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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Vectra-Based Saturn Gives Awards and Impetus to Brand

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By Nigel Bernhard
Editor TACH UK

Detroit January 15, 2007; Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak has good reason to smile – her company’s Aura salon has scooped the North American Car of the Year award, the first time Saturn has won the prize in the 16 years of its existence.

Indeed, the award is a sign that Saturn is finally starting to produce products worthy of its high-quality dealer network. The GM division has been criticised for producing bland cars, and failing to hit the hot sectors such as SUVs, minivans and crossovers.

Lajdziak admitted GM had considered shutting the brand down over the past few years: “It was touch and go for Saturn – but what saved us was our dealer network and our focus on the customer.”

Saturn also turned to GM’s European operations for product development – Aura is based on the Vauxhall Vectra; the Saturn Sky coupe was derived from the Vauxhall Lightning concept car; future Saturns based on Astra and even Corsa are under development. The Vue SUV has been developed by GM-Daewoo in Korea. “Our efforts are paying off,” Lajdziak said.

The Aura won the NACoTY award because of a combination of performance, specification and build quality. A hybrid version will be added to the Saturn range later this year. It beat the latest-generation Toyota Camry in the final voting – a major achievement as Camry is America’s best-selling car.

GM also won the North American Truck of the Year award with the Chevrolet Silverado large pick-up truck. It’s the first time the same manufacturer has won both awards in the same year.