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New Opel Astra Sedan

Opel’s elegant four-door Astra sedan makes its world premiere at the Istanbul Motor Show (November 3 − 12, 2006), becoming the fifth model in the bestselling Astra range alongside the five-door hatch, station wagon, three-door GTC and cabrio-coupé TwinTop variants. “This motor show is the largest in this region, and Turkey is also one of the most important sales markets for the classic compact sedan,” says Alain Visser, Executive Director, European Marketing for Opel. The new model features a range of two gasoline and two diesel engines with output between 90 and 140 hp, and will go on sale in fall 2007.

Opel continues a tradition with the new Astra notchback model, as the first two Astra generations were both available with four doors and a large, separate luggage compartment. The Astra sedan will be produced in Gliwice, Poland, an ideal location to serve the Central and Eastern European markets for which the car has been primarily developed. The predecessor notchback model, Astra Classic, will also continue to be built there. The new model was developed at General Motors Europe’s International Technical Development Center in Rüsselsheim, in cooperation with General Motors Brazil. Traditional four-door notchback sedans also play an important role in Brazil, the largest South American market.

The new sedan boasts the Astra’s progressive, proportionally balanced design, dynamic lines and characteristic driving dynamics, together with high safety reserves. The new model's designers adopted the long wheelbase from the station wagon (2703 mm) for generous space in the rear and a large luggage compartment. With a length of 4618 mm and luggage compartment volume of 500 liters, the 1754 mm wide and 1458 mm high four-door sedan is positioned as an upper-end family car.

Powertrain and chassis: Four engines, pronounced agility and high safety reserves

Four state-of-the-art ECOTEC gasoline and diesel engines are available for the four-door Astra, with displacements of 1.3 to 1.8 liters and output from 90 to 140 hp. The top-of-the-line 1.8-liter, 140 hp gasoline engine with variable camshaft phasing promises plenty of driving fun.

The transmission range includes one manual five-speed and one six-speed manual gearbox, a four-speed automatic, as well as an enhanced automated Easytronic manual transmission.

The Astra offers top agility and precise handling with high levels of driving safety, the basis for which is the IDS chassis (Interactive Driving System) with McPherson front axle and patented torsion-beam rear axle. Standard safety features in all Astra variants include front disc brakes, ABS, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Brake Assist, as well as Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering (EHPS).

Equipment highlights: Advanced technology in compact class

The Astra sedan meets the needs of discerning customers with its extensive range of standard equipment. It also offers optional technological highlights from the Astra's extensive equipment range, such as bi-xenon headlamps, Hill Start Assist (HSA), the electric heater “Quickheat” and rear Park Pilot.

The new Astra model is available in three equipment lines: Essentia, Enjoy and Cosmo. The Essentia already boasts important safety features ex works, including front and side airbags as well as ABS. Comfortable and practical standard details include central locking, front power windows, and the 60:40 split rear bench seat back. The Astra Enjoy offers even more extensive standard equipment, including air conditioning, height-adjustable driver’s seat and CD-radio CD 30. The top-of-the-line Cosmo model distinguishes itself with additional high-quality equipment features such as 16-inch alloy wheels, center console in piano lacquer finish and a leather steering wheel.

The newest addition to the Astra family can be further personalized with a selection of four equipment packages:

  • Light and Visibility (windshield wipers with rain sensor, automatic photochromatic rear-view mirror, Automatic Lighting Control ALC)

  • Winter (heated seats in front, headlamp washer system)

  • Seat Comfort (adjustable lumbar support for driver’s seat)

  • Leather Seats (in addition to Seat Comfort package: front sport seats, heated seats)

As an alternative to air conditioning, which is standard from the Enjoy variant, automatic air conditioning and Electronic Climate Control (ECC) with air quality sensor are available. The extensive range of infotainment systems is typical of the Astra, with equipment that includes a navigation system or MP3 capability. A mobile phone console with Bluetooth interface and voice control is also available, as well as a Twin Audio system that provides separate entertainment in the rear.

Market: Up to 65 percent of all compact cars are notchbacks

The Opel retail network in Central and Eastern Europe has grown from 320 contracted dealers in 2002 to 380 in 2006 and provides the same high standards of customer service as elsewhere in Europe. The new Astra sedan will be an important addition to the line-up in the strong, thriving markets in this region. 67 percent of Turkish customers who purchase a compact class car, for example, choose a notchback model. In Russia, this figure is 65 percent, while Poland and Southeastern Europe each have a total of around 15 percent. With a share of approximately five percent, this body variant plays a less significant role in the compact class in Western Europe.

