Combi Thinking

You’ll have to pardon the audio quality on this one. I purchased a new headset microphone this morning and whlst it looked good in the package, it sounds like a tin can and a piece of string.

Regardless, I was pondering the proliference of wagons here, and figured it’s something best demonstrated on film. I think I mentioned yesterday that nearly every second car I saw was a wagon. I think now that that was possibly being generous to the sedan crowd.

The folowing 2 minute vid allows you to see all that for yourself, along with a few thoughts as it pertained to Saab a few years ago.

Bring back the hatch indeed!

And if you don’t know the answer to the question asked in the film, click on through…

The most commonly believed reason as to why Saab didn’t have a SportCombi when the 9-3 launched is that it was due to cost cutting by the parent, GM.

It’s believed that the 9-3 was all set to go with several variants right from the start. The story says that Saab modified the Epsilon platform way too much, to the extent that the car couldn’t be manufactured anywhere but Trollhattan.

The price paid was a slashing of costs and some rationalisation of the model, with the critically-needed-for-the-US-market Sports Sedan being the one that got the nod.

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  1. I had read that SAAB blew the entire 9-3 budget solely on the Sport Sedan, so the Sport Combi was delayed. Things such as the fiber-optic system in the 9-3 were overly expensive, causing the whole project to go over-budget.

    Also, there was some bad blood between SAAB and parent GM at the time as SAAB changed the Epsilon platform so much so that the SAAB could only be built in Trollhattan, voiding the whole purpose of a shared platform. The Pontiac G6 convertible was delayed also because it was supposed to use the same tooling as the 9-3 convertible or something.

    As for wagons in Sweden, I was told by Jan-Willem Vester (of SAAB USA Communications) once that wagons are very prevalent in Europe as a whole (he’s originally from The Netherlands).

    Though SAAB never really had a hatchback (“combi coupe” pioneered in the SAAB 98 prototype until the SAAB 99 Combi Coupe (or “wagonback”) in 1974 ( they did have a wagon in the SAAB 95 ( since 1959 and the shape of the car all the way back to the 92.001 seems to have been conducive to a hatch.

  2. After that last post one would think I wrote everything I meant but noooooo, I forgot a point:

    There’s no reason SAAB can’t offer a sedan, wagon, convertible AND combi coupe (hatchback) version of the 9-3 concurrently. The C900 was sold in both sedan and hatchback form for years. Let the customer have the choice. Heck, offer the 9-5 as a hatch too!

  3. If the current 9-3s and 9-5s came in hatch forms, i wouldnt be so hell bent on a viggen, and keeping my 9k aero :)…

    what exactly is this fiber (fibre) optic system I hear so much about?

    I COUNTED 6 SAABS! did anyone catch the red c900turbo?

  4. Saaboy: the 9-3 uses fiber optics (long glass strands which transfer digital data as light (photons) instead of the electricity (electrons) usually transferred in copper wires essentially) for its advanced telematics system. This system is allegedly the most technologically advanced in the world. See this from a GM website:
    “Extensive use of fiber optics for advanced ‘infotainment’ and telematics. With a signal capacity 50 times greater than conventional wire circuitry, fiber optics provide a reliable high speed communications platform, saving weight and complexity.”

    It’s used for Bluetooth as well in Europe but in the States we’re stuck with OnStar, which I don’t think uses the fiber optic system.

    Seems to me that the fiber optic system is a neat “gee whiz” talking point, but in the end it really doesn’t add any value to the car. The SAAB’s infotainment system doesn’t offer any increased functionality other manufacturers don’t offer with old copper wire. Seems like a waste of money to me…

  5. I 100% agree especially with 1985 Gripen…it drives me nuts that I must go all the way back to a 1997 model 9000 aero in order to get the car of my dreams, fit my lifestyle, have that “cool-car” feeling, and not break my bank account when I’m at the pump. Put a hatch on that 9-5, along with those gorgeous Recaro Seats from the 9000 Aero…and maybe, just maybe, I can start looking at a 2007 (or 2008) rather than a 1997.
    By the way, why is it that a 1997 9000 Aero cost almost $45,000 new, while a new 9-5 goes for about $35k? Is it lack in quality and workmanship?

  6. At sec. 37 pasted a Toyota Hybrid in the vid.
    I did not know that this kind of high tech has a chance in Sweden.
    I thought they are in this Ethanol thing.

