Who’s the 9-4x aimed at?

There’s been several articles now stating that the Saab 9-4x will be shown in Detroit in January. One of the articles concerned published this based on an interview with Jan-Ake Jonsson and whilst there’s no direct quote from him about Detroit in the interview – only supposition on their part – I’d say that based on his discussions with them that it’s probably a good bet.

Interestingly, though, some articles have said recently that although the vehicle will be made in Mexico, it’s main target will be the European market. I’ve always assumed that a Saab SUV will be aimed more towards expanding the offerings for the American market. Further, whilst I know the Swedes love their wagons, I’ve never seen Europe as a big SUV market.

Consequently, I’m intrested in the thoughts of both you Americans and Europeans as to which market the 9-4x will be more suited to.

It should be noted that everything we’ve heard so far points to the fact that it’s going to be a global vehicle, so there’s no question of it being one or the other. I just found the emphasis to be interesting.

On the Euro side, there’s the fact that it’s believed to be engineered with a diesel option in mind.

On the American side, there’s the fact that the Americans, in general, like their SUV’s. On the non-US side, however, is the understanding that it’s going to be a 5-seater only rather than a 7-seater.

It’s a vehicle that I find interesting from the point of view of expanding Saab’s reach, but I’m not a fan of SUV’s and can’t imagine myself in the market for one.

So who is? And where do you come from?

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25 Comments

  1. Hi Swade,

    I think that you’re wrong, the SUV segment is the strongest growing in Europe and this dispite the global warming aspect.

    Marc

  2. “…Americans, in general, like their SUV’s.” -Swade

    Be politically correct. The new term is “Cross-Over Utility Vehicle,” or you may use “CUV.” The term “SUV” brings thoughts of unpleasantries such as gas guzzling and roll-over risks. “CUV” produces much more warm-fuzzies, so get it right, mate! (said with sarcasm!)

    I think the 9-4x is a great thing. It needs more publicity. My salesman barely knew about it, in fact I educated him a little on it. I think it needs to be DIFFERENT than it’s Opel/Saturn cousin and I think it will be since it is sharing platforms of both Theta and Epsilon. This “CUV” can not come quick enough, at least to the US. It is long overdue.

    I just hope they offer $10k of incentives when it’s released (I’m just full of cynicism tonight, aren’t I?).

  3. I can t speak for mainland Europe but it will be a big seller in the UK. The X5, Q7, XC90 and Discovery all sell well although congestion charging may see sales drop.

    While the endorsement of celebrities is dubious at best, these are the cars that the rich and famous are seen in. Off roaders are seen as prestige and a bit different with saloons seen as a bit old geezer and to be honest, boring. Despite Saab having a young owner profile my car is classed as “old git” by my friends (not as much as the X Type though).

    I am definitely not an SUV fan but I like the new X5 and I would be keen to give the 9-4x a chance.

  4. SUV (or CUV) segment is really growing in Europe if you read european car magazines. I think VW Tiquan is a good example. It´s all new and just released recently. It looks as if VW was waiting and looking what other do and what´s the price. Then released their own version, which is reasonably priced and very competitive in it´s class. There´s a big market waiting in Europe. Also northern countries, Sweden, Norway, Finland which used to be family wagon countries, are now starting to move to SUV segment more and more.
    I guess there´s a good possibility to make 9-4X a success. But that would need, good looks, high quality and good range of engines. Biopower, Diesel, Petrol and hybrid.

    Would I buy one? A Saab SUV/CUV (CUV equals less practicality and more looks) made in Mexico?! Yeah, right. But I guess it´s better to never say never..

    “My salesman barely knew about it, in fact I educated him a little on it. ”

    My salesman told february this year, that Saab is not going to make 4wd ever. Okay, maybe he was right. It´s XWD…

  5. Thanks all for the perspective on the SUV/crossover market in Europe. I didn’t realise it was growing so much. I guess with a diesel variant this vehicle could really take off there, then, if the quality and design are set up right.

  6. If they do the 9-4X right I can imagine buying one instead of the SportCombi. To be honest, the car I like the most design wise in the CUV segment, is the Volvo Concept Car XC60

    If they do something boring like the 9-7x forget it, Europeans will never buy it.

