My 0.02c on the Turbo X pricing

Well, the big news is in. The largest allocations of what is arguably Saab’s best production car, the Turbo X, will go to the US market. And the price is in. The sedan version will sell for $42,510 and the Sport Combi version will sell for $43,310.

There’s one proviso on this whole article – make no mistake about it, all these cars will sell. I have no doubt about it. Die-hard Saabists will buy them and a few converts will come over as well. Come Spring 2008 these cars will have a substantial waiting list. I’m quite sure of that.

The XWD vehicle that I drove in Sweden was a pre-production model but was fitted with the full XWD kit, including the eLSD that will be standard on the Turbo X but an option on subsequent XWD vehicles. This IS one awesome car to drive. Its not going to be the most powerful car in its price range, but it’s more than adequately powered and incredibly sure-footed.

The other thing to note is that even at $42,510 this is an incredibly good value proposition. I’ve got no doubt that the fact will be completely lost on US Saab buyers because the market there is all about cheaper cars and they’ll compare the Aero-X to other cars in the US market. But that price in Aussie dollars is around $48,500 and you can’t even get a Vector trim Saab 9-3 for that money here.

The big questions that remain will be how they’re received by the US motoring press and whether or not SaabUSA will have to revert to special pricing to clear the last of them. The big factor that will come into play here is, of course, competition.

At $42,510 the Turbo X is going to draw some pretty strong competition. Saab has cited in their own material that the prime competition consists of the following vehicles:

    BMW 3-series
    Audi A4
    Volvo V60
    Mercedes Benz C Class

That’s impressive company and the Turbo X is well above the price of the entry models for those vehicles. So taking a look up the model tree, here’s what you can get from those marques for less than $42,510.

    2008 Audi A4 3.2 Quattro, Automatic – $38,400

    2008 BMW 330xi (AWD) – $40,800

    2008 Volvo S60 AWD – $32,735

    2008 Mercedes C300 Luxury 4MATIC – $34,700

There’s a fair range of prices there, some of which are substantially lower than the Turbo X price. All of those vehicles have AWD systems, but those systems won’t be as advanced as the XWD system in the Turbo X. I’m quite sure that even though some of them will be more powerful, they won’t outperform the Turbo X in the twisties or have the same level of safety as the Turbo X.

All of those vehicles are sedans that are probably a bit bigger than the Turbo X.

And the real kicker for me, is that all of those vehicles will most likely have a more premium interior finish than the Turbo X. The Turbo X has a couple of splashes of carbon fibre and some great analine leather seats, but other than that it’s basically the same as the rest of the Saab 9-3 range. If only they’d fitted the carbon leather dash from Hirsch.

Obviously, the main selling point of the Turbo X is the mechanical package, which at the end of the day, is how it should be. But if you’re going to price the car above the big players in the market, you’ve got to bring your A-Game. Mechanically speaking, they have. In terms of the total package? I’m left wondering a little.

I have a feeling that when the motoring press in the US do this comparison they might be quite savage in terms of the total package. But then again, this is a limited run and their main point of comparison will be the Aero XWD version, which will be the biggest seller of XWD in the next 12 months or so.

——

I was expecting a price a little north of $40,000 US dollars and that’s exactly what happened. But secretly I was hoping they’d keep the price right on the $40,000 mark.

The one thing I’d hate to see is Saab’s mechanical yardstick being sold with incentives when it’s a limited edition model.

It just wouldn’t be right.

They’ll all sell. No worries. And at US$42,510 it’s a bargain that I’m sure every Saabist in countries outside the US will cry over. But at this price, will the model be able to do what Saab need it to do – win some conquest sales?

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25 Comments

  1. Swade, how does this price compare to a 9-3 Aero fitted with XWD, the eLSD, and the other options (full leather, etc) that are in the base Turbo X? That is, what is the mark-up for the Turbo X exclusivity?

    Regarding the comparison models, Edmunds’ lists the BMW and Mercedes as having leatherette seats and the Volvo as having cloth. BMW and Mercedes charge extra for a fold-down rear seat. When we consider Turbo X pricing, the same issue that we usually see when comparing Saab configurations to other brands still applies: there’s more in the base Saab configuration so there are fewer mark-ups needed. (Acura does well in the area as well, but options can easily add over 25% to the price of an Audi!)

  2. Fair money. This car, IMO, is taking the place of the S60R and V70R…that is, it is the only Swedish performance sedan & wagon on the market.
    Granted this is a limited model run, but I hope they sell every one they make, and decide to go with a special ’09 model,…maybe with 300 hp this time.

  3. Ken’s made one of my points (well, I might add), so I’ll set the apples-to-apples comparison question aside.

    “Halo” car pricing is a real cipher. Do you price it in line with the competition, or do you keep the price at a level in keeping with the “status” of the model? I think that Saab has done a little of both in this case. Certainly the technology is costly, and certainly the car will stack up against the competition well. Both are taken into consideration for a moderate price premium.

