Press Release :
Bringing a new charge into the small-car segment, the 2003 Saturn ION sets itself apart from competitors with innovative features, unique personalization opportunities and surprising levels of safety, sophistication and fun.
New from the ground up, the front-wheel-drive ION sedan and quad coupe models replace the pioneering S-Series in Saturn’s lineup. The four-door sedan debuts in the fourth quarter of 2002, followed by introduction of the quad coupe in early 2003. The new models were designed to compete head-on with the best cars in the segment. Among the customer-friendly features are a larger exterior, more interior room, a new powertrain, enhanced ride, and responsive, sporty handling.
The ION sedan and quad coupe – so named because it features dual rear-access doors (RADs) – will play an important part in GM’s entry-level strategy. The dual RADs are an industry first, effectively creating a new category of vehicle and providing customers with unmatched functionality without compromising the coupe’s sleek lines.
‘The ION will bring new energy to the small-car segment,’ said Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn Sales, Service and Marketing. ‘We developed these new models to appeal specifically to young customers by offering them more – more sophistication, more content, more fun and more functionality.’
While siblings, the sedan and quad coupe use distinct exterior styling cues. The ION sedan brings a refined, sophisticated, contemporary look to the segment. The ION quad coupe, including its RADs on both the driver and passenger sides, exudes an overall sporty flair. Both maintain the Saturn tradition of polymer side panels, which incorporate the integral Saturn upswept ‘swoosh’ body-side styling element.
In line with reaching out to younger customers, the ION sedan and quad coupe make personalization easy by offering personal-accents kits in a variety of styles and colors. These kits include unique, interchangeable exterior roof-rail kits that are color-coordinated with interior trim kits.
The Saturn ION sedan and quad coupe will compete in a small-car segment that accounts for sales of more than two million units per year, which is about 14 percent of the total U.S. new vehicles market, and 28 percent of the Canadian market. Approximately 30 percent of small-car purchasers are first-time new vehicle buyers. The ION models continue Saturn’s legacy of offering innovative small cars – competing primarily with Asian imports – that target a more educated, informed, and safety- and quality-conscious consumer.
Like all Saturn models, the ION sedan and quad coupe were designed to appeal to customers who would have otherwise purchased or leased a non-GM product. In 2001, 79 percent of Saturn buyers listed a non-GM make as their second-choice vehicle, with 55 percent saying they would have bought an import brand.
One of ION’s distinctive advantages is the Saturn retail network. Saturn retailers are recognized leaders in satisfying customers in the areas of sales and service. For seven of the last eight years, Saturn has finished No. 1 in the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Satisfaction Index. Saturn recently took the top position in the 2002 J. D. Power and Associates Customer Service Index, the first time in 16 years that a non-luxury brand has earned that honor.
In keeping with Saturn’s heritage of innovative products, services and features, the ION incorporates several innovations that deliver real customer benefits. These innovations, not available on any other car in the segment, include:
Dual RADs on the quad coupe. The rear-access doors – combined with a front-passenger fold-flat seat and the lack of a B-pillar – help a customer fully utilize the interior space by making it easy to load and unload passengers and cargo, including larger objects that typically wouldn’t fit in a traditional compact car.
A unique, and practical, center-mounted cluster. The center-mounted cluster is on the same horizontal sight line as the side-view mirrors. This design allows the driver to set the steering wheel in the most comfortable position without needing to adjust it in order to see the instruments. It also enabled designers to equip ION models with a smaller steering wheel, allowing easier entry and exit and helping to create a more open and airy interior environment.
The VTi variable transmission available on the quad coupe, the first application of a continuously variable transmission on a high-volume compact car in North America. It brings a surprisingly fun-to-drive sporty feel, plus improvements in fuel economy when compared with traditional step-gear transmissions.
One of the first North American applications of variable-ratio electric power steering, tuned to each trim level. The system enhances driver ‘feel’ by allowing customized steering assist for different tire/wheel combinations and suspension levels, with improved fuel economy as an added benefit.
Interchangeable roof rails that can be color-coordinated with interior trim accessories, presenting unique personalization opportunities.
The ION sedan and quad coupe are designed to carry on the Saturn tradition of being at the top of the class when it comes to safety and security. The world-class structural design provides the foundation for this focus on safety. The steel spaceframe’s front and rear crush zones help absorb the energy of a crash while protecting the integrity of the safety cage.
Dual-stage driver and passenger air bags are standard, and Saturn’s segment-exclusive head-curtain side air-bag system – which provides protection to both front and rear occupants – is optional. Unique in the small-car segment, the ION’s head-curtain bags help provide protection to the head and neck in certain side-impact collisions.
The ION sedan and quad coupe offer an optional antilock braking system (ABS), and unlike almost all small-car entries they also offer traction control across all models. These safety features are not restricted to specific trim levels.
