I don’t know if it’s just me and my surrounding circumstances, or if the explosion that was the Aero-X release really was so powerful that it swallowed up its own aftermath. But I can’t help feeling that the commotion has come and gone. The occasional article about the car is trickling through, but how much attention can one car (not one model, but literally, one car) generate and maintain?
That’s the question forming the basis of this post – reasons why GM and Saab would be absolutely nuts to leave this sensational concept vehicle as a concept only.
Reason 1 – Capitalisation
As a struggling carmaker, you only get so many oppotunities to shine. You have to capitalise on these moments and build the momentum.
Saab make fantastic motor vehicles but a fair portion of their potential customer base see them as a little homogenised and ho-hum. It’s different when you drive them, but that public image is a barrier to getting bums on seats. The BFJ campaign seems to be working in relevant markets, but ads are a small shimmer in the water compared to the waves that a genuinely exciting product can generate.
The Aero-X has turned Saab into the flavour of the month, and right on time too. Saab’s enjoying perhaps its best start to a sales year ever, and attention like that generated by the Aero-X can only help. The degree of continued interest will be governed by whether they choose to put the car into the production process, or the museum.
Generate something real and tangible from this concept and there’ll be a definite level of interest maintained in the brand by some who would have previously sniggered. Pull off a production model that’s realistically and appropriately equipped and you’ll fulfil the next reason: the halo.
Reason 2 – The Halo Car
How many Audi A3’s and A4’s have been sold from interest generated years ago by the TT?
Right now, depending on the taste of the individual, Saab’s premium vehicle is either the 250hp, V6 Saab 9-3 Aero, or the 260hp, 4 cylinder Saab 9-5. Both are fine cars, brilliant tourers and inspirational drives. But are either of them halo cars? Do either of them have the WOW factor necessary to really drive outside interest and growth in the company?
Tangent: As a Saab enthusiast, one of the things I love about them is that when you’re driving one, you don’t see your own car on the road all the time. Low volume gives a certain amount of individuality that an owner can take some measure of pride in. Discernment.
I’m not for making Saab a mega-volume company, but economics would dictate that if Saab are to remain, and remain effectively as a brand with a genuine Scandinavian identity and some goodly quantity of R&D for future models, then a greater degree of success is required.
The Halo (cont): A halo vehicle needs to have some balls. Some attitude. It has to demand some attention and then fulfil all expectations, even exceed some. Can an understated company like Saab make a vehicle that’s comfortable in the spotlight? Aggressive even?
When times were somewhat quieter Saab took the world on with the Turbocharger. Then they upped the ante and gave customers the Aero. Years later they took it further still with the Viggen. The Aero-X would be a substantial progression, lifting Saab to a new level of performance. Perhaps even more importantly, they would do it with a new level of innovation.
Reason 3 – Technology and Innovation
Substantial advances in technology and innovation have primarily been the boast of the Germans in recent times. Historically speaking, Saab punches well above its weight in this regard. A release like the Aero-X can show how far.
The engine: Biopower compatible, able to run up to 100% ethanol or 100% gasoline, or any mix of the two. Tuned for performance, taking full advantage of the twin-turbo setup. And while I’m here, why speed limit it to 250 km/h? If it’s going to be a limited edition super-Saab, let it be a bahn-burner!!
The insides: It may be, for practical reasons, that the full LED treatment inside has to be toned down. But the best practical applications for this technology apparent in the Aero-X should be retained. This is one car that shouldn’t be dumbed down. Let the innovation in this car drive development in Saab’s regular model line.
The body: It may well be that the canopy setup has to be ditched in favour of the skinniest A-pillars available and regular doors, but the glass expanse should be retained as much as possible, as should the lines of the body. And it’s just my humble opinion, but the Sonett rear on this car is a must-have.
Reason 4 – Leadership
Saab make the best damn vehicles in GM’s European stable. I’d actually say they make the best cars under the GM umbrella, but some Caddy and Corvette owners may care to disagree. Anyway, I believe it’s the case and I reckon Jan-Ake Jonsson would agree.
A leader should inspire. A leader should create. Whilst this will sound like quite a paradoxical analogy when applied to Saab, it’s not the place of a leader to struggle along accepting crumbs from the table.
Given that the costs are down and that the plant is now "super-productive", I think it’s time Saab was given a chance to over-achieve. The Aero-X could be a wonderful marquee vehicle for GM in Europe and Saab worldwide, establishing it well and truly in its stated position as being GM’s global premium brand.
Reason 5 – Fulfillment
Alfa Romeo were able to fulfil the promise in the Brera concept earlier this year, when the car was officially released. It’s since been modified to produce a new Spider for the company, lauded as best drop-top at the Geneva show. Alfa are now going one step further and producing the 8c Competizione concept as a real vehicle, figuring that the money siphoned off the advertising budget would be better spent on the sexiest rolling billboards money could buy. That, my friends, is Cuore Sportivo. Cohunas. Proof that the passion behind the cars is shared by the company as much as by the fans of the cars.
The Aero-X is, officially speaking, Saab’s 5th concept vehicle. I say ‘officially speaking’ as the 9-3 SportHatch concept was somewhere between a toned down 9-3x and an incomplete-for-market 9-3 SportCombi (in my eyes at least).
So, if my theory about the SportHatch is to be indulged, out of three previous ‘real’ concepts, Saab has managed to bring to market a much-diluted version of one of them (9-3x —> 9-3 SportCombi). I don’t mean that to be a slight against the 9-3 SportCombi as I think it’s one of the most genuine Saab vehicles available to buy today. And a one-out-of-three record isn’t too bad as far as concept cars go, either.
But given that Saab aren’t so blessed in terms of resources that they could justify spending time developing cars for fun, why not produce it as faithfully as is practical, as well as allowing styling to trickle down to the model range?
The point is this: Saab enthusiasts and others around the world have been stirred up enough in the last 5 years. It’s time to prove the capability to actually make a viable production model out of one of these cars, and the Aero-X is the perfect candidate. Whether as a regular production model, or more likely as a limited edition Super-Saab, the Aero-X would be a great advertisement for Saab worldwide.