Astra Models: Well over one million sold since spring 2004

The Astra sedan is the fifth body variant of Opel’s compact-class bestseller. Since the current model generation's market launch in spring 2004, over one million Astras have been sold. Currently, every tenth newly registered compact car in Europe is an Opel. In the first nine months of 2006, Astra sales increased to almost 60,000 units in Central and Eastern Europe, up by 20 percent compared to the same period last year. More than 10,000 of those vehicles were sold in Turkey. Opel expects additional growth in these markets with the launch of the four-door sedan.

The design of the versatile model family plays an essential role in the car's success. With its striking and dynamic appearance, the Astra sets itself apart from its competitors and sends a clear signal within the compact class. Well-balanced proportions are the basis for the harmonious, dynamic body lines. In combination with taut surfaces, bold lines, technologically designed details and distinctive graphic elements, these proportions emphasize the Astra's silhouette.

Interior design is of great importance in the Astra. This is evident not only in its look, but also in the high textural quality of all surfaces and materials. The interior design is characterized by dynamic forms, which are in perfect harmony with the exterior body styling. The bold design elements in the Astra’s ergonomic cockpit include the striking center console with its large, user-friendly turn controls, three-dimensional instruments and an easy-to-read, up to 6.5-inch color monitor ideally positioned above the center console for added active safety.

The Astra made its debut in March 2004 as a five-door hatch. The most practical Astra of all, the station wagon, followed in the fall. Thanks to its 2.70-meter wheelbase, the Astra station wagon provides above-average legroom in the rear and up to 1590 liters of cargo space – a top value in this class. Details such as the FlexOrganizer system for the luggage compartment ensure maximum flexibility.

With the Astra GTC (Gran Turismo Compact), possibly the most exciting Astra ever came onto the market in March 2005. Launched in the fall of 2005, the exclusive high-performance Astra OPC with 240 turbo hp is the top-of-the-line car in this model range with a maximum speed of 244 km/h. The three-door GTC’s striking design features sporty proportions and a sleek silhouette with an arched, sloping roofline and pronounced tapering of the front and rear. The GTC’s unique character is accentuated by a world exclusive innovation: the optional panorama windshield extends from the hood up into the roof to the B-pillar and creates a whole new sense of space and visibility.

The sporty, elegant cabrio-coupé Astra TwinTop joined the family in May 2006. Thanks to its innovative three-part steel roof system, it can be transformed from a coupé into a cabrio at the touch of a button in less than 30 seconds. Other characteristics of the four-seat TwinTop include its ample luggage compartment capacity (205 − 440 liters) and innovative “Easy Load” loading system.

High Demand for Compact, Four-Door Sedans

Interview with Chris Lacey, Executive Director, Sales, Marketing & Aftersales, General Motors Central & Eastern Europe.

Question: Mr. Lacey, you have been working in Central and Eastern Europe for a number of years. Why do customers in this region prefer compact, notchback sedans?

Answer: For several reasons. As cars here generally carry more passengers than in Western Europe, trunk space needs to be sufficient for family trips. The sense of security conveyed by an enclosed luggage compartment is certainly another key factor. And the four-door sedan is also a popular passenger car design – many of our customers tend to perceive station wagons more as commercial vehicles.

Question: What other differences are there to Western European markets?

Answer: There is no easy answer to that – you can’t generalize about a region that stretches from Estonia to Turkey any more than you can about Western Europe, covering markets as different as Norway and Portugal. What I can say is that smaller cars play a more important role in the markets in our region – the Corsa is a typical family car here, not an additional second car. The four-door Astra is already at the top end of the scale that most customers would want to invest in.

Question: Is Opel considered a “people’s brand” like it is in the west?

Answer: Opel is certainly positioned higher here, thanks to the advanced technology in today’s Opel cars and people’s positive perception of German engineering. Our entry-level brand Chevrolet, on the other hand, is positioned in a particularly price-sensitive segment and is often chosen by customers buying their first new car.

Question: How important is it that the new Astra sedan will be built in Gliwice, Poland?

Of course our Polish customers are especially proud that this high-quality sedan is going to be produced in their home country. But neighboring countries have also taken positive notice of Opel’s leading role as a manufacturer in Central Europe. And the plant in Gliwice has earned an excellent reputation for quality with vehicles like the new Zafira, the Astra Classic and the Agila.

Chris Lacey (53) has been working for General Motors in Central and Eastern Europe since April 1995, when he became General Commercial Director for Opel in Hungary based in Budapest and assumed commercial responsibility for nine Southeastern European countries. In September 1998, Lacey moved to Russia for GM. Today, he is Executive Director of Sales, Marketing and Aftersales for Central and Eastern Europe. Lacey began his career in 1969 at Opel’s sister brand Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, where he held several different positions until 1995.

Source: General Motors.

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