There’s little ambiguity over what I think should happen with Cadillac in Europe. I think GM should save the money they’re spending flogging such a dead horse there and spend it on developing Saab cars and marketing the Saab brand.
However, I’ve received an email from a Saab insider there and he points out the benefits that the development of the BLS has had in practical terms for the Saab 9-3. Some of you may remember that I posed a question a few weeks ago asking people’s thoughts on buying an 06 model vs an 07 model due to the massive discounts available on the 06.
I also asked a Saab insider his thoughts on the two, and here’s part of what he said:
Also, because of the restyled layout the dash rattles have being greatly reduced and it’s now a far nicer place to be. As a whole the MY07 as a car is a great leap forward. Road noise is whisper quiet, even running on 17″ with the continental tyres which was a annoying point with most customers. The suspension is so much smoother than the MY06, but with no loss in the handling department at all.
The 06 vs 07 post was mostly about the interiors of the two cars, but what started to come through in the paragraph above was that the 07 model features a number of tweaks that improve the ride and handling of the car over the 06. Later, giving further consideration to the 06 vs 07 question, our insider wrote this:
I was thinking about it some more so I’ve just taken a MY06 for a 20 mile drive just to make sure if the $5000 would do it for me, it wouldn’t.
So what has all this got to do with the BLS?
Well, as mentioned at the beginning, I’ve received another email from an insider making a case for Caddilac in Europe:
Why is everyone so caught up with the whole BLS thing? Do they not know that the MY07 is a far better car because of the BLS? There is a small group of engineers and accountants in Trollhattan driving home this evening in MY07 9-3s with big smiles on their faces.
The engineers are smiling because GM asked them to use the know-how they had to develop a new car for the European market based on the 9-3. This is the BLS.
You need money for R&D to develop a new car. GM are so obsessed with a small Caddy for Europe they heaped up truck loads of money for the BLS to fund R&D to design, develop and build the new car.
As you know, Saab were starved for funds to develop the 9-3 and have been for the last few years. And because the BLS is basically a 9-3 in drag, all the money they got for the BLS project has being used to develop and improve what were really faults that were in the 9-3. So in doing exactly what GM requested, Saab has been able to use the money that GM gave them to improve & develop the 9-3 into a transvestite 9-3. What they ended up with was, in truth, quite a damn good car.
What all this means is that all the money and time that was thrown at the BLS went into making it, mechanically, the car that the 9-3 should have been from day one. The improvements that made the BLS a better car over what was at the time a MY06 9-3, have now found their way into the MY07 car and at very little cost to Saab.
This is why the accountants are also laughing: they got money to invest in the 9-3 in a round about way from GM and made their own product a far better car at very little cost to Saab. The MY07 9-3 is a much better car – it’s what the 9-3 should have been in 2002 if only we had the money.
Most of the above improvements are all thanks to the BLS project and there are more to come.
The only problem I have with the BLS is that it is aimed too closely at the 9-3 market. The S40 and Focus, even the Vectra and 9-3 – all these may share platforms but they are not aimed at the same customer base. All I have to say is “so what?” about the BLS. Let GM do what ever they want. I see the benefits that the BLS project has made to Saab and I’m a lot happier for it.
Definitely some food for thought there.
The point hadn’t been picked up because there’s not too many of us that have drive MY07 cars and Saab, to my recollection at least, hasn’t made too much noise about the suspension and handling tweaks that have been made in the 07 model.
However, it’s still my contention that GM should keep Cadillac out of Saab’s market. The fact that the 9-3 is a better car because of the investment in Cadillac is, in my opinion, an even more damning endictment on how GM have mismanaged the development of Saab in recent years.
If the 9-3 could be improved so much, it should have been right from the get-go. And the millions upon millions that they’re spending establishing the Cadillac brand in Europe would be better spent building up a premium brand that’s already got a foothold there.
I’m glad the BLS has had a positive effect on the development of the 9-3. And yes, I’m very happy that the BLS gives workers in Trollhattan some more work. But I still believe that building on Saab’s foundations and expanding the model line and marketing over a period of time would prove to be a better investment than trying to force Cadillac on to a market that doesn’t want it.
The development of Cadillacs has a spin-off benefit for Saab? So be it. But direct investment could have had the same effect with an increase in Saab sales and quality and without the losses that Caddy will suffer in the next 5-10 years before it ultimately fails.
Keep Cadillac in the US, where it sells. Maybe the moderate Middle East too, where they don’t mind their excesses. Just develop Saab into what it can really be.