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A Saturn Astra? North American Opel Fans Can Only Hope

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Khatir Soltani
German Designed Astra Could Be Saturn's Import Fighter After All

Saturn seems to be making all of the right decisions lately, and its new Sky roadster and Aura midsize sedan, plus its
The Astra was first shown to North Americans when it debuted at the2005 Detroit auto show as the Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid Concept. (Photo:General Motors of Canada)
upcoming Outlook crossover are getting the right kind of attention as a result. What is it doing differently? What we have been hoping they would do all along: import the design language, and in some cases entire cars from GM's German subsidiary, Opel.

The latest car to get be considered would be a surefire hit if Saturn chose to float it across the Atlantic en masse, Opel's stylish new Astra as a replacement for the less than inspiring and poorly selling Ion. And why is the rumour mill agog with the possibility? Because Saturn has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to use "Astra" as
The production Astra doesn't look very different than the concept, other than in convenient five-door trim. (Photo: General Motors of Canada)
a vehicle name; although there's an argument that it has only done so to stop another automaker from using the name.

Nevertheless, despite a previous announcement that would have GM developing a new model rumoured to get the "Evoke" nameplate with further rumours that production would get transferred from Saturn's Spring Hill, Tennessee plant to one in Lordstown, Ohio, a move that would allow construction of an all-steel body rather than the plastic panels now used on the Ion, such plans have been scrapped.

And now that Saturn has announced that it has cancelled plans for its Ion replacement
GM of Brazil makes a version that wears the Chevy bowtie. (Photo: General Motors of Canada)
the rumour mill has run rampant, questioning what potential models could get the nod.

"We're exploring different alternatives," Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager, told reporters recently at the New York auto show. "We're not ready to talk about that today."

The Evoke would have been based on the Chevrolet Cobalt/Pontiac G5 platform, with styling heavily influenced by the Opel brand. But now with this plan in the circular file cabinet, the Ion replacement could very well be a re-badged Opel Astra, thanks to product-boss Bob Lutz and his focus on integrating the Saturn and Opel brands - recently he told a media scrum that most of Saturn's core products would be re-badged Opels. This would make Astra the likely candidate for North America, and whether it would be produced
From the rear it's arguably stylish. (Photo: General Motors of Canada)
here or imported from one of its other plants, more likely Brazil than high-priced Europe, is also in question. Fortunately for Saturn, the same Ecotec engine that powers the Ion, and Cobalt/G5, is used in the Astra, which makes for an easier transition to U.S. regulations.

Another reason that backs up the re-badged Astra theory is the long delay in announcing a replacement for Ion. With the Ion going out of production at the end of this year, the time needed to ready an all-new Cobalt/G5 based replacement would mean Saturn dealers would be without a small car for some time - a critical problem for a brand that is known for small import-fighting cars. It would be disastrous if such a gap were to occur, of course, which means that Saturn dealers and customers may be the benefactors of a small car that will certainly upstage those in other GM brands.
Khatir Soltani
Khatir Soltani
Automotive expert
  • Over 6 years experience as a car reviewer
  • Over 50 test drives in the last year
  • Involved in discussions with virtually every auto manufacturer in Canada