Penske aims to complete Saturn deal by September

DETROIT, July 29 Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:35pm EDT

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DETROIT, July 29 (Reuters) - Penske Automotive Group (PAG.N) plans to complete a deal to buy Saturn from General Motors Co [GM.UL] by the end of September, the founder and chairman of the No. 2 auto dealership chain said on Wednesday.

Roger Penske also said that he was considering using the Saturn brand for vehicles sold outside North America, but was focused first on the U.S. market and potentially Canada.

"I think that we're past midfield with GM. There are always issues that you have to deal with, but I think we're progressing well," Roger Penske told analysts on a conference call to discuss quarterly financial results on Wednesday.

"We've said that our goal is to close this transaction by the end of September, and we're prepared to do that," he said.

Penske declined to discuss what other automakers the new Saturn would consider as partners to supply vehicles after a deal with General Motors expires.

Under the terms of the tentative deal between GM and Penske, the automaker would supply Saturn with Aura sedans, Vue SUVs and Outlook crossover vehicles until at least 2011.

Penske would acquire rights to the Saturn brand and would buy the inventory of replacement parts to service the roughly 3.5 million Saturn vehicles on the road now.

The roughly 350 Saturn dealerships in the United States would continue to be independently owned and operated.

Penske said the new Saturn, which would be set up as a stand-alone company that could include other investors, would offer contracts to all of the 200 or so dealers that the GM brand currently has.

"We do not expect to buy any of the existing retailers," he said. "As you know, Saturn has a world-class dealership network and we hope that most of them will join the new company."

Penske said talks on completing the Saturn sale with GM had been slowed by the automaker's bankruptcy proceedings. GM exited Chapter 11 earlier this month in a sale underwritten by the U.S. Treasury.

"One of the things that had to happen was that GM had to get through their bankruptcy," Penske said. "That was their first priority. Now they're looking at the divestitures of Hummer, Saab and Saturn."

The financial terms of the Saturn sale have not been disclosed and Penske said he could not discuss them until the deal was final.

GM and Penske announced a tentative deal for Saturn in early June.

GM is also looking to sell its Hummer SUV line to China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery. Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg has agreed to buy Saab with financing guaranteed by the Swedish government. (Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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