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Dealership aims for first Saturn launch

It isn't enough for Saturn of Clearwater to be one of the first Saturn Corp. auto dealerships in the country to open. The Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard dealership's officials want to be the first dealership to open. So at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, or just after midnight today, dealership officials intend to turn on the lights and start delivering cars.

"We haven't heard of anyone else doing it," said Mark Belviso, general manager of the dealership at 2340 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd.

Saturn is General Motors Corp.'s attempt to compete against Japanese imports with a new line of small, but roomy, cars priced from $8,000 to $12,000. The cars are being built in a new plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.

On Thursday, 27 Saturn car dealerships across the country can start selling and delivering the automobiles, Belviso said. He is hoping that, by starting just past midnight, the dealership can beat others to become the first dealership in the country to sell and deliver a car.

Although the dealership is not allowed to let buyers take delivery of the cars until Thursday, Belviso said he already has commitments from buyers for four of the eight cars.

"Not to worry, because we have got truckloads coming at us," he said.

He said a drawing will be held among the buyers, and the winner will get to be the first to take delivery of the car just after midnight by driving the car off a delivery platform.

Another Saturn dealership is scheduled to open in Tampa early next year.