Posted by: saabnuts | January 27, 2010

Future Saab: How Saabish can Saabs be?

SAAB 9X Air

Pictured above is the front view of the Saab 9x Air Concept Car.  It looks like what you expect a late model Saab to look like, at least familiar to Saab fans, correct?

But from other views the 9X Air does NOT look like a typical Saab, and Saabs, like all other cars needs to evolve, and I for one, love the 9X Air.

SAAB 9X Air

SAAB 9X Air Concept Car

SAAB 9X Air Concept Car

Where do we go, rather, where do Saab Spyker, GM and an eventually independent Saab go from here?

There are many details of the deal, many to be addressed, and many tasks ahead. Saab must for the first time in decades move back towards being an independent firm responsible for itself, no longer a subsidiary of a larger firm. This and many other things will take time, including the final approvals for the EIB loan and closing of the deal, perhaps in February.

With the myriad things to be addressed, such as making Saab independent, engineering new designs, deals with GM to enable production of existing and new models such as the 9-4X,

SAAB 9-4X

SAAB 9-4X

(Next Generation) NG 9-5,

2011 Saab 9-5

and NG 9-3, shoring relations with dealers, and, many more questions come to mind as to how Saab most effectively acts, in order to achieve success and in the longer term, as well as becomes independent and SURVIVES.

Mr. Muller mentions possibilities such as Spyker producing the 2006 generation of Aero-X Concept Cars via Spyker. I think he is correct that it may well be a design suited to such an endeavor, and a good business move.

The Saab 9-3 Aero X: A Concept Car (courtesy of http://www.autoblog.com)

Remember, in spite of what each of us (Saab fans) might want, we will have nothing is Saab is not made “successful” financially.

Mr. Muller also mentions, along with its expense, possibilities of entering racing / rallying (ok I threw in rallying). Others and Mr. Muller have mentioned that Saab needs to be selling upwards or more specifically, above 100,000 units per year, and that we can’t expect to necessarily achieve those numbers in 2010.

We know that for now we have the 9-3 and 9-5, with the NG 9-5 coming soon, and perhaps the 9-5 Estate (Wagon, courtesy of Saabs United)

2010 Saab 9-5 Wagon: courtesy of Saabs United

and the new 9-4X is coming not long after.  I believe there are also plans for an NG (Next Generation) 9-3.

The NG 9-5 and 9-4 will have many GM components, and the 9-4 may in fact be produced by GM for Saab. Many want Saab to be free of GM influence, but this will not come quickly and for now on-going relations are best for Saab AND GM, who is still Saab’s partner, and using GM parts allows Saab to keep things going in order that Saab and GM flourish, together at first, and independently in the long term. Hence the need for many agreements between Saab Spyker and GM beyond just a purchase.

I know what we like in our Saabs: look at our little fleet, pictured in the site’s header at the top of this page. Notice anything (aside from us being Saab nuts)? They are all hatchbacks.

I am passionate about the old Saabs, not just our 99 but older models like the Sonett, 95, 96 and the first 92 design. But I understand that Saab can’t be expected to make cars look like 1960’s and 1970’s models. Not unless they do something special, perhaps via Spyker for the old time enthusiasts… the way VW revived the Beetle, BMW the Mini, and Ford the Mustang, and Thunderbird… and Chrysler the Charger, and Chevy, the Camaro. These companies successfully took older designs and made them new. A sort of retro-looking tribute to an old namesake.

Those are things that come to mind for me and our Saab tastes. Not mainstream stuff, just possibilities for an innovative company, but perhaps helpful sidelines in the larger Saab picture.

I don’t dislike or hate the newer Saabs, not at all, but we don’t own a current generation 9-3,

SAAB 9-3 Sport Sedan (2007)

9-7

Saab 9-7 Aero Concept Car

nor 9-5,

SAAB 9-5

nor did we buy a 9-2X (aka the Saabaru).

Saab 9-2X - The Saabaru

But there are people who like each of these Saabs. People who have the money to buy Saabs. All of our opinions matter. We will buy new Saabs again ourselves. The question is, how does Saab best achieve those 100,000 plus annual unit sales?

What can they design and produce? I have no doubts about the ingenuity of Saab designers and engineers. But I wonder what should be done to get us to 100,000 plus sales?

I hear that Mr. Muller wants to recover drivers lost to Audi in recent years, as one example. Obviously I think the NG 9-5 is a good start. Unfortunately, the NG 9-5 is for now, out of our price range. It IS within range for many and should be built.

If possible, and I’m not suggesting it is, between labor and parts costs, etc., we would be better able to buy a new Saab sooner if they are under the $30k price point, closer to $20k if possible. Again I don’t know that this is possible, but I think that many more people would buy Saabs again, people we know who owned them until they couldn’t quite afford to replace them with new Saabs.

If I’m not mistaken, 2002 was a good sales year for Saab – and the last year they had a larger hatchback (see red 9-3 in this blog header). I also understand that other manufacturers are coming back to hatch designs: Honda, Jaguar, BMW, etc. Perhaps this is not a direction Saab Spyker wants to go, but I think it is a place for Saab to shine again.

Saab also previously managed cars like the 9000 with a hatch that didn’t look like a hatch. I know how passionate we Saabers can be about what we fit in those hatches! Again, I refer to larger hatches, not those found in the 9-2 Saabaru.

We are not likely to be buyers of the new 9-4, but I think many people WILL like and want them. If this is how Saab is to grow, it is a must.

My point is that perhaps these factors can be mixed together to create yet another unique strategy for success for an equally unique car company and followers.

Perhaps you can attract more buyers with the mainstream looks that Saab has adopted and also, make Saabs more “Saabish” as so many have said. Have a diverse little range of models.

Many remember the days when Volvo had only a 240 and 740 line of models, and Saab had only the 900 and 9000, later 9-3 and 9-5. Part of Volvos success has been to adapt to more offerings. Saab may need to do the same, making sure to offer more than 2 models, perhaps more than 3.

I come back then to asking if the 9-X Air could be part of the plan. Could it be the next Mini? Does it have to be produced in large numbers to be a success? Or can it be a more limited offering? Can it be done cheaply compared to competition, making it an unbeatable and cool deal?

I’ve answered no questions for myself, and likely not for you, but I do think that Saab Spyker will need creative approaches to making Saab grow out from under the wings of GM to once again fly under her own power.

I do think that advertising in the United States needs to be increased. Saab needs to attract buyers, and not just those of us and others on Saabs United pledging to buy cars. I have far too much exposure to tv, and don’t see enough Saab ads compared to other makes. They seem limited to local ads only and far too few. No matter what medium is chosen, Saab needs a major boost in the awareness department / advertising, outside the circle of people like us and those visiting this site.


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