Snapshot

I’d like to echo Bob’s Lutz’s recent thoughts, but from a Saab perspective (which unfortunately doesn’t get a run in his recent post at Fastlane).  To quote his Lutzness:

Every so often, we all have to do a bit of a sense check, just to make sure that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow. And, amidst all of the gloom and doom surrounding GM lately, I’d like to give yet another alternative viewpoint.

No, it’s not all bad; indeed, I’m seeing some good signs.

Well Bob, here at Trollhattan, so are we.  So a snapshot of life in Saabland is in order.

US sales are down in 2005, but sales in the UK are booming on the strength of the 9-3 convertible and the TiD engine options.  Perhaps there’s something in the UK marketing and dealer positioning that could be learned on the other side of the Atlantic.  They love the 9-3 SS in Britain, and everyone that gets one in the US seems to love it too, it’s just that not enough people get to drive them.

The 9-2x seems to be gathering a little more momentum.  Sales data that I hear on BB’s around the traps indicates that numbers are creeping up, albeit slowly.  Recent reviews have been nothing other than positive about the car, as have the impressions left by 9-2x owners, and as I read on another blog this morning "For now, the most complete Impreza WRX ever produced is available at your Saab dealership"

The 9-3 SportCombi is on it’s way.  The webspace is up and the e-brochures are out there.  There’s a real buzz surrounding this vehicle and whilst it will still be a little while away, I can’t wait to get my hands on a 2.8 Aero for a test spin.

The 9-7x experiment will begin shortly.  The scepticism surrounding this model overlooks the fact that the Saab makeover of the 9-2x has proved to be a worthwhile exercise.  With the 9-7x, it’s an even more thorough job.  We’ll await the test drives with anticipation.

For those that like to search these things out, there’s also a little bit of Saab Motorsport about to get underway.  I’ll be producing a feature on Targa Tasmania, one of the world’s premier tarmac rallies, in the next week.  In addition to this, Per Eklund will get the 2005 European RallyCross season underway next month with his new 9-3 SS Aero rally car.

I’m a believer that the future is looking brighter for my favourite marque.  New models in the showrooms and new models on the way.  There’s plenty I’d still like to see, like improved dealership access and a definite financial shot in the marketing budget here in Australia. 

But improvement is improvement, and for all the GM bashing I get into here from time to time, things are indeed looking brighter.

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8 Comments

  1. Wow, it seems like you are buying into this Saab+Chevy, Saab+Subaru hybrids. Am I the only one that seems to understand that no matter how nice a rebadged Chevy or Subaru is, it’s still not a Saab! Sure the guys who want a good warranty and upscale interior will buy the 9-2x instead of the WRX, but so what? How can you be actually excited about the future of the brand by being happy that the WRX people are buying Saabs. They are NOT buying a Saab car because of what makes it Saab.
    If Saab sells a ton of these rebadged things and GM makes a ton of money, that still shouldn’t please a true Saab fan. The only way this would be a success is if the money made is put towards developing new Saabs.

  2. i can’t stand the subie/blazer “saabs,” either.
    (it’s like playing with “confederate” money.)

    after 9 months, i saw my first 2, 9-2x’s this
    week “on the road” (not just sitting in a deal-
    er lot) and i drive about 1000 miles/week all
    over colorado. since the sightings are rare,
    it doesnt’t appear that they’re selling very well,
    so i don’t think they’ll be making a ton of money
    for gm. (and i don’t believe the report of 500/
    month in sales of the 9-2x, either.)

    in my many decades of driving, i’ve never owned
    anything but a saab, so i was devastated by the
    2/7x offerings. i was at the point of switching
    to a different car company, one that didn’t triv-
    ialize its products for the sake of “easy” money
    from consumers that don’t care what’s under a
    badge.

    however, with the sportcombi, i think gm is let-
    ting saab “breathe” again. i’m now optimistic
    about saab and look forward to new models that
    haven’t been “compromised.”

    i’ll sleep much better if they decide to sell the
    9-3x, though. (after seeing gm give the “9x” con-
    cept to the chevy “nomad,” i can only have hope for
    9-3x, at this point. the sportcombi is a major step
    in the right direction.)

    it’ll be interesting to see what happens. i’ll be
    “babying” my current saab, even more, in the
    meantime.

  3. Gents, I felt exactly the same way about the 9-2x at first. I’d recommend you both go and read the article at ‘on another blog’ in the 9-2x paragraph (the first click will take you to Saab Central and the article is linked there). Whilst I don’t agree with all the article, it does make a well argued case about Saab’s history being one of borrowing bits and pieces here and there over a long period of time.

    AWD is a natural progression and the Suuby was the best fit given the short time frame. I think it would be great if they could modify the interior if the model gets a second generation, but the evidenceis there already: it has opened up a few wallets that wouldn’t have been directed at Saab otherwise AND the only people that complain about the car are the ones that don’t have one. All the buyers love it. And if they love it they’ll at least test another Saab when it comes time to replace it. Most people who test a Saab, buy a Saab.

  4. swade, i’ll take your word for it. (the admin at
    “saabcentral” runs it like he’s a jerk–uber dic-
    tator. who needs that? i won’t go back.)

  5. That’s a pity, 9x. I’ve found SC pretty good and had webmaster trouble elsewhere. Each place is different I guess.

    I’m really wanting to remain apolitical. Everyone’s welcome.

  6. Saab9X, too bad your experience at SC hasn’t been good. I found the site fantastic and the folks a diverse and entertaining bunch. If you “really” want to see an uber dictator, try Saabnet …. now there’s a self-admitted dictator if I ever saw one.

    Cheers

  7. The current 9-3 line is fantastic – never since the glory days of the mid-to-late 1980s has Saab had such a broad offering in a single model (remember the 900 5-door was not permitted in the USA, but sold in other markets) and one that is so competitive with the best cars in its segment. That’s the good news.

    Now the bad. I understand (correct me if I’m wrong) that Saab has *just now* decided that the next 9-5 will be based on a stretched epsilon platform. That decision should have been made 5 years ago, after the the epsilon program was launched. The 9-5 development should have followed the 9-3 by a year or no more than two – if so, then we would be having an all-new 9-5 now, not a *second* restyling in 2006 on a platform that is obsolete now and was too small for the 9-5 to begin with, with an engine derived from the 1972 99E. It’s a great car (I own one) but it’s a hundred and five in “car years.”

    More bad news. Vice President of Design Michael Mauer left abrubtly, presumably after his aggressive front fascia and clean side panel design for the 9-3 SportHatch was placed in the trash bin. Future Saabs will not be built at Trollhattan, starting in 2009 or 2010. Take away the factory and what justification is there for the Museum in Trollhattan or the styling studio in Gothenburg? Or the engine lab in Sojdertalle? The engineering staff has already been decimated. So what’s to be left of Saab besides the Griffen logo? What will stop future Saabs from being Opels with the key between the seats?

  8. Stephen, I think it’s fair to say that Saab as we knew it is gone. What remains is whether or not Gm can maintain the design and engineering philosophy that began there. If so, they’ll sell a lot of cars. Saab never had the resources to market aggressively but they had great cars that built a following. As long as Saabs are still great, stylish, innovative cars, they’ll sell.

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