Follow-up: Why we shouldn’t call the next Saab the “9-3″

When I posted a few days ago about my personal preference for the next new Saab to be called the 900 rather than the 9-3, I was expecting a little bit of controversy and criticism – and it certainly came to pass. I think we had a pretty good and robust discussion, though, and it was good to hear people’s thoughts on the idea.

I’d like to tackle a couple of themes running through the comments and perhaps narrow the discussion down a little bit.

Firstly, I’d like to tackle one misconception that was mentioned. This is a fair assumption on Steve’s part, however…..

With Swade’s status as an employee, I’m assuming he has seen more details of the design. Perhaps he sees something that we can’t yet appreciate.

Actually, I haven’t. The Saab Design studio is a mere 200 meters or so from where I sit, but I haven’t visited there yet. I know that if I see the vehicle it’ll be really, really hard for me to not talk about it. So I’ve made a conscious decision to keep away for the time being. I know a little bit more about the car than the average Saab nut right now, but I’ve not gone to see it for myself.

So with that out of the way, what about a few of the other themes that came through in comments?

Saab should change the range of names to …..

I don’t suggest, nor think, that there’s any value in changing the entire Saab nomenclature. That would require an extraordinary marketing investment and time that we just don’t have. And aside from that, as I mentioned in the original piece, I actually like the 9-3, 9-5, 9-4x way of labelling vehicles. It’s logical, sensible and it looks good on the cars. I’m not writing this with the idea in my head of changing the whole setup.

What I’m suggesting here is that Saab retain the 9-* nomenclature for the entire range, except for the vehicle that will replace the 9-3. I’m suggesting that we change that one and call it a Saab 900. So, when that vehicle comes out, we would have the 900, a 9-5 and a 9-4x.

…….tangent:

I’m just thinking out loud here, but perhaps Saab could retain the 9-3 name for this new vehicle, but use the 900 name for a performance package? Maybe in conjunction with the Aero tag? So you have a 9-3 Linear and 9-3 Vector (or base and Premium, if that’s the way it’s going to go), then move up to the 900 Aero for the top model? Just a quick thought on the side.

/tangent

I know it will be a point of contention for many to have two different naming conventions: 9-* and 900. But is it that much of a problem, really? Step outside the regimented initial thought process for just a moment and I think you’ll see it can work quite easily. The naming convention remains the same except for one model, which uses a classic Saab nameplate.

IMHO, It’s not that hard and still way more understandable and coherent than a bunch of unrelated alpha-based names.

Saab should look forwards, not back

A fair call, but I’m not convinced that it’s right in the context of what I’m suggesting.

I’m not suggesting that Saab should track down the tooling for the original 900 and start building it again. That’s re-tracing one’s steps in a manner that can only lead to oblivion.

What I’m suggesting here is that the 900 moniker still has a lot of value, and that value is better being unlocked and used for the company’s benefit, creating connections between former owners and the new vehicle. It’s better than that value only being saved for retrospective pieces and owners’ gatherings.

If what I’m suggesting is so wrong, then why do we have the Mini today, the Fiat 500, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dodge Challenger, the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro, and of course, the continued existence of the Porsche 911. It’s a mix of successful older badge names attached to new vehicles that carry on the heritage and help to build links with former owners, or new owners who idealised the original cars in their youth.

They key, once again, is to have the right car. If the replacement for the Saab 9-3 has those key Saab features that we all hope for, that combination of performance, utility, safety and comfort/luxury that the 900 did so well, then why not adorn it with Saab’s most purchased and most revered nameplate?

——

Thanks again for your input and thoughts. I don’t know what’s actually going to happen with the naming of the 9-3 successor, but it’s nice to toss around this idea and perhaps the people who will actually make that decision are reading this and considering the issue.

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18 Comments

  1. I like the idea of the top performance model being called the 900, wwith the 9-3 nomeclature remaining. This would be a continuation of what Saab did with the Turbo X. As an owner I never called it a 9-3 Turbo X, and pretty sure that most Saab nuts didn’t either so the leap to a 900 Turbo doesn’t sound to far a leap. I stil want the company in better times make an M5 / RS5 troubling 9-5 Viggen though!

    1. I think this is a much better Idea than calling the next 9-3 the 900.
      I mean, if the top of the line model is called the 9-3 900 Aero, many people will call it the 900 Aero, thus reconnecting with the mojo of the classic 900 Aero.

  2. Not having read the comments on the preceeding post, I’m perhaps repeating thoughts already given so forgive me if I am.  I don’t like the way that Saab has re-used names/numbers in the past.  It leads to this clunky slang for older vs. newer cars (C900 v. NG900, OG9-3 v. NG9-3, etc.) and it seems to, as some say, look backward rather than forward.

    I love the ‘9’ that we own. 

    Those two things lead to a dilemma – how to innovate within the bounds of what’s available and desired?  As I understand it, the whole 901, 902, 903…. series is not possible because Peugot ‘owns’ the ‘0’ in the middle.  Ditto certain others (911, 924, 930, 944, etc.).

    We can go back to two digits: 91, 92.  We can also go to tens plus 900 (910, 920, 940, 950….).  However, let’s think a little more practically and a little more uniquely Saab.

    I advocate a series in the 990 range.  990, 991, 992, 993, 994……  Unique enough to ‘own’ in the market and still easy to see and understand.  Yes, I know that there are a couple of those that are internal/secondary designators for Porsche 911 series cars, but Porsche still uses the 911 as the model number.

    My two cents.

