Results at Saturn, however, were more doubtful than positive. According to , the project was too ambitious, as "everything at Saturn is new: the car, the plant, the workforce, the dealer network and the manufacturing process. Not even , a highly successful and experienced automaker, tackles more than two new items on any single project." While Saturn cars proved very popular with buyers, actual sales never met the optimistic projected targets, in part because of a recession in 1990. It also proved cannibalistic as 41% of Saturn buyers already owned a GM car. Its separation from the rest of its GM parent, plus the fact that it drained $5 billion from other car projects, stirred anger and resentment within GM's other divisions. Also, Saturn opened at considerably higher cost than the Japanese transplants (factories that Japanese automakers established in the United States).
In the mid-1980s, released the Saturn Concept Car. The car, which resembled the first , was not originally meant to start up a brand, however, GM planned to release the Saturn car under one of its brands, which, at the time, were , , , , , and . In the late 1980s, GM changed their plan and founded Saturn as its own brand, with its first cars being the and . Production of both Saturn vehicles started in 1990 as early 1991 vehicles. The was later added for 1992. GM had plans for a , a , a , and even a ; however, Saturn's first , the , did not appear until the 2002 .
The automaker, which is also dealing with the recall of a defective ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths, stopped making Saturn cars in 2009, the same year it filed for bankruptcy protection.
In September 2012, the Detroit company recalled almost 474,000 Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura cars from model years 2007 through 2010 for a similar issue.