GM hopes to revitalize Saturn with new models

Saturn, the General Motors Corp. brand launched in 1990 as a "different kind of car company," aims to differentiate itself once again with four new vehicles that will debut this week at the New York Auto Show.

At a press preview Wednesday, GM plans to introduce a trio of production-ready vehicles as well as a crossover concept. The company hopes sophisticated features will set the vehicles apart, from projector-beam headlights that wrap around the vehicles to matching leather on the seats, shift knobs, steering wheel and door panels of the 2007 Saturn Aura sedan.

The mid-size Aura, which goes on sale this summer, has won praise for its bold styling. The vehicle shares a platform and many design cues with GM's Opel Vectra, which is sold in Europe. The Aura will come with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 with a performance-oriented, six-speed automatic transmission, GM said. A hybrid version of the Aura also will be released later this year.

The 2007 Saturn Outlook crossover offers three rows of seating for up to eight adults but drives like a sedan. The Outlook shares many of the Aura's design elements and its premium feel, GM said. It also has a sliding second-row seat to make it easier to reach the third row. The Outlook will go on sale later this year.

Saturn is giving its Sky roadster a boost of power with the Sky Red Line, which goes on sale this fall. The Red Line has a 260-horsepower, 2-liter Ecotec engine, GM's first direct-injection offering in North America. The standard Sky has a 177-horsepower engine.

Finally, GM will debut the Saturn PreVue concept, a three-door crossover with a dramatically sloped roof and the muscular stance of a sport utility vehicle. The PreVue, first shown as the Opel Antara GTC concept at last year's Frankfurt Auto Show, continues the close collaboration between Saturn and Opel. GM said the PreVue gives a glimpse of its plans to update the Saturn Vue crossover.

Saturn has fallen on hard times since its debut because its ho-hum designs couldn't draw in buyers despite consistent praise for Saturn's no-haggle pricing. Saturn's sales were down 2 percent in the first quarter of this year. GM is determined to change that, in part because it desperately needs to turn around lagging U.S. sales.

"Saturn's new products demonstrate that GM is committed to raising the bar on product execution as part of our North American turnaround plan," Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of sales, service and marketing, said in a statement.

Erich Merkle, director of auto industry forecasting with Grand Rapids-based consulting company IRN Inc., said it's not too late to revitalize Saturn, reports AP.


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