Thanks to Ted in comments for dropping this bit of news, via Autoblog:
Bob Lutz has already retired at least once from an executive position at a car-maker when he left DaimlerChrysler following the merger. When he joined General Motors a few years back to oversee its product development, he was already well past the standard retirement age and by next year he will be 75 years old. According to Just-Auto.com, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster has been informed by Chairman Rick Wagoner that he will be taking over Lutz’s seat on the board of directors as well as his role leading product development in 2008.
Ted augments the link with the following question:
Is this perhaps a good thing for Saab?
I tend to think it is.
Lutz has been good for GM and the products reputed to be in the pipeline are supposed to be quite special. That’s good for the company as a whole. Lutz hasn’t been a big advocate for Saab though. Despite all the talk about aggressive model development etc, it’s beginning to look more and more like the refreshed 9-3 that we’ll see this year will need some very broad shoulders.
The 9-5 has now been put back. My most recent mail indicates a MY2010 release, which is a staggeringly long time for a flagship vehicle that’s as old as the current model is. The 9-2 is in Saab’s plans, but it’s also mentioned with a three year timeframe at best. That leaves the 9-4x, which I’m led to believe we’ll see as a MY2009 in mid-late 2008 at the earliest.
So the 9-3 is going to have to carry the brand for some time to come. If Saab are going to make a real imprint with a new generation of models, then here’s hoping that Carl-Peter Forster is the man to make this happen.
I can’t speak for Carl-Peter Forster on the brand as a whole, but I’ve quoted him on several occasions here on the blog and he seems to be a straight shooter and overall, appreciative of Saab’s presence and potential.
CPF is the current head of GM Europe and added to this, he’s also the current Chairman of the Saab Automobile board, so he should have a very good working knowledge of Saab’s model line, future plans and heritage. This can only be a good thing if he’s about to take on a position of even greater influence with GM.
A few quotes from CPF about Saab:
In an interview with Car Magazine, 2005
We hear Saab might be sold to the Chinese or Renault-Nissan.
Bullshit. GM is committed to Saab……
….What makes a Saab a Saab?
Saab design should be Swedish, clean and modern, with carefully selected chosen materials like pale woods. It’s not difficult to create a Saab look. It has a great heritage but has lost much of it. How the hell could it give up the wraparound windshield? I would rather invest in that than electrical systems. The next generation will be distinctly Saab.
One of the reasons he appreciates Saab. Business.
Saab’s position inside GM is less about when they are going to earn some money and more about what Saab as a brand can bring to GM. That distinction makes head of GM Europe Carl-Peter Forster in an interview with Automotive News Europe. “The question is whether Saab is adding something positive to GM or not”, says Forster.
A question he answers himself by stating the fact that Saab attracts customers to GM. “We have strong evidence that no other GM brand are attracting that type of customers to GM.”
But there’s more Saabstance to him than just that:
Forster said GM will create a global Saab crossover vehicle. Front-drive is no longer a core value for Saab. “But agile, predictable handling definitively is,” he said at the Geneva auto show……
……Saab’s future brand image will include distinctive design.
“We will see and feel the aero heritage in next-generation Saabs,” Forster said. He promised a return to the wraparound windshield: “It is like the canopy of an aircraft. How can you possibly give that up?”
Some recent Newspaper clippings, 2007
“Ethanol has a big potential and Sweden has taken the initiative. I think Sweden should continue with an European initiative,” says Carl-Peter Forster, who more or less guarantees a continuing production of about 100.000 cars a year in Trollhättan.
Forster underlines the need for pioneering achievements in producing ethanol from cellulosa, but also for the infrastructure [for delivering ethanol to the consumers].
“We must put more resources into the alternatives,” says Forster, who reveal that Saab’s ethanol engines will be introduced at the American market.
Unfortunately he’s one of the drivers of Caddy development too:
General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it expected an increase in its European market share this year and flagged plans to increase sales in higher-margin areas.
“We are certainly (looking) for share growth in Cadillac,” the automaker’s Europe chief, Carl-Peter Forster told reporters at the Geneva auto show.
“Saab could grow or at least maintain its share…”