USA: Saturn to double vehicle line in three years - report

By just-auto.com editorial team | 29 October 2003

General Motors' Saturn brand will double its line-up to six vehicles over the next three years, including a new minivan with SUV-like attributes, as it seeks to grow sales to about 500,000 cars and trucks by 2005, the head of Saturn told Reuters on Tuesday.

"In the next 36 months, we'll be doubling our Saturn portfolio," Jill Lajdziak, Saturn's vice president for sales, service and marketing, told Reuters at a background briefing on the new Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza minivans, which go on sale late next year.

The news agency said the Relay will be the first of three new vehicles to join the Saturn lineup and, trying to rid minivans of their "soccer mom" image of boring people-haulers, GM refers to the Relay and three other new minivans coming out next year as "crossover sport vans" that combine sport utility vehicle attributes with van versatility.

Reuters noted that Saturn has not revealed what other vehicles it will add to the lineup, but Lajdziak has said previously that the brand is considering a small convertible.

With Saturn's 2003 sales up only 2.5% to the end of September, far below the growth target of 10% for the year, Saturn has introduced new incentives on its Ion small car, Lajdziak reportedly said.

But spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb told Reuters Saturn remains committed to growing its annual sales to 500,000 vehicles a year by 2005, up from 280,248 in 2002.

Reuters noted that, earlier this week, Saturn launched new sales incentives on its slow-selling Ion - a down payment of from $US159 to $199 and monthly payments of $159 to $199 for 72-month-long contracts.

"It's very competitive at the low end," of the market, Lajdziak reportedly said. "If you're going to be competitive in the low end, you've got to find the sweet spot in pricing."

Childers Arb told Reuters that, to cut stocks of unsold Ions, GM stopped production this week at the assembly line at its Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant and is considering halting production again next week.

GM currently has stock of about 140 days' worth of Ions, up from the optimal level of about 65 to 70 days, Childers Arb told Reuters.