    1. Eggs, I think you might be onto something.  990 would be a very good name for the new car.  ‘990’ evokes memories of both the 99 and the 900 and gets us away from the GM era ‘9-3’ designation.

      I can just imagine a TV commercial showing footage of the 99 turbo and the classic 900 turbo and then exposing the new ‘990’ in all it’s glory.   I think that would really work well.

      A 990 Viggen coupe sounds terrific.  Put me down for one!

    2. I respectfully disagree.  It’s the worst of both worlds – inconsistent with the current “9-x” naming scheme, resulting in consumer confusion, without any obvious connection (for the average buyer) to the classic Saab 900.  

      I’m with Swade on this one: keep the nomenclature for the rest of the line, but use “900” for the 9-3 replacement.  

    3. Tee Hee!  I get a yes and a no.  @Greg: I have no love for the current 9-x nomenclature and I would be glad to be rid of it.  I guess that’s where you and I would disagree most.  As far as re-using the 900 name: I think it’s heresy, but that horse is already out of the barn.

  3. Build a Saab that literally screams in all directions of unique design, performance, practicality and safety. NO COMPROMISES. Call it Saab 900 and place turbo badges in the grill, on the sides and at the back. Sell it as THE ALTERNATIVE, not some Audi-wannabe. Get the mix perfect and this 900 will instantly ignite long-gone passion amongst older drivers and excite young ones. Can’t go wrong!

  4. Missed the first discussion on the model name situation.

    My idea is, as it has been -and expressed- for a long time: call the smaller models 90 and up, the mid-size ones 900 and up (best sold so that they would most profit from resurrecting the most iconic moniker) and the large models 9000 and up. It’s imho logical and harks back directly to the last period of Saab being Saab.

    9-3, 9-5 and so on are remnants of the lamentable GM period and should be erased from memory a.s.a.p.

    Ivo

    1. I don’ t really see the point in retaining the 9. As I said in the previous post, a model identifier that is the same for all models serves no purpose. If you want a name that identifies the brand rather than the model, then that’s what “Saab” is for.

      But if Saab still does keep the 9, then I think Ivo’s suggestion here is the best one yet!

  5. Hello from Monte Carlo!

    As I sit here looking at the new McLaren passing by, I completely agree with you Swade. And that’s a total about turn for me. When you say the name Saab, you instantly think ‘900’ or at least I do – and many others. You’ve hit the nail on the head with the 911. Why shouldn’t Saab use its most popular name? All those Griffin/Viggen names mean absolutely NOTHING to me, but a 900 – I think when it comes to advertising, Saab will get a lot more bang for the buck when people see the name ‘900’. Saab have every right to claim the name. And I agree, it’s not retro, especially if they use a 993/996 code name as well.

    Regards to all,
    J Fan

  6. Do NOT change to 900. Yes the 900 was a fine car but that name just screams 1980-1990. This is 2011! And what a confusion of having, 900, 9-4x, 9-5 etc. 

    The current nomenclature looks great, is very easy to understand the logics behind. How are you going to label bigger cars considering there might be a 9-6 and 9-7? 900, 9000, 90000, 900000? Rediculous. 900, 905, 910, 920? Sounds like peugeot to me. 

    No, the current nomenclature is original and great in every way.

  7. I think a ‘900’ edition of the 9-3 would just be too confusing.  It’s time for ‘9-3’ to go.  Either simply call the 9-3’s successor ‘900’ in the spirit of the classic 900, or let’s have a totally new name for the first truly new car from an independent Saab.

  8. My issue is constancy over time in the name and the overall naming conventions.  Changing names back & forth leads to confusion with customers.  Yes Ford resurrected the Taurus name, but it was only gone for about a year, not 12+ years like the 900 name.  However, the new CEO of Ford felt there was more brand equity in the Taurus name than in the Five Hundred name, and enough to break with the overall Ford naming convention (all passenger cars with names starting with “F”, at least in the US).  Saab should only go back to the 900 name if it really thinks there is substantial more brand equity in the 900 name, and more than enough to add confusion to the lineups naming convention, versus the 9-3 name.

    Having just numbers can lead to naming convention issues when the product line really grows.  The 9^X convention at least gives 9 basic choices where as the 9X convention gives much fewer, perhaps as few as 3 or 4 (anything above 9000 is going to look silly and be a mouthful, at least in English).  That said, maybe there should be two naming conventions, one for passenger cars and one for SUVs/Crossovers.

    Just what ever you do, think it out over the next product cycle or two or three, come up with a plan and stick to it.

  9. Maybe Saab should try something new, like a combination out of numbers and letters. E.g.:
    93C for the 9-3 Cabriolet
    93S for the 9-3 Sedan
    93W for the SportWagon
    94X for the X-Cross
    95S … and so on

  10. Time to chime in…
    One thought is that SAAB could drop the numerics and move to alpha-based names. The 9-3 could become a SAAB Viggen the next Gen 9-5 moves to Gripen. Naturally this makes way for the Sonett and SAAB could even adopt a Phoenix model. They could even call their off-roader a Safari and their entry vehicle the Safir. Unfortunately this would all mean going to SAAB defence and asking for permission to use the names…Too me the 900 had zero appeal. SAAB was not exactly in good shape when the 900 arrived and it was the vehicle that led to Investor passing SAAB onto GM. However the 99 on the other hand was a real landmark in engineering and personally I think it would be good to see future saabs drop the hyphen. it can still be badged 9 (to the power of) 3 but pronounced Ninety three. 

  11. I have what I think is the perfect solution (but don’t we all). Keep the 9-3 name for the sedan and wagon, but for the hatch call it the 900.

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