News from Sweden – incl Saab 9-5 and 9-4x

There’s plenty of news coming out of Sweden today. Thankfully, ctm is funnelling it through so that we can all get a look at it. New model news in just a moment….

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With the reporting of sales, there’s also been a little business talk, and it’s not all good news for Saab. The newspaper, DN, are reporting that Saab Automobile lost 2.9 Billion SEK in 2006, and GM had to put 3,8 Billion SEK into the operation. That’s a lotta clams.

A few quotes from Jan-Ake Jonsson:

– “We didn’t make any profit in 2006, and want do it in 2007 either.”
-“GM looks at Saab in a very positive way, we are their only global brand and the premium segment is becoming more and more important.”

Jan-Ake thinks that they Saab can turn a profit around 2010. Whilst Jan-Ake maintains that Saab still enjoy GM’s confidence, life will still be a little difficult due to Saab’s small model range.

Apparently, part of the reason why there was such a large loss (and this may be lost in the translation a little) is that they had to book an accounting charge, possibly for investments made in model development, but it’s a little vague at the moment. I’ll have a closer look and provide more detail if I can.

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Now, to the new model stuff.

The Gothenburg Post have been getting a sneak peek at coming models. Here’s the translation by ctm:

BMW and Audi, watch out. Yesterday, GP got previews of the new, bigger and more luxury Saab 9-5 and the first crossover from Saab.

Saab need new models – and they are almost here. When GP met with Jan-Åke Jonsson, CEO Saab Automobile, he showed pictures of two future models. It’s the new 9-5, to be built in Rüsselsheim, and the new crossover, unofficially named 9-4X. Both models has been discussed in length on Internet blogs and several details are already known.

But the discussions haven’t been absolute accurate when it comes to the design, even if some are close. The new 9-5 is wider, longer and higher than the current model. The design language is a further development of the recent facelift of the 9-3, together with details from the Aero-X. The new higher hood makes for a profile that makes one think of the bigger BMW models. The interior draws heavily on the “cockpit” elements that Saab use to associate with it’s airplane heritage.

The crossover 9-4X are somewhat bigger than the new Volvo XC60 that was presented in Detroit in January this year. The two models will be strong competitors to each other.

According to information on several blogs, the 9-4X and the Cadillac BRX are siblings and both will be built in Mexico. Saab wont give any comments on expected sales for the two new models. Carl-Peter Forster, President GM Europe, has earlier said that the new 9-5 will be produced in Rüsselsheim starting in 2009. According to some blogs, the crossover will also go on production in 2009 which should mean that the models will be shown at the next big auto shows – Frankfurt this September and Detroit in January.

Thanks ctm!

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There’s more on the business situation in Trollhattan’s local newspaper, TTELA.

Again, a translation by ctm:

Eric Geers, CIO Saab Automobile, about the losses:

– “It’s only Saab Automobile’s legal unit [direct translation]. The figures don’t show daughter companies, financial units, aftermarket products and so on. That’s why figures really don’t tell that much.”

– “GM is making a profit, and we are apart of GM. And we think we can deliver positive cash to GM this year already. We are heading for break even.”

The nominal loss is due to write-off. These will be 1 Billion SEK lower next year and basically gone in 2009. And GMs confidence in Saab is untouched.

– “To have Saab in the portfolio is extremely important to them. And already next year there will be some surprises, both financially and with new models the will be something rather special.”

Among the future models are a crossover that is important for the U.S. market. Also, the new 9-3 and 9-5, and a smaller car to be built in Trollhättan. But the previous grandiose ambitions have to let go. There has been talk about 250,000-300,000 cars a year. According to Geers, a more realistic goal is 150,000-200,000 cars a year. Saab is currently producing 133,000 cars. When they will reach 150,000 is nothing Geers want to speculate in.

Saab 9-3 consists to 90% of parts unique to Saab. Here, Saab wants a change and take more advantage of being in the GM family.
– “We have to be a little smarter. Parts that can be common should be it, while those that are important for the brand should be unique.”

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One thing about these losses.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a Cadillac AB in Sweden. If not, is Saab compelled to absorb the development costs of the BLS?

There were 14 units of the BLS sold in Sweden during July.

Just sayin….

