GM Expects Double-Digit Growth from Saturn in 2008

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With the final vehicle in Saturn's overhauled linuep – the 2008 Saturn Astra – just arriving at retail facilities around the country, General Motors expects the brand to continue to build upon the sales momentum it drove in 2007.

Saturn grew sales 12% in 2007, thanks to a redesigned lineup of cars and trucks. "We expect another solid gain in 2008," GM's North American sales chief, Mark LaNeve, told Reuters during a media event at the Detroit Auto Show. The company expects Saturn to lead its other brands in sales growth this year. LaNeve estimates that even in a tough economy, Saturn will be able to grow its business an additional 10%.

GM and Saturn are hoping that the all-new Astra, Vue, and lower-priced Aura models will help. While the Aura didn't meet its internal sales quota for 2007, LaNeve is optimistic for 2008. "We started producing the Aura in September with the four-cylinder," he told Automotive News. "Sales immediately picked up, about 2,000 units per month. I think we underestimated, when we launched with just the V6, the effect of higher gas prices."

Overall GM analysts believe industry sales will stay at or above 16 million units, although he concedes that manufacturers may need to resort to additional incentives to maintain that level.

"I think manufacturers will very logically provide stimulus over time to keep it above 16 million," LaNeve said to the news service. "So there might be more pricing pressure to maintain that level. I think the stimulus will be provided in a very balanced way. I don't see a huge incentive war on the horizon, but if the industry starts to raise incentives, we will participate, we will stay competitive to protect our share and keep our dealers healthy."

Reuters reports that "U.S. auto sales fell for the second consecutive year in 2007, dropping almost 3% to 16.14 million vehicles, the lowest total since 1998."

Source: Reuters, Automotive News

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