Some future thoughts

I’m in two minds about posting this.

I’m doing it because it provides a good discussion point for those that are inclined towards trying to get a handle on what Saab might be doing in the next few years. But i’m also hesitant because I received it about a week ago and as Kirk Kirkorian and Carlson Ghosn have just demonstrated, sometimes a lot can happen in a week. There’s so much going on with this whole Alliance thing that an exercise such as this seems like a bit of a distraction.

Nonetheless….

I’ll keep the writer’s identity as a Djup Strupe for the moment as he is involved with Saab, in a capacity that becomes evident as he writes. This inside status isn’t especially relevant in this situation as these are thoughts, not inside facts, which is also apparent as you read. But they’re the thoughts of someone with their finger on the pulse and a feel for the rhythm of the industry.

For what it’s worth:

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I’ve been thinking lately about Saab’s future line up.

If we are to assume that by the beginning of the next decade we will have a 9-2x replacement, 9-7x replacement, new 9-3, new 9-5 plus a 9-3/9-5 crossover (9-4x) then GM need to get their skates on.

At the beginning of 2005 GM held a press conference and said that production would be moved to Rüsselsheim for the 9-3. This all came about at the same time when the media were in a bit of a frenzy reporting that Renault had made an offer to buy Saab.

Later that year at a Sales meeting we were informed that all future Saab’s would use the next generation Epsilon Platform. So the assumption was that we would have an all new 9-3 in September 2008. The 9-5 would follow on an extended platform. The 9-3 and 9-5 using epsilon II now seems to be the general consensus.

However I don’t think this is going to happen before 2008!

If the media can print that an Aero-X roadster will arrive in 2008 then I can give my view as a Saab Dealer. Naturally the following is of my own personal opinion and I just hope that nobody at Saab comes down heavily on me because of it.

The Auto Motor and Sport article raised the possibility of the following model developments:
– Saab 9-4X (spring 2007)
– Saab 9-5 (autumn 2007)
– roadster/coupé with Aero-X heritage (2008)
– Saab 9-1 (2008)
– Saab 9-3 (2009)

Before any of this happens, Saab has to start making a profit by the end of 2007. If not then I think Saab may well be on its way to the market place again! Basically Saab’s future is all in my hands! If us Salesboys (and girls) don’t perform in the next 18 months… You can kiss this entire hype goodbye…

MY LIST

9-1 2009 –
Start of Model year 2010 (September 2009) I’m convinced that Saab will link the original 92 of 1949 and put a 60 year evolution spin on things. It’s almost certain that the next generation Delta Platform will be used. Nobody has hinted that Delta will have AWD capability. Size is not an issue when you think of the Subaru Justy. In Motor sport the Fiat Grande Punto has AWD retro fitted for the ‘FIA International Rally Challenge’ to meet Super2000 classification regulations.

9-3 2006 –
We now know the 9-3 will get a new interior.

2007 Spring –
Saab Central Posted that the 9-5 would get the 60th Anniversary Edition. Although the 9-3 would have just had a new interior I can’t see any reason why the 9-3 wouldn’t be used for an anniversary model especially when it maybe face-lifted in the September. (It’s always a good way to shift outgoing models)

Autumn –
Exterior facelift for 2008 Model Year. Nothing has been confirmed but it seems quite likely. I originally thought we would have the facelift this year because of Saab’s usual 4 Year Cycle, but I think budgets played a big part here. The 2007 interior is not anymore expensive to produce than the outgoing model. But a new Exterior will cost a lot more to bring to market!

Epsilon II –
AM&S could be right, what is certain is not before 2008. However 2009 falls out of the 4 Year cycle period. (If you’re wondering what I’m talking about then look at the facts. The 9-5 was launched in 1997. It was face-lifted in 2001 and again last Year 2005. I’m sure other patterns can be found with other models but the 9-5 is a good ‘foundation’ to use under GM.) So this is where I say that AM&S are wrong and that we will not see a new 9-3 until 2011. This will fall in line with the 2007 Face-lift.

9-4x 2008 –
With budgets being so tight at present, there is no way we are going to see the 9-4x in 2007. As mentioned above we might just get a new grill on the 9-3. There’s been a lot of talk about what platform will be used for the 9-4x, Theta / Theta Premium, Epsilon II or even lambda? Allegedly GM wants to build a European friendly Cadillac from this vehicle as well. So my guess is Epsilon II. It will be able to be built at any GM factory and that certainly means Rüsselsheim.

9-5 2009 –
I can’t help but think that the next generation 9-5 is going to be a seriously advanced AWD master piece. Audi should be very afraid. I think we’ll also see this as the first car to incorporate the 2-Step Hybrid System. But the best bit is that I can envisage GM’s HCCI diesel engines being introduced. I can’t remember where I read this and I can’t remember the exact displacements either but GM has a 3.4 litre and a 4.3 litre engine in the pipeline. HCCI is some seriously clever stuff; Wikipedia will give you a good insight. What this means is that Saab can bring very quiet, powerful and extremely lean oil-burners to the USA and not just Europe. All this being matted to a 7-Speed Auto, with electronic damping control, LED lighting, HUD and adaptive motion sensing, means that Saab will once again be back on track and can start being at the forefront of innovation once again.

9-7x 2010 –
The GMT360 platform will finish its cycle in 2009. The 2008 Model Year 9-7x is probably going to be the last 9-7x using truck based architecture. I looks as if the GMT 900 series will underpin the next generation 9-7x. The 9-4x is more allroader (Audi A6 variant) than offroader (Audi Q7). The GMT 900 is also not frame based it’s uni-bodied and is otherwise know as Lambda. So you have a practically new Platform being built in a brand new Factory, with 3 other products already planned for production. As the USA is going to buy the main bulk in these cars then Michigan is the right location. BMW build the X5 in the USA probably for the same reason.

Sonnet
Well an Aero-x or Sonett is more than likely not going to happen. Audi is due to release the R8 next Year which is based on the Audi le-mans Concept (shown at the 2003 Frankfurt show) and it uses a turbo charged 4.2ltr V8 engine. So after 30Years of Sales success, Audi will bring its first ‘Super Car’ to market. So When Saab has had 30Years of profit under its belt then I guess it will be time for a Super Car.

However, I still think that Saab should say if they get a €30,000 deposit from enough customers. They will build 1000 Aero-x styled coupes all numbered and personalised. I don’t know how much it costs to launch a new vehicle. But I reckon €30 Million sounds like a good start to me.

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2 Comments

  1. thanks for the insight.

    Regarding budgets being tight, I do remember reading an article from reuters or someone stating that the whole budgetary process is now streamlined. Monies get piled into larger pots, i.e. GM Europe instead of smaller pots, like SAAB or Opel. This way if the smaller subdivision (SAAB in this case) would have access to a larger amount of development cash somehow. Before, SAAB never had enough cash to build a steering wheel, much less a new car.

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