updated 12/7/2006 9:33:18 PM ET 2006-12-08T02:33:18

General Motors Corp. Thursday said it would add a compact car to its Saturn brand in late 2007 by bringing the Opel Astra to the U.S. market from Europe.

GM said it would begin selling the Saturn-badged Astra in late 2007, extending a program of new products intended to revitalize the once-flagging brand.

GM has made European-styling and a closer collaboration with its Opel unit the cornerstone of its turnaround strategy for Saturn. GM product chief Bob Lutz previously said the world’s largest car maker was looking to bring the small Astra to the U.S. market.

GM said it would provide more details about its plans for the Saturn Astra in February at the time of the Chicago Auto Show.

Saturn sales have gained almost 4 percent in 2006 on the strength of new models such as the Aura sedan and the Sky roadster, making the brand one of the few sales bright spots for GM this year.

GM’s overall U.S. sales were down 8 percent through November and the company is banking on the success of new cars and car-based “crossover” vehicles to shift it away from its reliance on sales of trucks and SUV.

“The Astra is a great fit for Saturn with its European styling and driving dynamics,” Jill Lajdziak, Saturn’s general manager said in a statement. “It also signals our efforts to get the new vehicles to market quickly and reinvent the entire Saturn product line-up.”

GM launched Saturn as a separate car company in 1990 to compete head on with Japanese car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd

But Saturn sales foundered in the late 1990s and GM disbanded the independent corporate structure behind the brand as it readied a redesigned line-up intended to compete for customers who might otherwise buy import brands.

GM said the Saturn Astra would be almost identical to an already unveiled Opel version scheduled to go on sale in Europe in February.

The Astra, which will replace the discontinued Ion in Saturn’s product line-up, will be offered in three- and five-door models in the United States and Canada.

With the addition of the Astra, GM said Saturn would have a line-up that will have been completely revamped over the preceding 20 months, GM said.

GM plans to build the Saturn Astra at a plant in Antwerp, Belgium, a Saturn spokesman said.

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