business

A Wider Orbit For Saturn's Lefauve

After years of bragging about Saturn's success, General Motors on Oct. 4 handed a big promotion to one of its key architects. Richard "Skip" LeFauve, Saturn's president since 1986, will head a new group in charge of GM's domestic small-car operations. LeFauve, 59, will also run Saturn.

Saturn devotees fear the move will curb the upstart division's independence. "It could mean that GM ends up swallowing Saturn," says Michael Bennett, head of Saturn's United Auto Workers local. Not so, says CEO Jack Smith: "Saturn has been extremely successful. We don't want to mess with that."

What Smith does want is to boost Saturn's shaky profitability by sharing more components, engineering, and purchasing clout with other GM small cars--a segment where profits are razor thin. LeFauve says Saturn's closer link will help it draw on GM for technology such as right-hand drive, airbags, and other areas. "We want to take advantage of being part of GM," LeFauve says. His challenge: to do so without jeopardizing what made Saturn a success.

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