More thoughts on Saab and ‘premium’

Sorry if this is getting a tad tedious for those who don’t like theorising about cars, but I’ve got to get this stuff out of my head or it’ll just fester.

So all this premium and quality talk got me to thinking about a Saab-ish approach to things. There’s a lot of new stuff coming out on cars nowadays. Saabs have always been well equipped but there’s new gizmos and technology coming out all the time and some of the companies have an optional equipment list that could make your head spin.

So what of them? Which of these new technologies do you think Saab should be targeting for inclusion into their coming range of cars?

My thoughts?

I think equipment that enhances the driving experience or makes the car more efficient is the stuff to aim for. I think you’ll get what I mean as you move through the list. I’m going to miss a lot of emerging technologies here so please chime in with your own suggestions, both good and bad, in comments.

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iDrive Equivalent – panned by critics as being too complex when it first emerged but slowly improving. Still regarded by many as technology for technology’s sake. NOT PREMIUM

DGS Style transmission – Quicker, smoother and more economical – PREMIUM.

Direct Injection – Cleaner, more efficient and more power – PREMIUM

Self Parking – Technology that allows you to lessen your driving skills. Just learn to park, and while you’re at it, learn to read a map, too – NOT PREMIUM

Bluetooth and Entertainment integration – some stuff is only noticed by its absence and this will be the case in a few years with this sort of technology – PREMIUM

5-Star Safety – This should never be compromised on any vehicle with a Saab badge on it. My only knock on the 9-7x – PREMIUM

V2V Communcations – Again, like self-parking, this is something that an alert and competent driver shouldn’t need and if it interferes with the act of driving with a bunch of signals and alerts then it strikes me as more of a danger. How many false positives will it alert you to before there’s something you really need to see? – NOT PREMIUM

Rear-view cameras on SUV’s only – PREMIUM

Ventilated Seats – Ditch your aircon. The best seats I’ve ever sat in and great for driver comfort – PREMIUM

Adaptive Cruise Control – Yet another piece of tech that will lessen one’s concentration on the road. If you’re using cruise and you need to slow down the you shouldn’t be on cruise – NOT PREMIUM

Hardtop convertible – The soft-top seems to have so much more character. The argument I could see for the hardtop is strength and safety, but if Saab can keep the car as safe as a hardtop then I’d opt for a ragtop and preserve character – ARGUABLY PREMIUM – I can make up my own categories 😉

Hybrid Technology – They need to do it right, but there’s no doubt that a company that wants to be seen as environmentally responsible need to develop this, and companies that already have have received plenty of respect for doing so – PREMIUM

Run-flat tyres – handy if you’re being chased by gangsters or caught in partuclarly inclement weather. Reported to be less comfortable and compromising to the car’s handling, but I’ve not driven on them. I’m happy to change my own tyre on the spot. – NOT PREMIUM

Clean Diesel – high mileage, heaps of torque and low emissions. No explanation necessary – PREMIUM

Soft-touch interior – the outside looks are the hook, but it’s inside where the driver spends their time. It’s got to be comfortable, functional, and good to the touch – PREMIUM

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That’s my short list, but I know there’s more.

I’d hate to see Saab go the route of having technology for technology’s sake, and I’m very much in favour of having skilled drivers rather than uber-advanced machines.

Feel free to add you own thoughts, or lampoon my suggestions in comments.

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My thanks to Gripen for a few emails in the last few days that have tied in with this whole subject nicely. Ideas, Ideas.

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25 Comments

  1. I agree with every item except the hard top. Softtop that is warmer and quieter than the regular sedan…PREMIUM 🙂

    On another note, just sat in a friend’s Acura RDX. You talk to it to set the temperature. SO NOT PREMIUM 😉

  2. Premium…hmmmm…how about standard power seat for the passenger on the 2.0T 9-3? That’d be a good place to start. The sport vented seats on the 9-5 are by far one of my favored upgrades. Especially on those hot and humid days if you catch my drift.

    Another fave on the 08′ 9-3 Aero and 2.0T with Premium Package are the cornering headlights. SWEET! PREMIUM.

  3. I usually define “premium” (when it comes to cars) as cars that have stuff and niceties and touches that aren’t found on most run-of-the-mill cars. Price really has nothing to do with it, in my mind. Of course, some companies go overboard adding stupid crap like self-parking and ugly hard top convertible roofs to justify outlandish prices.

