In two weeks time I’ll be well on my way to Los Angeles, where I’ll be spending a day prior to heading further north to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show.
From sleepy hollow to the epicenter of the motoring business in the US.
There’ll be a show to see, but I don’t imagine I’ll be spending all of my time there. The 9-4x concept unveiling will, of course, be really important for Saab’s future and that’ll be covered in full. I’ll get all the pictures I can and find out every last detail about the car and it’ll all be here for you to pore over.
The rest of my time, however, is going to be spent doing something that’s perhaps more important. I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time in the company of Saab people. Of course, there’ll be the Saab USA people. That’s a given. But there’ll also be some Swedes there, most notably Knut Simonsson from the Saab Brand Center in Sweden.
And there’s one thing in particular I want from this trip, from this time with Saab’s reps at the biggest motor show in the world:
I love Saabs. I love the 900 that I own. I love the 99T that I used to own even more than that. And my Viggen? Pure passion. I even love my 1994 Saab 9000CS, which is basically just a big comfy cruiser. I love the Saab 9-5 and I love the 2008 Saab 9-3 as well. I love the history of the brand and the fact that they started from nothing and are still around today.
What I want is for them to be around tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
I’m grateful to GM that Saab are still around and readily acknowledge that they may not be if GM hadn’t bought in. But I’m also very aware that GM’s priorities are vastly different from those of an enthusiast market, and that worries me when it comes to Saab.
GM are a global company. Saab were a tiny company. GM have a worldwide team of designers and engineers working on various brands, sometimes from one day to the next. Saab were a tiny company with a small band of designers and engineers – and they made Saabs.
I don’t want to sound ‘brandist’ here, but it does worry me sometimes when I think that the same people that designed the Holden Epica might one day work on a Saab. You couldn’t find a less Epic car than the Epica if you tried. Holden had to offer it with a satisfaction guarantee, where they’d refund your money towards that purchase of a more satisfying car, in order to sell it. It’s more underwhelming than alfalfa.
And when I saw this recent press release from Chevy in the US, I worried even more:
Expanding its range of capabilities, Chevrolet now offers a new, 6.2L small-block V-8 in the Tahoe LTZ in 2008. Rated at 380 horsepower (283 kW) and equipped with advanced technologies, it is the most powerful engine offered in the Tahoe lineup.
You see, this sort of thing really does worry me.
SUV sales are plummeting as buyers move toward more car-based offerings. Fuel costs are slowly but consistently rising, and someone at GM thinks that it’s wise to bring out a Tahoe variant with an even bigger, more powerful engine.
It worries me that this person might one day come to work at Saab.
I, like you, have only one life to live. In the first 37 years of this life that I have, I’ve developed a strong affinity with cars and a love of driving. In particular, I’ve come to love Saabs. And Alfas, but mostly Saabs. I spend multiple hours per day reading and writing about them because I like to share the passion and enthusiasm I have for them.
So one thing I really, really want from this Detroit trip is some concrete, real, more-than-words assurance from Swedish Saab people that the company is currently resting in safe hands. Not deep pockets, but safe hands. If I’m wasting my time writing this stuff and what we’re going to get in 5 years from now is an Epica with a Saab badge and a 6.2L V8, then let me off the train here.
Be honest. Don’t give me the spin. Show. Me. The. Money.
And don’t give me the Aero-X as an assurance. We’re never going to drive an Aero-X and “styling cues” aren’t going to cut it.
I don’t know what they can give, but the more boneheaded moves I see in other parts of GM, the more I worry about whether, or when, such boneheadedness is going to have a material effect on Saab.
I’m sure there’ll be more thoughts on this and other things as Detroit looms larger on my mental calendar.