NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - This is not your father's Saturn.
Actually, that used to be Oldsmobile's slogan, but that General Motors division, which had also been the longest lived U.S. automobile manufacturer, officially passed away last year.
Meanwhile, Saturn, General Motor's youngest brand, has seen dwindling sales even as its dealership personnel have been garnering rave reviews from customers.
Instead of being sent to the scrap heap along with Olds, Saturn is getting a European makeover in hopes that a burnished and bright product line will be able to tap into the great well of public goodwill its no-haggle dealerships have already garnered.
The leading edge of this new line of products is very different from anything Saturn has had before. Nice, practical, economical Saturn is doing a two-seat sports car. The car will be formally unveiled this afternoon at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"Building on its accomplishments in customer sales and service satisfaction, Saturn is introducing a bold new product design to our vehicles," said Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. "For Saturn, the Sky is not the limit. It's only the beginning."
The Saturn Sky was inspired by the Vauxhall VX Lightning Concept, created in Birmingham, England, by one of General Motors' European subsidiaries. The Lightning was, in turn, based on the same "Kappa" engineering architecture as the Pontiac Solstice, a two-seat sports car that is scheduled to go on sale later this year as a 2006 model.
Saturn had its own concept, the Curve, based on the Kappa architecture. The Curve, which debuted at last year's Detroit Auto Show alongside the Solstice, was a two-door hardtop which, while unusual looking, would have been less of an extreme departure for the brand than this two-seat roadster.
"The (Sky's) strong front end is the new face of Saturn, with a pronounced fender peak and a bold chrome bar that carries an integrated Saturn badge," said Ed Welburn, GM's vice president of design for North America.
The Sky's convertible top folds completely into the rear compartment. A clamshell hood, hinged in the front rather than under the windshield, adds to the car's performance mystique.
It is powered by a 170-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with a 5-speed transmission. A five-speed automatic transmission will be available as an option.
Like the Solstice, the Sky is made from hydroformed, rather than stamped, steel. Hydroforming, in which powerful jets of water are used to press metal into a mold, allows for forms that are not possible in stamped steel.
The Sky is scheduled to begin production in 2006. It's price is expected to be less than $25,000, the company said.
Sedans still in the mix
Alongside the Sky, Saturn will also be unveiling the Aura, a midsized sedan concept vehicle. In this rare case, the concept vehicle actually looks much more conservative than the new production vehicle from the same brand.
Following the Sky roadster, Saturn's model line-up will be filled out with a new midsized sedan and a large crossover utility vehicle which will be introduced over the next two years, the company said.
|Saturn Aura concept
At this auto show, the Aura is only being shown as a concept, not a vehicle the company officially intends to produce.
The Aura's steeply raked front windshield and panoramic roof with four sliding glass panels is designed to provide a convertible-like driving experience. The car also has dimming overhead ambient lighting inside the passenger compartment.
"The Saturn Aura is a modern interpretation of luxury," said Dave Rand, GM executive director of interiors. "For the interior, we made extensive use of metallic accents that complement the leather to enhance the upscale feel of the environment."