Playing devil’s advocate on Bluetooth and Saab in the USA

1985 Gripen has sent this one to me, freshly returned from his drive of the 2008 Saab 9-3 (more on that later).

There’s been a lot of noise about various electronic features such as iPod compatibility and especially Bluetooth. Personally, I think GM have it right on iPods, but I know Bluetooth can be a hot button issue for many.

Saab don’t offer full-on Bluetooth compatibility as standard on USA-spec Saabs. Instead, consumers have the option of signing up for Onstar, which offers a variety of services including hands-free phone calls. USA buyers can also get their dealer to hook them up with a GM-approved aftermarket Bluetooth kit made by Motorola.

Up until now it’s been a one-way street in terms of the noises made about this issue. People want their Bluetooth and GM can stick their Onstar where the sun don’t shine. Well, Gripen begs to differ.

——

To all of those who have been knocking SAAB for not having Bluetooth available in the U.S. let me point something out: I don’t work for SAAB. So I’m able to express things more directly than perhaps a SAAB employee would be allowed to.

Saab is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors. OnStar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors. One function of OnStar is its hands-free mobile telephone functionality. This would be circumvented by the inclusion of Bluetooth. Therefore Bluetooth compatibility is not offered in SAABs sold in North America. Bluetooth is available in SAABs in Europe because OnStar is not available there (yet).

Many people knock SAAB because all its competitors offer Bluetooth functionality. But let me ask those people these things:

Imagine this scenario: you’re out on a date with your significant other and after a lovely dinner you return to your car, parked in a lot in a not-so-nice part of town and you realize you locked your keys in the car. If you drive an AUDI what do you do? You probably use your cell phone to call either the Auto Club, a locksmith (at very expensive odd-hours rates), or perhaps AUDI Roadside Service if that service hasn’t yet expired. That will take probably a good half-hour while you have to wait for the response vehicle in a seedy part of town. Not very safe.

Same scenario with a SAAB: you phone OnStar with your cell phone and they remotely unlock your car on the spot instantly. Safe.

Imagine this scenario: you leave the house for work one morning and notice your car is missing from the driveway and there’s glass on the ground as if a window’s been broken. You’ve been keeping up on your car payments and the glass on the ground would seem to indicate that your car wasn’t repossessed. If you drive a BMW what do you do? You probably call the police and then wait for them to find the car abandoned and stripped somewhere down by the railroad tracks.

Same scenario with a SAAB: you call the police, but then call OnStar. They use the GPS transponder in the car to determine its whereabouts and lead police to your car nearly instantly.

Imagine this scenario: You’re driving down some wooded back road in the middle of winter and see a deer in the road. You swerve to avoid the animal, hit a ditch, the car overturns, and you’re knocked unconscious. If you’re driving a Volvo you will be stranded, alone, injured, and cold until someone discovers you. Not very safe.

Same scenario with a SAAB: once the airbags deploy the car automatically contacts OnStar. The dispatcher tries speaking to you through the car’s speakers and when no response comes back OnStar automatically calls local emergency authorities to dispatch an ambulance to the GPS coordinates of your car. Safe.

Imagine this scenario: you’re driving in a rural area where your mobile phone reception won’t allow you to make a phone call. If you drive a Lexus what do you do? You’re “S.O.L”.

Same scenario with a SAAB: the OnStar will likely have better mobile phone reception in greater areas than a typical cell phone in certain areas, such as the Rocky Mountains.

So you can see that the OnStar system is much better in many respects than Bluetooth. While SAAB has shown that it is possible to upgrade your car to have Bluetooth capability (in the form of the Motorola add-in unit), in many cases OnStar is much more handy and capable of many more important tasks than a simple cell phone. People who have OnStar love it, as evidenced by the extreme irritation some people with older analog OnStar units were expressing at their service being discontinued at the Round Table at S.O.C.

I don’t see lack of Bluetooth as being a major problems in SAABs. If you want a hands-free cell phone capability (for safety) in your North American SAAB, just subscribe to OnStar. Just because SAAB’s competitors “have it” and SAAB does not, doesn’t mean SAAB’s at a disadvantage in the market. SAAB has OnStar whereas Lexus, Bimmer, AUDI, VW, Ovlov, and Infiniti do not… SAAB is SAFER.

