Jan-Ake speaks – We were late, often.

Go Auto Magazine, an online publication here in Australia, has published an extensive article full of quotes by Jan-Ake Jonsson during the Australian leg of the 2008 Saab 9-3 launch in Sweden (i.e. attended by Aussies, not held in Australia).

If you’d like to read the whole article, you’ll need to subscribe to Go Auto News, which is free and gives a great insight into the Aussie market. Click here and select Go Auto News.

Here’s a bunch of quotes with some of the most interesting stuff.

On XWD and being late having it:

“All-wheel drive is the price of entry in the premium sector,” Mr Jonsson said. “(In the past) we felt we had a superior system with front-wheel drive … and felt that all-wheel drive was not that important, because our cars were superior in handling and performance and safety anyway. So that’s why – I would say – that was the main reason why we were late…..

…..“You’ve got to have it … so the customers and dealers will be impressed that you have it available. There are many customers that will not consider you if you do not have all-wheel drive. They may not buy it, but they expect you to have it.”

On the expected uptake of XWD:

“We don’t foresee a tremendous migration to all-wheel drive, at least not initially. But as the costs and then the prices come down, and it becomes more affordable, then yeah, maybe we will.”

This one’s very interesting, given that the wide belief was that Epsilon was apparently not capable of hosting all-wheel drive:

“We had been working on XWD systems for quite some time, but we never really got the system right to properly work for our vehicles,” he said. “We had done a lot of work, on the 9-3 all-wheel drive in particular.”

And as per previous reports, it appears that XWD will start with the Aero, and then trickle down to other variations:

“You will see XWD development being more and more important over time, and operating with some other engine variants,”

On the possibility of XWD in other models:

However, Mr Jonsson stopped short of confirming that XWD will be included in the 9-1 small car that Saab is co-developing with General Motors Opel in Germany. “You know, in the smaller segment it is too expensive for those customers, I would say, at this point,” he said. “But in the (9-4X) crossover, 9-5 and 9-3, yes.”

On being late into other segments:

“I think that sometimes Saab is known for (sticking with) certain principles (for too long),” he said. “We were very late to get into diesel … (yet) in Europe, in our segment, 55 per cent of total volume is diesel, and we were very late. “We have been a little bit back-and-forth with turbo. At one time it was only turbo, then we introduced normally aspirated” ….. “And then we were relatively late to the V6, because we held on to four-cylinder turbocharging,” Mr Jonsson said.

And finally, on Saab’s place in GM-land:

“In the GM portfolio brands, Saab is the European premium brand … in fact, we are the only one. There isn’t anybody else. “If you look at Cadillac, a Cadillac customer would never look at a Saab, just as a Saab customer would never look at a Cadillac. They are very different brands.”

You got that right, JAJ. Which is why I’m still baffled as to why Cadillac are pounding on Europe’s door, but that’s an issue for another time.

It’s an insightful and entertaining read. Jan-Ake always impresses me when he’s interviewed and from personal experience in talking with him briefly, it’s reassuring to know that he’s a Saab guy through and through.

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  1. “If you look at Cadillac, a Cadillac customer would never look at a Saab, just as a Saab customer would never look at a Cadillac. They are very different brands.”

    Never say never, that CTS-V I got to take around on a few hot laps last fall was delightful 🙂

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