It’s been a rough five years….

I’ve just been poking my head around the various tubes that make up this wonderful thing called the internet, and found an article that gives an insight into the Saab that we could have been looking at now.

I’m a firm believer that Saab does have a bright future ahead of it, but when you read this you might realise the degree of change that’s had to take place in the organisation in recent years.

This is from an interview conducted with Saab’s previous CEO, Peter Augustsson, back in 2002. To put things in context, the 9-3 Sport Sedan hasn’t yet been launched.

Q. What kind of variants will we see in the new 9-3 family?

A. Today in the 9-3 range we have three entries. Going forward we will have more than three entries. We will for sure have a convertible. But then the total range will cover what we have today but will also add variants.

Q. What elements from the concept 9-3X will make it onto the production 9-3?

A. Maybe 30 to 40 percent of what you see you will see in production cars going forward. You will see one entry (in the range) coming as a crossover type vehicle. One entry will have AWD but otherwise (the vehicles will be) traditional front-wheel cars.

The three variants in the original 9-3 were a 3-door, 5-door and convertible. Augustsson confirms here that there’d be at least three variants once again, being the sedan, SportCombi and Convertible that we have today. When I was in Sweden earlier this year, one guy confirmed to me that there was a number of 9-3 variations, including a hatch, that were canned. There was also the ‘soft-roader’ with AWD, quite possibly a production version of the 9-3x, albeit a tamed down version.

It’s now a known fact that Saab did a complete personalisation of the electronics of the car to such an extent that they couldn’t be used on any other GM models – a no-no in the GM world.

We’re now 10 years into a 9-5 that was planned for replacement at least a year ago. We got the facelift instead because GM weren’t happy with the 9-5 that had been developed in Sweden.

Michael Mauer resigned not too long after the 9-3 Sport Sedan’s introduction and Peter Augustsson resigned in 2005 after the decision was made to move 9-5 and 9-3 production to Russelsheim. All of the plans they made for Saab in the preceding years were shelved completely in 2005 to accommodate the direction that Saab is heading in today.

A good decision, or a poor one?

In abandoning the Augustsson-Mauer design plan, Saab missed out on the crossover market all together, and the expansion of the 9-3 range. Who knows what else might have been on the table. Saab certainly lost a portion of their individuality.

The new age started with the Aero-X and has continued with the refreshed Saab 9-3 for 2008. The new 9-5 will follow in 2009 along with the 9-4x SUV and the smaller Saab a year or two later. The quality and Saab-ness of these cars will either make or break Saab as a marque within the GM range.

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7 Comments

  1. There was a minimum target % SAAB were to use on upon launch of the 93SS which they didn’t achieve and was a reason for Peter Augustsson’s departure.
    Id love to know what % of shared GM parts the currently 93 uses – anyone know?

  2. Saab is late to the game with most of its products. The Volvo C30 is here but where is the 9-1? The XWD system is great but AWD has been available on BMWs, MBs, VW’s, Audis and Subarus for as long I can remember. What about the 9-4X.. MB, BMW and most other manufacturers introduced small SUVs a long time back.

    Volvo, Audi and Subaru have some great soft-roaders (I like that term) and I think it would be a hit for the 9-3 or 9-5 as well.

    The 9-3 had a great start in 2003 with so many possibilities like the soft-roader and a 3/5 door with a hatch. All I see now is a 4-door with a GM dash and a station wagon that was 3 years late. I wish they wouldn’t have done the exterior refresh and put the money into a new interior because that’s where you spend most of your time anyways.

    I really love the Saab brand, history and the dedication of the owners but I just can’t get that excited anymore about their “stale” product line. For once, I wish they would surprise the automotive world with a car that would be a trendsetter and not go on with introducing cars, trucks or features that are 3 -5 years late to the game. I wish Saab would go back to their roots and make sensible, innovative, unique, affordable and reliable cars and compete with VW, Volvo and all the other mid-class European makes.

  3. Wulf nailed my thoughts about the current state of Saab.
    It’s a real shame i have to go back to their (’01 & ’02) 9-3 line for a vehicle that fits my wants & needs.

  4. I am amazed at how complicated these auto companies make their business. Sometimes I wonder if they aren’t like the mainframe computer companies when Apple Computer was started.

    I hate to burst their bubble but in many ways putting together a new car is much like building your own computer. You order the parts and you put it together. How many ways are there to design a door handle, a steering wheel, a door hinge.

  5. Rod, the question is indeed how to select and put those parts together in the most efficient manner, so that your 3-series fighter does not end up costing as much as one of the real fighters Saab AB is building.

    And I hate to burst your bubble, but putting computers together on an industrial scale is not as simple as dropping by your local PC hardware store and picking up the parts you want. Case in point: Dell’s supply troubles a few months back that resulted in huge delays (I myself waited 3 months for a laptop delivery!) and resulted in their shares plummeting.

  6. I was just thinking about this today: Consider what would have happened if two things had gone differently – if people had actually loved the 9-2x (like they should’ve), and if GM hadn’t sold it’s stake in Subaru. We’d have the 9-2x going into it’s second generation and possibly being more Saaby, and we’d have the 9-6x, which would have saved Saab a ton of money by allowing them to use the money that went into developing the 9-4x for other things. This extra money would have gone toward the new 9-5, so we’d probably have that already, the 9-3 would probably be much nicer on the inside, and, while the 9-1 might be as far away as it is now, we wouldn’t need to worry that it might have to save the company, because the company wouldn’t need saving.

    So, you can blame all of Saab’s troubles on the 9-2x. :p jk, really, you can blame their troubles on the fact that people were too dumb to BUY the 9-2x.

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