Regular visitors here would know that if there’s a forced choice between introducing either Biopower or diesel in the US market, I’d opt for diesel. I’ve been on the diesel bandwagon for over a year now and for all that time I’ve been saying that if Saab don’t prepare for the new US regulations on diesel and get these highly successful and well regarded cars to the US market – then they’ve got rocks in their heads.
It’s nothing against the Biopower setup, but diesel just seems way more marketable at the moment and the distribution system is already established. E85 has some work to do in both areas: marketability and distribution. If you’re looking to ramp up sales with something new, diesel’s got a lot to offer.
GM and Saab USA have previously stated that whilst they’re keeping their options open and watching developments, their plans for Saab are leaning more towards the Biopower revolution. That’s one bit of bad news for those who want access to the oilburners that have been doing so well in Europe. Maybe this is some more bad news, but maybe not….
One of the developments that Saab’s been watching is the decision by Volkswagen to drop most of its diesel range for the 2007 model year. VW will remove the diesel option for the Golf, Beetle and Jetta, but will retain a diesel for the Touareg.
Whilst new fuel regulations will bring low-sulfur fuel into play and make many more Euro-diesels a potentially viable proposition in the US, tightening emissions standards mean that many of these Euro-deisels may not make it to market as they don’t meet the new regulations for 2007 onwards.
VW will bring a new diesel engine to market in 2008 that meets the emissions regs, but they will lose close to 20% of their current sales due to the loss of the diesel. They’re trying to compansate by producing more 2006-plated stock that they can sell into 2007.
Reading between the lines here, I’d venture a guess and say that maybe Saab’s 1.9TiD diesel that sells so well in the UK and other markets doesn’t meet these new emissions standards either, hence the lack of a push in the diesel direction.
If the 1.9 TiD does meet the new emissions standards however, then this news is just another reason why Saab should get the diesels into the marketplace – their main competitor just pulled out. That’s one BIG barrier to entry removed.
Bottom line: If it’s possible, I’d still love them to develop and exploit the diesel market in the US. Hopefully there’s a bunch of people in lab coats right now figuring out whether the Saab diesel can be made to comply and if so, perhaps there’s some hope in this area.
If not then I’d love to see some concrete action on bringing the Biopower engine to the US. If you’re gonna do it, then do it!! And about that hybrid concept – as mentioned in comments, wouldn’t they sell a squillion hybrid convertibles in California alone??
Saab USA seems to be on the verge of so much possibility for change, yet they’re actually implementing very little of it at the moment (pls forgive my impatience, Jay). I’m quite confident that that will change though. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.