Mark Phelan has written that Saab’s on the brink before. This is him back in June 2005:
Saab will never be a million-selling brand, but it must grow or die.
And more importantly, he hit the nail on the head with this quote of a quote:
The challenge is to win new owners without alienating existing ones
Back in 2005, my response to Phelan’s piece was that Saab had some good vehicles in the pipeline. And get this – I cited the planned 9-6x as one of those vehicles. Of course, the 9-6x was mercifully canned when GM sold its stake in Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries.
The good news is that Saab still have a great range of models in the pipeline, and little did any of us know back then that it involved the introduction of the new XWD system that Saab are debuting on the 2008 Saab 9-3. If you could pick one mechanical evolution that Saab would benefit from in terms of winning some new interest as well as appealing to a broad range of the old customers, four-wheel-drive would probably be that evolution.
Phelan’s writing about Saab again today and saying that the XWD system on the 9-3 will be critical to Saab’s ongoing success.
Saab’s future is about as safe as any money-losing, low-selling brand’s ever will be, thanks to a sporty crossover SUV and at least one new car under development.
Nonetheless, the high-performance all-wheel drive sedan and station wagon that go on sale early next year are vital first steps to making Saab the profitable global luxury brand General Motors always dreamed the Swedish company would become.
I’ve got no doubt that he’s right – to an extent. A system like XWD is a price of entry into the premium sector nowadays. As is an SUV. Jan-Ake Jonsson has admitted as much himself in interviews earlier this year. Saab have one of these about to go into play, and the other will be coming in the next year or so.
I guess what I’m saying here is that my response to Phelan two years ago is even more valid now. Two years ago there was no Aero-X concept. There was no talk of five year plans or commitment like there was in the wake of the Aero-X. The model lineup for the next few years really does look very promising. The car business is a long term venture and placing Saab’s survival in the hands of the XWD system alone ignores all the other good things that are coming Saab’s way.
If I can draw your attention once again to what I believe to be a pretty accurate picture of Saab’s future model timeline, this is where we see the following in the next few years. The debut of XWD in 2008, with the Turbo X. The 9-3x based on the SportCombi with XWD. The Saab 9-4x SUV – built from the ground up as a Saab. The next generation Saab 9-5, which is spoken of by those who have seen the advance images and models as being a stunner, and last but not least, the compact Saab 9-1.
If we can use the 2008 Saab 9-3 and XWD to draw a line as to what future Saabs will become in relation to their predecessors, then I’m pretty sure that the future is indeed pretty bright for Saab.