    Additionally, remember that in the US market, virtually no vehicle is sold at or above MSRP. Most are sold 5-10% below (perhaps more with incentives). Dealers with hot selling products discount less than dealers that need the pricing edge. Perhaps Saab dealers will have more room to build in discounts.

    Finally, I’ll nitpick one with you: The US market isn’t ALL about price — consider the success of niche vehicles like the Hummer, Range Rovers, Audi A8, Dodge Viper, Mercedes whatever number they are on, and the BMW 7-series. Even the ancient (and I mean ANCIENT) Jaguar XJ still sold well last year despite a $60k+ tag.

    Again, as I’ve said many times, we have more choice than any country on earth when it comes to cars. That breeds a lot of competition, which leads to better pricing and more options. Generally.

  4. I’m not so sure that Ken’s point plays as big a part here as it normally would. Usually, when comparing Saab vs those makes then we’re talking base models and there definitely is a lot of optioning up to meet Saab’s good level of standard equipment.

    In this instance we’re not talking base models at all. I haven’t done the comparison, but I think it’ll be closer than what we normally see, esp when it comes to the Audi.

    And on the choice issue, do you really have that great a range of cars to choose from? Really?

    You miss out on a host of European brands and although you’ve got a variety of domestics that others don’t get, the differentiation is questionable in some instances.

    You have six 9-3s to choose from (3 body styles and 2 choices of trim in each). We have over 40 here. In the UK you can register just about anything with a motor, headlamps and seatbelts.

    I tend to think the competition comes from a large population with, generally speaking, a reasonable capacity to buy. I think you’ve definitely got more bargaining power, which is as much a cultural thing as anything else. I’m not that sure there’s a huge range of distinct vehicles compared to other markets.

  5. The Americans really don’t know how good they have got it when it comes to new car prices. All of those prices are a steal compared to the UK and AUS markets!!

  6. I’ll go out on a limb and disagree with everyone: I don’t think they will sell out (right away). The price is just ridiculous!

    Sure, they may eventually sell out, but like most model years cars, but it will take time and incentives.

    $42k….you have got to be kidding….

  7. Swade:

    I hear you on choice.

    The question is one of choice for enthusiasts, or choice of transportation types.

    If it’s one of choice for enthusiasts, I’ll agree — to a point. Some tasty Italians and a few French and British cars that aren’t here would be a welcome addition. On the other hand, we have a few cars that aren’t there, more in the large, rear-drive segment.

    As far as choice for transportation is concerned, we have more options.

    From the smallest econobox to the largest SUV, from the biggest luxe cruiser to the sportiest two-seater, we’ve got it. And, generally, it’s cheap enough to be really attainable. That kind of choice. Real choice, because our gas prices, even though higher now, are still reasonable enough that a Hummer still works. Real choice because you can really park a full-sized long-bed pickup in the driveway in most places. Real choice because you can find a 1.5-liter displacement car and a 5-liter displacement car at the same dealership under the same marque. Real choice because a Pontiac which is bigger, faster, cheaper to maintain and will easily last ten or twelve years costs 60% of the Saab price. However, it isn’t as refined and isn’t a true enthusiast car, but that’s a choice.

    Turning to the other side of the question: How do Seat, Skoda, Renualt, Fiat, Opel or Vauxhall stretch the US market? None, I think. I’ll give you Alfa/Lancia, Citroen and perhaps Peugot because they are different, but I’ll counter with Dodge Challenger, Chrysler 300C, Pontiac G6, Ford Mustang, Chrysler Crossfire, and so many Jeeps that your head will spin. And I haven’t even gotten to all of the full-sized pickup variants.

    The real limit of choice that we have in the US right now are diesel power plants and cars that will never pass our emissions or safety requirements (read: small volume cars).

    That’s why I say that Americans have more choice. It’s not just about cars here, it’s about vehicles. And gas is cheap enough to get away with it.

  8. Nah, one test drive and they’ll be out the door. Keep in mind, a 2.0T ‘vert in red with a tan top is already MSRP >$40,000.

    Will they be sold without incentives? No. No GM vehicle is sold without incentives. ’08s already have incentives for crying out loud!

  9. Are they mad? I can see $5000 incentives being put on them very quickly. Why dont they just sell more of them in the UK where they can get more money for them and they are guaranteed to make more money for Saab. $1700 more than a BMW330Xi is, quite frankly laughable! Someone made a boo-boo not putting over 300bhp in the TurboX!

  10. PS If the TurboX is $43000 in the USA then by my calculations it will be about $56000 here in Canada. That makes it a full CA$8000 more than a 330i, hmm. How did I get to that figure? The US vert costs US$43000 in the USA and over CA$56000 here. Having said that Canada will probably get 100 TurboX so its not a big share anyway.

