Saab and Bluetooth – cause and effect

I posted an item about OnStar and Bluetooth from 1985Gripen over the weekend and it’s drawn a suitably large number of comments and sparked some great discussion.

I felt that this particular comment, though, was worthy of reproduction here on the fron page of the site. I know that some Saab people look at the site and I didn’t want this one to slip into oblivion in the comments section.

It’s from “JD0101”:

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.

Cause and effect. One sale lost.


There’s a few things that need to be mentioned here. Things that were mentioned in the piece itself and in comments that I think warrant some space here too.

The first is that I’m quite sure that people at Saab would love to be able to offer Bluetooth functionality. OnStar is a GM property and as such, all the GM brands where it’s offered have to toe the line – like it or not.

Hopefully though, SaabUSA will find a way to make both available as integrated options in the future without tying people to phone contracts they don’t want.

The second point is that Bluetooth isn’t a no-cost option. Other companies have it, but don’t be seduced into thinking that that quick phrase means it’s automatic and free of charge on all the competition.


Anyway, for what it’s worth, I hope you reconsider, JD0101. If it’s a dealbreaker, there are aftermarket solutions available and the new 9-3 is one heck of a great ride. Do yourself the favour of at least driving it first when it arrives at your local.

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  1. swade —

    Thanks for keeping this issue alive. The absence of Bluetooth is about the only negative I can see with the new MY 2008 SAAB 9-3. The worst part is that it is SO EASILY FIXED: all SAAB has to do is to offer the 9-3 with OnStar (which I would buy and use) as well as Bluetooth – just like GM does on some Cadillacs, including the new CTS.

    I’m peeved about this, but it will not cause me to skip buying a new MY 2008 9-3. However, it is the only thing that is on my CON list (thankfully, there are many, many PROs).

  2. I am a loyal Saaber and the lack of bluetooth will keep me from buying a new Saab. My wife has bluetooth in her 2006 Lexus IS250 and it is excellent, the caller cannot even tell they are on “speaker-phone”, no need to crane your neck while driving, AND it is SAFER (isn’t this one of Saab’s main selling points?). Please SAAB ADD BLUETOOTH!!!

  3. I am a loyal SAAB owner looking to replace my 2001 9-5. The lack of Bluetooth is almost a deal-breaker for me. I am ALWAYS equipped with my blackberry and not having a slick integrated solution like the Acura is a pretty hard pill to swallow, especially because we know SAAB can and would like to offer it, but GM USA has downgraded the car to the onstar solution.

  4. I completely agree that it’s a GM problem. OnStar’s handsfree calling solution was a good idea 10 years ago, but these days bluetooth is in over 70% of new cell phones. Even Ford is coming out with SYNC and Chrysler has U-Connect. These are options, but the charge is just one time for installation – not recurring charges for a second cell phone line over and above my bluetooth phone.

    There is a real market opportunity to get on the forefront of integrating the more powerful portable electronic devices with our cars. Here are some features I can think of beyond handsfree calling:
    – syncing directions, desinations and waypoints downloaded on your computer to a nav system
    – downloading real-time traffic conditions over the internet with Google Maps
    – streaming audio content through the cell phone to the stereo
    – text-to-speech applications to read email messages or the latest RSS feeds from your favorite web sites
    – non-DVD digital video content for back seat entertainment systems

    Lack of features like this won’t keep me from buying a Saab today, but I bet consumers will expect some of these to be standard in the not-too-distant future. Here’s hoping Saab (&GM) are leaders going forward, and not the laggards they look like today with Bluetooth in OnStar and Personal Audio Link.

  5. I personally prefer Bluetooth for no other reason that I would actually use it nearly every day. I had OnStar in my last SAAB and never used it.
    I just read where someone at Popular Science magazine has posted the instructions on how to hack your analog OnStar system so that you can at least receive GPS signals on a laptop.
    I am not sure I would ever do that, but at least you could get some use out of the old analogue system. The link is at:

  6. “text-to-speech applications to read email messages or the latest RSS feeds from your favorite web sites”

    What a perfect idea. It would be great to keep up with the news from TS through such a feature!

  7. If there wasn’t a third party option like the Pionner Avid head unit, I would not even consider the MY08 9-3. But I must admit the Lexus IS250 is looking better and better to me too….

    I don’t like the excuse of it’s a GM issue. If Cadillac has it, then TECHNICALLY it can be in Saab as well.

    Shame on Saab for not pushing this more with GM.

  8. Bluetooth isn’t even cutting edge any longer – it’s a standard that has been out for several years now and is on at least revision 2. It is incomprehensible that SAAB wants to compete with BMW, Audi and the like yet forces customers to resort to an aftermarket “hack” to get bluetooth functionality in their cars. Make it optional and mark it up – more profit. Incomprehensible. The only excuse I can see is that OnStar wants exclusive ownership of telecommunications within the vehicle, and if that’s the case it’s a real sham(e).

  9. I currently use the Parrot 3000 Evolution in my MY 2006 9-3 SportCombi. See

    The call quality is excellent, the device is inobtrusive (must be professionally install – or at least it was beyond me to install in), and the pairing works wonderfully. Of course, I had hoped to have Bluetooh installed as a FACTORY option in my upcoming new MY 2008 9-3, but alas…

  10. The Nokia bluetooth option in my Viggen cost $140 and is works like a dream…. guys if you want to drive a Saab it’s a no brainer. Spend $100 and enjoy safe styling motoring in your new swedish mo’a

  11. Storm in a teacup all this. Whats more important, the car or having a ready-made mobile command centre? Really. If the car is what matters most there are choices people.

