I wrote a few weeks ago about Saabs and Production, tying together a story by Hilton Holloway in England and some stuff that I’d heard on the grapevine.
Some excerpts to give you perspective. The first is from Holloway:
Although this 9-3 pre-production car is powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines used in the pre-collapse series production cars, this is just a stop-gap operation.
And my elaboration on that….
From what I’ve heard, NEVS bought around 2,000 of these (GM) engines from the bankruptcy estate so they’re what’s going in the car to start with.
The ramp-up to production is going to be pretty slow so those engines should last a little while. There shouldn’t be any real hassles with GM, either, as it’s old technology bought from the Saab estate, not sourced from GM.
Of course, NEVS are going to have to insert an engine of their own sooner or later.
Overnight, I heard a little bit more about what that replacement engine might be.
As with my last piece, I have to stress that this isn’t bona-fide Djup Strupe material i.e. direct to me from inside the company. As with last time, this is from a friend in the Trollhattan area who is very likely connected to people inside the company. This is third-party information, in other words. I’m mentioning it here because it’s information that I’ve heard from several different third parties, now.
As per the headline to this story, that information is that NEVS/Saab plan to use Saab’s old H-Engine in their petrol powered Saab 9-3.
For those who are unfamiliar, the H-engine powered Saabs for years, last seeing service in the Saab 9-5 in 2009 prior to the second generation Saab 9-5 being released as a 2010 model with a range of GM engines. The H-engine also powered the first generation of the Saab 9-3 before GM Ecotec engines were introduced in the Sport Sedan era. The origins of the H-engine actually go right back to the Saab 99, but that’s a distant relative to the modern H-engine.
Saab sold the rights to the H-engine to BAIC when they had a cash-raising tech sale back in 2009. Given that no-one builds them in Sweden any more, it’s fair to assume that NEVS might intend to source their H-engines from BAIC for use in the 9-3.
So what does the use of the H-engine mean for Saab and it’s non-Chinese fan base?
Whether GM replaced the H-engine with the Ecotec because of efficiency, pollution, NVH or sheer business economics will vary depending on who you talk to. It remains to be seen whether or not any further efficiency can be squeezed out of the old powerplant. If anyone can do that, it’s Kjell AC Bergstrom.
Saab fans will rejoice because it’s more Saab DNA in the car. That’s true, but it’s widely known that the engine doesn’t meet modern emissions standards (not as used in the old Saab 9-5, at least. I refer you again to the paragraph above and whether or not Kjell AC Bergstrom can massage it a little). Saabs United reported last week that NEVS had the 9-3 in Holland for testing and the GM Direct Injection engine was in that car. That engine will undoubtedly achieve current Euro certification for emissions. The H-engine most likely would not.
Use of the H-engine would therefore lend credence to the theory that production in the short-medium term is all bound for China, where emissions regulations aren’t as demanding.
There’s an interesting complication that arises from a scenario where Saab build a limited number of GM-engined cars followed by H-engine cars. That complication revolves around the engine bay.
NEVS are building the Saab 9-3 (series 440), which never came with a H-engine under the hood. From what I can tell, that means a whole bunch of engineering and comprehensive safety testing before this engine/chassis combination could hit a western market. Then there’s the NVH testing that would need to be done to make sure the car’s refined enough for a western market.
It’s not impossible, but it’s a definite complication. Saab fans are rightly excited that a Saab car might be coming off the line next week, but in order to really justify the excitement, the car’s got to be competitive and that means safe, well equipped and refined.
Add this to the list of questions that I hope someone asks NEVS next Monday, when they show their working production line to the motoring press.
It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold, that’s for sure. For now, it looks like the Chinese market is going to get familiar with the term “DI Cassette” 🙂