By on January 28, 2009

Chris Paukert got his start here at The Truth About Cars. He was, in fact, our first freelance contributor. Since then, it’s been a winding road for Chris. When I heard he was joining Autoblog, I didn’t know to be happy for Autoblog or sad for Chris. Since joining AB, Paukert’s posts have been press release compliant. But, while you can take the boy out of TTAC… Today, Paukert (or one of his eagle-eyed spies) spied the fact that Saturn pulled the “Build Your ’09 Astra” function from their website. Yup, one of GM’s endless stream of Hail Marys has shuffled off this mortal coil. Chris did the right thing and called Saturn for confirmation. “We spoke with Steve Janisse, group manager for Saturn communications, this morning, and he confirmed that while there will be no 2009 model, a 2010 is scheduled and on track for a spring roll-out. Given this unfortunate economic environment and GM’s rude health, of course, we’ll wait to ‘call the ball’ until 2010s are on dealer forecourts.” Aside from the fact that rude health means good health and the glaring lack of the word “bullshit,” it looks like AB might finally have a writer with a pair of stones. We look forward to the competition.

[Read Justin Berkowitz’ review of the Saturn Astra here

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43 Comments on “Saturn Astra RIP...”


  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Too bad but the high value of the Euro doomed it from the start. Another GM failure to bring in European cars.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Car gurus: please help me, given this news, how and where can I get a truly great price on a 5 door manual Astra XR?

  • avatar
    Seth L

    @ Robbie

    Seconded.

  • avatar
    IGB

    It’s really not RIP, more like ‘see ya next year’ but…

    There’s no 2009 Evo either.

    I wonder how many other 09’s will be subjected to the economic holding pattern?

  • avatar
    Luther

    Since GM was losing money on each one they sold…They save money by not selling them. (Not that people were actually buying them….)

    Pathetic.

  • avatar

    IGB :

    You want to bet?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Sad.

    Since the price was lowered, these have been selling like hotcakes. I would have bought one, if I hadn’t bought a Fit by the time they were available.

    The original problem—a pitiful powertrain for a high price—is pretty typical of GM’s “Value Pricing” strategy: introduce a model, gouge the market, cut prices as demand fails to meet expectations, kill market value, cancel nameplate, wash, rinse, repeat.

  • avatar
    IGB

    Oy vey Farago, I mean officially.

    By this time next year there will be one surviving American car company, owned by the Italian Government selling French Cars to Canadians (and still being bailed out by the four remaining US taxpayers.)

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    nice car, its a shame. gm can’t get a break.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    GM makes, in Europe, a 260 HP direct injection turbo ecotec engine that would easily fit in this car.

    Instead the only FWD cars they put that engine in are the penny pinched Cobalt and a weird looking thing that some retired people drive.

    Robbie:

    Overstock.com and autotrader.com will give you an idea of how cheap they are going for. Try to pay a couple grand less than the lowest prices listed on those sites. Go to the dealer, test drive the car, then leave. They will call you repeatedly. Also, tell them that you are going to finance it, even if you aren’t; they make a lot of money on financing.

    This car probably qualifies for subsidized GMAC financing (you can thank me later), but if not look into whether you qualify for any credit unions.

  • avatar
    JeremyR

    This is one of a handful of GMs that I would consider buying when the time comes to replace my semi-daily driver (`87 Accord). I actually like the look of it (in 5-door form), and it is said to handle reasonably well.

    But couldn’t they have squeezed just another 20 horsepower out of it? That, and the last I looked, the performance aftermarket seems to be nonexistent. But I guess that makes sense, if these have been selling poorly. Maybe some “go fast” parts could be imported from Europe?

    All said, I guess I’d be surprised if these returned in 2010. Perhaps the Ford Fiesta will fare better…

  • avatar

    And not far below Paukert’s post was another about another Opel, a hopped-up Insignia. With the usual Autobloggery of “Golly, we sure would like to see it here. Maybe as a Buick!” and requisite comments of “Bring it here!”, “It will sell like hotcakes!”, “It will change my percept of GM/whatever GM brand!” and so fourth.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    I suspect Saturn has enough supply of 2008s to carry them a year or so.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    GM makes, in Europe, a 260 HP direct injection turbo ecotec engine that would easily fit in this car.

    They already do, sort of, in the Astra VXR.

    The reason we get the 1.8L slug is because it’s the only Astra equipped with an conventional automatic transmission, and GM wanted to import it on the cheap. They ought to have adapted the North American 2.4L to this car, but chose not to spend the money. And paid for it in lacklustre sales.

    World cars aren’t a bad thing, per se, but cheapening out the implementation never goes well.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “World cars aren’t a bad thing, per se, but cheapening out the implementation never goes well.”

    Right you are. Mazda’s entire car lineup is pretty much the same vehicle everywhere. The Honda Fit is a world car as are the BMW, Mercedes and Audi line ups.

