DETROIT -- Saturn -- once dubbed the GM division that sells cars to people who don't like cars -- is creating a new look that draws heavily on Opel.
Saturn Corp. executives say the division will position itself upscale of Chevrolet and Pontiac, occupying the niche once held by Oldsmobile.
The division will unveil the look in January at the Detroit auto show, where it will introduce a rear-wheel-drive roadster and a concept version of a front-wheel-drive mid-sized sedan.
Both vehicles will enter production over the next 24 months. A mid-sized sport wagon will follow in the third quarter of 2006, says Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak.
With new products on the way, the division hopes to increase its sales volume from 271,157 units last year to more than 400,000 units annually by 2007. Saturn also plans to add 80 dealerships.
After nearly 15 years of lagging sales and uninspiring product, Saturn has begun a massive makeover. Internally, Saturn is calling the plan a "revitalization" of the brand, an investment that one GM executive recently described as costing "a couple billion."
But there's a distinct feeling that Saturn has been here before. When it was launched in 1990, GM executives believed Saturn could sell one-half million units a year. But in its best year, 1994, the division sold only 286,003 vehicles.
In an effort to revive the brand, Saturn introduced the Ion compact car, the Vue SUV and the L-series sedan. They flopped. For the first nine months of this year, Saturn sales totaled 170,938 units. That's down 21.1 percent from the year-ago period.