It is perhaps the bane of my existence that I may never buy a brand new Saab. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Here in Australia, the cost of vehicle importation, especially from a country as far away as Sweden (and making them in Germany will provide little, if any, relief), makes the idea of purchasing a brand new Saab somewhat prohibitive for someone on an average income.
The entry level 9-3 Linear starts at $47,900 and that’s before you add any desireables or on-road costs. Throw in premium sound, walnut trim, ESP and Sport Chassis and you’re looking at an extra $3,500 and there’s plenty of other options where those came from.
If you’d like to move up in the world, say a 9-5 Aero like the one pictured on the left, then you’d be up for $84,900 plus ORC and whatever other goodies you’d like to add to the package.
Good luck and well done if you have this type of booty at your disposal. But me? I’ll be gracing the second-hand market a little bit longer in order to maintain my Saab fetish. From the reading I do around the Saabosphere, I’d say I’m not Robinson Crusoe in that regard. The fact that Saabs do depreciate rather quickly enables us all to get involved, albeit at the expense of the brave-new-purchaser.
But what if Saab were to make a true entry-level model? And if they do in the future, which one will it be? In the US, the 9-2x has been introduced as an entry-level vehicle and depending on how you look at it, it’s done pretty well. The problem is, as always, the entry-level price point.
At their full price, the 9-2x’s weren’t exactly skipping off the dealers lots at speed. Bring on the 29% reductions due to rebates and the employee pricing scheme and all of a sudden there’s none of them left. It remains to be seen what will happen when the ‘value pricing’ regime is introduced, the full price is charged albeit with extra features thrown in.
I should mention at this point that a Suuby WRX wagon, the basis for the 9-2x, comes in at $40,440 plus ORC here in Australia. Even if GM managed to twist Suuby’s arm and introduce the 9-2x here (fat chance), it’d be quite likely to approach the 9-3 in the price department.
BMW introduced the 1-series as their entry level vehicle and it’s met with medium success. At $34,900 plus ORC, we’re starting to get a little closer to a Swade-like reality. The problem is that I’d rather chew off my legs than own one.
So what to do? Well, how about GM take one of those small platforms, send it to Sweden and get the little Trolls to work some magic. Get the important basics covered in a quality setting. Engine (1.8l turbo), suspension (sporty) and seats (gotta be good). Compromise a little on the rest with some acceptable parts-sharing savvy and BANG! You’ve got an entry-level winner to be marketed in all the small-car markets of the world. All the increasingly-important-fuel-cost-conscious markets of the world.
Saab hit pay dirt in Australia in the late 1980’s when it introduced the 900i. Capitalising of the good reputation earned by the innovative and popular 900 Convertible, the 900i was priced at $29,900 and gave people a well built Euro car for under $30,000. That was still a lot of money back then, but it was an important price breakthrough and Saab did well out of it.
I can’t help but think that a similar magic could work again if the formula was right. Design them well, share the parts, build them in Korea and give all the people on the precepice a chance to take a step up. This might get pooh-poohed a little by the Snaab’s, but knowing how well they build boats etc, I’d take a chance on a Korean-built entry level 9-2 in 2010 with the features listed above.
I do recognise, however, that there’s risks involved. If there’s one car company that’s doing worse than Saab (and there’s likely a few at the moment) then it’s Jaguar. Their experiment (ongoing) with the X Type has proven to be a genuine dud.
Analysts say introducing the X-Type with parts from Ford’s European Mondeo sedan hurt Jaguar’s image because it never had been associated with under-$30,000 "near-luxury" cars containing parts from autos with "common" nameplates like Ford’s.
"Lexus models share platforms and nobody cares, but people objected when they saw the X-Type shared components with a Ford. But that showed that people hold Jaguar to higher expectations, which says a lot for the Jaguar brand," Scarpello said.
I’m not keen for this sort of reaction at all. Jaguar has a different heritage to Saab though, and I can’t necessarily see it as being an obstacle of similar size. As long as the build quality is there and there’s some character built into the car, I’d be willing to give it a go and add my dollars into the assured future of the Saab brand.