What’s Chevy doing to Saab design?

As discussed briefly in my Volt post and in more depth by folks in comments, whom I thank for ideas and images appearing here…..


Maybe GM didn’t pick Saab up just for their turbocharging expertise and their European presence. It looks a bit like they might have wanted it so that their Chevrolet stylists would have some good designs to go ahead and screw up.

Witness the following:

The Saab 9x. Magnificent presence, great concept and would have been a killer if it hadn’t been killed.


Then we have the Chevy Nomad concept car from 2004.

GM hired eccentric animation identity, Wallace of the ‘Wallace and Gromit’ franchise, to come in and re-style the 9x in order to make a Chevrolet version.


Mr Wallace (pictured below) was said to be “very pleased indeed” with the result, which he celebrated with a full wedge of Wensleydale and a cup of tea. When asked for his thoughts on the Nomad, trusty friend Gromit merely displayed a furrowed brow.



Then we have the magnificent Aero-X. Considered by many people-that-matter to be the concept car of 2006.

Aggressive flowing lines. That wraparound windshield, smallish headlamps and deep grille. Note also the blacked out rear section.



Now have a look at their new Volt electric vehicle, unveiled yesterday at the GM Style event and debuting at the Detroit Auto Show.



It ain’t a direct copy, but the cues here are a little more than subtle, shall we say. The blackout section with the thin tail lamps. The blacked out A pillar to simulate non-existence, the front styling. Yeah, there’s differences too – the Chevy is more edgy and not as smooth as the Aero-X. There’s bulges where it should be sculpted. But the influence seems pretty obvious to my eyes.

My liking of the Volt is due to the fact that it seems to be a pretty practical electric car with a ICE recharger. I’m not a huge fan of the way it looks and not because they seemed to have copied some Saab design cues, but because they’ve copied them and made them somewhat ugly.

The good part about globalising your design centres: you get a greater pool of talent to work on things and some good potential for diversity.

The bad part: huge potential for groupthink.

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  1. The 9X concept is gorgeous with its simple lines whereas the Aero-X, IMO, is far too fussy and not very Saab-like. The Chevys are just a dogs breakfast!!!

    They way GM is treating Saab is very troubling for me and, regretfully, I don’t see much of a future for our beloved Swedish brand.

  2. We all now what concepts are good for, don’t we? Setting the brand image. Well… What GM did was taking good looking concepts from one brand and turning them in to ugly looking concepts for another brand. Me thinks it takes guts to do something that stupid since the world is the audience. 🙂

  3. You’re absolutely right, Swade. Very lazy of GM to so closely repeat a stellar design and cram it into a Chevy mold.

    Badge Engineering! Your Name Is General Motors!

  4. Good points all, especially Gunnar — GM’s been doing this for quite a long time and it shows.

    On the other hand, per my comment on the previous entry, in my view Swade is correct. I think that Saab has shown that their ideas are the stuff that car companies are made of, and GM is taking notice of the wisdom in the Saab way. I hope that if the next AeroX comes as a joint Saab/Chevy or if the next 9-5 is a Saab/Caddy that we aren’t such car snobs that we reject it! May I remind you that the 9000 was a joint Saab/Lancia/Fiat, and the B20x engine was a modified Triumph design!

    The point? Saab will find a way to make the technology theirs. If the technology happens to start very closely to their vision, so much the better. They may then concentrate on the next generation that much more.

  5. ho hum! What a bunch of whiny europhiles. I drive a ’99 Saab 9-3 and by the looks of the concepts they are putting out, I’ll definitely be buying a Saab the next time around. Chevy is part of the same stable as Saab. It is a compliment to Saab that they are coming up with ideas that are being shared across the GM range.

  6. “It is a compliment to Saab that they are coming up with ideas that are being shared across the GM range.”

    That is true but my fear is they will kill the AeroX and replace it with the Chevy version.

  7. It is more likely that Saab will compete with Cadillac. Note the Saab 9-3 Cadillac BLS schizophrenia. Chevy is the mass market badge. If Saab themes echo in Chevy, it is more likely that Chevy owners might trade up to a Saab instead of to a Cadillac as they do now. GM will most likely keep both Saab and Cadillac. The quality of both is very similar with the main difference being the audience they cater to.

  8. Honestly, other than the rear light treatment, I don’t see much resemblance to the Aero-X. Both cars have similar proportions, but the differences are much greater. The volt is angular while the X is flowing. Where are the similarities?

  9. dmr: Cadillac and Saab do not compete. Not here in the US, nor in Europe. The BLS isn’t schizo — it’s just a good car handicapped by very poor marketing.

    Frank A: Similarities include the black rear panel, wrap-around tail lights, blacked-out A-pillar, ‘notched’ sill, low front fascia, turbine-inspired wheels (the Chevy is more fan-like), ultra-long wheelbase relative to car length, flared wheel wells, very similar mirrors, single rectanglar exhaust port, roof glass extends from winshield to tail, very similar rear roof line.

  10. As good as either car might be, this feels like another confused intiative from a confused company. I don’t think BMW or Porsche would let this happen, look how they managed the Toureg/Cayenne thing for instance. Hell, I don’t think Ford would even do it to Volvo. Its like there is no strategy that can last longer than a few months.

  11. Sorry eggsngrits I don’t see those similarities. The front ends do not look the same to me. The X has no “A” pillar. Flared wheel arches are on virtually every car these days, even the S-class Benz. Any car with a fast back will have a similar roof line. The side mirrors are totally different, the Volts are squared off while the X has slippery aerodynamic mirrors. I think the X is a much better design. more European in flavor. The Volt has a more American look to it. If I did not know who designed it I would think it is an American car. Compared to say the Prius, the Volt is stunning.

  12. everyone wants a piece saab’s “aero,” either by design, as in the “volt” or by name, as in microsoft’s windows (vista) “aero.” (*rim shot*)

    seriously, the “volt” mimicks the aero-x’s “theme,” unabashedly.

    …”name brand” vs. “generic”:

    some call the chrysler “300” the “baby bentley” since it “borrows” quite heavily from a rolls royce (even though bentley and rolls royce separated years ago). both are successful, in different price markets, of course.

    so, do i find the “volt” acceptable?–well, by liking the aero-x, i’m pretty much locked in to liking its cousin (the “volt”). it’s just that the family tree is beginning to look, well…, “funny” (…imbreeding comes to mind). and the price markets may be too close for comfort.

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