Well, it’s the month of may, and to me and every other racing fan on the planet, that means the Monaco Grand Prix, the Nurburgring 24 hours, and of course, the Indy 500. And right on cue, and no doubt much to the dismay of his competitors, Roger Penske, The Captain as he is known, puts his two cars at one and two on the grid.
Penske will be going for an unprecedented FIFTEENTH win at the speedway, but while poking around for info on the upcoming race, I came across this odd little rumor that seems to be gaining traction: Roger Penske might buy Saturn from General motors.
I’ve met Roger on several occasions, and have known about him my whole life. At its pretty obvious now, as it was since he was an up and coming driver (this was before he moved into team ownership), that you underestimated The Captain at your own peril.
Not only is Penske one of the best team managers in the history of racing, with successes and domination up there with the likes of Enzo Ferrari and Colin Chapman, but he is a startlingly effective businessman; a real “balls to the wall” type as Waring Hudsucker would say. Back in the 1980s Penske bought the ailing Detroit Diesel engine manufacturing concern and turned it around, and later sold it for a considerable profit. And when I say “ailing” that’s a polite, corporate speak way of saying, “They were at death’s door, within months if not weeks of folding.”
Penske is, in addition to being a racer, a businessman. Consider this, he was one of the first racing team managers that was able to turn racing into a money MAKING proposition. Before Roger came along, most people, and most auto manufacturers, looked at racing as a loss leader. It was something you’d do for R & D or promotional purposes. You went racing to spend money. Roger Penske went racing and MADE money.
So, along comes GM, limping from pillar to post, beset by problems that the Chevrolet Bros. could barely conceive of. Bleeding red ink like a hemophiliac after falling down a flight of stairs, GM is selling off divisions left right and center. Pontiac is gone. Hummer will be gone as soon as possible, Saab is on the block, and word comes that they’ve axed over a thousand dealerships from their once massive roasters of sales locations.
Also on the sales roster is Saturn, one the darling of the (former) “World’s Largest Automaker” is now up for grabs … and in walks Roger Penske.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the CEO of Penske Automotive Group (Roger’s car dealership business) is a possible bidder for Saturn. The WSJ didn’t cite anyone beyond \”people familiar with the situation.\”
\”We look at things all the time. We have been offered an opportunity to look at Saturn. It\’s very premature to assume anything will be done. I can confirm to you that we are looking at it,\” said Tony Pordon, a spokesman for Penske Automotive Group, to the Detroit News.