Saturn has launched its new European-inspired midsize Aura on Wednesday, with company officials saying they hope it will entice customers back to the General Motors brand, which has been fighting slumping sales in the US.

The Aura sedan is being built at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City and Saturn hopes to have the cars at dealers by 24 July, The Associated Press (AP) reported, adding that prices have not yet been announced.

"This is a very important vehicle for General Motors," Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager, told Saturn officials, retailers, employees and news media. "This vehicle is going to let us know how we're doing in the marketplace."

The Aura features a panoramic roof, a standard 3.5-litre V6 engine and engineering designed to make the car quieter than previous models, AP noted. The interior features, many inspired from the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra sold in Europe (and which donated the platform), include etched leather seats, ambient light and chrome trim. The standard model is expected to get 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.

AP noted that GM began producing Saturns in 1990, but the brand has slipped on criticism of its design even amid praise for its no-haggle pricing and service.

Lajdziak reportedly said Saturn had already begun to improve its fortunes last year, with sales up in April from a year ago.

Saturn officials believe the Aura will help spark a revitalized GM, Fairfax plant manager Paul Marr told the news agency.

"We're coming off a difficult period," Marr said. "GM is back on track and the Aura is going to lead the way."

Later this year, Saturn also will begin selling a sportier version of its Sky roadster; a crossover called outlook and  the PreVue, a combination coupe and sport utility vehicle.

Fairfax, the only plant in the country building the Aura, hopes to add about 200 jobs for the new line, Marr reportedly said. That will mean more job security for the about 2,500 employees at the plant, which also builds the Chevrolet Malibu.