Automotive News is reporting that the Saturn Astra will be joining the lineup for the 2008 model year. The homely and slow selling Ion will be put down in March and replaced by a new car in two- and four-door hatchback forms. The new Opel Astra was shown at the Bologna motor show this week, while the Saturn badged version will be shown in February at the Chicago Auto Show.

Along with the new Vue that was unveiled last week in Los Angeles and the Astra, the transformation of Saturn from General Motors' import fighting division to a division of German-based Opel is complete. Only the new Outlook SUV isn't shared with Opel. The Saturn Astra will be virtually identical to the Opel counterpart, and will go on sale in late 2007. It will be interesting to see if Saturn also gets any of the diesel engines from Europe along with the gas engines. The death of the Ion and the replacement of the VUE also brings to a close the era of plastic-bodied Saturns. Presumably the Astra will also have the instrument cluster back in front of the driver where it belongs. The GM press release is after the jump.

[Source: General Motors]

DETROIT - Saturn confirmed today that it will add the Astra compact car to its lineup late in 2007, marking an important stage in its product revitalization plan. When the 2008 Astra joins the Sky, Aura, Outlook and all-new Vue, no Saturn will have been in the market more than 20 months, giving the brand one of the freshest product lineups in the industry.

"The Astra is a great fit for Saturn, with its European style and driving dynamics," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager. "It also signals our efforts to get new vehicles to market quickly and reinvent the entire Saturn product lineup with unprecedented speed."

The Saturn Astra will be nearly identical to the 2007.5 Opel Astra, unveiled this week at the Bologna Motor Show in Italy. It will be sold in the United States and Canada in three-door and five-door configurations.

The Astra is part of the larger collaboration between Saturn and Opel. By sharing resources from throughout GM's global network of design and engineering centers, the two brands can develop strong, broad product lineups that will attract buyers to the brands both in North America and Europe. Early examples of this collaboration include the Saturn Sky and upcoming Opel GT, as well as the Opel Antara and 2008 Saturn Vue.

"The Astra enables Saturn to occupy a unique position in the marketplace and to strategically broaden its appeal with consumers who usually have import brands on their shopping lists," said Lajdziak. "Saturn's partnership with Opel is a natural way to expand our lineup with relevant products that will attract new buyers into our showrooms."

More information will be available when Saturn unveils the 2008 Astra at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2007.

About Saturn
Saturn, a division of General Motors Corp., markets vehicles in the U.S. and Canada through a network of about 500 retailers, with a focus on providing innovative products with solid value and excellent customer service. In 2006, the brand has undertaken a major revitalization of its portfolio with four new vehicles: the Sky roadster, the Aura midsize sedan, the Vue Green Line hybrid and the larger Outlook crossover. Next year, Saturn continues its aggressive growth plans with an all-new Vue compact crossover (Spring 2007) and the new European Astra small car (Fall 2007).

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