General Motors plans to import rebadged Opel Astra compacts to replace the Ion at the bottom of Saturn’s lineup.

The imports, starting at the end of next year, will sticker at about $16,000 - approximately $3,500 above that of the 2006 Saturn Ion 2 sedan, Ion’s base model. Ion production is scheduled to end in December.

Importing Astras would fit GM’s strategy of repositioning Saturn as a Europeanized brand. At the New York auto show last month, GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said nearly all Saturn vehicles will be based on vehicles from Adam Opel AG, GM’s German subsidiary.

The current Astra went on sale in Europe in 2004. The European press has praised the car, and it was western Europe’s second-best seller last year with 453,000 units, just behind the Volkswagen Golf.

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