9-5 Snippets

There’s a few 9-5 themes running through my head at the moment.  The first of which, is why can’t they sell more of these vehicles??  I mean, everyone I’ve heard from that has one, loves it.  Maybe the ones that I don’t hear from are the ones that have had problems.  Sludging is definitely an issue, at least with the earlier vintage.  But from those that do talk about them, I hear nothing but good things.

Personally, I think Saab should perhaps make this the year of the 9-5.  But that’s me.

So here’s a few bits of 9-5 news, all of which makes me think there’s an aligning of the stars happening for this car – let’s hope GM can put it all together and make the most of the opportunities that come their way this year.

News Item #1Autoblog cover the 9-5 biopower ‘concept’

The bigger, faster and impervious-to-evil-rays version of the 9-5 biopower has made it’s press debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week.  This is the Biopower car with the mean 2.3 litre HOT engine. 

The combination of the super-powerful donk and the 100+ octane rating of the e85 fuel means that this little Biopower Beast (click here for the full article on this car) can apply a whopping 310bhp to the road, via an elephantine 440nm of torque.

Picture via Autoblog.

I love the word elephantine.

Anyway, this is a concept only at the moment so all you horsepower freaks need to check your woodies at the door…..for the moment anyway.  Which leads me nicely into 9-5 Snippet #2….

News Item #2 –  Autoblog are also reporting that a big theme of the GM presentation in L.A. was the promotion of e85 as a platform for delivering environmentally friendly transpotation.  GM marketing guru, Mark LaNeve spent some time in his address giving the hybrid hype a swift kick in the cohunas.

The big ticket item in this article, however, is something else – a joint demonstration between the state of California, Chevron and Pacific ethanol.  They’ll be trialling at least 50 FFV vehicles (but not Saabs) in the demo. Pacific Ethanol, which has one Ethanol plant in Cali already under construction, also has plans for the construction of four more plants.

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Now for the 9-5 themes running through my skull.  Let me try and piece them together.

  • September 2005 – the new Saab 9-5 debuts at Frankfurt Motor Show. 
  • Back in September 2005, 2 US Senators propose legislation to provide tax breaks for FFV buyers.
  • December 2005 – the US government commits to millions of dollars into an e85 viability study for commercial production and distribution, with the prime focus of the industry being robust enough to supply the US military in an appropriate capacity. 
  • December 2005 – Saab have met their 2006 sales targets for the 9-5 biopower – in 2005
  • January 2006 – The 9-5 Biopower ‘concept’, featuring a much beefier 9-5 setup than the one currently available in Sweden, debuts at the LA Auto Show. 

Can anyone else see the convergence here?  Well, let me gaze into the trollhattan Saab crystal ball for a moment……

  • ????? 2006 – Saab USA announce the proposal to produce and market the 9-5 Biopower concept vehicle as a production model.  Pre-release cars are made available to the motoring press as part of the fleet at what is becoming Saab’s traditional 10-yearly gathering at Talladega Speedway in Alabama.  Here, the press and factory drivers go about setting a bunch of new records for speed and endurance.

Hmmmmmm, sound fanciful to you?  Well, let’s watch, wait and learn about whether or not a bunch of suits earning six figures can see the way the wind’s blowing. 

There’s plenty of reasons to bring this car to market, not the least of which is the fact that it runs perfectly well on regular gasoline when the owners can’t get e85 (which is most of the time in most of the US).  A release like this and an event like Talladega to show it off could be exactly the spark the 9-5 needs in the North American market. 

I’m sure an event and a release like that couldn’t hurt in Europe either.

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18 Comments

  1. Why the 9-5 doesn’t sell better is truly a mystery. I absolutely love my 2000 9-5 Aero, and prefer it it to my wife’s 2005 Mercedes E320 wagon.

    Part of it is the four cylinder, I think, not being as “smooth” as a 6.

    But still it’s an outstanding car.

  2. I spoke with a Saab marketing person about the availability of the E85 9-5. I was told that their large markets are in the East and West coast where E85 is not as available.

    If they really want to increase their market share. They need to promote this car in the midwest where E85 is plentifull.

    I think that would create the buzz they need and increase their market share in an area where they need to improve.

  3. The problem with the ’06 9-5 is that it is HIDEOUS – plain and simple. What we now have in the 9-5 is a car that is nowhere near as classy looking as a BMW or even a Merc and looks more like a Chevy than a Saab. What has happened to the Saab three-hole grill?!