Also unlike major competitors, the ION sedan and quad coupe offer a factory-installed anti-theft system with remote keyless entry, standard on uplevel models and optional on midlevel cars. An engine immobilizer – which prevents car theft by shutting off fuel to the engine if the correct ignition key isn’t used – is standard on every ION.
OnStar, with its array of safety, security and convenience features, is available as an option on both the ION sedan and quad coupe – a segment first which takes Saturn’s reputation for safety and security to an even higher level.
As part of Saturn’s strategy to attract younger buyers, the ION sedan and quad coupe offer more sophistication and more content than customers expect in this segment. Examples include the five-speed automatic transmission available on the sedan and the VTi variable transmission available on the quad coupe.
While the new ION models bring a number of surprises to the small-car segment, perhaps one of the biggest is one that consumers will benefit from without even seeing – the level of sophistication of the vehicle’s electrical/electronic systems. Saturn’s new small cars set a benchmark in the segment for electronic integration, functionality and features. The advanced electrical architecture allows features not typically found in the segment, such as:
automatic headlight control
available automatic dimming mirror with outside temperature gauge and compass
oil life monitor
anti-lockout feature which helps prevent locking keys in the ignition
speed-sensitive windshield wipers
automatic headlight activation with wiper activation
accessory power retained even when the engine is turned off.
The ION models are the first products built on GM’s new Delta small-car architecture. The new Delta architecture plays a major role in helping the ION exceed expectations for noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), providing a segment-leading structural stiffness comparable to many luxury cars. Also contributing to outstanding NVH performance are dual balance shafts in the standard Ecotec 2.2L inline four-cylinder engine; hydraulic motor mounts; and the extensive use of noise-inhibiting materials, including a thicker windshield.
Both the ION sedan and quad coupe are equipped with outstanding powertrains, and feature responsive, sporty handling and a comfortable ride.
The Ecotec 2.2L inline four-cylinder engine is standard in all vehicles. This aluminum, 16-valve, dual-overhead-cam engine generates more standard horsepower (140 hp/104 kw) than primary competitors and strong low-end torque performance. It provides excellent performance in a wide range of driving conditions, including a sporty launch feel and strong passing.
The Ecotec 2.2L also is known for delivering excellent fuel economy and low emissions in a reliable, durable package with low noise and vibration. Currently offered in the Saturn VUE sport utility and L-Series midsize cars, this is the first time the Ecotec is available in a Saturn small car.
Standard on all ION models is a five-speed manual transmission that delivers world-class smoothness and durability. The transmission includes five synchronized forward gears and a synchronized reverse gear – rare in small cars – allowing the ION to shift into reverse without grinding if the driver shifts before the car is fully stopped.
GM Powertrain’s VTi variable transmission is offered as an option on all quad coupes. The VTi, a continuously variable transmission, allows the engine to operate more efficiently than a traditional step-gear automatic because it provides an infinite number of gear ratios over a wide overall ratio range. The result is fuel economy approaching a manual, while providing excellent launch performance along with smooth and surprisingly responsive power delivery.
Sedans are available with an optional five-speed automatic transmission, a feature typically found only in premium vehicles. Compared to conventional automatics, the five-speed provides closer steps between ratios for quick acceleration when needed, particularly during passing.
The ION models will be the first GM domestic small cars to be equipped with an electric power steering (EPS) system. EPS contributes to improved fuel efficiency by eliminating the power steering pump. The speed-sensitive system incorporates variable assist that has been tuned to optimize customer feel and effort.
Independent front and semi-independent torsion-beam rear suspensions – along with front and rear stabilizer bars, a wider track, and the longest wheelbase among prime competitors – add to the ION’s excellent ride and handling characteristics, while also providing outstanding ride comfort.
A variety of available sound systems add to the enjoyment of driving an ION, including an optional six-disc, in-dash CD changer and premium audio system available on all models except the base sedan.
The ION sedan and quad coupe are proof that small-car buyers can accommodate companions and cargo, too. Both models were designed to bring enhanced functionality to the segment.
On the quad coupe, the dual RADs redefine the meaning of ‘coupe.’ The innovative doors bring a higher level of convenience and utility compared to traditional two-door cars, making it easier for passengers to get in and out and enhancing the car’s ability to carry bulky packages. The quad coupe also features a fold-flat passenger front seat, allowing drivers to carry items such as a stepladder, small kayak or even a load of lumber.
With both models, the split folding rear seat provides a useful passthrough to the vehicle’s extremely large trunk area. Both the ION sedan and quad coupe have the most trunk room in their class.
Sedan seating positions are significantly higher for both front and rear occupants, providing easy entry and exit as well as a commanding view of the road. The sedan also features theater-style rear seating for an improved view. Both models feature significant interior storage, including three bins in the instrument panel, CD storage in the console and map pockets in both the front and rear doors.
