One Man’s 9-1 thoughts

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.

Power train:
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

Bio-Power Engines
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

Diesel Engines
1.7TiD 125hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 150hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 175hp SportHatch, SportCombi
2.0TiD 210hp Coupe

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  1. 12 models? That may work in Europe, but in North America Saab needs just one model, using the same 2L 4 cylinder as the 9-3 (which will surely be a biopower engine by then). Add to that a diesel if the 9-3 and 9-5 are getting one too.

    One single body style, which is a two door hatch. Who needs a wagon if you have a proper Saab hatchback?

    The 9-1 needs to send a simple, targeted message. The last thing it needs is a diffuse “we want please everybody” image.

    Build one car and build it right. Let Chevy/Holden/Vauxhall deal with the customers who aren’t sure what they want, or are willing to settle for a lame car in order to save 2% up front.

  2. I agree with Bernard. Smaller models should be more of a lifestyle thing at the moment, and not something to please everyone. You develop it, it lives for 7-8 year, then there is a new trend and you restyle it accordingly to kepp up with this Y-generation. It should be 3-door hatch, and maybe a hardtop vert like the VW Eos.

  3. The Saab 9-1 needs only to be a 3-Door Hatchback.

    Remember: This model is planned to pick up where Saab left off in 2002 with the last hatchback, they mistakenly ended.

    This 9-1 will be a corrective solution “heritage revival” as it was indicated earlier.

    It will be compact, with a true sloping hatch, gas (unfortunately), biodiesel, ethanol and hybrid versions.

    3 of these Engines, Saab already these engines in production, they just need to make sure they include the hybrid in this as well.

    This should be competing with the A-3 but also the Prius

    A Saab 9-1 hatchback that has the quality of the A-3, but has the environmental considerations of the Prius will push Saab forward globally in a major way.

  4. The 9-1 should come in 3-door and 5-door vairients. Just like all the true saab hatches from the last 30 years (99, og900, ng900, 9-3) also not unlike VW golf/gti and other competitors.

  5. I agree with Chris, 3 doors for a sporty coupé and 5 doors for versatility.
    It should be enough to use 4 gasoline and 1 or 2 diesel engines, something similar like the following list:
    – 1.8i
    – 2.0t
    – 2.0T
    – 2.8t
    – 1.9 Tid
    – 1.9 TidS

  6. I forgot: maybe, the new compact also needs a smaller turbo engine, if there is any good choice in GM palette for better economy.

  7. my opinion:

    9-1: a sport hatch, probably 3-door, maybe 5-door. 3 engine variants (biopower, sure): 2.0T, 2.8T, 1.9TiD.

    AWD: yes

    I want to see Saab Variable Compression in this thing. if 255 hp out of a 1.6l is possible and feasible, DO IT SAAB!!!!

  8. i reckon we only need 3 and 5 hatches, no sedan is necessary.

    i’d take a proper plugin hybrid with a short range 80kmh electric only mode over an AWD… yes i know, but imagine if every snooty US celeb ditched their Prius for the more upmarket Saab???… though i’d buy both if Saab made it (hybrid for the week, 300hp 2.0L HOT AWD for the weekend!).

  9. I think we need a sedan version too. people like choices no matter what. SO GIVE THEM CHOICES! Thats what Audi did in the ’90s and they got on track. so give them many drivetrain options and styles. Personally, a 3door, definately a 5door, a sedan, and a sportcombi, would be good. I think a Sedan would be NECESSARY because the Audi A3 is not the only one in that “compact” market. We need to target those Volvo S40 buyers too. Saab has NOTHING to give to those buyers. and a sportcombi version would be nice to offer for versitility.

    The more options you give the public, the more they get what they want, meaning more business, then they keep coming back and spreading positive word, simple concept…

  10. Ron,
    I think, the S40 buyers targeted by the 9-3, it’s the same class in size.

    By the way, I missed the BioPower from my engine list, but some of the mentioned engines are also available in BioPower version, of course the new compact has to offer it.

  11. It’s 3-4 years before the 9-1/9-2 will hit the road! A new Audi A3 and a new BMW 1 will be on sale by then. The Volvo C30 will have expanded with 1 or 2 new bodystyles. If GM puts money into the Delta II to make it SAAB-ish, you might as well have 3 and 5 door hatch and a small AWD utility CUV like 9-X. Smaller, all-turbo petrol/E85 engines (1,2-2.8L,all with SIDI and diesels from 1.2-2.0L. Electric and hybrid versions is also needed. SAAB will never be able to sell 200.000 units with only a 3-d hatch, they will also need a 5 door and personally I would love to have a car with some of the flexibility shown in the 9-X. If the market wants it, why not make a competitor to the Mazda MX-5?

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