(Some of) your questions answered

Just prior to the Saab Owners Convention last month, I offered an opportunity for you to post questions that you’d like answers to, from the Saab personnel that would be present at the event.

We don’t have answers to all of them, but we do have info that Gripen’s provided both in articles and in comments, as well as the video from the Roundtable discussion, provided by Saabhistory. Some of them I can answer from checking out a few past posts and other resources and I’ll do that where I can.

Gripen, if you’re reading this and have anything to add, please do. You can slot it in comments of email me and I can slot stuff in.

I won’t be asking further with Saab USA or Saab Sweden at this point in time. They’re busy enough trying to sell current models without having to worry about me badgering them with questions about the future. Where I can get a delegate to press event, that’s a time that some of these questions can be asked, but once the event finishes I think it’s best to leave them alone.

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Saab 9x asked:

Of the Turbo X’s to be built, maybe they can divulge how many, of the 2,000, will be wagons and how many will be sedans?

No answer on this one as yet. I’ll mail it off to Saab Sweden and see if they can give us an idea. But I have a feeling that they’ll make up the mix according to feedback they get through customer orders. The production line is pretty flexible and the running gear should be pretty similar in both cars.

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Saabboy1 asked:

Please ask what the status is on the 9-5? When will we see it? What are its characteristics etc? ….and are the ventilated seats going to be available in the 9-3 or the 9-5 only.

There was nothing specifically mentioned about the state or timing of the new Saab 9-5 during the roundtable discussion at the SOC. I’ve provided everything I know about the timing etc at a recent post about Future Model Timelines. In short, I’m expecting we’ll see it (officially) early in 2009, with a release later in the year.

one thig I’ll add to this, though, is that in talking about the Aero-X, Steve Shannon mentioned that there’ll be various things from that concept applied to future Saabs. We’re already seeing that in the styling cues applied to the 2008 Saab 9-3. He did mention that there also may be interior cues from the Aero-X coming through in future Saabs. One of the things that I’ve heard from several Saab people who’ve recently seen previews of the next 9-5 is that much of the Aero-X interior styling has been applied in the new 9-5. I don’t know what, specifically, but there’s a distinct similarity there, from what I’ve heard.

There’s nothing in the 2008 Saab 9-3 brochure with regard to ventilated seats and they’ve been a 9-5 feature only in the past. Heated seats are part of the cold weather package in the 9-3.

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Several people asked for any info on the coming smaller Saab, currently referred to as the Saab 9-1. Jeff, for example: Personally, I’d like some info on the 9-1, so anything you can get on that would be awesome.

From the roundtable discussion:

Steve Shannon indicated that Saab are very keen on that market segment i.e. below the 9-3. Saab are quite keen on reinventing the entry level space, where models are usually quite plain and sold on price rather than features and design. Saab want to enter that segment with an iconic design that’s sporting Saab and maintaining Saab’s traditional practicality as well.

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Talonderiel asked:

Will the introduction of the XWD system see Saab re-entering the rally circuit or any racing, even if it’s just an official sponsorship?

Steve Shannon said that racing was now at the point where it was “go big or go home”. Whilst the XWD system is extraordinarily capable, the cost of competing is so high now that Saab would have to commit huge sums to do it with no guarantee of a payoff. He intimated that they’d look at opportunities to compete as they arose but didn’t foresee that happening.

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Dan asked:

Any chance for a more potent version of the Black Turbo for ‘09?

This wasn’t asked and I’m not sure it would have received a useful answer anyway as they’re all about the 2008 model right now.

My answer would be that there isn’t much chance of this, that the Turbo-X is slated as the launch vehicle for XWD and it’ll be a 2008 vehicle only, hence no enhanced Turbo-X for 09.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be other performance Saabs in 09 or beyond with XWD that are tuned higher than 280hp. As this is the first release for the XWD system, I’d suggest that if it goes well in terms of reliability etc, then it’d be quite possible. But that’s just me.

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SG asked:

Can you tell me about the BioPower variant of XWD availability in the U.S.?

