General Motors Europe's Astra line is to get a boost as a rebadged entry-level Saturn, a trade newspaper reported on Monday.

Automotive News said GM would rebadge imported Astras to replace the current US-made Ion from the end of 2007, though they will be around $US3,500 more expensive than a base Ion with a starting price of around $16,000.

The report noted that GM sold 100,891 Ions last year, much lower than the 286,000 or so its S-series predecessor managed in its peak year, and added that the annual sales target for the Astra model will range only from 20,000 to 40,000 units.

The paper suggested the US-bound cars would be built in Antwerp, Belgium, and may even carry the Astra name to the US. The arrival of the Astra would fit GM's strategy of repositioning Saturn as a Europeanised and comes after GM vice chairman Robert Lutz said recently that nearly all future Saturn vehicles would be based Opel models.

General Motors' US operations have looked across the Atlantic for 'compact' cars since the 1950s when both Opel and Vauxhall models were imported from Germany and the UK.

The most recent deal involved re-badging Opel's Omega as a Cadillac Catera for the 1997-2001 model years but the model received a lukewarm reception from the specialist press and was not as successful as GM hoped.