General Motors is to introduce the European-made Astra compact car to its US line-up late next year under the Saturn brand.

The car is nearly identical to the 227.5 Opel Astra and will be produced by GM’s European unit at its plant in Belgium, but with a Saturn tag. It will be sold in the US and Canada in three-door and five-door configurations.

GM is looking to leverage its global scale and production spending to revamp its product line-up as part of a company-wide turnround plan led by Rick Wagoner, chief executive officer.

After losing market share to Asian and European competitors in many key markets, the company is seeking to restore GM’s position as “product leaders in design”, Mr Wagoner said this week.

The Saturn Astra is part of GM’s effort to revive the Saturn brand, which is reporting improved sales recently after having languished over the past decade. Jill Lajdziak, the brand’s general manager, said the Astra, with its European style and driving dynamics, aimed to appeal to buyers “who usually have import brands on their shopping lists”.

Saturn and Opel are also collaborating on the Saturn Sky and the upcoming Opel GT roadsters, as well as the Opel Antara and 2008 Saturn Vue sport utility vehicles.

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