Saturn announces new small car will be named ION

By Warta W. Aldrich

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE - Saturn Corp. has chosen the name ION for its upcoming small car to hit the market in late 2002, the second of four new products being introduced by the unconventional automaker.

The corporation said Monday the 2003 ION sedan and a later ION coupe are being designed as a "customer-friendly" small car emphasizing interior room and a smooth ride.

Built on a new platform with a new engine, both models will replace Saturn's current S-series cars being built in Spring Hill, Tenn., about 25 miles south of Nashville.

The 7,100-employee plant already is building Saturn's new VUE, a small sport-utility vehicle with an optional V6. The VUE is scheduled to reach U.S. dealerships between late November and mid-December with a base price of less than $20,000.

Saturn has said it plans to release a fourth new product, but it has not revealed details. However, officials did say the launch of the ION sedan will be "closely followed" by the coupe.

Saturn spokeswoman Lee Anne Carmack said the corporation has not altered its production schedule due to the terrorist attacks or the nation's soft economy. She credited General Motors' zero-financing campaign, started in the wake of the attacks and running through Oct. 31, for helping to stimulate sales.

"It won't be a record-setting year, but it's better than analysts predicted," Carmack said. "While the slumping economy and the national tragedy certainly didn't help, we're holding steady."

For the first six months of the year, GM reported Saturn's overall sales were up 4 percent.

The new lines are part of the corporation's attempt to provide fresh designs for younger buyers, said Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn sales, service and marketing.

She said the name ION (pronounced EYE'ahn) was chosen because it is "simple, yet progressive" and reflects a new wave of automotive thinking and design.

"It is a contemporary name that appeals to young buyers, and it signals that Saturn will be offering something dramatically new, rather than just an updated version of our current small cars," Lajdziak said.

A division of GM, Saturn works under a "no price haggling" concept in its showrooms and in a unique partnership with the United Auto Workers at its plants.

Saturn has been producing cars at Spring Hill since 1990. It also has a plant in Wilmington, Del., that builds midsize L-series sedans and wagons.

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