Saab USA – Here I go again (part 2)

Yesterday I had a big whine (once again) about the lack of a diesel option for the US.

We’ve been told repeatedly that the current TiD engine won’t meet future US emissions standards. But given the Opelisation of the Saturn brand there (as well as possible applications for other brands), I believe that there should be sufficient economies of scale to warrant the investment required to make the current 1.9 TiD and future TTiD engines compliant with the required Tier II Bin 5 emissions regulations.

Here’s a video from Popular Mechanics in the US pertaining to what will be a 50-state complying clean diesel Jetta that will be released in 2008. It should have plenty of torque and will get 50+ mileage (hwy) whilst retaining cleanliness similar to, or even exceeding, a gasoline engine.

Sound compelling?

The US might have had bad experiences with diesel in the past, but that’s nothing that can’t be overcome by spending 10 minutes in a modern diesel. The automotive press will lead the way and I’m pretty sure that the people will follow.

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I’m sounding like a broken record here, I know. But the first companies that bring these to market will enjoy a real greenfield opportunity and it’s just a real shame that Saab can’t be amongst it, or that perhaps GM won’t let them because it’s scared of making a strong move with a small player.

I am very confident that the TTiD would find a market in the US, and if they went one step further an secured compliance for Hirsch products that that market would be even greater. The kudos that comes with it is one of those intangibles that comes in handy, too.

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16 Comments

  1. GM is just scared and dumb. they can be very agressive with saab who has a great history while they will dump money into saturn which is still not respected by the overall US.

  2. Driving apparently the only US Saab diesel for 85K now, quality fuel still seems to be an issue. Even with ULSD available just about everywhere, sometimes with some biodiesel mixed in, I still rarely see cetane stickers (arent they legally required?) and ones I have seen usually say 40. Any hope of meeting T2B5 will require fuel close to 50. Obviously we still have another round of whining from big oil to endure first.

    And mo’s point is well taken…why DO the dizzy bastards at GM Detroit throw mega$$$ at loser brands Saturn & Pontiac while Saab twists in the wind?

  3. no need to get yourself all in a knot about it swade, folks over here don’t want diesels anyway. it would be a waste of money to bring them over just to sit on the lots. also most cities are on clean air kicks and are promoting hybrids and such – diesels are sooo dirty and aggravate peoples allergies and asthma, etc. they always complain about the city busses. the good news is we can get up to $4000 off the price of a hybrid from the feds new clean air program.

  4. When the pricer of gas its $5 a gallon in the US as I am sure it will by 2010 then the demand for diesel cars will be there.

    Back in the early 1990s it was very rare to see a diesel car on English roads but these days with gas at close to USD7.35 per US gallon diesels now account for close to 45pc of the market.

    It WILL happen, believe me!

  5. Although the latest Diesel engines are simply outstanding powertrains, there is a simple reason why they are not popular in the USA: Lack of fuel stations that carry Diesel fuel. Please don’t blame Saab or GM, blame Big Oil companies.

  6. Jose – What part of the US do you live in? Every station around here (Maryland) carries diesel, and every station I stopped at when I drove from here to California (in my Saab 900S :D) also had it. Most stations carry diesel because of all the medium/heavy duty pickups.

  7. Yeah. I cannot thing of many stations that do not carry diesel.

    Americans don’t care about silly things like facts and logic. We want hybrids with really fake fuel economy ratings. -__-;

  8. Diesel is popular in Europe, but there are downsides which will have to be dealt with in the near future. Even modern diesel engines have a very high level of particles in the exhaust, and this has an immediate negative effect on the local air quality.
    I am not so sure whether diesel is the best for the US, where some cities already are struggling with the air quality.

  9. Great, a clean Diesel. but only 2008.
    Some may question what kind of Diesel they sell now?

    I prefer this engine:

    javascript:spawn(‘/new_cars/tsi_experience’,’emo’,780,260)

    It´s a pity that GM Saab does not offer a Bi-Turbo patrol engine with direct injection.

  10. Regarding the question about the “dizzy” guys at GM, that’s easy. Pontiac and Saturn have much more name recognition and sales. They are significant portions of GM’s financials. Saab even with good growth would not be. They’re investing in where there money is made an lost. That’s why I think Saab needs to get out of GM. They’re never going to be a big enough portion of GM to get the requisite attention. They need to be part of a smaller company.

