General Motors’s Saturn division will hit record US sales of up to 300,000 vehicles this year, and will grow sales another 10% next year with the launch of the new Ion small car, a Saturn official told Reuters yesterday.

“If all goes well in the fourth quarter this year, we would bump as high as 300,000 this year,” Jill Lajdziak, Saturn vice president of sales, service and marketing, told Reuters in Austin, Texas, where Saturn showed the Ion to reporters. “We’ll land somewhere between 285,000 and 300,000 this year.”

Reuters said GM’s Saturn brand, launched in 1990 with a small car to compete with import car makers, had record sales of 286,000 in 1993. Sales are expected to grow another 10% in 2003 to as much as 330,000 units, Lajdziak told Reuters.

The Ion small sedan, the replacement for the aging S-Series which arrives in US dealerships in October, will remain Saturn’s best-selling product, with US sales expected to hit 150,000 units next year, Lajdziak told Reuters. A coupe version launches early in 2003.

Reuters said the Ion sedan will be priced starting at $11,995, including $485 destination and freight charges. The top model, with automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows and locks and a CD player among other features, will sell for $16,395, including the $485 charge.

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GM vice chairman Bob Lutz told Reuters that Saturn would launch a performance coupe version of the small car, powered by an engine that produces more than 200 horsepower, towards the end of 2003.

According to Reuters, Lajdziak said US sales of the performance coupe could be about 10,000 units annually.