    The world-car idea makes complete sense, but sometimes it is done well (Fit) and sometimes not (Astra).

  • avatar
    akear

    The Astra disaster has mercifully ended.

    I never thought I would hear a Saturn dealer reminiscing about the “hot selling” ION.

    Our local saturn dealer looks like an Astra boneyard. Some have been there since labor day.

    The picture accompanying this article should be entitled “kiss of death”.

  • avatar

    Last time I saw a figure inventory was over 400 days…

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    The first GM product I would have purchased… Maybe there will be one in the used market for me… Am quite a ways from buying my next car as is I suspect alot of Americans. I can afford it now but want to get more use out of the two cars we drive – they have alot life left in them.

    I think Fifth Gear and TopGear have promoted these cars more on their show than GM has on US TV. I have YET to see one in a Saturn commercial and have not yet seen one in our small TN town. Quite a few Auras and other Saturns though.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    This is inaccurate Robert.

    Go to media.gm.com and choose Saturn. You’ll plainly see that there is a 2009 Astra.

    It isn’t dead…yet.

  • avatar
    srogers

    I’ve been looking at Astra XRs, and now they’re as much as $6k off for 2008s. Nice car for that price – less than a Fit Sport but with 4 wheel discs, ESC and more refinement.
    But… it’s an orphan and I’m afraid that the value of the purchase price looks less good once I consider parts and service down the road.
    That leaves me looking at the Mazda3, which everybody and their dog drives in this town.

  • avatar

    With a 400 day supply, why spend the money on brochures, owners manuals, etc.?

  • avatar

    Droid800 :

    I did go to the site. The information is dated “For Release: June 9, 2008.”

  • avatar
    Droid800

    …Which would be information for a 2009 model.

  • avatar

    John Horner: the new U.S. Mazda6 is unique to the U.S. Europe and Japan get a different car.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    srogers: $6K off?!? You mean $12,500 for a 2008 Astra XR? Where can one get this deal?

  • avatar

    I covered the disAstrater in May:

    http://www.speedsportlife.com/2008/05/29/avoidable-contact-12-why-the-motoring-press-cant-even-focus-on-its-own-astra/

  • avatar
    canadacarguy

    Sorry Robert, I’m confused. Does this mean no more 2009 Astras will be made? Or is this in the U.S. only? Here in Toronto, I’ve seen dozens of 2009 (and 2008) Astras sitting in the dealer lots. I even went for a test drive in one a few days ago (not buying though).

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    Going by the GM employees pricing website, the Astra, Sky and Vue Hybrid will not have 2009 versions. They’re all NA on pricing.

  • avatar
    roar

    Ok let’s get this Saturn info correct:
    Last year the local Saturn retailer delivered over 200 new Astra’s to the market, it was the second best selling vehicle in it’s segment behind the Mazda 3 in the market area, the segment is very small. Most Saturn Retailers did not sell many Asta’s, most did not seem to even try. The decision about 2009 Astra has not been made at this time. There already are 2009 Sky’s, Vue Hybrid’s on the ground. You can buy a nicely equipped Astra for $15,000 to $17,000, not a bad buy at that price. The local guy says that his January new business will be off about 25% compared to last year. His company delivered over 1500 new Saturns in 2008 and most models, Aura/Vue/Outlook improved over 2007 sales, Sky did not. The issue was Astra did not come close to replacing ION, never was supposed too.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I was so excited when they announced this car. This was the GM car I was going to buy. They finally did exactly what I was hoping they would do. But… in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to replace my Golf TDI. I never even went to look at one. Once I heard that it wasn’t available with XM and there wasn’t an ipod jack, and there was a 24-hour clock, and… there were just a few things that weren’t ready for prime time. I still love the design, particularly the 3-door. I finally sold the Golf in November, but now I’m looking for something different, like a used CTS. Then again, I picked up an ’85 Volvo wagon as a winter beater and I’ve fallen in love with it. It, and not having a loan payment.

  • avatar

    Saturn Astra RIP

    You know you want it. Want good cars without haggling? Go to CarSense. Let this brand die already.

    Jimal:
    I just picked up an ’04 Fully loaded CTS with 53k on it for $11k. Amazing deal on a highly-rated domestic, IMO. Was a trade in at a Volvo dealership!

  • avatar
    keepaustinweird

    Don’t exactly recall when the Astra arrived in the U.S. but here in Austin, TX I’ve seen a grand total of ONE on the road. Will the Ford Fiesta hurry up and get here already?

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Hmmm.
    Every review I’ve seen paints the picture of a decent but uninspired vehicle. The road test mpgs have been less than impressive (mid-twenties vs. 30+ for Corolla/Civic.

    The market didn’t need this car, still doesn’t.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    shaker

    I was all “amped up” about the Astra myself, but the goofy, intrusive center console, anemic motor and limited number of 3-doors (which kept the prices up – 18,900 sticker last winter).

