I received this via email yesterday. It’s from a regular visitor here at Trollhattan and someone that knows the brand pretty well. I’ll leave him anonymous for the time being, but share his thoughts on the upcoming 9-1.
It’s still a few years away – no time line has been placed on it – but it’s interesting to think it over nonetheless. Some commenters have pointed towards an article that received scant coverage in the last week or so. It indicated that Saab’s small car may be modelled more along the lines of Mercedes’ A Class rather than the ‘hot hatches’.
Our writer disagrees, and I certainly hope he’s right. Given the choice between an A3 or an A-class I’ll take the A3 8 days a week. And Saab could outbuild an A3 with their eyes closed.
Anyway, enjoy the read. It’s just one man’s thoughts and despite his background there’s nothing here that’s known to be fact, just some good background.
Whether you stand behind using the name “9-1” (lets take a direct BMW comparison), or the “9-2” (lets work on our heritage revival), ultimately we would be talking about the same ‘compact family car’ segment.
From a Saab point of view this model is far more inline with their heritage than any current or known future model. Small, versatile and functional, would certainly bring back memories of the classic 900. There’s also a good chance that it could be the most economically and eco-friendly vehicle in its class.
Statistically, it could double Saab’s current production globally. The US is still warming to small compact cars but for the rest of the world it contributes the largest sales sector. That also makes it the most heavily marketed and potentially saturated. So the first question should be asked, would Saab have chance?
In my experience of selling, a customer that’s given the choice between a German make or a Saab for the same money will tend to favour the Germans. For the foreseeable future Saab cannot compete with BMW, Audi and Mercedes in the company car market. It doesn’t matter that dollar-for-dollar Saab has the performance edge. It’s the badge on the front that counts.
Naturally, this is the old ‘status symbol’ creeping out the wood work and let’s face it – why else would we have premium and luxury brands? This only underlines that Saab isn’t up there but times could be changing. It’s seems that in the pursuit of perfection, all the top brands seem to have become somewhat distilled and soulless in the process. I have some considerable experience living and working there and in some respects it seems typical of the German industry. So instead of competing and playing ‘catch-up’, Saab should be looking at building a car that handles well, that is full of spirit and character.
A true alternative to the ‘emotional extracted’ competition, could well make the 9-1 a success.
The traditional Saab enthusiast would certainly be at the top of the list. Then you have those who aspire to own something a bit more prestige but maybe can’t quite afford, or are not pompous enough to opt for, the usual suspects.
The real audience the 9-1 would be trying to entertain would be that all important Y-Generation bread. The 20-40 year old who’s still single, wants to be single, the young at heart, the young family types, the sales reps, the kids that never want to own what the parents are currently driving and the mid-30 year old who’s still playing his playstaion to 3 in the morning. You name it they’re all in there.
In fact the 9-1 would fit the bill for so many it could well be unfathomable. Basically even if Saab could tap just 0.5% of this market this product would be selling in excess of 200,000 units per year.
Quite a few publications seem to mention Kappa architecture but as this will be reaching the end of its life by the time GM/Saab could bring the 9-1 to market, not to mention it is RWD and LHD only.
One – RWD doesn’t seem very Saab to me, and
Two – LHD cuts out Saab’s UK market.
The next generation Astra platform (Delta II) seems the most fitting and versatile.
The 9-1 has the potential to make for good economies of scale. However I feel that covering all bases like Mercedes would certainly start to conflict with other GM products.
4-Door Hatchback: This version of course would contribute the main bulk of sales. I’m not really sure I see the benefit of having a 2-door hatch variant as a compliment to this. (I’ll explain later)
4-Door Wagon: A Wagon or SportCombi version would increase the versatility of the 9-1. With the 9-3 carrying a $7000 premium the buyer would have a choice between a 9-1 with all the trimmings or a Basic 9-3
2-Door coupe: As mentioned above I feel a 2-Door Coupe or ‘liftback’ would certainly attract more attention. Styled as a baby 2+2 Aero-X this would almost certainly be comparable to the Audi TT or BMW’s Z4 though; with an oversized sunroof option creating a targa variant. No need for a roadster alternative and Saab would have the upper-hand in having a unique model.
Furthermore, without dreaming too much, with enough publicity a high performance targa could even give a good substitute for a Porsche. Audi, Saab, Porsche; characteristically they’re all very similar. Saab could certainly start tapping into uncharted territory with a ‘Cayman S’ killer!
There are a few models that could also come to light, a small CUV, or a proper coupe/cabriolet for example, but I feel this would not only start to dilute the model and unnecessarily encroach on other GM products.
Shapes are all interesting but it’s that smell of gasoline and burning rubber that really gets us going! The 9-1 has to be accessible to as many people as possible. I often find that Europe has a far more extensive range of engines and models than a lot of other market areas. I can’t help but think that Saab could be losing sales. Delving into market areas would take far too long and quite frankly, may be pointless. Anyone who has been paying attention to the motor industry for the past year would come up with the same choices without thinking too hard.
Gasoline / Bio-Power: The main contender.
This is a small car and but I envisage anything from a 1.4t to the 2.8V6 being used. Making sure that all Ecotec power trains could run on E85 would be one mammoth task and might therefore not get the funding. However GM is saying that they foresee all products to be Direct Injected by 2010. With Saab having a key role in powertrain development these days, Bio-Power could well be standard across the range. Hybrid is another key issue and in all reality it should be offered as an option on as many models as possible
1.4t 105hp SportHatch, SportCombi
1.6t 125hp SportHatch, SportCombi
1.8t 155hp SportHatch, SportCombi
1.4T 190hp (Direct Injection) SportHatch, SportCombi
1.6T 220hp (Direct Injection) SportHatch, SportCombi, Coupe
2.0T 250hp (Direct Injection + AWD) SportHatch, SportCombi, Coupe
2.0T 280hp (Direct Injection + AWD) Coupe
2.8T 310hp (Direct Injection + AWD) Coupe
1.7TiD 125hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 150hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 175hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 210hp Coupe