  7. Stationcars are a must in Europe. In the vehicle class of the 9-3 there are competitors that sell the station vs. the sedan in a 4 to 1 ratio!
    My dealer told me a few years ago that a station version of the 9-3 was originally planned at the start, but that the new head of design (michael mauer)was so discontent with it that he ordered a new design.
    That it took three years to bring it to the market is a shame for GM.

  8. Just look at the sales data. 10% of all sold car is Volvo V70. Alos, a sales guy told me off the record that something like 80% of the 9-5 sold in Sweden was the wagon model.

  9. Regarding Saab and the wagon talkabouts… The ones being around up for the 9-5 wagon was the old and oddly looking Saab 95. Saab made their point towards the Swedish market (and else) via their hatchbacks/’combi cupé’s’ All the 80’s up for the millennia shift that thing was the “saab way”… Regarding Sweden I hear now and then motor journos writing that the Swedes are the largest “nuts” for wagon/combi cupé’s here in Europe, and… …all the way up from the 50’s/60’s “we” have been crazingly in love with the vastly popular volvo wagons. Volovo (for better or worse) is the number one mark her in Sweden and the “praticularity” of these “bricks” is a probable cause for the volvo number one thing here in Sweden. Also the volvos are more “plain” and lacks the “querkyness” (US fav-phrase for saab’s) and/or more odd (and clever) solutions Saabs have/would emphasis… Swedes are notorious for liking the normative and “staying-putness”… The Saab 95 were seldom a fav-model here (or elsewhere) and while I actually (as a kid) could like the Saab 96 quite a lot (and still do, though the 92/93 is even cooler), the Saab 95 looked quite awful in my (and most others) eyes. The Volvo 145/245/745/945/V70 aso have always been a really hot pick for most Swedes and a really familiar look all over our streets. The “brickness” (of the Volvos) even went that far as of the really “square” and popular 740/745 to quickly get the nick “Social democrat container” (“Sossecontainer”/The Social democrat being the major political party here in Sweden, and still is – and their familiarity with block/square social wealth building strategy coming to mind as a majority way of thinking…). Saab fought this popular wagon with their combi/hatchback and they only dared to place the 9-5 wagon as a “concept” before releasing it on the market (as a popular demand) making it a smash hit for Saab around here. I think the 9-5 was kind of outdated even at that point regarded as a model but the wagon breathed new life into it, and also made a significant booster for the then still bleeding company (and still is/sad to say). Saab 900 hardly was driven as a taxi. The Volvo wagons (and sedans) have always been along with the popular Mercedes taxis (here in Sweden). Not until the 9k arrived Saab would be (sometimes) considered a taxi and for the 9-5 taxi Swade pictured in Stockholm, of course it was a wagon…

    Swedes are and have been crazy about wagons… Period.

    As for the 9-3 I really like the sedan better than the sport-combi, though the sport is growing on me. But never the less, the c900 was really as it best as a hatchback (the aero pearl white was lovely) the sedan really being a querky cut… and the gm900/early9-3 was the old thing but without the rounded front glass

    Also, plz remember. Sweden is the most Americanised country in the world and there are numerous old yank’s in the car community still around. Before the local cars became more widly spread around Sweden the yank’s was popular; Meaning, you rally should expect these old beautiful cars from the west… It’s a homage to the large car loving country “over there”…

  10. Thanks Par H,

    Good insight into the local market. So even Swedes find Saab a bit quirky?

    I love my Sportcombi (and 9000CS).

  11. Yo Turbin!

    For quirky I’d answer yes and no.

    I recon Sweden have the same dualistic (or tri-alistic) view as the over all general public.

    Those who love’em. Those ho (nearly) hat’em and those whom knows little or any about the mark.

    The quirkiness is a US journo gimmick; nailing that hard it almost sticks as hard like the Volvo advertisement gimmick painting Volvo into the safety corner. It was a while since I followed the Swedish motor journo’s but I read ’em from time to others and the Swedish journalists will also sometimes point out some “quirky” issues. Though imagine the worlds most prevalent Saab market surly must be more aware and familiar with it homeland mark, more than others at least.

