Ronald Johnston was standing in the showroom of Saturn of Glen Burnie yesterday morning leaning on the trunk of a shiny blue SL2 four-door and talking about General Motors' newest product when a service technician interrupted and pushed the car out the door.
The $11,345 car was on its way to a new owner.
A minute or two later, about 20 feet away, Lenore Fagen was eyeing a flashy red version of the new Saturn. The 22-year-old recreation therapist said the car had "gotten good reviews," and she liked its sporty appearance and the price: $13,650, before state taxes and tags.
Once again the showroom doors opened, and out went the red sports coupe as Ms. Fagen took it on a test drive.
Mr. Johnston, the general manager, was now standing in a nearly vacant showroom.
It has been that way since Tuesday, he said, when Saturn officially went on sale in this region.
Of the 35 cars shipped to the northern Anne Arundel County dealer, nearly half of them have been sold, Mr. Johnston said.
"We had 77 people in here Saturday," he said, even though the dealership had done no advertising and was not officially open for business.
"Seventy seven, that's more than some [dealerships] would see in a week," he said, with the knowledge that the auto industry has been in a deep slump for a long time.
At Saturn of Marley Heights, near Andrews Air Force Base, Brian Jamison, the sales manager, reports that showroom traffic has been significantly heavier than at the nearby Honda and Isuzu outlets owned by the same company.
Mr. Jamison says traffic is "extremely heavy" at lunch time when workers from the air base arrive, and between 7 p.m. and the 9:30 p.m. closing when workers from the Census Bureau come in to browse.
It seems that a lot of shoppers are just looking and comparing Saturn with other cars on the market, however.
Mr. Jamison said shopper enthusiasm had translated into only three sales as of yesterday afternoon.
Saturn of Gaithersburg is still in the process of building its showroom and is scheduled to open the middle of next month.
L The state's fourth Saturn outlet is located in Owings Mills.
Saturn seems to be one of the few cars doing well at this time.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that new car and truck sales fell 8.1 percent in late March.