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45 Comments

  1. I agree with you, Gripen…. I personally try not to use my phone while driving, as it is a hazard and you get pulled over on base for that.

    If someone really wants Bluetooth hands-free while driving, why not just use one of those ear-bud things that everyone has walking around the mall?? I don’t see a huge difference in that and a car unit, especially if there is a cell phone cradle.

  2. I completely disagree. The first scenario would never be an issue if Saab would use intelligent key fobs and push button start/stop ignition. The other scenarios are very unlikely to ever happen – and not worth the cost to maintain a monthly service you will probably never use – besides you have to purchase minutes to talk using the Onstar system on top of the minutes on your cell phone – redundant and wasteful.

    As mentioned before I would have purchased a Saab 9-3, but once I found out there was no bluetooh option I went with the Lexus IS 250. I approach my car and unlock it without ever taking a key out, and even start the car without ever using a key thus eliminating the possiblity of locking my keys in my car. Once I start the car my cell phone automatically pairs with the bluetooth in my car – no silly earpiece to mess with or headset battery to recharge.

    It is simply a better solution. GM forces Onstar on Saab because it provides an avenue of profit that bluetooth doesn’t (beyond the initial purchase of the feature) – one of these days they will learn, and I hope before it is time for my wife to buy a new car.

  3. Michael is completely right, as consumers we deserve to have the choice between Bluetooth and OnStar. Pushing this down out throats as a “safety feature” simply doesn’t cut it.

  4. Michael, while I respect your opinion, I don’t think that the scenarios I came up with are all that far-fetched. If you have an accident in your Lexus IS 250 (heaven forbid) in an isolated location and are knocked unconscious you’ll have to wait until someone discovers you and calls authorities. The SAAB with OnStar has the additional safety feature of automatically calling the authorities. I think that’s much safer and fits-in with SAAB’s safety ethos.

    If you definitely insist on having Bluetooth and won’t buy a car without that feature, I guess there’s always the option of buying that Motorola unit that SAAB sells for owners of the 2007 9³, right? Is there any technical reason it won’t work in the 2008 9³? I don’t even understand why it would work in the 2007 but not earlier year models. Maybe it’s because they changed the electronics (along with the stereo) in the 2007 interior refresh (when they moved the SID down into the instrument cluster and swapped the stereo for the “bowtie” unit)?

    I would suggest buying any aftermarket Bluetooth solution, but maybe they don’t work on the 9³ due to the funky fiber optic data bus system?

    Lastly you got me wondering, Michael: are there that many car buyers in the U.S. who pass-over SAAB in favor of the competition purely on the fact that SAAB doesn’t offer Bluetooth standard? I thought it was just people threatening not to buy the SAAB for that reason, but you seem to be at least one person who really did buy the Lexus instead because SAAB lacks this feature. One of the other journalists I spoke with at dinner at the media event this past week told me that he’d seriously have to re-consider if he were looking to buy a SAAB due to lack of Bluetooth. I didn’t realize how important this one feature is to buyers of automobiles in this segment.

    If SAAB sees how many potential sales they’re losing and can show hard data to parent GM, maybe they can break free of these chains and get GM to allow them to integrate Bluetooth along with OnStar…

  5. Excuse the rambling but here is some info:

    Regarding the keys locked in the car scenario, OnStar cannot unlock your Saab unless your Saab is a 9-7X. Two major selling points with OnStar are the monthly diagnostic e-mails and the “satellite locksmith” feature. Both are 9-7X only.

    Also, regarding the bluetooth accessory through your Saab dealer. It can only be installed on non-OnStar equipped Saabs. Which means 2008 models will not be bluetoothable. It is the same simple setup you’d get with a Parrot or any aftermarket Bluetooth accessory.

    So why would you bother getting the Saab accessory Bluetooth vs. some other version? If you purchase a new Saab, any accessory installed on the vehicle prior to delivery gets the 4yr/50k warranty coverage. If you wait ’til later, it’s only one year of coverage.

