I was to-ing and fro-ing with Turbin via email earlier today and somehow we got on to “Elmo” seats. I’m not sure what that means, to be honest, but I had to laugh when Turbin said they were made with 100% real Elmos and would tickle.
I’m not sure why that made me think of this. Perhaps it’s memories of the red interior in my old Saab 99 Turbo – back in the days when Saab did very funky interiors in red, blue, brown or green.
But my thought was this:
We’re most likely two years away from seeing a new Saab 9-5. That’s a pretty sad thought for most people, as it should be.
But what if it didn’t have to be?
Here’s something you may not have known, but will probably make a lot of sense when you think about it for as little as five seconds. When Saab sell a 9-3 they make ‘x’ dollars in margin on the sale. When they sell a 9-5 they make as much as 15x or 20x on the sale, depending on the rebates etc at the time. The reason being that the costs of development were sunk a long time ago, and in last decade’s dollars. Saab can live with the 9-5 selling in relatively low numbers as it still makes them money.
Out of the 36,000+ Saabs that were sold in the USA last year, just under 5,000 of them were Saab 9-5s. They’re not building the brand on the back of the 9-5 anymore. That’s the 9-3s job at the moment. But they’re still making some money on it.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if they could do something that might make the current generation 9-5 more relevant and desirable? It may be at lesser margins, but it may make the 9-5 useful again as a brand-building tool in these last few years before it’s replaced.
What am I talking about here?
Well, have a look at this for some inspiration:
That is, of course, the Rinspeed Saab 9-5 that was shown in Geneva earlier this year. It was a special BioPower concept vehicle that applied some brilliant enhancements to the look of the car.
Am I suggesting Mountain Dew as a new colour? Not exactly.
Here’s my thought….
As mentioned, the Saab 9-5 is in its twilight years. Saab make big margins on this low-volume seller. It’s derided by the motoring press as being too old, but owners of the vehicle, including the latest iteration, just love them. I’m convinced that there could be even more 9-5 love out there if it was done right.
To cut to the chase (“thanks”, I hear you say), I want Saab to make the last year(s) of this 9-5’s lifetime a time to remember. Send the damn thing out with a bang rather than a whimper. Eat into the margins a little with pricing but more importantly, eat into the margins by enhancing this vehicle in such a way that it becomes something the Saab faithful can look at and go “Wow”.
The Rinspeed model is actually a good example of some of the enhancements that could be made. It’s really loud. REALLY loud. But I’m pretty sure that Saab’s design gurus could implement some of these ideas in a tasteful but still assertive manner. Have a look at these bits for example:
Ditch the Dame Ednas for a carbon fibre trim around the headlamps. Matched to the paint colour or not, I’m sure there’s something that could be done with this.
A similar trim pattern was used on several different areas on the Rinspeed model.
The rear decor panel:
The interior door trim:
The rear view mirror:
I’m not saying that it should be as radical as the Rinspeed model, but there’s room to move on this 9-5 and a great canvas to work with. These are just a few bits of trim in the photos above, but there’s a whole cabin there to work with, not to mention the engine and drivetrain.
Everyone with a B235 engine knows that it’s capable of 300hp. So why not tweak it and sent it out on a high note? There’s some limited slip diffs hanging around somewhere in Trollhattan. They could come in handy when it’s time to put the power down.
Call me stupid, but these are just ideas. The point is: make the 9-5 relevant again. Come out and say quite openly that this is a special edition purely for the reason that this is an outgoing model. A swansong. A final salute.
It’s time to empty the parts bin. It happened with the C900 when it was an outgoing model. How many n/a 1993 classic 900s are out there with Aero kits on them? Heaps.
This would be a similar thing.
They could double it up: Make a performance version and a fully loaded luxury version. Trim the margins, but get more out the door. Bums on seats in the next two years in the lead up to the new 9-5 and 9-4x might just mean a heck of a lot more than a small cut in margin on a limited seller.
It’s just an idea, but I hope it’s got merit. The 9-5 is an older car, but it’s still a great car to drive and I’d hate to see it sent to the automotive equivalent of an old people’s home.
It deserves better, but more importantly, it’s capable of so much more.