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20 Comments

  1. Sounds promising in terms of the much needed 9-5 and the new 9-4x. Any news as to whether this 9-4x would be capable of having a 3rd row of seats to allow those of us with mini-MPVs in the drive to take on something more stylish?

  2. They say it’s about the size of the XC60, so I think it’s too small to have a 3rd row. My guess is that they don’t go after thoses customers, but you never know…

  3. “I can’t help but wonder if there is a Cadillac AB in Sweden.”

    My guess is that Cadillac is part of GM North America. When they report sales for Europe to the ACEA, they list the brands as Opel/Vauxhall, Chevrolet, Saab and GM (US). But that could just be a way to hide those brands since the sales are very low.

  4. ctm

    Suspect you are right, but that is a real shame. Saab have always been a practical car for the family (as well as a great drive for the enthusiast). Just look back at the 95 to see how 3 rows of seats was a priority then….

    Nowadays I am forced to have a Vauxhall (Opel) Zafira on my drive to accommodate children and their friends and dog etc. (my 9-3 wagon just isn’t big enough).

    How much cooler would it be to have a sexy Saab MPV capable of doing the weekend camping trip or the school run?

    Most people get to a stage sometime where a little extra space is required and Saab could really exploit that with minimal additional cost by adding the 3rd row to the upcoming new vehicle. Just look now the X5, XC90 and Q7 have all added that all important 3rd row.

    By the sounds of it the 9-4x is bigger than an X3 or XC60, so it should be do-able?

    Saab, please take note………

  5. Agree, if they are smart they add the capability to have 2-3 children in a third row to show that Saab is still a practical car for everyday use. But maybe the market for that is to small? Don’t know…

  6. Ditto on the 3rd row seat. There’s no good reason not to include one. People don’t forgo buying a crossover or SUV b/c it has a 3rd row seat. Quite the contrary, people will choose one of Saab’s competitor’s (LR3, X5, XC90, etc..) b/c they do offer a 3rd row. It seems like a no brainer for Saab. Even if people don’t always use the 3rd row, it can be folded down. What’s the worst that could happen? — Saab makes a more marketable car and sales increase.

  7. Ryno, agree totally.

    Swade, any views on this one? The 3rd row thing is a real decision maker for many people who want a ‘sensible’ family vehicle but also want some excitement, innovation and ‘stand out from the crowd’ in their lives. It seems a shame for Saab of all premium brands to ignoe those with more than 2 kids, a dog, a tent, you get the picture…..life these days requires the max versatility out of one vehicle…

  8. I have to comment on the third row: it’s absolutely critical where I live- sooo many families have 4-6 kids. It’s just not practical to drive two vehicles to transport one family!

    In this respect, a Saab with 3 rows of seating (up to 7 people) is locally a better way to get people in the showroom’s doors than even a halo car (as much as I want to see one built). And that will lead to more 9-3 and especially 9-5 sedan sales!!

    PLEEEEAAASSSSEEE Saab, build one!! There is a larger need than you might think. And I agree with Ryno- even if you don’t use the 3rd row, true Saabers would really appreciate all the additional cargo space created by folding that last row down!! Just beautiful.

  9. I agree with all of the above, BUILD THE 3rd row!! no harm done in doing so… It will fit us right inbetween the Volvo XC90 and XC60. Please do think of your fan base Saab, and do it for the Children!

  10. I wonder if it is trouble with safety if Saab wouldn´t do it? But I agree the better have a car that can fit 7 people.

    About the losses: I can’t help thinking that they do it on porpuse. The make Saab go with defisit. Soon Saab will go with a lot of profit (mayby because tehy want to) and then they don’t have to pay any taxes.

    It’s realy hard to take any bigger notes if saab makes profit or not because of that the belong to a larger company.

  11. I currently have 9000, and I have been looking at new vehicles. I want to buy a 9-5 wagon, but unable to justify it over a minivan. If it had a third row seat(like say MB or volvo) I know which one I will buy. BTW, I test drove both 9-3 and 9-5 wagon and liked 9-5 better(I know most here prefer 9-3).

  12. Anecdotally, one reason my wife nixed buying a 9-5 wagon instead of her E320 wagon was the third row kiddie seat that Mercedes has. We don’t use it very often, but when we do it’s very handy.

