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GM to Sell Saturn Brand to Penske

General Motors has signed a memorandum of understanding tosell its Saturn brand to former race car driver and auto dealer Roger Penske.

Penske, who owns the Penske Automotive Groupdealership chain, told reporters on Friday that he plans to offer all 350 Saturn dealerships new franchise agreements. He says Saturn's 13,000 employees will stay on with the company for at least the immediate future.

He declined to name the price for the deal.

Penske says GM will continue to produce Saturn vehicles, though he is in discussions with manufacturers worldwide about building the vehicles going forward.

Penske Automotive Group also distributes Daimler's Smart subcompacts in the U.S., but Smart has its own dealership network and Saturn dealers would not distribute the tiny cars, a preson familiar with deal said ahead of the announcment.

Initially GM would continue to make cars for Saturn, but Penske would also sign deals with other automakers to manufacture vehicles for the brand, said both people, who asked not to be identified because the plans have not been made public.

Penske Automotive owns the second-largest U.S. automobile retail chain in terms of sales. It also owns heavy-duty engine manufacturer Detroit Diesel and has race teams in the IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am series.

"Saturn, obviously, is one of the divisions which General Motors is either going to sell or close down and we have a distribution experience bringing the Smart Car into the United States," he said in a May interview with The Associated Press.

GM created Saturn in 1984 to compete with Japanese vehicles in terms of quality and service and initiated no-haggle flat-price sales for its odels. The Saturn brand has languished for the last decade, and GM said in February that it would either be spun off or shut.

GM had said that more than a dozen buyers had expressed interest in the Saturn brand and its retail network. Penske had also said it was interested in the Saturn brand in early May.

On Tuesday, GM announced plans to sell its Hummer brand to a little-known Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery.

-Reuters contributed to this report.

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