Will GM Import the Opel Astra as Saturn's Ion Replacement?


The Beacon Journal reports that General Motors will build a new Pontiac small car, not the rumored Saturn Ion replacement, at GM's Lordstown, Ohio manufacturing facility. GM made the announcement at the 2006 National Automobile Dealers Association annual meeting in Orlando, Florida earlier this week.

Production of the 2007 Pontiac G5 coupe will reportedly start on June 19th of this year. "The vehicle is based in large part on the Pontiac Pursuit," Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson told the newspaper. The Pursuit is a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Cobalt that's sold only in Canada. Lordstown already builds around 25,000 Pursuits and 300,000 Cobalts annually. This announcement calls for an additional 25,000 G5 coupes to be built each year. Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, said that the UAW had been pushing the company "for a long time" to build the G5 at Lordstown. The vehicles are all based on the GM Delta small car architecture.

What does this mean for the next-generation Ion replacement? It was originally rumored to move to Lordstown after production of the current Ion in Spring Hill, Tennessee ends later this year. Those plans were reportedly shelved last fall when word leaked out that the Ion replacement had been cancelled. Now, the manufacturing facility and arrival date of Saturn's next small car is still up in the air. "It appears that Lordstown will not be considered for a redesigned Saturn Ion car," the paper reported Graham as saying. So where does this leave Saturn?

Incidentally, sources tell SaturnFans.com – and a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website confirms – that Saturn has registered the name 'Astra' with the organization. Astra is the name of the Opel small car sold in Europe. GM executives have gone on record saying that Saturn and Opel will collaborate on new models. Saturn will ship a version of its Sky roadster to Europe as the Opel GT beginning next year. Will GM import the Astra to the United States as the Ion replacement? Perhaps. Such a move would give Saturn almost instant access to a new small car that would be unique in the North American market, and it would circumvent any production issues that GM is facing. Currently only Lordstown and Spring Hill are configured to build GM Delta-based vehicles in the United States; the Spring Hill line is scheduled to be shut down and retooled at the end of this year.

But what will Saturn customers think about owning an "imported" Saturn? It would certainly be an ironic twist in Saturn's storied past as a home-grown American import-fighter. Click here to post your thoughts and to read what other SaturnFans.com visitor have to say.

Pictures of the Opel Astra are also online.

Source: Beacon Journal

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