The dark side of badge engineering

The Saab 9-7x Aero is aimed at your more premium SUV buyer. At $45K it undercuts the X%, for example, by around $10K and that’s before you tick anything on the BMW options sheet. It undercuts other premium SUVs like the Range Rover Sport by even more, though it’s offroad capability in that company would obviously be in question.

The underlying problem is that it is still around $10K more expensive that the Trailblazer SS, whose engine it shares. The exterior is better IMHO and the interior is much better (again, MHO). I’ve covered the tweaks made by Saab to the ride of the 9-7x and it’s consistently been reviewed as being the best of the GM360 vehicles.

But as much as Saab might lure some X5 customers away, and as good as the 9-7x is in Aero form, some savvy shoppers that don’t need the looks or the ride are going to look at the in-house alternative.

Here’s ‘FAMU92’ in comments earlier today:

I own a 2007 TrailBlazer SS and I must admit the 9-7x is what brought me to purchase the Chevy.

I have always had an on-again-off-again love relationship with Saabs. So, when I found one used for around 32K and then saw a TrailBlazer SS for the same price, for me it was a no brainer.

I like speed….i like hauling stuff….I, sad to say, am American and I like my rigs BIG! With that, would I buy my TBSS in SSSaab cladding? If the price were right, maybe….but at $11K more for some leather, tricked-out ignition key location, and “Euro-handling;” I’ll stick with the “Bow Tie.”

Besides, the TBSS was proven at the Nürburgring long before it was ever badged a Saab. I am not hating on the Saab 9-7x, I am just stating facts…..it is built in Moraine OH on the same line as the TBSS & Envoy Denali. They need to get up extra early to get this one past me.

Sorry, but unless I can trade my TBSS to get the SSSaab 9-7x Aero AND get full price for the trade [laughing hysterically to myself] ….. I pass.

The 9-7x Aero will still sell and hopefully it’ll do the thing it was designed to do and lure a few people into Saab showrooms that would have gone elsewhere, especially those 30% of Saab owners who were said to leave the brand for an SUV. But this does show that some will indeed cross-shop the 9-7x with other GM products, and that differentiation, especially with a brand like Saab, is crucial.

I like the 9-7x a lot, but the 9-4x will be a welcome addition to the lineup in the next year or so.

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5 Comments

  1. The nice part about the 9-4x is if customers cross shop within GM, the 9-4x should be the cheaper alternative to the Caddy BRX (or whatever’s it’s going to be called). So maybe some possible Caddy buyers will be lured over to the Saab side of the dealership.

  2. We all know 9-7x is directly based on the GMC/Chevy GMT360 body/platform.

    What many folks don’t know;

    * 9-7x has been Saab’s second best selling US model.

    * Surprisingly, its also among the highest resale value SUVs in it’s segment, holding value better than comparable Lexus and Land Rover trucks.

    * 9-7x has expanded Saab’s demographic, it brings in many first time Saab buyers.
    It also has helped keep some current Saab owners from defecting to other SUV brands.

    * Automotive magazines often give favorable reviews to this heavy truck based Saab model, praising its handling, pricing and interior design.

    Despite it’s american heritage and some misconceptions about the decent work Saab did while adapting the GMT360 body/platform, 9-7x has done its job well.

  3. How will we ever really be able to tell whether or not the 9-7x did more good for SAAB than harm? We can measure sales, consider resale value, note that it has expanded the demographic and has brought many first time SAAB buyers to the brand, etc… but it certainly has hurt the image of the brand as well in the eyes of many people. We can just as easily speculate that a vehicle like this in SAABs portfolio has kept many potential SAAB customers away. It would be a signifacant undertaking to really collect some data on this matter and analyze it and I do not believe that will happen, and thus we will really never know.

    Also, has anyone noticed the Buick Rainier? This is a vehicle I didn’t even realize existed until I mistook one on the streets for a 9-7x. The difference between these two vehicles (on the outside at least) really is just the badges.

  4. Erek, I’ve made your mistake several times, but only from the rear. As you approach, even the rear panels and side-rear window are shared, that sort of double tear-shaped design. But the A-pillar forward is what makes the 9-7x a Saab. I can argue the same with the Impreza Wagon and the 9-2x about going A-pillar forward.

    I completely agree with FAMU92, “They need to get up extra early to get this one past me.” GMT360 is was a great platform. I know Saab has expectations for the 9-4x which will be great, but it will most certainly be on the Theta platform, which will make it smaller. I still believe that Saab will have a void to fill in the larger market, and can’t help but think that GM will find a way to shove a lambda model to Saab, too.

    Take into consideration the other brothers and sisters of the 9-7x.
    GMC Envoy
    Chevy Trailblazer
    Buick Rainier
    Isuzu Ascender
    OIds Bravada

    When the 9-7x was released, and I realized I could not afford it at the time, I researched it well and found a peculiar situation. The Olds Bravada, that was made from MY02-MY04 and was discontinued as the Saab model was released, was the closest kin of the pack. Some of the Olds specific design was used for the Saab. Take a look at the rear window, the rear pillar, and the rear side window. The sheet metal seems to have come from the same dye press, and the windows from the same parts bin. Even the tail lights are identically shaped, but the Saab uses the clear lenses. If you look at the other models, this area is stamped differently, the tail lights have different shapes, and so do the windows. Click here for a side-by-side picture of what I mean.

    Because of this, I ALMOST ventured out and bought a used Olds, but didn’t thankfully, instead settling for the 9-5!

    The Saab in the picture is an 2005 ARC 5.3i model with the V8 for $29k — but I did find an 05 4.2i model with 44,810 miles for $23,995. Not too bad, but then consider the Olds was an 04 model (last year produced) with the same 4.2 L V6 engine with 45,657 miles (847 miles difference) for $14,191. Sure, my money goes to the Saab, but again the question stands: If I am a COST conscience buyer and am savvy to know its the same truck mechanically, why foot $10k extra clams? (and in this case they are both USED models!) At least I can argue the new car purchase, that the Saab has better warranty, free service, and better customer service?

    Ok, I LOVE Saab’s, but the expansiveness of brand engineering has to stop somewhere. Did anyone catch that the GMT360 was also an ISUZU!? What next, a Jeep GMT360 varient? (Wait, this COULD happen, you have heard that GM may build SUV’s for DaimlerChrysler now, right?)

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