Saturn Astra Adds Features to Satisfy Americans

By: Lauren Woods

General Motors Corp. is defending its reign as the largest automaker worldwide. And so along with its struggle, is the support from its divisions. Saturn, for one, will be adding features to boost its appeal to Americans.

Saturn will add cupholders and a warmer interior trim to make the Astra more welcoming than its German rivals. According to surveys, American wanted more cupholders hence Saturn will be giving Astra what they wanted.

Early vehicles did not feature cupholders because bumpy rides necessitate both hands to operate. However, as time passes by and innovations to ensure comfy ride are introduced, more and more customers are lured by them. Nowadays, many people, particularly Americans, consider the location, style, and number of cup holders in a vehicle to be one of the most important features influencing their purchase.

The Saturn Astra will also be designed to be nearly identical to its sporty European. The move is in accordance with the expected boost when sales in the United States begin late in 2007. Saturn's pool of designers transforms the morbid black and pewter trim on the car's dashboard, center stack and console to warm matte-chrome pieces. The brand will also switch the European summer-only performance tires of the Saturn Astra for all-weather 16- and 17-inch tires. The performance-oriented 18-inch summer tires will be an option on the two-door hatchback model.

Other changes entertained by the automaker include the addition of OnStar, GM's communications and navigation service, daylight running lights, and other auto parts that are as efficient as the . According to Sarah DeVries-Allen, GM vehicle line director responsible for the Saturn Astra, the features of the vehicle are nearly indistinguishable from the European model. The automaker noted that it will not make any changes to Astra's road-hugging suspension and responsive steering.

"We have regular checks to compare the handling of the Saturn and Opel Astra to make sure there are no differences at GM's proving ground in Milford," DeVries-Allen said. "We had strong direction from the company's senior leaders to minimize changes," added DeVries-Allen. "We were told to maintain the European influence" on the car's appearance and handling. DeVries-Allen's team knew it had to add cupholders, however, so the Saturn Astra will have one in the center console and two for rear passengers.

The Saturn Astra is a compact car which is to be built for the 2008 model year. It will be a rebadged Opel Astra to serve as replacement to the ION as the company's smallest car. Saturn Astra will be based on the Delta platform and will be built in Antwerp, Belgium.

The 2008 Astra will be sold in three-door and five-door hatchback body styles. The car features a 1.8-liter straight-4 gasoline engine that produces 140 horsepower and be mated to a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual transmission. The highest performance Astra, which is expected to appear as the Astra Red Line, will be equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo producing 237 horsepower.

GM is anticipating sales between 30,000 and 40,000 annually, less than half the 100,000 accumulated by the ION.

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