General Motors will sell the Opel Astra hatch as a Saturn in the US towards the end of this year as a 2008 model, but its chief, Rick Wagoner, has ruled out importing any other Opel models for now according to the Financial Times in Germany. Opel exec Klaus Franz has admitted that a larger export program would have been favourable but the Astra program comes at short notice and Wagoner has not ruled out further models at a future date.

GM is lacking in the small car department and is facing tough competition from Toyota but the Astra’s main rivals will be the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. GM also lacks a quality mid-sized vehicle and Opel’s Vectra would have been ideal but there’s less pressure in this segment, which might be one of the reasons why GM doesn’t import the Vectra. Instead, GM will sell the Saturn Aura which is based on the same platform as the European Vectra.

The cars will be built at Opel’s plant in Antwerp, Belgium, and GM expects to sell roughly 30 – 40,000 units annually. We’re sure GM would love to import more vehicles, but plans to import the Commodore from Australia and the Astra from Europe will no doubt be at the bane of auto unions in the US.