Gripen heard that BioPower is due in 2009, though there was no mention of whether it would come with XWD. What was mentioned is that it would be a 200hp output, meaning a setup with less power than the current 2.0T. As XWD is coming Aero form only at first, with the 2.0T to receive it later in 2008, there has to be some chance that by 2009 a BioPower model could be ready for it.

The con against this: XWD will likely take a slight mileage hit because of the extra equipment in the drivetrain. Given BioPower’s already-lower mileage, this might be a barrier to it being applied to a BioPower model.

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Several people asked about the plans (if any) for the Saab dealer network.

SS indicated that they have a pretty tried and true method of analysis regarding dealerships. That’s to say, when registrations in an area get to a certain number, they know that a percentage of those people won’t be happy about travelling over X-miles to buy or to service their car. When registrations cross that threshold it becomes viable to look at a new dealership in the vicinity.

Saab are currently happy with the number of dealers they have in the US, though ot necessarily with the standard of service at all dealerhips. Like any population, there’s a distribution amongst dealers with a number being excellent at what they do, the majority trying their best and overall being satisfactory at what they do, ana a number that…..need training.

Saab have around 80 standalone dealers with showrooms designed to a specification and Saab are very pelased with that. Property prices are increasing, though, and it’s increasingly difficult to establish a new dealer when your competing with other retail outlets that may want that land. Hence, SS outlined the model going forward that would see Saab-Hummer-Cadillac dealers being set up where new dealerships are established.

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Eggs n Grits asked:

What work has been done to improve reliability of the new 9-3 over the old model?

Again, this wasn’t asked to Saab USA directly, but I think we can draw on some anecdotal evidence and probably draw a conclusion.

Most of the issues that I’ve heard about with the 03-06 Saab 9-3 have had to do with materials, trim and electrical problems. I haven’t heard of a rash of engine or gearbox failures, for example, or an endemic problem like the sludging issue with the 2.3 engine. The 2008 Saab 9-3 has over 2000 changes made to it and it builds on the interior changes made in 2007.

Those interior changes did away with a lot of the electrical systems that were occasionally causing problems. They also dealt with some of the looseness inside the cabin and the degradation of interior materials on the dash that we hear about from time to time. Buttons peeling etc. The extra insulation inside the 2008 model also really makes a difference in terms of quietness.

If those interior issues made up a significant part of the complaints people had when they fill out their JD Power or Consumer Reports forms, then we should really start seeing Saab do better in these ownership surveys in the years to come.

Having said that, I’m still a fan of the old button dash.

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Tedjs asked:

Definitely want to know when a diesel will be available in the USA. That is going to become a key selling point in a few years.

SS indicated that diesel isn’t on Saab’s radar for the US at the moment and he was quite explicit about why. It’s an emissions issue and a cost issue.

Saab have diesel available in Europe but the stricter emissions laws in the US, specifically in California and the states that adopt Cali emissions laws, these laws make it too expensive to bring the emissions from the Saab diesel down to acceptable levels.

Doing so would mean a price premium on the car that consumers in the US would not accept. In Europe, diesel fuel is cheap enough compared to gasoline to make it worthwhile and consumers will pay the price. This isn’t the case in the US, however.

They still have their eye on diesel, but he doesn’t see it happening.

My take: can you release a 40-state compliant TTiD in the US? It may be a way to get greater access to those states that traditionally don’t know much about Saab. The TTiD is a brilliant engine.

Ted, the question about DI hasn’t been asked – sorry.

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Several people asked about Hirsch in the US market.

The answer received in the past has featured things such as emissions and compliance with other US regulations.

This is one issue, however, that I think I can email SaabUSA about. Will let you know what I hear.

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There were several more questions and I’m sorry that I haven’t got around to everything. If there’s more to add then i’ll do so and re-elevate the post to the top of the queue again.

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for the updates on this Steve… Saab should put you on their payroll – you put more work and information into this site than GM does into the Saab media site.