    So the solution for those wanting Bluetooth in their new 9-3 or 9-5:

    Go to your local Saab dealer and pick out an ’07 model without OnStar. Buy one, but get the Saab Bluetooth accessory added as a part of the transaction.

  6. Grip, while your points are technically correct, Saab (or GM rather) is simply limiting its market exposure by not having a Bluetooth as a standard. This is a luxury / executive sedan, and Bluetooth functionality is standard across this range. Even Nissans have it!

    So the fact that there is Bluetooth available for the European market, but not here, tells me this is yet another dumb decision by a GM corporate bonehead who has very likely never driven a Saab.

    This feature is standard in Europe – where legislation prohibits using your cell phone without a hands-free device. So this is an added convenience for Saab owners. Or are you suggesting Saabs are less safe in Europe because they lack OnStar?

    For us North American Saab owners there is the added annoyance of OnStar. Not only have I found this system to be useless in my 9-3 SportSedan, it is also virtually indestructible: once I decided I don’t like paying nearly 1G a year to have it, it started popping an error message every time I start the car, and the dealer said (after one day of trying to get rid of it) that the only way to supress it is… You guess it, renew your subscription!

    So what was it again, “form follows function”? Riiiight…

  7. You all know where I stand, but now I can really get into it without sounding like a nag.

    Gripen those scenarios you proposed are valuable, but I ask you this – What occurs more, getting into a car accident, or talking on your phone?

    How many times have you locked your keys in the car versus called someone while driving?

    Does Onstar prevent accidents? No. Does hands-free driving help prevent them? Yes.

    If OnStar would pair with you phone and NOT charge you for calls, then great, fine, leave it in there, and pay the monthly fee if you want those other security options you speak of.

    People on this website need to realize yes, a car decision CAN IN FACT come down to the lack of Bluetooth. I’ve been pushing my decision for a while in hopes Saab would offer it in MY08 models. I can either but the car and add $1000 for a Pioneer Avic system, or look elsewhere. My neighoor just bought an Infiniti and it open the door locks automatically, pairs with Bluetooth on its on. I have to tell you I’ll definitely be shopping around. Yes, many cars drive the same – it’s the everyday little things that help sway a buyer’s decision.

    People forget that most member on these Saab websites are fanatics, so to speak. Saab isn’t trying to sell you guys new Saabs – they already have you. Saab is trying to attract new customers, and they need bluetooth to compete.

    Also, I thought someone said the new CTS or something has BOTH OnStar and bluetooth. Why can’t Saab?

  8. 1985 Gripen, I apologize if I came across a little harsh – Its just that I would rather have a feature that I will use nearly every day than a feature I have to pay extra for each month in case a near impossible series of events unfolded (in a remote area, by myself, wreck, and unconscious). My problem isn’t with Onstar, my problem is that there isn’t a choice for bluetooth. When spending $35K+ for a car I want to at least have the option for bluetooth – especially when even the cheapest entry level Nissan (Versa) offers bluetooth as an option – integrated in the car not an add-on kit.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Saab, and was willing to forgive Saab’s shortcomings in so many areas, but it angered me to find out that Saab offers bluetooth – just not in the US because of the Onstar service. That was the last straw for me.

    So I ask this question – if a Saab enthusiast that is willing to overlook areas where the competition clearly has the upper hand still won’t buy a Saab – how many regular car shoppers are turning away from Saab because of these shortcomings?

  9. Gripen – is your argument that the other features of OnStar outweigh being locked into GM’s handfree calling carrier? Those other features are appealing, but I agree with those that say cell phone calling is an issue of consumer choice.

    I’m not a fan of class action law suits, but if the latest suit against Apple for “locking” the iPhone to AT&T has any merit, doesn’t that leave OnStar open to the same liability for locking that feature into Verizon?

    IMO – Bluetooth integrtion involves more than just talking to a mic and hearing the call through the speakers. When I went with a friend to pick up his new BMW, the first thing they did was pair his phone to the the car and you can see the incoming call details on the stereo display and also scroll through the contacts on the phone using the steering wheel controls when you need to make a call. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the other options out there for bluetooth in Saabs don’t appear to include this level of integration.

