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.