Jump to content

Build Theme!

Photo

Saab Story


23 replies to this topic

#1

Variance

    Denali Member

  • Editor/Reporter
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,444 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:16 PM

Posted Image

-Variance

January 15, 2007

As we all know, General Motors is in the middle of a spectacular product turnaround. At the moment, the most excitement seems to be circling around Chevy as the anticipated release of the new Camaro looms ever nearer and the “Blue Devil” Corvette will show up sometime in the future in an attempt to obtain top dog status over sports cars.

On a bit of a tamer note, the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado have been reworked inside and out and so far have been garnering high praise even in the face of stiff new competition. The Silverado has been named Motor Trend’s 2007 Truck of the Year as well as the North American Truck of the Year.

When talking about trucks, you can’t forget about Hummer. The boutique SUV brand gained the most sales out of all General Motors brands in 2006 over 2005. And with a more powerful H3 (with a new H3X trim) as well as a much anticipated H4 concept, the brand’s future has the potential to be even brighter.

Saturn isn’t doing too shabby either as their product line is nearing complete overhaul to give it a more Euro flavor. The dowdy Ion is making way for the Opel-derived Astra and the new Vue is Opel’s Antara in American guise. Let’s also not forget the hot Saturn Sky with the even hotter Red Line version and the new Aura sedan which was recently honored with the title of 2007 North American Car of the Year. Last but not least, we have the brand-new and highly competitive Outlook sitting on GM’s new Lambda platform (along with the equally impressive GMC Acadia).

Speaking of Lambda, Buick’s Enclave is set to be the most luxurious use of the platform and has the potential to be a real threat to the Lexus RX. It is also rumored that GM’s Aussie subsidiary, Holden, may produce a model for them. This brings me to the next item...

Pontiac will once again gain some down under thunder in the form of the G8, the scheduled replacement for the current Grand Prix. The G8 is expected to be a reskinned Holden Commodore, a rear-drive sedan that follows the philosophy of the Dodge Charger...only with a better interior.

At the higher end of things, Caddy recently unveiled the new CTS sedan which has been made more competitive with new features and more importantly a new interior that’s so good, I dare say it even shames the $100K XLR-V. Considering that the CTS is Caddy’s entry-level product, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to assume that the more upscale vehicles will be just as good, if not better.

Now in that (admittedly quite lengthy) introduction, what GM brand did you notice was missing? If you’re having trouble remembering (can’t say I blame you), the brand in question is Saab.

Born From Jets, Dying From Neglect

Now I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I’m not much in the way of a Saab enthusiast. In fact, I prefer the cars from its other Swedish rival, Volvo. However, I do have a soft spot for Saabs and don’t really care for what going on with the brand at the moment – which is virtually nothing.

Let’s start by taking a look at the current Saab lineup:

9-3: If I had to pick my favorite current Saab, this would probably be it. I’ve always liked the clean body of the 9-3 (though I wish they took the time to freshen it up a little) as well as the unmistakably Saab interior...at least until it was “GMized” with the corporate radio head unit and the removal of the SID unit that resided on top of the dash. There’s also a choice of a wagon version that I’m guessing almost nobody buys and a convertible version that is a bit on the pricey side (the Aero Convertible has the highest base price of all currently sold Saabs). A bright spot is the 2.8T V6 in the Aero trim that looks to be gem of an engine. Why isn’t it in the 9-5?!

9-5: Why isn’t the 2.8L turbo V6 in this car?! I could care less that the sole 4-cylinder turbo available in the 9-5 makes more power. It strikes me as just a bit silly that the entry level product has more and larger engine options than the more “upscale” offering. Maybe it’s part of the Saab “quirk”. It’s also more than bit of a concern when the best features they can find to highlight on the 95 on the Saab website include “halogen headlamps”, “front fog lamps” and “side mounted direction indicator lamps”. Yipee. It probably doesn’t help that the car hasn’t seen a significant overhaul since the 1997 model year in which it was introduced. With positive attributes like this, who can show shock that this is a terrible-selling car? Well, it is and I’m not. The SportCombi version is so insignificant, it’s not even worth writing about (uh, aside from this sentence, I guess).