    Interesting – my friend has a ’06 SportCombi Aero that is optioned out the same as mine and he did comment how the interior in my car seemed to be a bit nicer than his. He did like the HVAC controls much better on the ‘07 – given the system is in ‘Auto’ mode 99.98% of the time – the knobs seem to make good sense.

  2. I believe Massachusetts is one of the next 5 states to join California and the others.

    Saab would be hard pressed to offer a 40-state diesel when its two largest markets (New England and California) are not included in the 40. They would be amortizing the cost of the diesel certification on a fraction of their overall sales.

    And the remaining markets include the Midwest, where BioPower E85 will be the selling point, not diesel.

  3. Yeah, I was reaching a little. It was just a thought that occurred as I wrote the article. Just trying to find a way to get that superfine engine into the US.

    What are the regulations with regard to buying a car interstate there in the US. For example, if they sold the TTiD in Kansas, could Gripen buy one and bring it to Cali?

    What if it were second-hand? Or does any used car that’s going to be registered in Cali have to meet the emissions regs in force at the time of its manufacture?

  4. You can’t buy any diesel car and “operate” it in California newer than 1980, so no you couldn’t buy it out of state and then bring it into California. A lot of us would run next door to Nevada and get one in a heartbeat if we could.

  5. Massachusetts adopted California emission standards in1990 and as California’s emission laws change Mass passes legislation to follow suit. The next change for Mass. standards comes with the 2009 model year. 2009 vehicles sold in Mass must meet the latest California low emission standards.

    I’d love to buy a XWD TTDi here in Boston, but here’s what Mass law says about registering diesels here:

    “In order for diesel passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks to be registered in Massachusetts it must be California certified…it is up to the automobile manufacturers to produce diesel passenger vehicles that are California-certified so they can be registered in Massachusetts.’

  6. My understanding is that once a diesel vehicle has amassed a certain number of miles, they can be brought into CA from out of state. Not sure what the exact stipulations are. Searching autotrader I ran across one dealer in the L.A. area whose whole business seems to revolve around reselling lightly used VW TDIs (at quite a premium no less). They also offer to refit the fuel lines to be more compatible with running biodiesel.

  7. Swade,
    Thanks for the posting. Trollhattan Saab is my go-to place for Saab information. I appreciate the time and work you put in bringing us this info.

    As for your question about importing used diesel Saabs into California, I doubt it could be done. Back in the 1980s my brother in Wyoming decided to drive his 1974 Chevy Corvette to California to sell it on the theory that there was a better market there for performance cars. He soon found out that it didn’t meet the California emission requirements at the time, and he ended up driving it back to Wyoming and selling it. (Both he and I wish he hadn’t, but what do you do when you get a new baby in a car seat?)

  8. ehall and sam – I know that VW was definitely selling diesels up to 2003 in CA, and they are putting out “buzz” about bringing more diesels back to the US market in 2008.

    I read somewhere that the low sulfur diesel now required in CA makes it easier to conform to emissions standards. From the wikipedia entry on Ultra-low sulfur diesel:

    “Because this grade of fuel is comparable to European grades and engines will no longer have to be redesigned to cope with higher sulfur content and may use advanced emissions control systems which can be damaged by sulfur, the standard may increase the availability of diesel-fueled passenger cars in the U.S.”

    I hope SaabUSA is paying attetion 🙂

  9. Greg is money on the diesel thing. Right on. To add to that a bit, I live in a state that is squarely in the 40, perhaps even nearer the bottom of the list. However, in my city I must get my cars tested for emissions compliance to register them. That is, even though the state has a set emissions level for compliance, my city has a de facto standard that is slightly more strict. Diesels are more difficult to test and pass.

    I’m disappointed with the lack of news on the 9-5. Don’t they know that they have to keep us up to date? The nerve!

  10. eggsngrits: when I asked Mr. Vester and Mr. Shannon about why the 9⁵ is seemingly ignored as far as advertising and such, they told me that 70% of all SAAB sales in the U.S. are 9³s and I’m guessing that a good portion of that remaining 30% are 9⁷Xs. They also pointed out that they need to spend their money on what’s selling and that’s currently the 9³.