    I guess what really bugged me was that there was a seepage of some sort of yellowish sealant on the rocker panels behind the front wheelson every Astra in two dealer lots. These cars had an additional $500 “paint protection” package – sheesh!

    A minor factory defect, to be sure, but glaring in its presence.

    (On a related note, take a look down the side of a new four-door Focus. See those vertical creases in the middle of the doors? I ain’t impressed)

    Also, the fact that the car was built by a Belgian factory whose workers were informed by GM Europe that their plant was to be shut down factored in, as well.

    Kiss my Astra… goodbye?

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    Think of the fact that GM cannot build succesful cars in either the top or bottom price ranks. First the Astra is the latest of a 50 year series of flubs at the low end. Think of corvair, vega, chevette, cavalier and now astra. Further, today cadillac has announced they are out of the two seat sport car business. Think allante as the last time they tried it. If you happen to trust them in buying any of these models you get to own an orphan. Poor resale value and parts availability. Imagine the caddy owners who put up to $100,000 in their new cadvette sports car and will see maybe $30-40K two years later. This alone is a reason the present full line GM cannot go on. They must pick their niche and stay there. The sooner the better.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Damn….being a real Opel fan, I had such high hopes for this. All my father ever drove was Opel Rekords! The prospect of being able to own an Opel here in the States brought a smile to my face as it would have been a nice spiritual tie to my late father. But they (as GM tends to do) brought the bottom-feeder variant and then did zero to pump it up. In six months here in the Charleston, SC area I think I’ve seen two on the road. Sad.

    Off topic…an ’04 CTS for $11k? Man, cars are depreciating crazy-fast…

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @no_slushbox :
    GM makes, in Europe, a 260 HP direct injection turbo ecotec engine that would easily fit in this car.

    @psarhjinian :
    They already do, sort of, in the Astra VXR.

    No, that’s the European Turbo Ecotec, which is not direct injected and only makes 240 hp. And it makes the Astra an understeering mess.

    The reason we get the 1.8L slug is because it’s the only Astra equipped with an conventional automatic transmission

    No, there’s the 6-speed automatic 150hp diesel Astra. Although I’m sure that model makes too much sense.

    @threeer :
    But they (as GM tends to do) brought the bottom-feeder variant

    Bottom-feeder variant? The best selling gasser Astra in Europe has 90 horsepower. Which is 10 more than the best selling gasser Golf or Focus.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @John Horner :
    Right you are. Mazda’s entire car lineup is pretty much the same vehicle everywhere.

    The American Mazda 6 has about as much in common with the European Mazda 6 as the Opel Astra has in common with the Chevrolet Cobalt.
    The Mazda 3 is the same car in Europe, but with zero engine lineup overlap.
    The Mazda 2? N/A in USA.
    CX9? N/A in Europe
    Mazda5? Different interior, drivetrain, seating arrangement.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Pity, my neighbour got one about a year ago. Nice car. Nothing remarkable, but it does it what it is supposed to well, good fit and finish, and handsome enough for the type of car that it is. Another GM orphan.

  • avatar
    GrandCharles

    Was in the market for something like that in last april. I am a former saturn owner (2000 LS). I did not even went to see that car because it was priced too high in comparison of the competition. The 3 door coupe was over 20 000$!!! Yeah now they give you a 6000$ cash rebate, sish! Too late Saturn…and too bad….

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    That yellow mess you saw seeping out of the fenders was likely a waxy undercoating that some car makers use. My VW had problems with that but it just wipes off and eventually it stops. I worry that means there is nothing coating the inside of the body of course…

    I still want an Astra and still can’t let go of the cash. I’ll take a 5-door with the higher end wheels.

    A five door only because we have these short people that go everywhere with us and will for the next decade at least.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    No, that’s the European Turbo Ecotec, which is not direct injected and only makes 240 hp. And it makes the Astra an understeering mess.

    As I understand it, it’s a close cousin of both the DI Ecotec in the Kappas and the 2.0L in the Saab 9-3 (same displacement and dimensions). Other than the Saab’s being aluminum, the three are effectively identical, and the DI model would still render the Astra an understeering pig.

    No, there’s the 6-speed automatic 150hp diesel Astra. Although I’m sure that model makes too much sense.

    Powertrain certification is expensive, and the testing is slow. Spending more to pair the North American Ecotecs with the four-speed wasn’t an option; bringing a powerplant and transmission that have never seen the light of day in North America would never happen.

    Thusly we got the cheapest, quickest option.

    I agree that, had GM done their homework and started testing the Astra with the North American 2.4L. But they didn’t, and the only way we were going to get the car at all would be as it stands now.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    threeer-Opel fan myself. Had a Manta (as did my Dad and brother) and a 1900 wagon.

    Still have fond memories.

    Bunter

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