    Note to GM: If you mess with the 9-3SS like you have messed with the 9-5 I will end my 23 year romance with Saab. 🙁

  4. I believe the 9-5 is very competitive at $35k in the U.S. However, the market for sedans at that price point has become brutally competitive over here.

    My Dad currently drives the competition – a 2004 Acura TL – what a fantastic car. Perhaps not the “feel” of a Saab, but wow is it fast, comfortable, and fun to drive!

    Lexus and Infiniti, BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac and Lincoln; they all introduce great new sedans every few years in the same price range. Winning market share in this fight is much more difficult than was a decade ago. Good luck.

  5. Regarding the comment above about E85 markets in the U.S. not lining up with SAAB’s traditional markets, I see their point. I live in California and have spent significant time on the East Coast. In the “blue states” SAABs are plentiful. In the “red states” it appears that drivers are more likely to buy ‘Marican. On a trip to South Dakota I saw TWO European cars (both Volkswagens). The rest were predominantly American (pickup trucks mostly) and a smattering of Japanese cars. I don’t think promoting SAABs in the Midwest would really result in a whole heck of a lot of sales for SAAB. The working class farmers in these areas don’t really have the money for a car that SAABs cost. SAABs in the U.S. seem mostly for urbanites.

  6. I don’t know about the midwest. It seems to me that if the point is pushed that Saab is American owned, burns fuel made from their corn, with a whopping amount of horsepower, and doesn’t give a hoot about winter snowstorms, they might do well. Seems to me the old strokers sold well in the midwest, but of course, they were cheap, simple, and somewhat reliable.

  7. “Buy American” has become somewhat irrelevant these days since no one can define it anymore. Is a Honda made in Ohio more or less American than a Ford made in Mexico or a Buick made in Canada? Is a Chrysler still an American company?

    I think the GM Supplier discounts being offered to the employees of many big companies will help get out message the Saab is a GM subsidiary and get some people looking at them who would not have otherwise. I’ve seen several people inquiring about Saabs on the Edmunds forums solely because of the discount. If “people who test drive Saabs, buy Saabs” is really true, it may make a considerable difference.

    My company and my wife’s both offer the discount to all their employees since they do business with GM.

  8. Saab should make the whole North American range e85-compatible asap. This would give them tons of free publicity in the mainstream press, and it would provide a much better sales incentive than their current “we’re somewhat cheaper than the competition” angle.

  9. You are asking why the can’t sell more of the 9-5. I’ll tell you about the situation here in Germany. I just sold my 02 9-5 Aero wagon. Was solidly thinking about buying a new 06 facelifted model, which I did not. Why? The fact that the 9-5 is technically not up to the competition, doesn’t bother me. The experience with my car being rather unreliable (SID, DIC, crankshat positioning sensor, etc.) was also not the main reason. What really pissed me off was the fact that this old received over the years so many cost reduction processes and lost so many details which were typical Saab that I just did not want to have one anymore. Just to name a few: No real leather in the door inserts anymore, leather quality of the seats way cheaper than before. No side pockets in the b-pillars anymore, no lamps in the tailgate anymore, the inner casing of the opening was also cut. No typical SAAB SID anymore and also the spread of the speedometer, where is it? The main disaster after the face lift are the climate control knobs. While I would prefer the rotating knobs of the many push buttons, the solutions Saab has choosen now is lowest budget GM/Chevrolet rack. They even removed the aluminum or wood cover around the gear lever! Incredible. With such a non-development of a formerly great car Saab will not only not win new customers but also loose old ones. That they didn’t invest in offering the famous V6 turbo (impportant for the US) and that no large diesel engine is available (very important in Europe) makes things even worse. The competition (Audi, BMW, Merc) is no competition anymore for the 9-5. I very much regret the recent development of Saab; I am now driving a Audi A6 quattro, which may not be as charming as the Saab but is a way better and much more fun to drive car. Even the leasing and financing costs are similar to the cheaper Saab because the better residual value.
    I will follow up the Saab situation with interest and do hope that in 2008 the new model will be a step in the right direction. I certainly won’t if cost reduction and use of GM part bin material will continue to rule. At least we are lucky enough in Europe that Saab didn’t dare to offer the 9-2 or 9-7 here. Despite all others opinions, it is laughable to believa that this rather simple re-badging will make a real Saab and win over typical customers.
    Best regards from Berlin!
    Stefan

