Getting answers to specific questions from Saab can be difficult sometimes. I’d like to thank them for providing a straight-up answer in a reasonable period of time in this instance.
Last week, I emailed some questions to Saab USA regarding whether or not the US market would see the diesel variants of the 9-3 and 9-5 that have sold so well in Europe. This is a current issue as changing US laws regarding the makeup of diesel fuel will make the fuel itself a lot cleaner (from October 2006), opening the door for much cleaner running diesel vehicles that currently sell so well in Europe. Several companies have announced plans to bring diesels to the US market in MY2007 – the aim was to find out if Saab would join them.
Saab USA’s response was sitting in my inbox when I got up this morning:
Steven – Thanks for your patience. Here’s our most recent position on this topic.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that in the United States, diesel fuel is significantly more expensive than regular gasoline. Together with the fact that diesel is simply not available at many fuel stations, this makes it much less of an obvious alternative from a public perspective than, let’s say, Europe.
However excellent and frugal they may be, modern diesel engines like the 1.9 TiD in the Saab 9-3 aren’t exactly cheap to manufacture (big difference with the Saab BioPower/E85 initiative in this respect…). Before we make a strong – and expensive – push to make Saab diesels compliant with US regulations and bring it over here, we have to make sure that it is worth the effort for the relatively small brand that we are.
Currently, we are not convinced that such is the case. Also keep in mind that the fuel economy of both the 210 hp 2.0T in the 9-3 and the 260 hp 2.3 T in the 9-5 consistently puts Saab among the best in its segment.
Having said that, we continue to remain interested in alternative fuels and we keep monitoring the situation. If need be, we can move quickly and re-examine our current position towards diesels – but we do not expect that to happen soon. Quite frankly, we think that Saab’s entrance in the ethanol arena here in North America may be clearer on the horizon.
We will keep you informed about further developments, with kind regards,
Manager, Saab Automobile USA Corporate Communications
Whilst I can see their point on several fronts, my first instinct says that this is a mistake. There are two separate and distinct groundswells over diesel and ethanol in the USA, from my reading anyway. The difference between them is that one is mostly coming from the corn lobby and the car companies (ethanol), and the other is mostly coming from an enthusiastic automotive press eager to see what all the fuss is about on the other side of the pond (diesel).
I’ll gather my thoughts and write more about this later. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome in comments.