    Frankly, I think Saab would be safely ensconced in the premium segment if it did a few things:

    1. Hirsch available everywhere (premium buyers like customization).
    2. Bluetooth (I don’t care about it, but most people expect it at this point).
    3. Better interior materials across the board.
    4. Less packages, more options (again, premium buyers love customization).
    5. Better advertising. I really think Saab would be taken much more seriously if they were more visible.

    I told my dad his next car should be a BMW because he likes gadgets for gadgets’ sake. He drives an Acura TL and he wants to get an Acura TL-S and I’m desperately trying to convince him to get a Saab, or a CTS, or at least an Audi.

  4. I just saw a commercial for the new Acura MDX (their SUV/CUV thing) which highlights the satellite-linked air conditioning system in that vehicle.

    Here’s how it works: it uses the GPS in the vehicle to figure out where the sun is shining on the car. It then decreases the temperature of the air out of the vents on the side of the car the sun is shining in. So if you’re driving north in the afternoon and the sun is shining in the left side of the car, it’ll send cooler air through the vents on that side of the car.

    It might sound kind of gimmicky, and kind of overly complex, but I was still impressed that some engineer thought of this and actually got the go-ahead from the higher-ups to implement this feature. They call it “GPS Link and Solar Sensing”.

    I’d like to see a return of a feature from the C900: the outside air through the center vent while the heater is on to keep you awake as a safety feature thing. A lot of people didn’t like that feature, so just make it switchable. If you don’t like it you can turn it off through Tech II or something. 🙂

    Just a small note, Swade: you mistyped “DSG” in the post. I think DSG is a trademark of VAG anyway, so you could just call it “dual clutch“. The nice thing about this is that Saab wouldn’t even need investment money from GM to implement this. ovloV is buying their twin-clutch gearboxes from Getrag and VAG has been buying theirs from BorgWarner. These things can be bought practically off-the-shelf. I would just suggest for safety’s sake and learning from past mistakes that Saab be sure to buy one that’s quite a bit overrated from what they think they need for the application for future expansion. 🙂

    Another premium feature (as seen as an option on the Audi A8) that Saab innovated on the EV-1 I’d like to see added to the Saab lineup: solar cells on the roof to power fans (or even a small a/c unit) to ventilate the interior of the car while it’s parked.

  5. Bi-Xenon cornering lights – PREMIUM

    Imagine driving through northern Finland in the mid-winter. It´s dark almost 24/7. Narrow roads, slippery conditions and elks & deers sneaking everywhere ready to jump in front of you while you´re driving. What car you´d let your pregnant wife (just imaginery situation) drive there?

    It´s almost ridiculous how poor lights some “premium” cars have. “Dame Edna” 9-5 was step to wrong direction, unfortunately. Before that it used to have one of the best lights availvable.

    I´d like to add customer service to the PREMIUM list also. It´s the way how you´ve been treated in the workshop or at the dealer´s. You and your opinions should be appreciated ´cause you´re the paying customer. This doesn´t work in Finland. Most of the Saab customer service I´ve experienced has been below acceptable level! There´s a lot to be improved compared to Audi / BMW etc. It´s not the nice advertisements and clean sleek shop, it´s the people there.

  6. I hate bi-xenon. Hate. Hate. Hate. Whenever I’m driving ahead of someone with those godawful things, I’m completely blinded, as if they have their brights on or as if it were a truck with 1,000 lights or something. No one needs spotlights on the front of their car. If you really need that much light to see, you probably shouldn’t be driving. Agh!!!

  7. I disagree with some of the assessments. Interestingly, this is based on my belief that we are very close (10 years more or less) to cars that can drive themselves. Undoubtedly, that option will first appear on “premium” vehicles. Some of the things that you called not premium are the beginnings of self-driving cars (V2V, self-parking and adaptive cruise control.)

    Self-parking is too gimmicky to be, in my mind, a must-have premium option. (I’d rather have the ability to turn the wheels 90 degrees and drive laterally into the parking space.) I must admit however, people are terribly impressed by self-parking and it seems like one of those things that people are associating with top of the line premium cars. That Lexus commercial “I used to have to parallel park myself” has further enhanced the reputation of Lexus as an innovative brand.

    I also add, incidentally, that front parking assist is now premium. Doesn’t have to be done with a camera, but does require the sensors.

