Saab in the black?

Wards Auto published a report that I missed (and couldn’t have seen anyway as it’s subscription only), but I have thankfully tracked it down via a post at Saabnet (where i’m still banned, but what the hey).

Jay ‘The Pharmacist’ Spenchian is reported as prophesying that Saab could finish 2005 with a profit on its global operations. This would be only the second time that Saab has turned a profit since GM took ownership. It hasn’t happened yet for 2005, but the indicators are that it may.

Saab will market new models in the foreseeable future.

NEW YORK For what is believed to be only the second time since General Motors Corp. acquired Saab Automobile, the Swedish brand will be profitable this year, says Jay G. Spenchian, general manager of Saab Cars U.S.A. Inc.

“If the numbers move in the right direction in the fourth quarter, our forecast is for Saab to make money worldwide this year,” he says.

Spenchian also says despite repeated calls from financial analysts that GM jettison the Swedish marque to save money, he has been assured by Fritz Henderson, president-GM Europe, that Saab is an important part of the company and its product portfolio will be expanded.

The Saab chief says worldwide sales will total 140,000 units this year, including 42,000 in the U.S. That represents a 12% increase, including fleet sales, over 2004, and a 14% hike in retail sales.

He foresees the day when Saab doubles its current sales volume, but declines to specify when that would happen.

Meanwhile, Spenchian says he did not learn about GM’s divestiture of its Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. stock until shortly before the news was made public Oct. 5.

The move killed plans for the 9-6X cross/utility vehicle, based on the Subaru B9 Tribeca. The 9-6X already had been delayed six to eight months, to early 2007, to make it look more like a Saab.

“It was too close to the current Subaru Tribeca in looks,” Spenchian says.

However, Saab still is determined to market a 7-passenger CUV.

“I can’t tell you when it is coming,” Spenchian says. But he maintains that plans for a vehicle in this segment still are proceeding. He does not specify the architecture that would be used.

Saab 9-2X: Spenchian also says the Subaru-supplied 9-2X (based on the WRX) will be dropped in fall 2007 and cannot say if there will be a replacement. “We’re looking at all the options now, and we’ll see what makes sense,” he says.

The future of the 9-7X, based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, has not been determined either, Spenchian says, as GM has not committed to continuing the model, or replacing it with a 7-passenger CUV.

The Saab chief expresses confidence the brand will market new models in the foreseeable future. Previews of these new vehicles will begin at the Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows in January. A Saab concept, to be unveiled in Geneva in March, will signal the auto maker’s future design direction, he says.

Spenchian also is confident GM views Swedish DNA as essential for Saab, even though future models and engines will be derived from non-exclusive architecture.

Common platforms will be utilized, Spenchian says, but the Saab design center to be built in Trollhatten, Sweden, will ensure that distinctive brand traits are preserved.

This includes turbocharged engines. “That’s a Saab equity,” he says.

I’ve no doubt that the result for 2005 will be largely due to the success of Saab in the UK and the success of the 9-3 SportCombi, with some 8,500 advance orders. I’m even surer still that if dealers in the US could have maintained supply, there’d be an even better chance of a positive result.

There’s every chance that the US sales figures for October could dampen the mood of this story rather severely, but a global profit for the year, given Saab’s recent history, would be an absolutely sensational result.

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3 Comments

  1. A profit helped along largly by the UK would be fantastic, because it would prove that the North-America only 9-2x and 9-7x are NOT the answer. Here’s the part that scares me:

    “Spenchian also is confident GM views Swedish DNA as essential for Saab, even though future models and engines will be derived from non-exclusive architecture.”

    It also worries me that he’s talking about 24-36 month turnaround for brand new models. 36 months is long enough to pull off a decent redesign, but 24 months is only really long enough to throw some upgrades on an existing GM vehicle and call it Swedish Fish :-/

  2. GM, like other car companies are streamlining and trying to bring to market cars faster. The Pontiac Solstice went from drawings to production in only 24 months. There’s a chance SAAB could too.

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