Back in April, when this site was just a young whipper-snapper, I did an entry entitled ‘Snapshot‘ in order to take a look at where things were in Saabland, as far as I could tell.
It was a fairly naive entry, truth be told. There was no mention of the 9-6x in there. Nor a facelifted 9-5. The SportCombi had just made it’s debut at Geneva and whilst sales were down for 2005 so far, I was feeling upbeat.
Fast forward just 7 months and my, how things have changed…..
Saab still sell a vehicle called the 9-2x in North America. I thought I’d better remind you of that. Nobody’s seen one in a while as all the 2005 models were practically given away during the “Employee” sale in the US summer and the 2006’s haven’t arrived yet. It seems destined to forever be the black sheep of the Saab family. A reputedly good car made better by Saab, shunned to a degree by the Saab faithful and largely ignored by all but a few discerning, inquisitive consumers.
I have a feeling I’ll have to remind you all in 5 years time that Saab used to sell a model called the 9-2x, too.
The mainstay of the Saab range. Leading sales and breaking Saab sales records in the UK and Europe. The convertible is still the great value it’s always been. The Sport Sedan will get the benefit of the 2.8l V6 engine and seems destined to continue winning people over with the 1.9l diesel engine (will they get it in the US, and if so, when?). The sublime SportCombi should drive numbers even further north in 2006.
The other addition to the 9-3 range will be the expansion of the powerplant range to include a Biopower engine that’ll be capable of running on E85 as well as regular gasoline.
It’s been facelifted and opinions are divided. A consistent thread running through the reports that I’ve read so far is that the driving experience is much improved. The bump up to 260HP and the tuning of the chassis have translated into a better driving experience for the few that have got behind the wheel so far.
Of course, the division in opinion centres around the looks of the new 9-5. Those chrome headlight surrounds in particular. Personally, whilst I don’t think the new 9-5 looks bad, I do prefer the 2005 look. The 2006 look does seem to suit the 9-5 SportWagon quite well, however, especially the new tailllight treatment.
The big addition to the 9-5 range for 2005 and 2006 is the aforementioned Biopower engine setup. Already selling well in Sweden, it’s now being offered in the UK and will go on show in the US early in 2006 with a view to offering it for sale in that market in the next 18 months or so.
I think Saab USA hit a winner with this one. All the reviews have been positive about the setup of the vehicle and the few bits of feedback that I’ve read from owners have all been positive. The only enduring negativity I’ve seen around this vehicle is from those staunchly opposed to Saab even offering a vehicle in this segment.
The 9-7x seems to be selling well in the US, given the limited numbers produced so far. It’s also being offered in several European markets and I read at SaabCentral this morning that it’s also being offered in Saudi Arabia!! The future of the 9-7x seems a little uncertain, but given the cancellation of the 9-6x project, I think we can expect it to hang around for a few years yet.
Plans, plans, plans
Here’s where things get interesting, eh?
Saab-Suuby: Of course, General Motors has dissolved it’s partnership with Subaru, so the 9-6x is now off the books. We may yet see some of the technology that was developed for it in other models, but Saabisti can now sleep at night knowing that there won’t be a car based on the butt-ugly Suuby Tribeca. That’s a burden I’m glad I don’t have to bear.
The dissolution of the Saab-Suuby partnership also means the demise of the 9-2x after the current model runs it’s course. So, for the next 12 months or so, the best WRX money can buy will still be available at your local Saab dealer.
AWD: The next 9-3 and quite likely, the next 9-5, will both be based on the Epsilon2 platform, which should be AWD-capable. There’s a lot of call for this in the marketplace and it may be wise for AWD to be an option, but I’m not sure it needs to be a standard like a lot of people say. These are both very capable vehicles as is, and the added weight of an AWD system may counter the traction benefits it offers. Of course, the addition of AWD will likely allow the tuners to go a little more nuts, hence my thought that perhaps this should be a limited edition or optional feature, perhaps for a factory-tuned halo vehicle.
The addition of the following car might influence the AWD decision on the 9-3 and 9-5 as well…..
The 9-4x: Whilst Edmunds persist with calling it a Theta based midsize SUV, the reports coming out of Europe suggest Epsilon. By the time it comes out it may be an Epsilon2 vehicle as well.
The X3-fighter. The Saab-developed SUV. Quite possibly the one we’ve been waiting for. The questions as to configuration and similarity to the 9-3x concept will all have to wait at least until March, when it’s rumoured to be on display at the Geneva Motor Show. But the simple fact that this vehicle is on it’s way generates a lot of excitement for Saab itself, and for those of us looking for a bright future for the marque.
Initial reports suggested that this vehicle might not be ready for production until 2009. Here’s hoping that’s an outer projection. The cancellation of the 9-6x has left a hole in the model range that would have been filled from MY2007 onwards. Hopefully the 9-4x can step into the breach at least one year earlier than reported so far.
The 9-2: This one has just come out this week. What will it be? Well, first reports have the new Saab model as a 2 seater based on the new Opel Astra platform and debuting in 2010. Such a long lead time tends to suggest that this will be a ground-up job between Saab and Opel, as with the 9-3 Sport Sedan. Let’s hope the end result is just as enticing.
Again, look to Geneva in March to provide an illustration of what’s to come with this potential new model.
Production: There was sad news earlier this year when GM’s Russelsheim plant won the bid to produce the 9-3 from 2008 onwards. This was a significant threat to the Trollhattan plant’s future beyond 2010. Thisngs seem to be looking a little more upbeat now that the dust has settled. Production fo the 9-5 may stay at Trollhattan and the addition of the 9-4x and 9-2 for the future, as well as other non-Saab models, should hopefully keep Saab’s spiritual home in operation for some time to come.
Sales: Whilst sales have been stable in the US (thanks largely to the Employee Pricing Scheme mid-year), they’ve been up in several other key markets, most notably in the UK, where Saab have set a new Sales record for the brand. With the addition of the 9-3 SportCombi model to the US and UK markets, things should be on a general upward trend in the next 6-12 months. It’s even been mentioned recently that Saab might just end 2005 in the black. Given the troubles that Saab have faced over the last few years, that would be an unexpected achievement, worthy of celebration.
In 2010 I’ll turn 40 years old. Hopefully the young’uns will be largely self-sufficient and we may even have some garage space available. With a crossover, a new 2-seater or the next-gen 9-3 or 9-5’s to choose from – things are well and truly looking rosy for this particular Saab enthusiast.
Now all I have to do is hope GM can stay operational!