended to make an offer.

Penske Automotive Group also distributes Daimler AG’s Smart subcompacts in the U.S., but Smart has its own dealership network and Saturn dealers would not distribute the tiny cars, one of the people said.

Initially GM would continue to make cars for Saturn, but Penske would also sign deals with other automakers to manufacture vehicles for the brand, said both people, who asked not to be identified because the plans have not been made public.

Penske Automotive owns the second-largest U.S. automobile retail chain in terms of sales. It also owns heavy-duty engine manufacturer Detroit Diesel and has race teams in the IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am series.

“Saturn, obviously, is one of the divisions which General Motors is either going to sell or close down and we have a distribution experience bringing the Smart Car into the United States,” he said in a May interview with The Associated Press.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.