One of the great setbacks to Saab’s progress in recent years was the apparent dumping of the 9-3x concept as an extension of the 9-3 model range. This occurence seems symptomatic of several things: first, the high development costs of the 9-3 Sports Sedan, and second, the way GM controls it’s business.
Caveat: I’m no historian. This is my somewhat brief take on what happened and whilst I’ve based on readings from various places, it may be materially incorrect in respects. I’m happy for some Saab people to get in touch and set me straight.
The 9-3 Sports Sedan development team made a fantastic automobile, but it didn’t come for free. High development costs in areas that couldn’t be shared alarmed the beancounters in charge, and this alarm didn’t go unnoticed. Here’s Carl-Peter Forster in Car Magazine back in June:
Here’s an example of Saab independence gone wrong. It created a new electrical system for the 9-3 (even though it shares its chassis – and potentially its electrical systems – with the Vectra). The cost is Eu$10m to engineer alone. Plus the cost of components is higher due to lost economies of scale.
When those costs were deemed to be out of control, GM stepped in and restricted the development program in order to reign in costs. As GM itself was reeling somewhat after the 9-11 downturn (which started the heavy incentive programs we’ve seen right up until today), cost control was in important factor wherever it could be implemented. It would seem that the 9-3x was too adventurous and too much in its infancy for those conservative times.
The potential of such a vehicle was apparent but underestimated. A short time after canning the project, the 9-2x was conceived and developed and became Saab’s entry into the AWD marketplace. As good a vehicle as a 9-2x Aero might be, the thought of what could have been is a little difficult to swallow. Especially with Audi now doing some reasonably brisk business with it’s A3.
The following entries here at Trollhattan contain all the Saab press please information on the 9-3x. It’s an awesome concept, a great looking vehicle and I really think it could have made plenty of sales for Saab. Perhaps with the dissolution of the relationship with Subaru now happening there’s a chance that this magnificent car could be resurrected?
And a brief note to clear up some muddy waters: According to the press releases, it is based on the Epsilon platform.
Please click here to start reading all you may ever see about the 9-3x.