Carl-Peter Forster on Saab

Carl-Peter Forster, the head honcho from GM Europe, has recently done an interview with Automotive News. The interview starts with questions about the German market and then moves onto the state of GM in Europe (which has set a sales record this year already, with a month to spare).

EduSaab was kind enough to send through a copy of the interview, and questions and answers specifically relating to Saab are reproduced below:

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I found this one to be interesting…..

When will this car (an Opel flagship vehicle – SW) come out?

Early next decade. For the moment, we are completely maxed out with the Vectra successor, the Astra and all its derivatives, and two new Saabs.

With the 9-4x, new 9-5 and 9-1 all making recent news I was wondering about why he only mentioned two cars. Then it clicked. Two new Saabs. They’d be the 9-4x and the 9-1. New model lines to the brand.

Is Saab making a worthwhile contribution to GM?

In Europe it’s making a worthwhile contribution although shipping cars to the US from Europe is a difficult business. We believe Saab has potential. It needs a greater product line, which we are working on.

I’m a little disappointed he didn’t mention the engineering expertise Saab provides for GM in terms of turbocharging and the application of XWD technology, which Saab will take a lead role in going forward.

But the interview was focused more on sales than development, so I guess the answer was given in that context.

If the dollar-euro exchange rate doesn’t work for Saab, why does it work to export Opels to the US and sell them as Saturns?

That is a strategic investment in the market to reposition Saturn in the US with European-based, European-flavored vehicles.

Could you also ship US-made vehicles back to Europe?

You could have Chevys built in America. We will definitely build one Saab in America. We will be shipping Saabs back into Europe. We need a natural hedge.

That one Saab will be the 9-4x, to be made in Mexico and shipped to the worldwide market from there.

How many units?

It depends on the success, maybe about 10,000 units.

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And finally, the quotable quote from the entire piece:

Why is the Cadillac BLS not selling well?

The BLS was a vehicle created to very quickly give a minimum volume to our dealers. [In that regard] it is working.

If minimum volume was the goal then I’d have to agree, it certainly is working….

Why, oh why, couldn’t that BLS money have gone directly into Saab?

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Thanks again, EduSaab!

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8 Comments

  1. Why don’t I ever read mention of the next-gen 9-3 anymore? I thought the ’08 MCE was supposed to extend the current Epsilon-based 9-3 until 2010 when the Epsilon-2 replacement comes out.

    While I believed that the 9-5 would be out in 2009 as a MY2010 I thought the 9-3 would be out in 2010 as a MY2011 and that’s around the same time the 9-1 is due. Has a new 9-3 (to be produced in Russelsheim) been pushed-out?

    On the BLS thing, note he’s referring to it in the past-tense. Then why will they be making a next-gen one???

  2. “That is a strategic investment in the market to reposition Saturn in the US with European-based, European-flavored vehicles. “

    Which is an interesting point because it is assumed that most buyers still don’t associate Saturn with GM – and GM has done quite a bit over the last two years to revitalize the brand. The Saturn brand really does not have much of a heritage at all, so one has to speculate that without much of a history, GM chose them to attract younger buyers that would want something from Honda or Toyota – and not associate Saturn with the poor quality GM cars their parents owned.

    The European flair is something the Asian competitors really cannot replicate. Pontiac failed at this in the late 80’s and early 90’s so….. Give Saturn a try – not Saab.

    Hopefully as new Saab models are introduced GM is able to preserve the Saab heritage while growing the brand.

  3. Well, the sticker pricing is kind of different on a Saturn and a Saab. So let’s not take Forster’s words out of context – I’m sure GM would like to turn Saab into a mainstream Euroish brand; Saab is niche brand, and I would much rather have it stay that way, thank you very much. Niched and profitable.

    On a separate note, while I’m not a Cadillac fan, I really do not understand why is everyone flipping over the brand being introduced in Europe? Those wet dreams about all the money being poured in Saab development are really ungrounded – the brand is making GM a hefty loss as it is.

    Besides, let us all just imagine for a brief moment that in 8 years time our beloved Swedish manufacturer has really made it big – everyone’s driving Saabs, left and right. You pull at a red light and you are surrounded by our own car (hello Audi). Would any of us really love Saab, still?

  4. GMs building the Saturn/Opel Aura in Kansas City…the Opel/Pontiac/Saturn CV in Delaware. With the weak $$, right now would seem to be a great time to build small turbodiesel and/or hybrid motors for many export and domestic models. I dont buy this “niche” stuff. If GMEurope is charged with taking on the Germans and Volvo, Saab and Opel are the brands ya gotta goto.

  5. Personally, I’m not flipping over the fact that they introduce Caillac in Europe. It’s *how* they do it that makes me wonder if they know anything about the “premium” market over here.
    At the other end of the spectrum, they do a really good job with Chevrolet. But that’s an easier task since they are all rebadged Daewoo’s

  6. Personally, I think that the BLS is an interesting car for collectors. Nobody knows it and it is just bought by a few people, who would otherwise import just another scrappy thing directly from America. – Saab should be happy with the opportunity to rise capacity usage a tiny little bit. Workers are (maybe) happier and more concentrated on the job instead of their coffee, because idle-time is reduced. By that, the small Caddy helps increasing the quality level on our beloved Saabs as well.
    And, by the way, the BLS is the only Cadillac with the rigth proportions and a good-looking shape overall – by far better than the rebadged Korean white goods.

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