  7. Swade, I think it might even sell in a petrol version too. If Saab UK can sell 500 units of the Turbo X in petrol only then 9-4x with the same engine should clock up a few sales too.

  8. I would definitely go for one, the 94X looks good, and should be safe as houses.

    In the style stakes, it will probably hold a similar weight in kudos to the convertible. I think it will sell like hotcakes in the UK. Saab do very well on this little island, and the more options buyers have, the better for Saab.

  9. Swade, are you sure they will call it 9-4X? Why not 9-6X or 9-7X? If it’s “replacing” the 9-7X in the US, that would make more sence. Calling it 9-4X signals a much smaller car! Current 9-7X customers will probably find it too small compared to what they currently drive.
    In terms of size this car is more like BMWX3 and Volvos upcoming XC60. So it’s more a European size than a US size. More of a Crossover (tall Wagon) than a SUV. Obviously there will be diesel and Bio-Power alternatives. If they get it right it has great potential in Europe. The interesting part is that there will be room for a larger SUV/MPV to “replace” the 9-7X, particularly in USA. A real BMW X5/Audi Q7/Volvo XC90 competitor the size of Cadillac SRX/Buick Enclave. The all new SAAB 9-8X(?). Surely the SRX mustbe due to be replaced 2010-12, so that’s SAABs opportunity to really enter the luxury SUV market. If the 9-4X is a success, surely this must be considered. But before 9-4X, we will get the new 9-3XC (9-3 SportsWagon, slightly taller with the usual plastic/aluminium add-ons (just look at Volvo XC70 and Audi A6 Allroad)) next summer. That’s my choice of car for snowy, icy Scandinavian winters, with TTiD and Haldex XWD.

  10. progolf wrote: “But before 9-4X, we will get the new 9-3XC (9-3 SportsWagon, slightly taller with the usual plastic/aluminium add-ons (just look at Volvo XC70 and Audi A6 Allroad)) next summer.”

    Please do not make the 9-3XC with the usual plastic/aluminium add-ons, rather make it look more like the concept car 9-3X.
    See: http://www.trollhattansaab.net/archives/category/saab-9-3x
    In my opinion that would be much better looking and more SAABish to.

  11. Jon and Kaz have it about right – the UK market demands SUV if you are a serious player, and the rewards are rich – just look around in any major city and the number of SUVs is exploding – admittedly there is an eagerness to present ‘green’ credentials, but who better placed than Saab to do that? A 9-4x for me?, probably not interested unless a larger model comes along with 7-seat funcionality – Swade, the straw poll you conducted some months ago was pretty conclusively pro-3 rows and I think the 9-4x will be hampered in the premium market by this omission.

    That said, this places it directly agains tthe smaller SUVs like X3 (UUGGLYYYY), XC60 (THE competition) and non-premium players, mostly eastern (competent but low-image like Rav4, Murano).
    I wish it well and welcome it to the ‘family’ – there is work to be done out there to convince people that Saab are serious contenders and not just a one-horse company.

  12. That crossover might be a great vehicle for the wife in a few years as she really loves MY new SportCombi. And even though she is driving (my Saab) today while I am changing the oil in her car, she has to surrender the key as soon as she gets home.

    I think a big factor for us when we get something will be fuel economy, so that will really drive our decision when looking for a vehicle for her. Hopefully the 9-4 will meet that requirment.

  13. Actually, I started to think about what car I would buy if hopefully I will have a bigger family with one or more children in the next 3-4 years.
    The 9-4x seems to be a good choice, if it would keep the Saab heritage (safety, utility, performance, ergonomics, economy, style).

  14. I for one really wished Saab made a vehicle that seated at least 6 since I have 4 kids. So as it stands now my wife’s car can’t be a Saab so that means she’s always taking mine from me.

  15. The question is , too , if one SUV model (or SUV lookalike) will be enough. They seem to come in all sizes and degrees of cross-country ability.

    Take VW, for example: They have the Cross Polo and Cross Golf, Tiguan and Touareg.

    In USA the ideal SUV should probably be quite different from an European SUV – size- and imagewise.

