NEW YORK -- General Motors has canceled the vehicle that was supposed to replace the Saturn Ion and is urgently seeking an alternative.
As a result, Saturn dealers are likely to be left without an entry-level vehicle for several months next year, company officials acknowledge.
Last summer, GM unveiled its design for the Ion replacement at a press preview, where it was overwhelmingly praised by journalists. But GM has dropped that design execution.
"We're exploring different alternatives," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager, who was interviewed last week at the New York auto show. "We're not ready to talk about that today."
General Motors might consider rebadging a vehicle from its overseas product portfolio, such as the Opel Astra. Lajdziak did not discuss the Astra's suitability, noting only that GM is looking for "a collaboration." GM, she said, "is looking globally for a design and an architecture to leverage. We are still working through the strategy."
This uncertainty comes at an awkward time for GM, which is spending lavishly to rejuvenate the Saturn brand with new nameplates. In New York, the company showcased the Sky roadster, Aura sedan and Outlook crossover. The next-generation Ion was supposed to be the company's key entry-level vehicle.
Last week, GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said most of Saturn's core products would be rebadged Opels. If so, the Astra would appear to be a candidate for the U.S. market. The Astra is produced in Europe and Brazil.