Both the ION sedan and quad coupe were designed to make it easy for customers to personalize their vehicles. A wide range of accessories to customize the 2003 Saturn ION sedan and quad coupe will be offered at Saturn retailers.
In addition, a unique aspect of ION personalization involves personal accents accessories, consisting of interchangeable exterior roof rail pieces and interior trim bezels. The roof rail accents run from the vehicle’s cowl, across the top of the doors, to the bottom of the rear window. These can be color-coordinated with available interior trim pieces for the center-mounted instrument cluster, shifter and HVAC control panel.
The interchangeable roof rails are an industry first, made possible by ION’s spaceframe construction. The polymer roof rails are mounted directly to the steel spaceframe and therefore not themselves required to carry structural loads.
Most customers will be able to make the changes themselves in less than an hour with simple tools. These personalization opportunities are in line with young customers’ desires to making an individualistic statement.
The ION introduction caps a benchmark year for Saturn, which now offers a showroom of new products to match its award-winning retail system. These attractive vehicles are enabling Saturn to evolve into a stronger company with diverse product offerings, capable of attracting even more ‘plus’ business to GM. Saturn plans to continue growing its brand with even more new products in the future.
A major step in Saturn’s growth strategy was the 2002 model year debut of the Saturn VUE compact sport utility. The VUE was designed to lead the next-generation of compact SUVs by blending the versatility and security of a traditional SUV with the comfort and performance of a well-engineered sedan. Competing in a rapidly growing segment, the VUE offers many innovative features and more powertrain choices than its competitors, helping it attract many prospects who have never owned a Saturn. The ION models and the VUE are all built at Saturn’s manufacturing facility in Spring Hill, Tenn.
Saturn also begins the 2003 model year with a significant redesign of the midsize L-Series sedan and wagon. The fresh new exterior and interior moves the L-Series upscale and will cause many people to take a fresh look at the L-Series. When they do, they will find that both the sedan and wagon have been significantly upgraded since their introduction, making the L-Series even more competitive in the midsize market. More than ever, the L-Series is an attractive choice for customers seeking a midsize car with excellent road manners, extensive safety features and upmarket content.
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Designed from the start to appeal to young customers, the all-new Saturn ION plays an important part in GM’s entry-level strategy. At the same time, the ION plays a key role in Saturn’s long-term strategy to grow into a larger, stronger company.
The ION sedan and quad coupe replace the pioneering S-Series in the Saturn lineup. Saturn introduced the S-Series small cars as 1991 models, and has delivered more than two million vehicles since then.
‘The Saturn ION delivers the high levels of safety, functionality and fun that young customers want,’ said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn vice president of sales, service and marketing. ‘These innovative vehicles also provide unprecedented opportunities for personalization through interchangeable exterior and interior components.’
The Saturn ION sedan and quad coupe compete in a small-car market that offers 51 entries. The ION was designed and engineered to bolster Saturn’s unique positioning as a popular small car, competing primarily with Asian import vehicles and targeting a more educated, informed consumer.
GM regards the entry-level category as a key to the company’s future because a customer’s first vehicle can shape his or her perceptions for a lifetime of buying vehicles. GM’s strategy is to deliver a diverse offering of high-quality, exciting products to meet the varying needs of customers in this segment, primarily through the Saturn, Chevrolet and Pontiac brands.
Like all Saturn vehicles, the ION models were developed to attract ‘plus’ business to GM. About 79 percent of Saturn buyers list a competitive make as their second-choice vehicle, with over half saying they would have bought an import brand.
The ION quad coupe is being positioned differently than its S-series coupe predecessor within the small-car market. The S-series coupe was targeted toward the ‘regular’ sport segment of the market, competing against the likes of the Toyota Celica and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
By contrast, the ION quad coupe is being positioned to a broader segment of that market, competing primarily with the Honda Civic coupe and other small vehicles emphasizing function as well as sporty styling. This repositioning provides a larger market opportunity, as well as the chance to define an expressive, fun image without being confined to traditional sports-car packaging.
In demographic terms, the ION sedan’s target audience has an average age of 40 and a median income of $50,000. Buyers are expected to be 55 percent college graduates, about equally split between male and female buyers and between married and single persons, with 35 percent expected to be first-time new car buyers.
The ION quad coupe’s target audience has an average age of 35 and a median income of $50,000. It’s expected that half will be college graduates, about equally split between male and female, with 35 percent married and 40 percent first-time buyers.
As part of the effort to market to younger buyers, the ION sponsored the Goo Goo Dolls summer concert tour, with Third Eye Blind and Vanessa Carlton as special guests. It represented Saturn’s first music tour sponsorship.
‘The new Saturn ION line encourages self-expression, so music was a natural association for the product,’ said Matt Armstrong, ION marketing manager. ‘The tour was a natural way to generate awareness among younger buyers that Saturn has designed a product for them.’
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Source: Saturn Press Release

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