Thursday Snippets

Just to put you in the picture…..

I’m in a town called Marrawah. It’s in the far northwest of Tasmania, about 5 hours drive from Hobart, where I live. I have no internet access except at the place where I’m working, which I can’t get to after hours. I’m writing this the night before I post it on the site.

I’d show you pictures of where I am, but the batteries in my camera are flat and the charger’s back in Hobart.

I planned to shoot some video, but my HD camera won’t connect to my HP laptop. No firewire port. That’s going to cause a BIG problem when I get to Sweden.

And while I’m away with no internet connection, a seemingly redundant laptop (that’s only 18 months old) and a pair of useless visual aids – Saab has one of it’s busiest news weeks since I started this news-based weblog.

Am I frustrated?

You Betcha.

So, to the news of the week…..

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The big story of the week is the placement of Steve Shannon in Jay Spenchian’s position as the Grand Poobah of Saab USA.

In a particularly disappointing outcome, Jay has gone on to work under the biggest spinmeister in GM’s corporate HQ – Mark LaNeve. If my stepdaughter came home with Mark LaNeve I’d tell her to go back to dating her old Hell’s Angels boyfriend. At least I’d know where I stand.

Steve Shannon’s come to Saab in an important phase of its history. After the financial constraints of the last few years, Saab were left with a two-model range – the 9-3 and 9-5. There were other models on the table prior to the big squeeze but Saab has had to struggle by with a somewhat underdone 9-3 that’s got better in some ways and more basic in others, and a 9-5 that was fantastic then (and still is) but is seen by the movers and shakers as an Old Car now.

A few years down the track and we are assured that GM has committed to Saab. There’s four new models due in the next 3 years or so. If all that comes to pass then it’s a very exciting time and Steve Shannon’s the man who needs a plan if Saab’s largest market is going to take off the way we’d all like it to.

What’s he got in his favour?

Well, he has some European experience, for starters. That’ll hopefully help him understand where the cars are coming from. This is quite important. He’s also from the US, which theoretically means that he’s got a good understanding of where the cars are going.

My mail is that Born From Jets is staying.

Another source tells me that the product spec for the most immediate models (9-3, 9-4x and 9-5) is already signed off.

So Steve’s got little else to do with his time than get to know the brand, the cars, the people that buy them and the dealers that sell them. Here’s hoping he uses it well.

My inability to access the web means I can’t spend an hour or so looking up Buick’s sales record for the last few years, but the fact that it’s been one of those brands mentioned by even the most conservative of motoring pundits as being surplus to GM’s requirements is less than encouraging. It’s big with a capital B in China, but flagging in the US. Maybe he’s the guy who bought Tiger Woods on board – I’m not sure. It’s a good get if he is.

I hope he works out. Saab’s got a lot to give under the right stewardship and Shannon has a good team supporting him and a great product to sell. And it’s only going to get better.

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The close-second for news of the week is the announcement that Saab’s Trollhattan plant is going to stay open beyond 2010, being one of the plants selected to produce vehicles on GM’s Delta platform, most notably the new generation Astra.

This keeps the door open for future Saab production there and there’s a new, smaller Saab that’s been approved and will most likely be in production around this time or shortly thereafter (which seems like a hell of a long time to wait).

I can’t say enough about how pleasing this is. Trollhattan’s an extraordinarily important place to me. This little city has given a heck of a lot of pleasure to my life and to see the people responsible get this extended lifeline is truly heartwarming.

It’s also important because Saab needs a continued manufacturing presence in its home market. You can talk about globalization all you like, but there’s something undeniably genuine about the Saab brand and that’s is Swedish heritage. The company is genuinely different in its roots. Their designs were genuinely different from their contemporaries. Maintaining a presence in Sweden is paramount to the possibility of Saab being what it can be in the future, and keeping that link to its past.

Celebrate well, you friendly Trolls.

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The other major piece of news this week is the emergence of those 9-4x mule shots. They appeared at Leftlane News and WorldCarFans.

There’s very little that I can tell from the photos, though some have mentioned the appearance of another Haldex rear diff setup. I hope LLN and WCF got their money’s worth in terms of linkage, because there’s definitely not much of a story here.

What we saw was a badly fitting 9-7x/Trailblazer body over what we can only assume is a 9-4x chassis and mechanicals. The front fender shot shows some ill-fitting panel work, as does the rear-end undercarriage shot. I’m not smart enough to know what else is in those photos – but the bottom line is that there’s an apparent mule out there.

Over to the experts: what kind of testing can you do with a mule like this? The bodywork has to be as creaky as Kirk Kerkorian himself.

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3 Comments

  1. Sorry it got chopped. her’s the rest:
    A12228.html

    I was so frustrated about the direction of Saab when I saw the spy shots of the 9-3 but, if they could make anything looking close to this, soon, i would be in line.

  2. What kind of test they can do? As I understand it, you take a “well known car”, put a new drive train in it and test stuff like engines, suspension, gearbox and so on. Things that can be tested with “wrong” areodynamics, things that don’t have anything to do with the “everyday” use of the car in terms of interior, comfort and so on. That what I think, anyway.

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