  16. Riku, prior to the 9-4x coming, Saab will release the 9-3x, a raised 9-3 SportCombi with XWD. So I guess this will sort of give them two “soft-roaders”

  17. Am I the only one concerned about the fact it is slated to be manufactured in Mexico? The VWs built there are giving VW fits here because they literally fall apart … A friend had one that was actually delivered brand new with PARTS MISSING (apparently the line keeps moving while the workers take siestas!)

    Are there currently any cars built down there that don’t have major problems?

  18. I think Honda builds Accords there with few problems, albeit on other message boards I’ve seen people discriminate against Mexican built Accords, preferring to buy Japanese or Ohio built ones..

    I’m concerned with moving production to Mexico also. Is there anybody out there who favors building it in Trollhattan despite the fact that it may increase the price?

  19. “Is there anybody out there who favors building it in Trollhattan despite the fact that it may increase the price?”

    Yes. Here´s one. Of course, it depends on how much increase were talking about. But I believe that we´ve already been doing that – paying some premium to have car built in Trollhattan.

    Saab (GM) is moving production to Germany and Mexico. Germany would be reasonable, but still not my favourite. I guess I have to consider a Volvo somewhere in the future.

    Of course I´ll still keep C900 for nice sunny days 🙂

  20. Let’s see… The 9-3 and 9-5 are built in Trollhättan. Anyone heard of the oil sludge problem and the DI cassette problem? Problems that Saab had to pay heavily for in both money and reputation. Both the cars and those parts were made in Sweden. Also, do not forget that “built in Mexico” could just mean “assembled in Mexico”. Parts are still being built all around the world – as is the case today with the parts in the 9-3 and the 9-5. I’m more concerned about the product development. It’s usually there the quality is decided.

  21. I definetly think there is a market for a Saab SUV/CUV in Europe as well as the US. But as many others already have pointed out, I think a European SUV is smaller in size than one in the Americas. Especially in these enviromental days, I don’t think a direct 9-7X replacement would be a bestseller in Europe, especially not in Norway.

    I could only wish 9-4X would have the same success as Volvo has had with their XC90.

  22. The only real handicap with Mexico is the image one. With the current dollar against euro rates there is no real chance for a SUV (which main market still is the US) to be built in Trollhattan (nor Russelsheim).

    For the same reasons BMW will build their next X3 in Alabama instead of Magna(Austria).

    Even the image issue may not be so important -Toyota builds ‘japanese quality’ in Turkey as well as in GB. VW sells their ‘german quality’ Jettas and New Beetles – made in Mexico.

    And, finally: ctm, the sludge and DI problems aren’t really ‘car-assembly-plant-location-related’ problems, don’t you think ? Rather they are examples of bad engineering and insufficient testing -which, unfortunately, makes them quite ‘Trollhattan-related’, though.

  23. riku1100s,

    Exactly my point, which I may have missed. 🙂 They are built in Sweden but still has some bad quality reputation in the eyes of the average customers on the street because of the media attention. Even those specific problem parts were made in Sweden. So I don’t see why Mexico should equal bad quality. As you mention, VWs built there have good quality.

  24. Okay, here’s my American take on it: The 9-4x will be entering a very crowded segment rather late in the game. It will have to compete with the BMW X3, the Mazda CX-7, the Ford Edge, the Nissan Murano, the upcoming Infiniti EX35, the Acura RDX, the Saturn Vue, upcoming Cadillac BRX, etc… you get the point. SAAB certainly has an uphill battle here in the states with the 9-4x, and they’re going to have to make it one hell of a vehicle to effectively compete.

    That being said, I would absolutely LOVE to see a SAAB version of the Lambda platform (Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Chevy whatever). My wife and I currently have a 9-7x, and are in the market for a larger vehicle. If GM were to grant SAAB the “privilege” of using the Lambda as a platform, we’d be tickled pink. That would, however, give GM a total of FIVE Lambdas, which is pretty much what they did with the GMT360 platform (9-7x). The Lambdas are a rather large CUV with little competition in the marketplace, and SAAB could certainly benefit from something like this… revived 9-6x perhaps (or 9-8x like someone else suggested)?

  25. It has been stated before that the 9-4x will be more car-like than otherwise. I think the BMW X6 might give some idea as to where the 9-4x will be coming from.

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