General Motors' up-for-sale Saturn brand could end up in the hands of the owner of the second-largest US auto retail chain, people familiar with the situation have said.

Roger Penske owns Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Penske Automotive Group (PAG), which operates 156 franchises in the US and 148 internationally. A Penske spokesman declined to comment to Dow Jones on any interest in Saturn. Another media report, also citing an anonymous source, said Penske was considering the idea but had made no proposal.

The news of Penske's interest came after GM on Monday hired veteran auto industry advisor Stephen Girsky to help sell Saturn by the end of the year, Dow Jones said.

GM is rushing to offload the brand and its dealers as it tries to avoid being forced into bankruptcy protection alongside Chrysler. GM has until 1 June to convince the Obama administration it can survive outside Chapter 11.

GM said on Monday it was reviewing "expressions of interest" from "a number" of potential buyers. Under any Saturn deal, GM would eventually stop providing the vehicles and they would be built by another manufacturer and sold through the Saturn retail chain, Dow Jones noted.

Some auto industry observers have speculated that the Saturn dealer chain would be an ideal existing network to help a Chinese automaker to enter the US.

Girsky, a former Morgan Stanley analyst and one-time advisor to departed GM CEO Rick Wagoner, will help GM evaluate the offers, Dow Jones said.

Penske, a billionaire with deep Detroit ties, also has experience developing other brands, according to the reports. His company is the exclusive US distributor of Daimler's Smart line. He also owns motor racing team Penske Racing and recently chaired the Detroit Super Bowl XL host committee which brought the game to 'Motor City' after raising $12m for the event.

Penske joins at least one other suitor, Dow Jones noted.

A group that includes Oklahoma City-based private equity firm Black Oak Partners came forward last month as potential buyers. A GM spokesman told Down Jones the company is considering the offer.

The Black Oak group would transform Saturn into a fuel-efficient brand, sell GM vehicles through Saturn's network of US and Canadian dealers, and later add vehicles from other automakers.

John Pappanastos, who is leading Saturn negotiations for Black Oak, told Dow Jones he was certain the brand would find a buyer.

"It's a viable opportunity in this market," Pappanastos said. "It will be a low cost entry point for an automaker who wants to get into the US."

Saturn dealerships reportedly are newer and more modern than the average GM brand dealership, and they tend to be stationed in more desirable locales, the report added.