  10. Hello Stefan,
    you describe the reasons of your decision not to buy a new facelifted Saab 9-5. All the points you mentioned may be right. This step to change from a 9-5 to an Audi A6 we made in 2000. The seats of the Saab didn`t fit on me. I had gotten problems with my back. Another point was that for the first time in our lives we wanted to drive a front-wheel driven car with a 6-cylinder engine. Though we lived with Saab since 1973 we changed the mark and purchased an Audi A6 2.4 l multitronic. This car is the best we have ever driven. Specially the comfort is excellent.
    But we are missing the feeling of driving a Saab. I don`t know why. We could be content. But there is a lack.
    saabaudi

  11. To add to the comments of some above, they are right about SAAB being sold mostly in east and west coast urban areas of the USA. I would venture that there are few SAAB dealers in the midwestern corn-growing states outside a few large metropolitan areas. (I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and there is only one dealer in the state. The neighboring state of Wyoming has no dealers at all to my knowledge.) However, SAAB has been mentioned in the press with its E85 model. FYI, http://www.ethanol.org/ is the website of the trade association of ethanol producers in the USA. You can find our more info about US ethanol developments at that site.

  12. Hear, Hear Stefan.
    It is precisely for those reasons and more that I have decided to stick with my higher quality 9000 CS, even though I could comfortably afford a newer SAAB 9-5.

  13. I drive a 2001 SAAB 9-5 Aero SportWagon. It has 53K miles on it. I love the car, have babied it and then the alarm starts sounding for no reason. A message on the dash reads, “Service Alarm”…what? Service alarm? I didn’t know they need “servicing.” I took it to Sacramento SAAB (California) where I always take it….they tell me it needs a new unit. The cost? USD510! I contacted SAAB Customer Service to see if they would offer assistance….I was hopeful of them offering to split the bill. When I picked my car up last night at Sacramento SAAB, I started it up and guess what message came up on the dashboard display? “Service Alarm!”
    By the way, SAAB Customer Service called today and denied my request for assistance.
    If SAAB is selling less than 300 9-5s in the USA each month, the “alarm” might be sounding!

  14. Hal,
    By all means stick with your 9000 if it’s running well and not likely to present overly high repair costs. I reluctantly sold my 1995 9000 Aero for a 2002 9-5 Aero at 200,000 miles. The 9000 still ran beautifully but I decided to invest the next several thousand dollars in upkeep — aging clutch, AC repair, failed seat heater, and other age-related issues — in a new car. Although I too could have afforded a new 9-5, I decided purchasing an off-lease one via a good auction made much more sense, given SAAB’s horrible resale values (which also make leasing deals not exactly “deals”).
    Anyway, the point I want to share is that my reluctance to switch to a 9-5 was ill-founded. If the 2006 9-5 is as disappointing as we’re now hearing, folks like yourself might wish to consider an unsold 2005 9-5; the car sells so poorly, here in the US at least, I’m sure some ’05s are still around. In pre-’06 9-5s, the leather is softer than the 9000 leather, but not to my view lesser quality. The seats are actually more comfortable. And the driving experience? It still pains me to admit it, but it’s BETTER! Once you get used to the softened suspension, you can drive this car even faster than the 9000. It just takes practice. I took 6 months to learn driving this car, and am still learning as I’m no where near the handling limits. I’m now annihilating even Porsches under all conditions, just as I did with the old 9000 Aero and others I know did with ’91 and ’92 9000 Turbos.
    I nearly made the mistake of ending my long-time SAAB love affair and switching to Audi. But as other participants to this blog note, Audi and similar competition just don’t provide the SAAB driving feel. If you really like to drive, the 9-5 is the natural successor to the 99/900 cars, just wonderfully modernized. It may not match all the technical goodies of the competition and GM pieces such as the door handles do cheapen it, but those cars don’t drive and “feel” like SAABs, and that’s what most of us here are looking for, I believe.
    I hate, Hate, HATE GM for the way it’s un-SAAB-ified SAABs, but at least the 9-5 — and to a lesser extent, the smaller 9-3 — was designed before the SAAB engineering staff was decimated by GM. That last hurrah by the fabled Trollhattan team gave me a delightfully dynamic and unique driving experience with great build quality. For that reason, I may some day purchase a post 2005 9-5 Aero despite the GM cheapening — viewing the unfortunate cheapening as trade-off for what’s going to be a great price, especially when the heavy discounting begins in about, oh, ten or twelve minutes.

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