Premature speculation

For many, many years, Saab existed only on the quality of it’s two or three current models of the time.  Whether it was the 96, 90 and 900 back in 1980, the 900 and 9000 of the mid eighties or the 9-3 and 9-5 of more recent times.  They existed, albeit sans profits in some years, but they continued on nonetheless.

Via SaabCentral, this article at The Car Connection has renewed the speculation about Saab’s future once again.  As some of the SC commenters note, the prospect of Saab being sold off is feared by some and welcomed by others.  Here, in my little corner of the world, I think Saab is better off in GM’s hands for the time being and that selling off prior to 2010 would be doing an injustice to the continuing development that’s currently going on there.  The only selloff I’d welcome at this point would be one to Porsche.

The article centres around the fact that there may be no new models released until 2008.

After the imminent release of an updated 9-5 sedan, the automaker will go at least two years without any major new addition to its lineup. "Getting through the next couple years is going to be a challenge," Spenchian acknowledged. Brands "with new models get all the attention and buzz," he said. Even so, Spenchian said he believes that Saab should be able to maintain momentum with the addition of special editions and the support of a new marketing program.

Now, before we all panic and flee the sky that’s supposedly falling on our heads, let’s take a quick look back and see what was planned for 2006-2007.  These two years have been left without a new release primarily because of the cessation of the relationship with Fuji Heavy Industries, more commonly known around automotive circles as Subaru. 

This change in status has meant the demise of the B9 Tribeca-based 9-6x.  Are we to lament this as a bad thing?  The Car Connection would have us believe so.  I’d beg to differ.

The Tribeca is uglier than a bashed crab and trying to shoehorn it’s derivative into the Saab lineup would have only earned more industry derision a-la the fallout from the 9-2x and the 9-7x.  So, the question is: Is having no new releases between now and MY2008 better or worse than having 1 bad release in that period?

The 9-6x was the only new release planned between now and MY2008.  There was a possibility of a smaller SUV, the 9-4x, but the earliest that was pegged for was sometime in 2007, which could well have turned out to be a MY2008 release anyway.

Again: is it better to release no new production models or 1 bad one?  I’d say that in Saab’s precarious circumstances they’ve made the right decision in canning the 9-6x.  And it’s not as if there won’t be any new products to aspire to in the in-between times anyway.

The Geneva Motor Show in March could see any one or combination of up to three new vehicles in development: the new 9-2 based on the same platform as the Opel Astra, the 9-4x SUV and the now-more-likely-than-ever new Sonett concept vehicle.  Out of these, the 9-2 and 9-4x are likely starters for the 2008 model year, perhaps slightly later in the case of the 9-2.

So, is the sky falling on our heads?  Hardly.  Patience will have to be exercised for some, but it should have its rewards.  What’s going to be of utmost importance is that Saab get these new models right when they finally come.

In the meantime, we may have to content ourselves with the excellent 9-3 and it’s three variants, the yet-to-be-thoroughly-discovered 9-5, the reportedly capable 9-7x and the black-sheep-seeing-out-its-contract 9-2x.  All these and the various special editions such as the 20th Anniversary Convertible coming soon (that’s the "Cerulean edition" to you pommy folks).

Given the many various Limited Edition 900’s that marked the 1980’s and early 1990’s, I think these could give us enough entertainment in the meantime whilst we drink in the snippets of information that come to the surface about the new stuff around 2008.  Bring it on.

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for that Swade, and wow, those SAAB Central “repliers” are outrageously disrespectful of each other. Outrageously. That leads me to appreciate your outstanding site even more. You are respectful of those of us who prefer a fast GM exit, and we are of you and others who think otherwise. Having no crystal ball, I can’t with any certainty call your “not until 2010” theory wrong. However, the comments from Stefan you highlighted on the main page make me lean even more heavily toward a speedy GM sell-off. His comment regarding increasing “cost reduction and use of GM part bin material” pinpoints the reasons I frequently ponder what brand I may be forced to move to — with Audi the front runner. Like Stefan I drive a 2002 Aero — a sedan — and anticipated eventually changing to the 2006 redesign for its supposedly better handling with a true SAAB engine over the GM-based ones I will refuse to own. Now it sounds like when the time comes, I will have to give such a change careful thought.
    Stefan’s troubling news, combined with a fresh new year, prompt me to share something I avoided revealing in 2005. My past experience as a national/international journalist combined with my SAAB fanaticism led over the years to my making contacts with people having inside information out of SAAB in Sweden — now Sweden/Germany. Although information flow weakened considerably as GM heavily cut SAAB personnel, soon after the Renault purchase reports hit the media in 2005 I was informed GM does in fact wish to sell SAAB — but not the name! In other words, GM would simply own the SAAB name and manufacture — badge enginner, likely — “SAABs” while the people who have long designed and manufactured what we SAAB fanatics value in a car would work for some other auto maker.
    “So,” I asked the informer, “we would start buying another brand?”
    “Yes,” came the somber reply, clearing meaning some other brand name would include what we now value in SAAB.
    While the above is one source information, Stefan’s comments make me believe GM could indeed do something so outrageous — and ultimately disastrous for itself financially. Hang on, Stefan, your revisit to SAAB could be very, very interesting indeed.

  2. I would not knock Subaru too hard. The Tribeca may be ugly on the outside but Subaru has earned a reputation for reliability and engineering quality. Their boxer engines and four-wheel drive systems are both world-class. I’ve looked at the Tribeca and liked the interior more than any other SUV – maybe because I hate most SUV’s. The Subaru Legacy cars and wagons are very good and big sellers here in the Northeast.

    A Saab (not GM) work-over of the Tribeca may have been very good. It certainly would have more potential than the current Chevy based 9-7 in my opinion.

    It’s too bad an independent Saab could not have cooperated with an independent Subaru – they have a lot to offer each other. Subaru engineering and Saab styling mixed correctly could have made a wonderful combination.

  3. “The only selloff I’d welcome at this point would be one to Porsche”

    I would wholeheartedly second that.

    However, I would also include either Honda (bottomless pit of money, engineering excellence, passion, a lack of a true premium brand and a history of working with European based manufacturers);

    Or the Fiat Group (Flair, passion and a successful history of working with SAAB and acknowledgement of where each others’ strengths lay).

  4. I’m not sure what Honda would do with Saab here in the U.S. They already have several cars in direct competition with Saab models on the market.

    Do they kill all independent Saab designs and make the 9-3 a re-badged Acura TL, and the 9-5 an RL? With that logic, the 9-2 would be a TSX re-badge and the 9-7 a Pilot / MDX.

    Or, do they drop in a pile of money and engineering time to make the 9-3 and 9-5 more competitive against their own above-mentioned cars? And, invest in more development of future Saab models.

    I doubt it although stranger things have happened. Maybe Honda will re-badge some of their other products as well. It would be cool to have a Saab lawnmower.

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