  13. …I can’t believe so many people here want three rows of seats. The 9-4x isn’t going to be a minivan, people, it’s a small crossover. Frankly, if I want to move a bunch of people, I’ll borrow a conversion van from someone. Crossovers are for suburbanites with two kids. If you really need a third row of seats, buy a bigger vehicle. Ryno listed some other cars, like the XC90, the X5, the LR3…those things are bigger vehicles than what the 9-4x is supposed to be. They’re all the size of a 9-7x. The 9-4x won’t have three rows of seats unless some miracle of spacial engineering is unleashed with it.

    I like how Saabs are practical, but I don’t need them to be THAT practical.

    Then again, I’m 19.

    Personally, if I really needed a car that could seat either seven or eight depending on configuration and didn’t want to get a van…I’d get a Buick Enclave.

  14. Well Cadillac Sverige AB exists so i don’t think Saab is paying for the devopment of those models.
    But Saab is doing alot of Ethanol and Hybrid research and that could be a reason.

  15. Jeff

    I remember being 19 as well, and oh, how I loved my Saabs then too.

    I hope you live long and prosper and perhaps find yourself with a couple of kids – how would you feel then if I said to you that you were condemned to driving a boring van the rest of your days??

    Until you have kids, a dog, maybe enjoy a boat or camping and touring, don’t assume that life ends at 25, please!!

    There is a demonstrably strong market for just those vehicles you mention and Saab is missing out on those sales and also the opportunity to keep faith with it core customers through their life passage (I hope someday when the birds fly the nest to get a 2015 model Sonnet or at least a ‘vert!!!). Risk in the meantime is that if I end up with an Audi Q7 or XC90, I might become distant from Saab and not return (I think not, but you get my drift?).

  16. Mike, Swade,

    Isn’t Cadillac Sverige AB just the importer and national reseller of the Cadillac (passenger cars), Corvette (passenger cars) and Chevrolet (commercial vehicles) in Sweden? GM Nordic only has the responsibility for the sales and aftersales of Chevrolet, Opel and Saab passenger cars in the four Nordic markets.

    Even if the development of the BLS was done in Trollhättan, I think it still belongs to Cadillac as part of GM North America and don’t show up in the results for Saab Automobile or GM Europe.

    But it’s just my guess, though…

    According to GM, the Trollhättan plant produced 3,257 Cadillac BLS in 2006. But the only sold 1,250, so there should even at this point be some unsold cars somewhere. So far this year, they are selling even less per month in Sweden compared to last year which point at something like 1,500 cars for the whole year in Europe. So I wonder if they have produced any BLS at all in Trollhättan this year having that many unsold at beginning of the year. Too bad they couldn’t build Opel’s instead and utilize the plant at maximum.

  17. Third row is quite important today. It seems to be growing it´s popularity, at least in Europe. Quite many manyfacturers have them on one of their models. Take a look at Citroen Picasso C4 for example. The car itself doesn´t need to be that huge to have 3rd row. And this brings some other things quite importan; forward/backwards adjustable rear seat (2nd row), so that you can extend the boot size if there´s no, or only small kid passengers at the rear. And if the 3rd row is not needed, these additional seats should be removable or and oldable option, so that you´d just have more space at the boot if you don´t need the seats. There´s so many good ideas today available, which really extend usability and practicality of space. Saab really should take care of these details in future models.

    They´ve showed nice features in concept cars, but they should also became reality. Otherwise, multifunctionality of a crossover vehicle is just plain talk and will leave us with bulky looking SUV with practicality of a normal wagon + higher fuel consumption etc.

  18. Agreed MarkoA. What is the point of the SUV (if it only rarely leaves the road anyway) unless it can offer some extra functionality as well of course as fashionable looks.

    Others can do it, don’t lose easy target sales Saab – is there a reason such as safety or is it just a lack of thought and imagination?

  19. I have been selling Saabs in the U.S. for almost 30 years Saab said that they did not do it “third row seat” for “moral reasons” because there would not be enough crumple zone for third row passengers if you notice most cars with third row seats have very little room from rear to the back of the third rowseat with the exception cadillac escalade esv/chev suburban

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