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Stretching Space--and the Truth?

May 20, 1999|PAUL DEAN

PHOENIX — Despite a dearly held reputation for honesty and open dealing, Saturn's nose seems to be growing.

As part of a media presentation here this month, company briefers popped the trunk of Saturn's 2000 LS mid-size sedan to demonstrate roominess. They yanked out a small mountain of luggage, eight bulging duffel bags in all.

Problem was, most people travel with tennis racquets, toilet kits, shoes and similar uncrushables. Saturn's duffels were filled with compressible foam-rubber pillows that could have been squished into the mini-trunk of a Chevy Metro.

Next, an engineer tackled a perceived slur: that new Saturns are nothing more than rebadged versions of the Opel Vectra, built and marketed by General Motors in Europe.

He upended a plastic crate of small parts: Washers. Clamps. A pulley. Two misshapen boxes that looked like Jarvik artificial hearts.

"Just 132 common parts numbers with Vectra," he noted.

He failed to mention the new vehicle's gearbox, platform, transmission, engine block, pistons, cylinder heads, crankshaft and other major items. But then they are not shared with the Opel Vectra--only with the Opel Omega, Cadillac Catera and Saab 9-5, all partners in production with GM and Saturn.

Challenged on massaging accuracy, a spokeswoman said it was simply a matter of using "visual effects" to get a point across.

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