  11. To continue my pricing questions, I built some configs myself. For what it’s worth, according to Edmunds:

    2008 9-3 Aero + Touring & Cold weather Packages + upgraded leather + metallic paint = $38,910

    2008 9-3 Aero as above + estimated $2K for XWD and $1K for eLSD = $41,910

    2008 9-3 Turbo X = $42,510 (does this include the touring and cold weather packs? If not, add $1,445.)

    Exclusivity and “bling” seem to cost about $600-2,000. That’s a fairly cheap “halo” (I’d gladly pay it in the afterlife, if they accept AmericanExpress!)

    2008 BMW 335xi starts at $41,575 (including the destination charge). Add in cold weather and premium packs, along with park assist and metallic paint for $45,800.

    2008 Audi A4 3.2 quattro starts at $38,025. Add in the convenience and cold weather packs along with aux jack, rear side airbags, park assist, sport suspension, and metallic paint for a total of $41,950.

    2008 Volvo S60 2,5T AWD with advanced, premium, and climate packages along with metallic paint for $36,604. (But it’s the weakest engine of the group.)

  12. I don’t think it matters. As I recall, so few Turbo X’s will be coming to the US that the lot of them will be swallowed up by die hard Saab enthusiasts–people who aren’t thinking about a 330 or A4.
    It seems funny to wonder how the Turbo X stacks up value wise considering that BMW will sell more 330xi’s in Atlanta then Saab will sell Turbo X’s in the entire country.

  13. Don’t forget the USD is in the toilet at the moment and you cannot use the current F/X rates as a means of comparison from one market to another.

    For instance the Australian market is priced at 63 to 68 cents to the USD and has different taxes and some. When the F/X was 50 cents, companies weren’t doing so well, keep prices closer to retail and/or offered less options. Now with the AUD in the high 80s, there is much more tolerance on pricing and options come freely.

    The US will not tolerate the higher prices they should be paying because the consumer is not used to it. The market is so big companies cannot afford to ignore the consumer.

    In 2004, the MSRP for my 9-5 Aero SW was $43k. I ended up buying it in 2005 for $31k. The Aero is good, but not a Turbo X. I expect the Turbo X to sell well, but not at MSRP and not at a substantial reduction.

  14. I’m with James (#14), with only 600 units coming to the US market, the Turbo Xs will be snapped up without the help of incentives or other discounting. This is a car for the die-hard SAAB fan, pure and simple. I think SAAB got this right, folks.

  15. KenB – makes you wonder if Saab has to rethink there pricing across the board now that they have an even “higher” end version.

    It would seems pricing needs to be re-evaluated.

  16. Looking at the online GM ordering guide it appears that both the Nav system and the touring pkg are both optional on the TurboX which will probably make it closer to $45,000

  17. “For the 2008 model year only 600 examples – split between both body styles – will come to the United States.”–turbo-x press release

    huh? sounds like an odd way to say it. will there be a 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012…turbo-x?;

    2. the u.s. is getting 600 units (30%), which seems puny for the biggest saab market. maybe the funky value of the u.s. dollar has something to do with it; and

    3. the xwd aero will come out at roughly the same time (or a few weeks later) and will cannibalize sales of the turbo-x, which needs to be discounted quickly and deeply, thus. buyers can get essentially the same car with color options (a totally moot point for me) and different, um, wheels. it doesn’t seem like the turbo-x is a “halo” car. it’s not a new model or design, something that’s really needed. a quantity of 1,000-2,000 units of a “do-able” aero-x,…now that’s a halo car. nevertheless, i hope the turbo-x does well.

  18. With 600 cars coming to the US, it’s more than 2 cars per dealer. While I think they may be scare in some markets, I don’t think they will be impossible to find. In many areas there is not a big Saab following. Looking forward to the Boston show this week to see the TurboX for real

  19. Slightly off topic but why are Saab charging extra for the eLSD on the non-X models. Whats the point of having the XWD without the added fun of eLSD. I think it should be part of the package and cost no more than $1000 when you take it as a combined package. Remember the 9-3 competes with the beat handling sports sedan on earth and the Saab is likely to cost more with the XWD/eLSD package which is something to consider. IMHO!

  20. When I think about it, isn’t the Turbo-X just a little bit of a special limited-edition Aero? The price premium to add XWD to an Aero is around $2K. So if you take the $2K out of the price of the Turbo-X you’re left with a $40.5K 9³ sedan and a $41.3 combi. What does that money buy you? Bigger brakes and some carbon fiber trim interior? The exclusivity? The caché of the Saab brand name? 😉

  21. Oops, I guess I should have read the comments to this post figuring that there would be like-minded individuals.

    Jeff: I think of Racer-X, Speed Racer’s masked older brother. 🙂 And the X-Games. And the X-Files. And Vin Diesel (XXX). And pornographic (X-rated) movies. And Cartesian Coordinates. And the seminal L.A. post-punk band X. And Xmas. And ecstasy. And Crystal Pepsi (but don’t ask me why). And…

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