    Anyway, iPod integration still isn’t officially an option for the ’08 Saabs 4 years after is was available from other manufscturers. Maybe GM/Saab will have true bluetooth integration by 2012 😛

  10. I’ve owned 3 Saabs now and I, nor my parents (also Saab owners) will buy another one unless bluetooth is made standard. We have OnStar but in the rural part of Mississippi where we live and work, the Verizon (exclusive OnStar carrier) is non-existent and we rarely have a signal. As Peter noted, the only worth-wild functions (remote unlock and diagnosis) are not available on the 9-3 or 9-5. I installed a Nokia bluetooth handsfree kit in my ’04 9-3 and it worked beautifully. I drive a lot for work and this made my days a lot easier and more productive, and it allowed me to take advantage of my wonderful unlimited minutes calling plan – verses the outrageously expensive Onstar minutes. My ’07 9-5 Aero SportCombi is unfortunately hijacked by OnStar. But THERE IS A SOLUTION! I bought the Uhltronics Triad unit http://www.uhltronics.com/products.html and when my navigation removal keys are in, I’m going to instal it.It would behoove Saab to install this tested, and true Triad unit and give their customers the safety of OnStar and the functionality of using a bluetooth phone at the same time! If the new 9-5 is not out soon with bluetooth, my next car will be a 2008 VW Golf Sportwagen TDI – $20K, 59MPG, 68cu.ft of space, 5-star EuroNCAP, oh, and bluetooth!!! SAAB: put in bluetooth or loose an entire Saab family- that’s how important this feature is to us!

  11. TimJ: very valid points. But to answer your assertion that OnStar is “locked into” Verizon, I don’t know if that’s the same as the iPhone being locked-into AT&T. The reason being that OnStar uses CDMA mobile phone technology, which Verizon is the only major U.S. carrier using this technology. The iPhone uses GSM, which several U.S. carriers use (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.). So technically it’s possible to get an iPhone to work on T-Mobile (a division of Deutche Telecom), and “unlocking” the phone is possible, as was proven less than a week after the iPhone’s introduction by the same Norwegian hacker who broke the DVD encryption code some years back.

    Even if one had the choice of carriers for OnStar, they’d be limited by the hardware to only use a carrier who uses CDMA technology. That’s why you can’t get an AT&T phone to work on Verizon, for example. Incompatible hardware.

  12. Well, I attempted to play devil’s advocate with this post, but I’m happy to report that the well-thought-out and expressed comments in these comments have changed my mind.

    I had no idea that the door-unlocking and monthly diagnostic e-mails are not features available through OnStar on SAAB car models. So basically OnStar will only get you “turn-by-turn” voice navigation (something most cellular telephone carriers offer), hands-free mobile telephone calling (something Bluetooth would give you), concierge services (again, something most mobile telephone providers offer), emergency vehicle dispatch when airbags deploy, and stolen car tracking (LoJack provides this).

    While those last two are “biggies”, I don’t know if USD1,000 a year is worth those services. That’s a hefty price to pay (another $83 bill every month on top of your car payment), and I believe that’s exclusive of the mobile calling plan, right? I understand minutes are very expensive.

    My wife’s 2001 9³ has the older analog OnStar hardware installed but we bought the car CPO and never had the OnStar activated, so I don’t know much about it. I just remember balking at the price when making my decision not to subscribe.

    So, after writing the text in this post I’ll have to admit that while some of the features of OnStar are very worthwhile, the price is excessively high and some way to incorporate full Bluetooth capability in concert with OnStar should really be incorporated by SAAB before they lose even more potential U.S. customers to the competition.

    Sorry, SAAB: I tried to see your point of view, but I think the masses have it right…

  13. Hopefully GM/Saab is reading these posts and will in fact understand it is IMPERATIVE to incorporate bluetooth into the US.

    My guess is they are willing to bite the bullet until the new 9-5 come out.

  14. You sound like a 60 year old woman wanting their Onstar…
    Just for giggles – you should not be taking your signifiant other to a restaurant to a shady part of town and be dumb enough to lock your keys…but joking aside.