    I did some translating of Swedish articles for Swade but it seems his got plenty to cover, and he’s doing it great. It’s a real treat to follow (I’ve only been in here for some week with y’all) and he’ll soon qualify for a Saab aficionados. I’ll post the recent eco-car ranking from Gröna Bilister for him as a comment in some of the more recent posts but here under you can take a look at a major Swedish motor journalist view of wagons, placing 9-5 (sad to say) in the down right bottom… (pjue…)…

    Turbin*, I had this classmate who was a really nerd for Saab’s and he picked me up and made me a follower as well. It was way back in the late 70’s/early 80’s and the turbo boom was right at our feet, with the Swedish streets showcasing it in the highest possible rate. Being at Saabs home country made it easy to follow the year models and turbo/Saab fashion… When biking for school I/we always would try to spot as many Saabs as possible and preferably we’d like to see turbo’s… Some years to come (~’86) I tricked my parents to by into an old black 99 Turbo, witch was then regarded as outdated (…I wish I could find one of ’em again to get hands on) and I even made some of my driving practice in that car (whooooo, it was lovely, what a kick…). So I’m a little hooked up for a Saabology followers confession, but really a brand is a brand, is a brand…, is a brand; whom needs to be filled with care, passion and uniqueness to attract our money for the good of the sake or it could all be invested in something else.

    Sweden is a quite specific and special country and Saab is as well. If Saab drives from what was and is, then it’ll survive. (…and I’m keen on coming back soon).

    For more of the Swedish “mind” see the referens of the Matson review here under. Gröna Bilister translation will be left in a comment section somewhere nearer “today” (of present today)

    Tnxs for the hello, and your comment…


    *(*cool* nick btw, please denote me as Par and skip the H, witch only refers my last name)

  12. //Rough tryout to translate into English; beware of my non English mother tongue and bare with my short comings

    Here is the best combi (station vagon)– seven large brands ranked

    “Dagens PS” (I have no clue of the meaning of that…) (Direct translation will turn out: The PS of the Day…)

    21st of May 2007
    The most reputed Swedish motor journalist Håkan Matson (I think he is with Expressen /Swedish evening paper) compares the new Volov (Ovlov) V70 to the Audi A6 avant, BMW 5 Touring, Mercedes E-classe, Saab 9-5 combi, Ford Mondeo and WV Passat. The Volvo takes the battle for a win, Håkan Matson writes in “Dagens Industri” (Business newspaper in Sweden). Håkan Matson has performed a test over five events and gives out the report in the newspaper Din Bil (“Your Car”) . The events were: drive, travel, buy, crash and “feel”.
    It turns out that the new Volvo V70 stands as the total winner and is “a station wagon of top rate”, but challenged by the Audi A6. The BMW 5 Touring is better than the Volvo to drive. “BMW is still the king”, Håkan Matson writes, continuing that the BMW and Audi both have the best comfort. They also have a higher sense of quality of build compared to the rest of the cars tested. I the rest of the events Volvo is best regarding the most of the lot (“best at/of the most/the lot, or wewtpi), Matson notes.
    Regarding crash safety its an even tie between Volvo and Mercedes. Regarding purchase (to buy) the Audi A6 and the Mondeo is equal good as the V70 while the Mercedes renders equal grades for driving. Worst to buy, in the opinion of Håkan Mattson is the Mercedes whom is “loony expensive”. Much of praise for the new Volvo V70 but is there nothing of the negative kind? –Well, the steering could be more determined and the rear seat comfort could have been better. But the main critic Matson holds against the fact from Volvo lacking the guts (balls) to be more bold (daring) with its design (work out) of the car, says the DI (Dagens Industri) writer.
    “Faced before their next generation – within some 6 or 7 years – they better make something more dramatic happen. If not the old honest “Volvo combi” (makes Volvo Station Wagon, for English) will face the sotdöd (meaning some horrible way of dying because of some sickness, I recon connected with wars aso… sot meaning soth and död meaning death… My honorable translation tools give me no help there…) Håkan Matson writes.
    This will be the ranking from the motor expert:

    1. Volvo V70 (from 329.800 SEK)
    2. Audi A6 Avant (from 326.900 SEK)
    3. BMW 5-Touring (from 415.900 SEK)
    4. Ford Mondeo (from 241.200 SEK)
    5. Mercedes E-class (from 474.900 SEK)
    6. VW Passat (323.400 SEK)
    7. Saab 9-5 Combi (309.900 SEK)

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