Globe and Mail on the 9-7x

Trust my second home to provide a comprehensive overview of the 9-7x and of Saab’s history and future. Jeremy Cato has managed to write up one of the best reads on the 9-7x, and there’s been a few lately as you know.

Go read the article in full for yourselves. Jeremy doesn’t pull any punches about the company or about the 9-7x, but ends up with a pretty honest and upbeat assessment. Here’s an excerpt:

“Some 40 per cent of existing Saab customers have SUVs in their garages and 30 per cent of our owners have left Saab to buy a four-door SUV,” Spenchian says. “Our dealers have told us they need this vehicle. The initial reaction has been great.”

Not bad for what in all honesty is a stop-gap measure before the more serious barrage of new Saab models arrives. It starts this fall with the 9-3 Combi, a wagon-like version of the 9-3 sedan. There’s also an important refresh coming for the 9-5 in the autumn.

Next year, the 9-6X will debut. It’s a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) based on the 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca platform that Saab engineers are working on with their Subaru partners. And toward the end of this decade, Saab will very likely add a smaller CUV to the lineup, a vehicle Saab insiders are calling the 9-4X. And Saab is also expected to replace the current 9-2X with a new version more uniquely Saab, but still based on the Subaru Impreza chassis.

“This is a pretty important time for Saab,” says Spenchian, a marketing whiz who recently took the top North American job at Saab after running marketing at Cadillac during its remarkable turnaround these past few years. “Years from now, we’ll probably be looking at this as the turning point.”

Perhaps so. If that does prove to be the case, Saab’s about-face will have come none too soon under GM ownership. Keep in mind that GM purchased a 50-per-cent interest in the Saab car business in 1989 and acquired the other half in 2000. But during all that time, Saab hasn’t put a penny into GM’s coffers as it has struggled to survive as a tiny brand selling no more than 130,000 cars a year. That happened last year, Saab’s best in history.

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3 Comments

  1. Nice article, but you’d think he’d know it’s an inline 6, and not a V-6, and that it’s going up to 290 hp next year. He might have also mentioned that the L-6 was voted as one of the world’s best 10 engines in 2003, at least by Wards Auto World.

  2. Hi Swade,

    I see Jay is still preaching the “30 percent” mantra. I’ve always been intrigued by this little factoid. What is it really? I’ve seen variations on two different “30 percent” statements in Saab press literature:

    “nearly 30 percent of Saab owners have left the brand for an SUV in the past”

    and

    “28 percent of customers who left the Saab brand bought an SUV in 2003”

    Although they sound similar, to me those two statements are saying vastly different things.

    In the case of the former, losing 30 percent of the Saab owner base (over some unspecified period of time – one month? one year? five years?) to a competitor is a grave concern. Clearly an SUV offering is needed to stop the hemorrhaging.

    On the other hand, the latter says that of all of the Saab owners who left the brand (in 2003), 30 percent did so to buy an SUV. Why did the other 70 percent leave the brand?!?! Shouldn’t *that* be where the focus is? Dumping scarce resources into a solution for less than one-third of the problem while ignoring more than two-thirds of the problem is nuts!

    Sadly, I suspect the latter statement is closer to the truth than the former…

    Alan

  3. Alan, that’s a pretty well thought out look at things, and an approach that I han’t considered (which may be why Jay hasn’t hired me yet!!)

    I suspect that the SUV area represents the elusive ‘conquest’ sale. The others that have left are probably for comparable brands and the key to retaining them is quality, quality, quality.

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