    Both BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Jaguar, you name it have some sort of TeleAid or remote assistance services. Audi and Acura use Onstar or at least used to. Mercedes rebrands Onstar as TeleAid…. BMW has it’s remote diagnostics…
    So Saab does not have anything that others do not have. Even Cadillac DTS has Onstar AND bluetooth.
    Basically, this is a screwjob that GM is pushing onto everybody. You cannot even get NAV without Onstar. Now why is that? Because the want additonal $500 for something that you will not use. At least Saab was smart enought to dump fiber optic MOST system, so now you can install other components of your choice.
    Had SAAB made full Bluetooth integration available on original 9-3SS, they would have sold many more cars and avoided those comments – how come I have all these buttons that do not do shit.
    Without this Onstar mandate, Onstar would go bankrupt, because nobody would use it. There was a study done that ONstar does not add anything to the resale value of the vehicle. And then there is the whole analog/digital fiasco. 9-3SS Onstar modules could have been upgraded if GM decided not to save $5 per car and get a differnt Sony-Ericson modem.

    Finally, have you ever called Onstar? I did once, trying to activate mine in my 9-3SS to see how it works. I got some rude peroson who started arguing with me about VIN of my car and stating that they don’t have a button on their screen to do something….
    Pathetic.

  15. swade and 1985 Gripen,

    Thanks for posting this. I think people more often than not complain about OnStar without noting its positives.

    However, Sergey is dead n right with his remark about Cadillacs being offered with Bluetooth AND OnStar. I think OnStar is a great feature. I think Bluetooth is a great feature. I want BOTH, even if Bluetooth is a separate add-on option to OnStar.

    This point is unlikely to change my decision to buy a new MY 2008; however, it is one of the VERY few gripes I have about an otherwise AMAZING verhicle.

  16. No “turn-by-turn voice navigation” exist either on the 9-3 or 9-5. “The turn-by-turn navigation equipment is not installed nor can be added on your vehicle” said my OnStar advisor. Not a bother since I have nav, but still not good for other Saab drivers who don’t. The only things the system will do is allow handsfree calling and emergency assistance if the airbag deploys. I don’t even think it has the tracking ability other GM OnStar vehicles have if it’s stolen But did you know that modern Saabs have one of the lowest theft rates in the world (no one wants one without bluetooth I guess:)
    If you pay for the “Directions and Connections” plan, you can only get a live operator to talk you through with directions and they only have accuracy to within 1-2 miles when doing it the old fashioned way – what’s the point? Saab does not offer what other GM vehicles do: automated navigation directions, vehicle unlocking, remote diagnostics, or tracking through the OnStar unit. Saab’s unit is a very dumbed down and limited version of OnStar. They can keep it and give me bluetooth or lose me.

  17. Valid points overall, but I have heard of at least 10 cases where the OnStar was immediately disabled by the car thieves effectively halting any chance to track the car.

  18. Yikes.. I’m going to admit it… I actually LOVE OnStar. I use it (directions and connections) about 4 times a week in my 2006 9-5 SC.

    The directions are recordable, they are very specific, and have great customer service.

    The car is trackable if it’s stolen (or towed..) and I’ve used it. Swell. Found the car within a minute -to the exact address it was towed to.

    The calling is kinda lame, especially if you want to check messages with a device which needs a number code.. as OnStar can’t do that.

    I also use it as an information ‘411’ type function. If I need the number to the nearest Gap, gas station, bakery, they can provide it free(ish -aside from what I pay monthly) as opposed to my mobile phone co which charges $1.50 /call.

    Bluetooth is overdue. Very dumb that Saab doesn’t have it, but OnStar isn’t useless. I consider it a secretary/concierge that I wouldn’t do without. It’s EXACTLY why I stayed with a Saab when I re-bought. Audi has no telematics, Mercedes are overpriced and built like junk, and the BMW 5 series is great, but not worth $20,000 more than the exemplary 9-5 wagon.

