Another reason to make the 9-1

If there’s one thing that was common thread through the GMI Revitalisation postings, it was the consistent desire from everyone that Saab build a 9-1 entry-level vehicle.

The reasons for this are many. This entry level vehicle would be more affordable. It would be practical. I could potentially have performance that would make your eyes pop! Hot hatches are called ‘hot’ for a reason and the premium sector of this market segment is just getting started.

Pete De Lorenzo wrote an interesting Rant this week at AutoExtremist.com. He was writing about the upcoming round of US car shows and made several predictions about what companies would say and do, as well as expressing some thoughts on what he thinks they should do:

Imagine for a moment if Chevrolet and Dodge had refused to acknowledge the existence of either car (i.e. Camaro and Challenger)? That in spite of various spy photos and rumors and countless speculative “scoops” in enthusiast publications, they simply zipped their lips and repeatedly said, “No comment.” The anticipated buildup for those introductions at Cobo Hall in ’08 or ’09 would blow the roof off of the place – and consumers could place their orders right on the spot.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the manufacturer that introduces a total-surprise production car or truck at an auto show and then announces that it will begin taking orders for delivery in three months’ time will set this industry on its ear.

(tangent) Has anyone heard anything about what Saab will have at the coming LA and Detroit shows? (/tangent)

Anyway, that De Lorenzo piece got me thinking. Everything that I’ve heard from sources very well placed indicates that GM have pulled the pin on Saab developing the 9-1.

Yet this decision flies in the face of logic. There’s a huge amount of consumer demand for this car. The market is open to premium competitors in this segment and it’s a perfect fit with the heritage of the brand.

So what if…..

What if Saab were embarking on the Pete De Lorenzo method of development and release by stealth? They need a market focus on their current model line so they develop this new line in secrecy and drop the bomb right wen it’s ready to go to market.

It’s all total fantasy and speculation on my part, but if it actually happens you can bet your firstborn that I’ll be pulling out this article and saying ‘I told you so!’

Shuffling through my RSS feeds I came upon this article from Auto Express, which illustrates yet another reason why Saab should build the 9-1. Rallying.

The British Rally Championship has just endorsed the use of a standard ethanol blend as it’s racing fuel. Could there be a more perfect fit than a small Saab rallying on biofuels?

BUILD IT AND WE WILL COME!

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11 Comments

  1. The problem with that thinking is: how the heck are they going to keep it a secret from all of the Saab fans? 🙂 Has there in recent time been a surprise like that where an auto manufacturer shows a brand new model nobody heard of and was able to start deliveries three months later? I mean, all the testing of the car, ordering of components, test production, production of ad material and so on… Is it possible?

  2. ctm,

    In practical terms it isn’t possible. All those things you mention would make it impossible I think. Someone would have to let the cat out of the bag (especially if this website’s to survive!)

    But it would be so cool if they did spring it on the market that way. 9-3 sales would plummet, but it’d still be pretty exciting nonetheless.

  3. If only it could be true, nothing (well not much) would make me happier than for Saab to produce a HOT 9-1X and rally it successfully.
    If it can be done (I doubt it), I think the stealth mode is much better than talking about a car that won’t be introduced for years, because when the long talked about car is finally introduced, it seems old already.

  4. nice dream……GM is continuing to starve SAAB of needed product. 9-3 AWD next fall is first, then 9-4X then new 9-5 on Epsilon2. Followed by 9-3 on Episilon2. Maybe when man lands on Mars they will see the light and pull the trigger on a 9-1 or any smaller car

  5. Seems to me that if GM wanted to do something like this on the cheap (does that go without saying?) that they could base it on the existing 9-3, like the A3 is to the A4 or the C30 will be to the S40.

    To me, that would be a less satisfying answer but better than nothing.

  6. Is it really so difficult? All GM has to do is take an Astra GTC, style it like a Saab, put in a biopower engine and good seats.
    They should keep the torque steer and make sure the traction control can be turned off, so it’s as much fun to drive as my 9-3.
    The price needs to come in below the 9-3, GTI or Integra/RSX of course.

    The obvious way to hide this project is to have the development mules look like Opels.
    When is the next generation Astra due?

  7. I suspect the plans for a small hatchback caddy are involved in the lack of a small Saab despite GMs view that there is no overlap.I saw an article in Autocar magazine recently about a small Saab to rival the Merc A class,but have seen nor heard anything since.

  8. While talking about a small hatch… Just saw that Volvo C30 won gold in “Das Goldene Lenkrad” award in the “Kompaktwagen” class. Yes, that a quit prestigious award, and it’s in Germany. The C30 also won the German Auto Bild Design Award for most beauitul car in the “small and compact-size cars” class.

    Oh, what a market there is in Europe for a fun little car…

  9. You mention that the “premium hot hatch” market is just now emerging with the AUDI A3 being the only real entrant (and maybe the Mini). Then you postulate that perhaps SAAB’s secretly making a 9-1. Here’s my question for you: when was the last time SAAB had the foresight to develop a vehicle for an “emerging market”? Look how long it took them to get into the SUV market. Like a decade! They finally recognized the need to have an offering in the SUV market after it peaked and started a downturn.

    I’m not saying SAAB won’t have a “premium hot hatch”. I’m saying it’ll come after that market is already saturated with contenders, probably after 2010, making them an “also ran”.

    And as you mention in another post, a convertable 9-1 would make a pretty decent roadster. Sign me up for one!

    Or come out with a two-seater 9-1/2 (that’s pronounced “nine one-half”) as a Sonett with a ‘vert version. Give it a plug-in hybrid BioPower SVC/SCC powerplant, or even better (IMHO) fully-EV. I’d buy that! 😉

  10. Bernard, those are harsh but fascinating words. And probably not too far from the truth of what could happen. Any chance you work for GM?

  11. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the manufacturer that introduces a total-surprise production car or truck at an auto show and then announces that it will begin taking orders for delivery in three months’ time will set this industry on its ear.”

    That approach certainly works for Apple Computer. The other parallel between Saab and Apple is that the 9-1 is like the iPhone; the whole world wants one, so why waste time not building one!?!?!?! Surely an existing platform can be shoe-horned to suit (if GM wish to persist in this platform sharing malarky with Saab, at least do it to their benefit). I really like the Volvo C30 – it’s a car I’d really consider buying – but I’d really really like Saab’s version instead. I’d even forgo AWD for a biopower hybrid version.

    C’mon Saab, get to it!!!

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