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On Monday, January 25, Kia of Oceanside customers were probably surprised to find the dealership closed.

The car lot, located off SR-78 at 2205 Vista Way, used to be the Saturn of West 78 dealership until early 2009. The same owners converted it to Kia, yet still welcomed Saturn’s warranty and service. The lot and showroom were cleared of new and used cars over the weekend of January 23.

“It is tough to make money with Kia,” said company spokesperson Marva Sadler, referring to the lower price point of Kia cars compared to other brands. But Sadler indicated that it wasn’t necessarily the bad economy that shuttered the Oceanside dealership. “We were fighting with the landlord for the last year and we just got tired of fighting.” Sadler added that she thought the landlord had a better offer from someone else.

With General Motor’s inability to close a sales deal with auto mogul Roger Penske, Saturn, the car brand started by GM in 1990 as “A New Kind of Car Company,” will shut down at the end of the 2010 model run.

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Visduh Feb. 6, 2010 @ 10:29 p.m.

They called it "Saturn of West 78" when it reopened the store that had been a weak operation selling Nissans under the name of Surfside Nissan. Why not "Oceanside Saturn" or "Saturn of Oceanside?" Sadly, the name of Oceanside isn't an asset for operations that would try to have a regional draw. That store was quick to bail out on Saturn, well before the ultimate fate of that marque was known.

That showroom and lot would seem to be in a prime location for selling cars. The only drawback is that it has no neighboring car stores, something seems to be a positive influence on sales. (Think Car Country Carlsbad, Escondido Auto Park, and the Mile of Cars.) In times like these, the landlord of that Oceanside location would be well advised to keep a tenant on the property, rather than having it vacant. It is not as if the land there is in high demand for retail development. The 78 corridor had scads of vacant retail space, and the amount grows every week.

As to who might be making a better offer to the landlord, I cannot imagine. North county is not underserved with car stores. Nearby Car Country in Carlsbad has one of almost everything you can think of. The few missing makes there are taken care of by nearby stores such as Hoehn Porsche and C'bad Volvo a mile to the south. This story about the ill-fated Saturn/Kia operation makes me think that it was just never adequately capitalized, and thus could not really do the right sort of job for its customers.

There is irony aplenty in the story of Saturn. GM started it up as an almost independent car company, telling its founders to try a new approach, and not to pattern itself on parent GM. For many years, when GM ran institutional ads touting all its makes, Saturn was absent. GM didn't want the world to know the Saturn was part of it!

For a time Saturn was successful in tapping a market niche that GM was otherwise missing completely, and it appeared as if GM had made a sort of breakout. However, Saturn had never made a profit, rather consuming billions of GM capital. In truth its cars were nothing very special, and its success was in product positioning and reaching a market that was generally turned off by usual auto marketing.

As to why Kia is a tough sell, I have no notion. They sure seem to be cheap enough. Lack of profit margin for the dealer? Sure, that's possible. This whole story is yet to be told.

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pinkshoes Feb. 7, 2010 @ 8:35 a.m.

Visduh; I'm guessing that the reason Kia is a tough sell is in your last paragraph; " They sure seem to be cheap enough." My insurance company rented one for me when my car (Miata) was in the shop after an SUV nudged it in a parking lot and put a good sized dent in the driver's door. The Kia "Sophia" had little over 20,000 miles on it and it had an oil leak.

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Ken Harrison Feb. 8, 2010 @ 9:59 a.m.

Visduh, very good dissertation. You could have written this article. The dealership was owned by the same family that owned all the other Saturn dealerships, which except for Saturn Escondido, are now converted to something other car brand.

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Ken Harrison Feb. 8, 2010 @ 10:02 a.m.

More. . . I too never understood the name Saturn of West 78. If they were going for regionalism, it should have been Tri-City Saturn, although the only ones using that name anymore is the hospital. Anything having to do with Coast, Beach, etc would have been better.

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