  19. The one thing nobody had posted here is the price of Bluetooth technology as it is generally an option on most cars – they are just not putting it on the vehicle as standard equipment in most cases…

    To add it to the Lexus IS you need to have the Mark Levinson (ahem) audio package which adds a mere $3990.00 to the price of the car. Spare change to most Lexus customers but it makes a point.

    The (amazing) Toyota Prius requires the optional touring package which adds about $4000.00 to the price of the base car (you can buy a lot of gas for that money) to get a Bluetooth compatible system.

    The Nissan Maxima comes in at the lowest with an $1100.00 audio upgrade – dang – I am sold!

    I agree that OnStar may not be the best solution for everyone, but the same can be said about the options cars above – I may not even want the option just like some people don’t want OnStar. My wife may want a Prius for good fuel economy but when she finds out she needs to pay for a touring model so she can use her Bluetooth phone that fuel savings goes out the window.

    At any rate, there seem to be some other solutions to add Bluetooth to the Saab – and sure GM should offer if, but that is hardly a reason not to buy a car.

    In the end even if Saab did offer Bluetooth there might be a whole group of people debating and complaining why the car does not come with a back-up camera! I mean – you do not want to run over your kids in your driveway while you are yammering away on your Bluetooth phone now, do you?

  20. How about just installing a nordic product on nordic cars. King Harald Bluetooth was a Danish king and the modern bluetooth was spearheaded by Ericsson and Nokia. I just think it’s wrong for cars made in Sweden and Finland (okay, and Ohio) not to have bluetooth available, let alone standard. Also, I don’t feel like having my money go to pay royalties to Qualcomm, I’d stay with an “open” system, like GSM. Just my 2 cents.

  21. WHOA! I had no idea this was SUCH a big issue. I kinda play it off as one of those “wow, are you SERIOUSLY not gonna buy a 9-3 due to that” but I guess its extremely important to save a few seconds every here and there and have everything integrated… certainly not an issue for me…

  22. I personally don’t have a need for Bluetooth, but if a lack of it is losing sales for SAAB, they really need to address this need… and fast.

  23. Saaboy – my dealer had the same reaction and thought I was crazy.

    The same way people think we are crazy for not buying the car w/out bluetooth is how we feel in regards to Saab leaving it out!

    Seeing as we have now established the need for it for many, maybe we can start an entry about how to actually SOLVE the problem.

    What do you think Swade?

  24. JM, as far as solving it is concerned, all we can do is express the opinion. It’s GM’s problem to solve and they know what to do about it, it’s just whether they can make the decision or not.

    I’m more than happy to host people’s opinions online and pass them on if that’s something that’ll be worthwhile.

  25. Swade – sorry I should have been more specific. I was referring to possible after market solutions or ways to by-pass OnStar and install some device liek the Motorola hand-free kit.

    I am not an electrical engineer and the last thing I would do is tamper with a 30k car. But maybe others have.

  26. This is a solution:

    http://www.uhltronics.com/products.html

    Although it does not allow for full address book syncing like BMW, Audi, and Benz offer, it does allow you to install a bluetooth or wired hands-free kit of your choice taking full advantage of your system’s features (voice dialing,et al). Best of all, you get to keep OnStar and use it whenever you like. They run in parallel but OnStar emergency signals are always given priority. Mr. Uhl is very nice to speak with and extremely knowledgeable about our unique cars – He’s a real Saab guru!

  27. Joe Meek: my mom’s 2006 Acura TL has Bluetooth but not address syncing. It has its own internal phone book (everything’s voice-activated), which is a pain if you have a lot of numbers you call, having to program them into your phone and then again into the car.

    I don’t really care for her Bluetooth either from a receiver standpoint. When she calls me it sounds pretty faint, like someone standing far away from a speakerphone. I always say, “you’re calling me from your car, right?” She loves it though, and I guess that’s what matters as she’s the customer.

  28. Im not going to read through all of these comments to see if it has been mentioned or not, but some saabs in the US do come from the factory with blue tooth, however the system is not compatable with US phones and is a known issue to saab. They did not know of the problem for a long time but it has been brought to their attention.

  29. Kaylan Marie: it was mentioned earlier that you can equip a U.S. SAAB with Bluetooth if the car does not have OnStar installed.