9-7X: There’s got to be some degree of irony in the least Saab-like “Saab” seeing the biggest gains last year over of all Saabs compared to 2005 sales. There’s got to be an even greater magnitude of irony in it doing so in a time where Americans were (and probably still are) up in arms over gas prices – it being a midsize truck-based SUV with a V8 option and all. It does have a bit going for it, I have to say. It’s the best-looking version of the GMT360 breed and it also has the best interior. Pity it’s being killed after this model year.

So there we have it: an entry level vehicle that’s mediocre at best; a sedan that if you called it an “also-ran”, it would be an exaggeration; and an SUV that sells well for what it is but is going to be killed in less than a year. Almost makes laughing at Lincoln seem a bit ridiculous. (Almost.)

For the life of me, I can’t understand why GM has allowed Saab to get into the state it’s in. One could argue that Saab is kind of a boutique brand and isn’t as important to the GM bottom line as say, Chevy or Pontiac. They can argue that but I won’t buy it. Hummer has an even narrower focus and appeal than Saab does in my opinion and GM seems to care plenty about them. Honestly, why take the time (and more importantly, money) to purchase entire car brand if you aren’t going to try your damnedest to get a return on your investment? Reskinning Subarus and Chevrolets is not what I call trying. I’m seeing a bunch of concepts, rumors and sketches but how about some new production product?

Jumpstart the Jets

You know, maybe I’m being just a bit impatient. The 2008 9-3 is supposedly receiving a reskin to make it resemble the Saab Aero-X (not a bad thing at all). The next 9-5 will sit on the Epsilon II platform and I’m guessing it will gain AWD capability with it. The role of Saab’s SUV currently held by the dying 9-7X will be taken on by the promising-looking 9-4X (so far only shown as a blurry sketch in this thread. Probably the most exciting bit of news if you’re a Saab enthusinista (I’m not sure if I made that word up or not), is that the legendary Sonett sports car is being revived with about a year and a half.

Now here’s the part where I start daydreaming. There are two key things I think Saab should do to become more of a contender beyond what future plans they already have.

First, create a competitor to go head-to-head with Volvo’s S80. Build it on Sigma II; give it full-time AWD and lots of Saab charm. Of course I realize Saab has never made any sedan that large or upscale (not as far as I know, anyway) but it could potentially legitimize Saab in the Swedish luxury arena again. If Volvo can change the S80 from a bland box to a somewhat sexy Swedish saloon, there’s gotta be some hope for a Saab 9-9. Why should Volvo have all the fun?

Second (and probably more realistic) would be to revive the “Viggen”. The old 9-3 Viggen had more fans than I think Saab or GM realizes. Maybe pop a higher-tuned version of the Solstice GXP/Sky Red Line mill into the next 9-3 with AWD. And why stop there? Why not have Viggen versions of every Saab? Make it Saab’s M/S/AMG/F if you will.

Well...it can’t hurt to dream. But at any rate, here’s hoping for a revitalized Saab: Born From Jets, Reborn From Lutz (soon, I hope).
  • 0

#2

Dodgefan

    `Cuz I'm Awesome

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 23,479 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:39 PM

A good read indeed. Here's to hoping we get to see something new from Saab that's more than just a concept.
  • 0

#3

Northstar

    Be afraid of Jake. Very, very afaid.

