• May 8, 2006
As we speculated in our coverage of this year's New York Auto Show, Autoweek confirmed Monday that General Motors will fire up the Badge Engineering Works to import the Opel Astra compact to replace the soon-to-be-discontinued Saturn Ion.

The imported Astra will fill the upcoming void in Saturn's lineup left by the cancellation of the "Evoke," a proposed entry-level Saturn based on the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Although Ion production will cease at the Spring Hill, Tennessee plant in December, the Astra will not arrive in U.S. Saturn showrooms before late 2007. General Motors has not said whether the entry-level Saturn would retain the Astra name.

Interestingly, Reuters reported today that GM Europe is considering scaling back production of the Astra ahead of the anticipated slowdown in sales as the car moves into the middle of its product life cycle. The Astra is produced at plants in Belgium, the U.K., and Germany. Opening up a new export market for the car could be a move to keep the European production facilities running at capacity for a while longer.

The Astra will start at about $16,000 in the U.S. The Opel Astra sits in the number two slot in the European sales charts, right behind the top-selling Volkswagen Golf. It will be interesting to see how well it does in the U.S. market.

[Sources: Autoweek, Reuters]


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  • 45 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Folks who think an Astra is a Cobalt by another name, or competes with the Versa (a) haven't seen an Astra in Vauxhall's "Design" spec. or above and (b) haven't driven one.

      By the standards of the US subcompact car market, the Astra is astoundingly good - it has a sharp, modern exterior and drives very well indeed. The reason it isn't more popular is the same reason the Fiesta isn't more popular - bad memories of old models and lack of the French competition's hot hatch credentials.

      $16,000 for a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall is a very good deal. It's leagues ahead of the Ion. As for its age, the Versa, Fit and Yaris are also based on established platforms.

      But like others, I suspect that GM will do its best to ruin the car for the US market, endowing it with low-grade trim and all-new crap handling.
      Dale
      • 8 Years Ago
      Seriously - the car had a 6spd manual, and the diesel had tons of torque and would hit 200km/h on the autobahn with no problem. In the foothills, just a click to up or downshift made it a blast to drive. It had a definate torque range though and wouldn't rev past about 4000 rpm but with all those gears, it didn't matter. You just can't wind it out like a gas engine. I would get one but we can't get the good stuff in the USA. The Opel Astra was a great car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Drop the Saturn name, bring Opels over (all models), the dealer body is already in place, that would be the Saturn dealers.

      Redirect the money from Saturn back to the divisions for new product.

      If you're going to keep Saab, join them with this franchise and make them Opel-Saab dealers. Both European product. Give the dealerships a more upscale "European" look. Offer a great warranty of both vehicles. Gee "A different kind of car company"


      Watch um sell
      Paul White
      • 8 Years Ago
      Whew, you guys are fired up over this one. I think it looks ok at the onset. GM has to do something. There will not be anyone left to build a car over here.
      Dale
      • 8 Years Ago
      I rented a diesel Astra in Germany for a several 1000km drive and it was the best car ever. Why don't we get the good cars and engines in the USA? It was hard going back to the F150.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sanjay - I'd say you must work for Honda UK if these are your real
      opinions. Otherwise you are rather out of touch with the local market.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is good. It is not badge-engineering. To have produced the Evoke, based on the Cobalt, would have been badge engineering.

      And yes, they should keep the Astra name. Goes with the spacey/planetary/sciency thing.

      #6- this car is not in the same class as the Fit/Versa.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yay! I hope they bring over the Astra SRi XP that has a 1.9CDTi 16v (150PS)... that will give me more choices in October 2007 when my Mazda 3 lease expires.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Take every Opel model, put a Saturn badge over all of the Opel badges, watch the sales multiply.

      This is the kind of badge engineering that would work. Honda even does this with the Euro Accord and Acura TSX. Not taking a vehicle that is already in the US and changing badges. It is obvious then, like the Cobalt/G5. See Solstice/Sky for another example of how it can work.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hey, it worked wonders for Ford when they brought over the first Focus.

      Now if only Ford would stop arguing the new Focus would be too expensive to bring over, I'd be happy. Hell if Saturn can do it...why the hell can't Ford?
      • 8 Years Ago
      If the poor management of GM thinks that they can increase their presence and profitability by importing a European car, then their scalps must be well past their colon and into their large intestines. Can you say '74 Capri? If they want to regain the purchasing power of those they lost to Toyota and Honda, how will this solve their problem? Americans don't even like to buy VW's made in Mexico. People wanted to believe in Saturn but the flat dealership prices, uninspired designs, and cheap plastic interiors drove away sales.
      Transplants already outproduce us on our own shores. No matter how good of a car the Astra is, its the wrong answer, and an insult to the whole original concept they had for Saturn as proof that the US could really build a competitively priced quality car on our own
      shores.
      • 8 Years Ago
      You guys are nutz to say that a Fit, Versa, Yaris is cheaper!

      The starting prices DON'T INCLUDE DESTINATION let alone Air Conditioning, Power Windows, Power Locks.. (almost standard necessities in this day and age). Standard Versa with air, power windows is over $15k

      Now if you want to compare it to a Scion Xa then yes it's more expensive, but again that car doesn't even clear 110 hp. This car I'm sure will have that significantly beat, besides a much better tranmission option that the 4 speed automatic that most small cars are sold with (including all Scions).
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