    I was under the impression that OnStar has always come pre-installed on all SAABs since its inception, but apparently I was wrong, as evidenced by the facts that SAAB USA is now touting OnStar as coming “standard” on all MY2008 9³s and that one can buy that Motorola Bluetooth add-on accessory from SAAB if one owns a MY2007 9³ (I take it the 2007 didn’t come “standard” w/ OnStar but the 2006 and earlier did?).

    I have learned that SAABers are pretty passionate about this issue from comments here at TS, but I’m wondering if it’s just a case of the “squeeky wheel”? Perhaps those for which a lack of Bluetooth availability is a major issue are more vocal about it than people who are ambivalent? Is this a major sticking-point for the great majority of potential SAAB buyers or just a small minority?

    In private discussion with a representative of SAAB USA, it was pointed out that the whole “lack of Bluetooth” issue was not brought-up in the Round Table discussion at the SAAB Owners’ Convention last weekend, so it’s up in the air as to whether this is really a major issue to SAAB’s customer base.

    Without some sort of survey going out it’ll be hard to tell, but I’m sure SAAB hires market research firms to determine exactly how many sales the marque is possibly losing in the States due to not having Bluetooth functionality available.

  30. Let’s hope this research group exists. I’ve yet to get a questionnaire and I’ve been a Saab owner for many years. Once you’ve lived with a bluetooth enabled car, you never want to go without. It’s that simple. It is a life changing protocol for a productive driver conducting business while on the go and there are many of us out there. The longer Saab waits to introduce this system in its US lineup, the more drivers they will lose – simple.

  31. I would be what Saab would consider a ‘conquest’ sale, as I have been loyal to VAG products forever. The 2008 Saab 9-3 with XWD was at the top of my list for a new vehicle. Without OEM bluetooth, it is now off the list. Most of the reasons are already cited within this thread, suffice it to say that with hands-free cell phone use the law in most of the U.S. bluetooth should be an option in any vehicle. I do not want a monthly fee service like Onstar.

  32. JD0101, sad to hear. Not sure if anyone with sufficient executive power over at GM is reading this thread, but I hope so, because, as the old adage goes: “devil’s in the details” and Saab has completely dropped the ball on all details. Period.

  33. Ha! Ironically, Bluetooth technology was invented in – yes, Sweden – and yes, in the region of Scania.

    It’s sad that the one auto maker that should have spear-headed the spread of this technology, just like Scandinavian Ericsson and Nokia, does not even have it available on its vehicles!

    You know, I am the last person to thrash GM, but this is an utterly stupid, uneductaed, money-losing decision on behalf of Saab’s corporate parent.

    I’ll be thinking of this when I hear another ad-shop-engineered bullshit story about “Scandinavian technology and heritage” – ya, right, clear tail lamps are “Scnadinavian technology”, Bluetooth is not?

  34. The Motorola add-on for the ’06 and ’07 9-3s works well (even if it doesn’t look quite as nice as an OEM product would). The advantages of being able to take calls from your wife (or work-related calls) while on the road are a big plus. Too bad it won’t be available on the 2008 models — let’s hope SAAB get this figured out soon.

  35. You missed one thing. FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF SAAB OWNERS, ONSTAR WILL NO LONGER FUNCTION AS OF 12/31/07…WITH NO UPGRADE AVAILABLE!!! I own a Saab 9-3 Aero and I love it, but seriously, F%$# ONSTAR!!!!!!!!!! I’ll take bluetooth any day.

  36. I have leased an ’08 9-3 convertable; I also wanted bluethooth and objected to the OnStar. I asked them to remove the unit to register my objection. I was told I had to sign a GM legal release which also committed me to replacing the unit at the end of lease. Cost of removal was $250, cost to restore $250. This is my third Saab with OnStar, there will not be a fourth.

  37. It is my understanding ONSTAR is not offered in Mexico. All the Saabs sold in Mexico are based off the European market and they do not follow the US/Canada market requirement. The Integrated Bluetooth is offered in Mexico. One possible solution -> import one from Mexico. Just an idea.