    Adaptive cruise control is, again, the beginnings of a cars that can drive themselves. I feel that it is premium however–it’s a wonderful feature for long distance driving, and all the other premium automakers are offering it (though it is a bit pricey. Also, the purpose of it is not to drive for you, the purpose is so that you don’t have to be turning the cruise off and on because cars might cut in front of you in low to medium traffic.) I do want it in my next car, and would be disappointed if Saab did not offer it. (And surprised too, it’s really just off the shelf components.)

    Not added, but which I think is essential:

    Keyless entry/ignition Premium cars don’t have keys anymore–the ability to walk up to your car and open the door without pressing a button is great. Proximity keys are the way to go and are expected (hell, it’s standard on the Nissan Altima.)

  8. This goes a bit off, but has anybody noticed how Audi changed the styling of interior and dashboard to the direction that Saab´s been using since ´77? Bmw does the same. The “cockpit” style.

    That´s PREMIUM

    😀

    Jeff, Saab Bi-Xenons are not the ones you´ve been blinded by.

    Someones got their poor lights adjusted wrong and trying to see something. I guess bimmer, or maybe Skoda 😉

  9. Jeff

    You are 100% on track!
    Fabulous post (top one). Send that to GM.
    (but I happen to love xenons 🙂 )

    In terms of computer aid, I like to compare this to one of the most succesful aircraft out there, the F16. The trick here is to aid with anything that makes the pilot’s life easier and less prone to errors. “Buffer” the pilot if you like – let him concentrate on what the computer can’t, such as (for cars in racing terms) cutting the apex, finding the braking point, finding out where to pass etc.
    To aid him, add any form of early warning system (“Bliss” in Volvo”), ABS, ESC, XWD, EBD, DGS, and of course all the comforts there are, such as aircondition and ventilated seats, to allow him to stay focused.

    That would be premium in a Saab IMO.

    Oh, and DO NOT remove the badge from teh hood! Ask yourselves what it would take for BMW or Merc to do that!!

  10. To have as premium (as options or std):
    + Self opening/closing boot.
    + Keyless systems
    + Adaptive Cruise Control
    + Walk-me-home lights
    + Lights in door sils
    + Child booster seats
    + Key for passenger airbag *)
    + Trim levels for the center console and doors
    + Body kits (for real)

    *) aren’t Saab-drivers supposed to be smarter than the average Joe anyway, and by that able to decide this for themselves? 😉

  11. Technology does not make a car “premium”. Many cars today have features that were found on Rolls Royce cars. That does not make them Rolls Royces.

    You pay a premium for the product, so what should you get for the money? The first thing is the dealer – how you are treated during the purchase and ownership of the vehicle. Secondly, the materials used in the car AND how they are put together. Third the ability to create an individual product. This is massively important to the premium buyer – the car maker must never, ever, tell you what you can and can’t have. Self parking? Not for me but if your customer requires it you MUST provide it. Without visible tech the car lacks credibility. Fourth, price and sales volume. There is a big debate about where the limits are and I suspect BMW and Audi have gone too far but the product must retain some exclusivity. Lastly, DO YOUR OWN THING. Swade I get what you say about hybrid but Saab should stick to their guns. 1970s almost every car was RWD. 1980s everyone followed Saabs lead and went FWD. BMW stayed loyal to RWD and this feature then became “premium” and now defines the company. Saab need to go on the offensive and sell the many benefits of FWD as well as XWD.

  12. The climate control in the 9-3 has a sun sensor and like the Acura the system adjusts temperatures across each side to compensate. Unlike the Acura it works without needing GPS and Sat Nav – a classic example of Saab using smarter thinking to come up with a better solution…

  13. 1) SAFETY
    Saab needs to stand out in safety issues above
    concurrents. EURONCAP and other results are fine and cars of all brands generally getting safer is a good thing. But what if the accident you’re involved is something different then the test-set-up. I suspect most brands do just the things to fulfill the standard test in order to get as many stars as possible, and thats about it. What about focus on real life safety. I hope under GM saab still keeps doing efforts in these aspects and will exploit this to differ them from the rest. That means to me even more secured stiff passenger cells, and warning-gadgets like the ovlov ‘bliss’ or the citroën ‘afill’ , bi-cornering xenon, etc are nice but not substantial.

    2) POWER-CONSUMPTION-POLLUTION
    All other ‘premium’-aspects should be found on technological site, more power – less consumption – less pollution.
    AWD is needed when power and torque will increase further.