    You’re right though that it seems like the 2008 9⁵ should at least get a press release at AutoBlog or something. It seems to me like SAAB USA is just waiting-out that model’s (long, drawn-out) demise. If they sell some, great, but they’re not really going to put any effort into it.

  11. Diesel is everywhere where I live, and I’d love a TTiD (because I’m poor).

    Since I’m not working for Saab, my stance is, screw California and Massachusetts, if they want to be jerks about emissions, that’s their problem (of course, I’m not calling the residents of those states jerks…just their VEIP boards).

  12. Jeff, you’re showing extreme ignorance of the issue. California makes laws that are in the best interest of Californians. The geography in California is highly conducive to smog. In Los Angeles in the 1970’s smog was so bad that as a child in summer I would often find it hurt to breathe in a full breath (I would only breathe-in half-breaths on those days to avoid the pain). The sky was brown. The emissions laws California enacted (and the rest of the country begrudgingly copied) helped to clean the air such to a point where there used to be dozens of “first stage” smog alerts a year to now there being only a few or even none.

    Let’s be realistic about diesel emissions: they emit much more oxides of nitrogen (NOx) than gasoline-powered engines do. NOx is a major component of smog. Also, the thick smoke you see coming out the tailpipe of diesel cars is called “PM” or “particulate matter”, which is a carcinogen (causes cancer).

    In the Port of Los Angeles area (the busiest port in the United States) the diesel emissions from ships in the port, cargo trains running to and from the port, and commercial trucking have left a huge brown blanket over the region and is responsible for a greatly increased cancer death rate to residents living in the region.

    So there’s a reason states like California “want to be jerks about emissions”. If you don’t like it, encourage your state to allow all the polluting cars they can sell.

  13. Gripen, I completely agree with you about the CA emissions standards. Sacramento has “Spare the Air” days where people are urged to stay indoors to avoid ground level ozone (derived from NOx). But it seems diesel emissions can be vastly improved thanks to the new diesel fuel standards. Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) has been required in CA for about a year and will be the only diesel distributed in the US as of late 2010. These fuel standards bring the US in alignment with existing European diesel regulations.

    From the US EPA:

    Overview
    EPA’s Clean Air Highway Diesel final rule requires a 97 percent reduction in the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel, from its current level of 500 parts per million (ppm), to 15 ppm. As of October 15, 2006, ULSD is available at retail stations. Cars, trucks and buses with advanced pollution control will be available beginning in the autumn of 2006.

    By addressing diesel fuel and engines together as a single system, this program will provide annual emission reductions equivalent to removing the pollution from more than 90 percent of today’s trucks and buses, or about 13 million trucks and buses, when the current heavy-duty vehicle fleet has been completely replaced in 2030. This is the greatest reduction in harmful emissions of soot, or particulate matter (PM), ever achieved from cars and trucks.

    Public Health Benefits
    Once this action is fully implemented, environmental benefits include:

    – 2.6 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will be reduced each year.
    – PM will be reduced by 110,000 tons per year.

  14. TimJ: thanks for the info. On a personal level I have nothing against diesel vehicles, as long as their PM and NOx levels have been mitigated down to acceptable levels (on par with gasoline-powered cars). I think that diesel is a great technology for both decreasing fossil fuel consumption (through increased fuel economy) and reducing CO₂per-mile emissions. I’m even more impressed with bio-diesel.

    I just have a problem when people who live in other states have animosity toward California’s emissions regulations when we’re not forcing it on anyone else. Other states are voluntarily following our lead. California will pass the laws that are best for Californians.

    As for the “spare the air days” in Sacramento, could some of that NOx be from shipping? I don’t know much about Sacramento, but I do know it’s got a river running through it (I remember seeing drawbridges) and foreign ships aren’t forced to use our low-sulfur diesel fuel.

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