The recent news regarding the sale of GM’s stake in Subaru runs a shockwave through the medium-term future of Saab’s model portfolio. That’s not a bad thing, but it is ‘a thing’ to consider. Subaru provided the basis for 1/4th of Saab’s North American model range with the 9-2x and was set to increase that to 2/5ths next year with the release of the 9-6x.
Well, that’ll be no more and when the current 9-2x runs its course it’ll be sayoonara to that one, too.
Which gives us a fresh opportunity to take a look at where things are at and where they’re going. I’ve had two separate thoughts emailed to me that GM could be clearing the decks for a sale of Saab, but somehow I doubt it at this stage.
9-6X – The first ‘proper’ Saab 4×4, sister model to the Subaru Tribeca. To be launched in Detroit in January, on sale in the US in May and in Europe in the autumn.
9-2X – There have been rumours that this project has been shelved in favour of a reworked version of the Opel/Vauxhall Astra (to arrive 2008) but nothing substantiated as yet. If original plan goes ahead, this is an all-new range co-developed with Subaru (see Impreza, below) for Europe, the US and other world markets. Much more Saab input than in the earlier US-market 9-2X, Saab engines in this model plus a GM diesel. AWD variants expected.
Sonett – A re-take on the classic Saab roadster, this time a sister model to Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and Opel/Vauxhall VX Lightning (VX220 replacement). Project is said to have been revived after being put on the back-burner for a while, as GM commits to offering a full and varied Saab line-up.
9-2 – If the co-developed model with Subaru doesn’t go ahead (see 2007), then the new 9-2 – for Europe as well as the US this time around – will be a Saab-ised version of the Opel/Vauxhall Astra, rather than a sister model to the Impreza. To be built in Europe, probably alongside the Astra in Germany rather than at Trollhatten.
9-3 & 9-5 – New-generation ranges, both on the GM Epsilon platform (along with Cadillac BLS and related models). All to be produced at the Opel factory in Ruesselsheim. Four-wheel drive versions to be offered.
9-4X – 4×4 crossover station wagon co-developed with the Cadillac BRX (2008); to be the smallest of three Saab 4x4s.
It’s fair to say that all references to the future of an Impreza-based 9-2x, as well as the 9-6x, can be scratched from this list. In line with recent interviews with Carl-Peter Forster and Jan-Ake Jonsson, it looks very much like the 9-2 of the future will be very much a Saab-designed vehicle, based on the same underpinnings of the Opel/Vauxhall/Holden Astra. Whether or not that vehicle gets an ‘x’ designation could go some way to deciding it’s success.
How about a 3 or 5-door hatch/wagon with a 1.8t petrol engine, diesel or BioPower as an option, AWD, and reminiscent of the classic 99 Turbo in it’s styling? Now that has a ballsy, innovative and progressive ring to it. Do a basic entry-level model and option it right through to an Aero showstopper.
The scrapping of the 9-6x also allows for the development of an actual, real, new Saab crossover vehicle. A larger version of the 9x, anyone? How cool could that car really be? Honestly, it’s an absolute killer. I’m sure it could be adapted for the slightly larger vehicle that the 9-6x was meant to be.
The Kappa platformed ‘Sonett’ has been mentioned here, there and everywhere and I think it’d be a great idea, though it’s GOT to be differentiated from the Solstice/Sky. I think there’s more harm than good to be come from a supposed ‘halo’ model that’s compromised by such obvious genetic melding.
That actually brings forward a pretty relevant question – Which car is or should be Saab’s ‘halo’ vehicle? Ordinarily you’d say it’s the biggest, the most expensive one of the lot, but somehow I don’t think the 9-5 Aero in it’s current, facelifted guise, is going to cut it as that ‘halo’ car.
I guess it’s another part of Saab’s identity that’ll need to get sorted out in the next few years.
This recent announcement marks a crossroads for GM and it’s ownership and development of Saab. What do you want to happen? Well, you’re the customer, so have your say!!
I’m collecting people’s thoughts on Saab’s current and future models and will be sending them off to GM USA and GM Europe on October 25. So go ahead, click here to Tell GM About It.