    3) STYLE
    Rest is style, marketing and blabla.
    But here saab needs to offer more colours, more interior lines to choose from, a ‘Hirsch-line’ better defined (like M-line), more small details in interior to put sunglasses, rear-entertainment etc…

    4) MORE MODELS

    4.1) SUV – only ok if it’s leightweight (i.e. lotus APX-prototype) combined with all the safety-aspects SAAB can offer.

    4.2) Something smaller, but no copy or badge engineering, A3/bmw 1/ovlov c30-size, but again different

    4.3) SPORTSCAR – yesyesyes -at least three

    number one is a 9X-like 4 seats TT-contender, pure image boosting, fun to drive, practical, …

    number two is a distinguished coupé, 4 seats, A5-CLK-bmw3coupé-contender, with all luxury you could possibly have, but please no copy of those, needs to have a classy design, quirky and different …

    number three is the AERO-X-wise supercar (without the slow canopy), altough that would be difficult to earn money with, it’s pure about statement, look-here-we-are, a bit like the audi R8, but i doubt i a lot of nowadays saab-clients need a car like that ?

    And please no retractable hardtops, never.
    Don’t go to much with the general flow.

  14. One thing I miss about the modern Saab’s is the frontmounted reversing lights – they are really practical, lighting up the whole side of the car. PREMIUM, and a practical innovation wich I think might have been unique to Saab?

  15. Leaving aside the fact that I will never buy a Michelin product nor a car equipped with Michelin tires (One of their roadside assistant wreckers bent the tie-rod on my car and then they refused to pay for it) run flat tires are a premium feature that should be included or at least optional on a vehicle promoting its safety-ness.

    Run flat tires allow someone on an express way to maintain control of their vehicle and get off a busy road.

  16. James,

    Your comments in #8 are spot on. I feel so especially about the new Advanced or Adaptive Cruise Control systems. This is a safety feature, and SAAB is supposed to be about safety. I hope to see this in future SAABs. Also, the back-up camera is a safety feature that can help make sure you don’t run down kids or short people when backing up.

    My stance on a hard-top convertible is that customers should be given a choice of soft- or hard-top. Considering that the Chrysler Sebring is offered with a hard- or soft-option, I suspect that SAAB could do it, too. My preference would be for the hard-top. We have a 2006 Mercedes Benz SLK. With the hard-top up, you really do think you are in a coupe, not a convertible.

  17. Keyless ignition and i-drive type systems are being sold as “premium,” but they are really cost-saving measures.
    Keyless ignition saves manufacturers the cost of buying a mechanical ignition lock, and replaces it with a cheap button.
    i-drive systems save on dozens of individual switches by replacing them with a single controler which is just a gussied-up mouse.

    The downside of these systems are that they make your car easier to steal (you no longer need to bypass the lock, you just need to emulate the key wirelessly), and more confusing to drive (you need to go through several sub-menus to do something that should have a dedicated button).

    In the future, I think that only premium cars will have actual keys and dedicated function buttons.

  18. The Fop: see? Now why don’t I know this already? I’m a hardcore Saab nut and even I don’t know about this feature. Saab really needs to do a better job of advertising what features the car has. Maybe they can’t fit it into a 30-second TV commercial like Acura can, what with CGI jets needing to fly around and such, but they need to get the word out SOMEHOW. I know Swedes don’t make a habit of “tooting their own horn” but perhaps the Americans need to do it for them. Okay, that sounded weird, but you know what I mean. 😉

  19. The Fop/Gripen

    Saab was early to adopt this, but most ACC’s have this nowdays i.e my Alfa, and 25% of the cras on the road here (Volvo’s market share)

  20. TrakDah: my only objection is that Saab invests the money to make their cars the best they can, then they don’t get the word out to their buyers of why their cars are they best they can make.

    More time should be spent extolling the virtues of the car than linking them to their faux fighter plane heritage, IMHO. Acura, for instance, uses the 30 seconds of television commercial time to enlighten potential consumers as to the features of their product and why the customer should buy it.

    Two different strategies. And which company sells more product? 🙁

  21. Pretty much agree with everything here except regarding Hybrid. This tech will prove to be a white elephant as far as eco-friendly goes. Battery tech is just not there and the resources put into building one outweigh the benefit.

    The resources are better off being spent on alternative fuel engines and fuel cell tech.

  22. MarkoA – Well, they don’t sell Skodas here, but…I could be talking about the wrong thing. Xenon-based headlights are blue tinted, right? If so, then those are what I hate.

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