Just last month I heard, directly from SaabUSA, that Saab’s direct competitors were Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo. Here’s an excerpt from the email:
To me, that was great news. I wrote at the time that this was where I believe Saab should be aiming. They’re a European brand and they should be aiming to win purchasers from other European brands as well as people looking to move up from the various Asian manufacturers.
In order to do that properly, of course, Saab will need some serious investment and the official word from GM is that they’re committed to Saab. I believe it, but I wonder about the level of commitment and what it’ll mean for the Saab we see in the future. I’d like to see a full range from Saab and apart from a truly large sedan it looks like we may get it.
The 9-1 is in the pipeline. The 9-3 and 9-5 are being redeveloped and the 9-4x SUV will also come to replace the 9-7x. With those primary models there’ll also be SportCombi and Convertible variants, and if we’re really lucky, maybe a coupe as well.
But as you can tell from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I’m quite nervous about how much GM are willing to really invest in Saab in order to make the kind of Saabs that a passionate enthusiast would expect. And I’m skeptical about the market they say they want Saab to take on.
The latest news to come out today isn’t particularly reassuring.
Winding Road are reporting that Bob Lutz wants to develop Pontiac into a brand that can take on BMW in the American market.
Sources say that Pontiac’s next G6 is set to go rear-wheel drive and will be the first to use the platform. GM’s Resident Car Czar, Bob Lutz, has said in public and private that he’d like to position the Pontiac brand as the company’s American answer to BMW, but with a more expressive and sexy design language. Along with this goal would be to migrate the entire platform to rear-wheel drive.
So we’ve got the new CTS taking on the 3-series, and the rest of Cadillac taking on Mercedes, and now Pontiac taking on BMW too?
What I’d like to know is where exactly do Saab fit in? And are they going to get the resources to do it properly? We already know that Saab USA and Saab Australia are getting no extra funds for marketing in 2007. Hopefully that’s because they’ll get a budget boost to market the 2008 9-3, but let’s not hold our breath.
That Winding Road article also points out another thing that’s going to impinge on wherever-the-heck-it-is that GM plans to market Saab. Confirming some fears that were raised a few months ago, the article details a new small-to-medium GM platform named Alpha. It’ll be RWD and yes, Cadillac will be using it, most likely as a replacement for the BLS in Europe.
Want to tell me now that there’s not an abundance of funds being spent on Caddy for a European market that has embraced it like bird flu?
I keep hearing from GM that they’re keen on Saab. But the phrase “show me the money” never seemed more appropriate.
What I want is a Saab division that’s allowed to design and build Saabs that uphold the best traditions of the original Swedish company. Those traditions lifted the company well and truly into the BMW and Audi class back in the day. And they kicked some butts.
That’s what I want again.
Eggs n Grits made the best point about Cadillac that I’ve heard for a long time. It’s one that almost got me accepting their existence at some expense to the development of Saab.
Cadillac lets Saab be Saab. Saab doesn’t have to build V8 luxo-boats to satisfy the General. That’s Cadillac’s job. Likewise, Caddy doesn’t want to build functional and fundamentally sound vehicles — they want to build the bling mobiles.
Caddy protects Saab from being defiled further by the number-hungry GM HQ.
That does make some sense. And the fact that the BLS is supporting the continued existence of the Saab plant in Trollhattan is another point in Caddy’s favour.
But I still maintain that the best way to maintain Saab’s presence, especially their critical manufacturing presence in Sweden, is to build the Saab brand. And the best way to build the Saab brand is through investment.