  11. Diesels. I think that people are willing to drive them, but there will be a ramp-up period when all of the sheep that always decide to go with the mainstream despite evidence to the contrary will ignore diesels. That is, it’s a niche play from the beginning.

    I agree with the argument on scale — if there is a company out there that can provide it in droves, it’s the General.

    So, what to do? In my view, it’s time to go to Washington and kick some real-world sense into the EPA to allow these newer engines to qualify. But that’s just me.

    Barring that, I hope that Saab / GM has enough sense to partner with a bio diesel provider in the US to work around some of these misconceptions of diesel engines when they finally come to market. Willie Nelson (the songwriter & “singer”) has a firm that markets the stuff — what a splash that would be — Swedish car, Texas crooner, simultaneous Gen-Y and Boomer cred. That’s marketing. People, it will work.

    I’m willing to discuss my fee at a later date, but I’ll help you get this together, just say the word!

  12. Jeff,

    In the San Francisco and the Bay Area there are just a handful of stations that carry Diesel fuel.

    I work at a GM dealer that sells 6 franchises, including Saab and Chevy Trucks. The number 1 reason customers refuse to buy a Duramax diesel truck is “lack of fuel stations”. We are trained to explain the many advantages of Diesel, particuarly on trucks. No matter how advantageous a Diesel is, customer complaint that many fuel stations don’t carry Diesel. Another Saab jewel that gets thrown into the waste basket is the BioPower engines: there are NO E85 fuel stations in the entire SF Bay Area. I would have to drive all the way down to San Diego (over 500 miles away) to find the only fuel station in the state of California that carries E85. If California (the leader of all of the states) does not take the leadership in clean Diesels and Ethanol fuels, do you think the rest of the US will?

  13. Jeff,

    In the San Francisco and the Bay Area there are just a handful of stations that carry Diesel fuel.

    I work at a GM dealer that sells 6 franchises, including Saab and Chevy Trucks. The number 1 reason customers refuse to buy a Duramax diesel truck is “lack of fuel stations”. We are trained to explain the many advantages of Diesel, particuarly on trucks. No matter how advantageous a Diesel is, customer complaint that many fuel stations don’t carry Diesel. Another Saab jewel that gets thrown into the waste basket is the BioPower engines: there are NO E85 fuel stations in the entire SF Bay Area. I would have to drive all the way down to San Diego (over 500 miles away) to find the only fuel station in the state of California that carries E85. If California (the leader of all of the states) does not take the leadership in clean Diesels and Ethanol fuels, do you think the rest of the US will?

  14. The thing to remember about diesels in the US is they cost quite a bit more than an equivalent petrol version. The question is how much more are people willing to spend? VW has had diesels for years but still sell a small number. As for why GM has recently spent money on Saturn, their dealers routinely have the highest ratings of any dealer body including Lexus. Why not take advantage of this built in good will loyalty and generate some profits? Saturn sales have been through the roof this year so it has obviously been a good investment.

  15. Frank, good VW example.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the great majority of Saab sales in the USA are on the east and west coasts. I seriously doubt that Saab could justify adding diesel in the mix if California customers and fuel stations are not following the diesel bandwagon.

    Let’s look back in recent history: why did Saab added a V6 to the 9-3? Simply, customers demanded it because our competitors had V6s. I remembered customers telling us “why should I buy a $32K+ that only has a 4 cylinder?” It didn’t matter how much performance the 2.0T had, customers simply looked at the competition and noticed the lack of a V6 in our offerings before 2006. Even now with a V6 in the 9-3, sales are not that strong on the Aero.

    Lack of fuel stations in California, plus pay a possible premium for the diesel, and you have a receipe for poor sales… simply take a look at VW’s.

    I truly believe that the diesel is a terrific engine. It is a shame that the US consumer market does not demand it.

  16. Jose: You said east and west coasts. Sure, Cali is a huge market for Saab (I saw tons of them over there, I was in San Diego/Encinitas), but New England has traditionally been a huge market for Saab also, and diesel stations are everywhere around here in the east. Half of their market has access to all the diesel they want. The bay area needs to get with the program.

    Leader of the states. Bah.

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