US automaker General Motors (GM) said on Wednesday it was in talks to potentially sell its Saturn group to one of two private investor groups that have expressed an interest in the dealership network.
The sale of Saturn to outside investors could turn the GM unit into a future conduit for Indian and Chinese cars to enter the US.
The lack of a defined dealer network, along with strict US safety regulations, are frequently cited as the principal barriers to the entry of relatively inexpensive cars made in China or India. GM has said it would continue to supply vehicles to Saturn until 2011, but will wind down or sell the group as part of a massive restructuring program.
“Over approximately the past 60 days, a sub-committee of Saturn retailers has been studying the feasibility of the sale or spin-off options, and has identified some parties that are potentially interested in a purchase or spin-off of Saturn,” GM said in a statement.
The company identified Black Oak Partners as one of the groups but said it was “not at liberty” to discuss any other interested party.
“It is simply premature at this time to speculate on what any eventual outcome may be,” the statement said.
Individual Saturn dealers have said other vehicle suppliers could be lined up.
Chinese vehicle manufacturers already work through a variety of distribution companies to export vehicles to Russia and the Middle East.
The Saturn distribution company currently operates 440 dealerships in the US that sell GM but the number is expected to decline as GM continues to restructure.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said the company would not comment on the fate of its hulking Hummer brand, which was put up for sale last summer.
“We haven’t made any decision yet,” he said.
GM was still negotiating with the United Auto Workers and bond holders to cuts costs. The outcome of the negotiations is likely to decide whether GM has to file for bankruptcy protection.