Saturn is to be closed now that Penske (PAG) has decided against buying the brand from GM. Or is GM being coy?

There are several car companies that might want to increase sales in the U.S. and get a brand that is fairly well regarded for its low-key approach to sales and the service reputation of its dealers. Saturn also has a dealer network of almost 800.

The first company on a possible Saturn buyer list is Volkswagen. VW has less than a 1 percent share of the U.S. market. The odds that it can break further into the market, which is a 10-million vehicle sales opportunity, are slim. The competition from other nameplates is just too great. VW may be the largest car company in Europe and one of the largest in China, but it is almost invisible in the U.S.

Another buyer might be Kia, a low-priced brand owned by Hyundai. Kia sold 21,623 cars in the U.S. last month, a very modest figure. Kia is not a well-known name and might benefit from Saturn's branding.

Oddly enough, another potential buyer might be Mercedes, which does not have a lower-end offering BMW's Mini Cooper. Sales of the Mercedes Smart cars fell by over half last month to a paltry 814.

Saturn may be on life support, but it is not dead yet.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.


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