  12. Craig, that teacup nicely represents Saab’s sales. And what they want is at least a coffee mug. Small details like Bluetooth could make the difference to a lot of people, and some of them have already expressed this here. I’m sure there are thousands of others that do not visit

    What I personally (and I presume others) am most pissed off at is the fact that Saab has offered this as an option in Europe since the launch of the new 9-3 in 2003! And the only reason us North American consumers don’t get it is because GM is itnent on shoving OnStar down people’s throats.

  13. This very point is one of the reasons that I went with the MY07 9-5 (besides the great deal). I could get it without onstar. The first thing I did after I picked it up was to put it back into the dealer and have the bluetooth installed. I already pay for my cell phone and all of its capability, why would I want to pay more on top, notwithstanding the door opening, GPS tracking, and airbag deployment.

    This is the same thinking that sells us service contracts for our appliances or alarm systems for our houses. Onstar is linked up with Verizon and so you can, sort of, take it with you, but the cost is still on top of the regualr bill.

  14. ehall, what I learned in comments to the post a few days ago where I play devil’s advocate on the issue is that many of the functions of OnStar we’ve seen on the television commercials for it are not enabled on the SAABs. This, to me, would make OnStar far less valuable as a service. Basically in a SAAB, if the comments are correct, all OnStar will buy you is hands-free mobile phone, concierge service, turn-by-turn voice navigation, and emergency vehicle dispatch should your airbags deploy (all except the airbag dispatch are available as services through most mobile phone companies).

    According to peter in comments the remote door unlocking and monthly diagnostic e-mails features of OnStar are not offered in SAAB cars (excluding the 9⁷X).

  15. 1985 Gripen
    You hit the nail right on the head. There is an old rock and roll song that I think applies, called “Love the one you’re with”, and I love MY07 9-5.

  16. Some of you have mentioned you have the MY07.

    Has anyone out there driven both MY08 & MY07 non-aero? What do you think? Is there any noticeable difference in driving?

  17. I had OnStar in my 03 9-3 and it was a total waste of money. First, GM said it wasn’t ready so we waited 6 months for it. Then, they gave me an extra year for nothing and 100 free minutes. It was so difficult to make a call when driving, I stuck to my cell phone. When my subscription was up, I paid $16.95 a month to keep it and didn’t make even one call.

    One of the 2 times I tried to use it, they said my plan didn’t cover directions and the other time they couldn’t unlock my car. My wife had to bring the spare key.

    I leased a 2006 Convertible and it is the best Saab of the 6 we have had, and, thankfully, it didn’t have OnStar and did have rudimentary IPod connectivity. However, no Bluetooth.

    I have been looking forward to the 2008 version, expecting Bluetooth and more advance iPod controls. I am upset about the lack of Bluetooth. Does anyone know anything about the iPod functions?

    I can’t believe I would do this but I am going to look at Audi and BMW before I drive the new Saab.

    Believe me, it will be much more then one lost sale if they don’t start to add a few bells and whistles. If it were me, I would be on the phone to Apple to design my electronics.

  18. Saab is definitely reading this with eyes wide open…

    So, the question remains – can you disable OnStar and use the Motorola hands-free? Anyone with a MY07 tried this yet?

  19. I’m such a pack rat! I found in my home office (believe it or not) a brochure for OnStar from 2001 (I have no idea why I even have this as I never subscribed to OnStar and though my wife drives a 2001 9³ we bought it Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) so I apparently picked up this brochure years before I even had a car with OnStar hardware installed).

    As Swade mentioned in an earlier post I’ve fallen in love with Flickr and I bought ($25 a year, only a bit over $2 a month for unlimited storage and uploads) a subscription. I’ve just scanned and uploaded the brochure.

    I’m sorry about the quality of the pictures. The brochure is 9.5″ x 9.5″ so it’s bigger than the platen of my scanner, therefore I had to take two scans of each page and interlace them. I had a problem interlacing the pages with text so I was able to center them and get the text in one scan.

    So after all that, here’s the 2001 SAAB (analog) OnStar Telematics brochure. Enjoy.

  20. What I don’t get, is that in Europe you just pick Bluetooth out of the official 9-3 option list. Heck, you even find it in the online configurator. So Onstar instead of Bluetooth has to be a marketing decision that is specific for the States. This quote comes straight from the UK SAAB site, and explains the Bluetooth option in the price list:

    “Automatically connects your Bluetooth™-enabled phone with the infotainment system. Allows you to operate the phone with the buttons on the steering wheel or by voice control. Can be combined with a telephone holder* in the centre console compartment. it connects your phone to the exterior antenna and charges it while on the road.
    * Available for various models of Motorola, Nokia, Siemens and Sony Ericsson mobile phones. Please contact your dealership for further details on part numbers and prices .Not all phones support full integration.”

    I have a 2006 9-3, and have an aftermarket bluetooth link that works very well (for Sony Ericsson).

  21. I’m so glad that this isn’t a problem in the UK. If they tried to force it here, Saabs market would plummet, no-one would buy it.

  22. Anything new on the status of being able to use the keypad and/or the steering wheel controls in a 2006 Saab Aero in the United States?

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