June 8 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp.'s Saturn, the
fastest-growing brand in the U.S. this year, may add a smaller car
because of rising demand for fuel-efficient models.
"We think there is definitely room at the bottom for an economy
car for Saturn
,'' Lisa Hutchinson, the brand's product-
development director, said today in an interview in New York. "There
is a growing interest in fuel economy as prices have gone up."
She didn't say when the division might add the car, known as a
subcompact. The Opel Corsa subcompact, one of GM's most popular
models in Europe, is a possible candidate for Saturn's lineup, she
. Saturn and Opel have been sharing vehicles.
Saturn already has benefited from new models such as the Aura sedan
and Outlook sport-utility vehicle that have helped boost its U.S.
sales 30 percent through May. Subcompact sales have increased 43
percent, the most of any vehicle segment, as average gasoline prices
rose as high as a record $3.23 a gallon.
Subcompacts include models such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Yaris, GM's
Chevrolet Aveo and Honda Motor Co.'s Fit.
"Those are a good vehicle to have in your lineup because they
generate interest in the brand and showroom traffic," said Jim
Hossack, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California. "It's
a reasonably good fit for Saturn, a good idea
Saturn's smallest vehicle now is the Ion car, which the division
will replace late this year with the Opel Astra.
The current lineup for Saturn includes the Aura, added in last
year's second half; the Ion; the Sky sports car, added in 2006's
first half; the Outlook, added late last year; the Relay minivan;
and the Vue SUV. The division also began selling a gasoline-electric
hybrid version of the Vue in late 2006.
The division will have five 2008 models, Hutchinson said.
Competitive Test Drives
Saturn dealerships on June 11 will begin a program that lets their
prospective buyers test-drive Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sedans
for comparison to the Aura.
All but about five of Saturn's 430 U.S. dealerships volunteered
for the program, which runs through July 31
, Hutchinson said.
The dealers will buy the Toyota and Honda vehicles themselves
she said. Hutchinson declined to say how much the program will cost.
The Camry is the best-selling car in the U.S. this year. The Accord
is third, behind the Camry and Toyota's Corolla. Sales through May
totaled 193,900 for the Camry, 153,431 for the Accord and 22,535 for
GM shares rose $1.32, or 4.4 percent, to $31 at 4:20 p.m. in New
York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have gained less than 1
percent this year.