  38. ok, all valid points, kinda. Why not include OnStar & Bluetooth both?!?!?!??! One has nothing to do with the other friend. GM is just trying to make a little more money off you is all. All of those scenarios are just the advantages of having OnStar. What is the disadvantage of having OnStar AND Bluetooth. In fact, your arguments just underline the point that GM could release both Bluetooth and OnStar and customers would want both.

  39. After comparing even onstar the the functions that the Germans are putting into their Bluetooth systems, I can only think of two words to describe Saab’s current offerings:

    Hopelessly outdated

    Or try to look at this way: take off the rose-tinted glasses of Saab fandom and walk through a Saab test drive with the impartial eyes of a potential first-time Saab buyer who’s cross-shopping the 9-3 with the 3-series, G35, C-class, IS, and A4.

    Let’s face it, the 9-3 is a long way from being the newest looking car in it’s segment so it give the average buyer the awesome first impression of say a C-class, G35, IS, or the new A4.

    Now let’s get to actually getting into the car and turning it on. Most of the competition comes standard with keyless entry and ignition, it’s an inexpensive feature that does wonders to make a car feel luxurious and exclusive. The 9-3 has a cheap-feeling key that goes into a weird socket. Again, the Saab from the outset looks and feels cheap compared to the competition.

    Now let’s get to the driving, the Saab handles well, but then again so does the rest of the competition. The difference is that the others all have crisp, responsive controls while the Saab lets you know that it shares it’s steering rack and shift linkage with an Opel. Sure, the average driver will never push any of these cars to the limits, but to the extent that they will drive the cars, they still expect their to have responsive, upscale-feeling road manners. And that’s totally ignoring that the fact that the Saab offers some of the lowest power/price ratios of the group, not to mention the poor EPA numbers that Saabs get thanks to their being some of the last cars in their class with port-injection engines.

    While you’re in the car, you notice how cheap the Saab’s interior looks and feels compared to the competition. The seats are fantastic, but that’s about all the poor 9-3 has going for it on the inside. The competition all comes with beautifully integrated Bluetooth systems that display caller and directory information on the car’s interior displays, while the Saab gets a stripped-down version of GM’s already-obsolete Onstar system that doesn’t even have the features you’d get if you bought an Onstar-equipped Chevy.

    So what the impartial entry-luxury car buyer is left with is no good reason whatsoever to buy the Saab over the rest of the competition. Sure, to us the fact that they have a griffin on the hood is reason enough, but the average new car buyer couldn’t care less. They want to know that they’re getting the best combination of image, features, driving dynamics, and build quality for their money, and the Saab fails to deliver in all of those areas.

    Now with incentives, the 9-3 does have a slight price advantage, but if you the prospective luxury sedan buyer cared about price, you wouldn’t be looking at luxury sedans. You’d have bought a Subaru or VW which both offer much better engines and drivetrains for less money than a bottom-feeder 9-3. The VWs also have style and trendiness over the 9-3 in spades, and the modern styling and Audi-quality engines and interiors don’t hurt either.

    Sure, Saabs used to be environmentally-friendly, but these days, at least in the US, environmentally-conscious luxury car buyers are flocking to hybrids.

    The Bluetooth issue is just a really prominent example of just how much GM needs to change it’s game if it wants Saab to be anywhere close to competitive.

  40. OnStar sucks. It would suck less if it was free. I have a year free with my new 08 Turbo X and will probably never use it once. It belongs in the 90s, and should have stayed in the 90s. I won’t pay for 90s technology. This is (one reason) why it pisses me off that GM bought Saab. They perverted it with Americanized everyday medocrity (I’m American).

    I just bought one of the few 9-3 Turbo Xs, my 4th Ssaab. While it is an amazing car, well designed, stupid-fast, etc etc, the lack of bluetooth is gross. It makes me feel cheated. I bought a brand new 2008 luxery sports car, and then I hear about what Audi / BWM / Lexus / others are offering for BT and iPod/iPhone connectivity and it makes me sick. Not that I regret my decision overall – I love the Turbo X. Just have mixed feelings (obviously).

    My entire life I have only owned Saabs, but that my change next time I’m in the market.

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