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,304 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:42 PM

I think one of Saab's biggest problems is lack of dealers. I was going to have my aunt look at them when she was car shopping, but there wasn't a dealer within an hour's drive (meaning she would have to drive more than an hour for an oil change) so she didn't look at them. I don't dislike Saabs at all, but I often think it would be better for GM to just dump them. By now, they have any turbo technology Saab could provide, and I don't see much else that's worth anything other than having another brand to sell cars under. I think the money could be better spent elsewhere, but the same could be said about other brands. For instance, instead of the 9-3, how about a Buick the same size (assuming NG LaCrosse will be bigger)? It would attract younger buyers to Buick and also give Buick a possible convertible. Instead of the 9-5, I guess the LaCrosse or Aura could be made better, but I have no other idea for a direct area for the money saved to go. Instead of the upcoming 9-4x, how about a Buick off TE? I'm guessing the Buick would sell at least 3-4 times as many units, and while at a lower price, it wouldn't be that much cheaper, therefore giving GM more profit. Also, instead of the Aero X or some sort of sports car that it seems Saab may be getting, how about something more for Pontiac? A Saab sportscar is going to sell what, 250 units a month? A Pontiac sports car could sell 4 times that much at least. I think GM could find a buyer somewhere. I don't know who would buy Saab, but I'm sure someone would. If nothing else, it would be much cheaper for GM to just give it to a competitor than to kill the brand.
  • 0

#4

Flybrian

    Aurora Oldsmoborealis

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,050 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:44 PM

The 9-7x handily outsells the 9-5 as-is. Imagine if it were more SAAB while retaining that American appeal, namely the V8. Great read, btw!
  • 0

#5

ZL-1

    Ultra Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,682 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 04:43 AM

Great read! I hope Saab gets the attention it deserves: its traditional 'quirkyness' coupled with some traditional Swedish utility-driven design has the potential to make it quite unique and disctinctive from other auto brands. P.S. - Also, if Saab does gets attention, maybe I can get the job I applied for at Saab (in Trollhättan) :AH-HA_wink:
  • 0

#6

Z-06

    Ultra Member

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,670 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 08:33 AM

Good 1. I wish 9-3 was given more spice up. It is showing its age. I have driven my friend's 9-3 and it is a blast with a 6 speed combo. I hope they keep their bread and butter vehicle innovative and add the deeply needed Viagra to it.
  • 0

#7

Variance

    Denali Member

  • Editor/Reporter
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,444 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 05:03 PM

I think one of Saab's biggest problems is lack of dealers. I was going to have my aunt look at them when she was car shopping, but there wasn't a dealer within an hour's drive (meaning she would have to drive more than an hour for an oil change) so she didn't look at them.


It's a problem that I can think be remedied by making vehicles that more of the public would want to own which in turn would make Saabs a more attractive proposition for those interested in owning a franchise to invest in.

I don't dislike Saabs at all, but I often think it would be better for GM to just dump them. By now, they have any turbo technology Saab could provide, and I don't see much else that's worth anything other than having another brand to sell cars under. I think the money could be better spent elsewhere, but the same could be said about other brands. For instance, instead of the 9-3, how about a Buick the same size (assuming NG LaCrosse will be bigger)? It would attract younger buyers to Buick and also give Buick a possible convertible. Instead of the 9-5, I guess the LaCrosse or Aura could be made better, but I have no other idea for a direct area for the money saved to go. Instead of the upcoming 9-4x, how about a Buick off TE? I'm guessing the Buick would sell at least 3-4 times as many units, and while at a lower price, it wouldn't be that much cheaper, therefore giving GM more profit. Also, instead of the Aero X or some sort of sports car that it seems Saab may be getting, how about something more for Pontiac? A Saab sportscar is going to sell what, 250 units a month? A Pontiac sports car could sell 4 times that much at least.

I think GM could find a buyer somewhere. I don't know who would buy Saab, but I'm sure someone would. If nothing else, it would be much cheaper for GM to just give it to a competitor than to kill the brand.


Remember when GM killed off Oldsmobile and a great deal of their consumer base went to other brands from its competitors? That will happen again if they kill Saab. Plus, I'm willing to wager a much lesser percentage of former Saab customers will transition to other GM brands than former Olds customers did since (despite the recent attempt GM interior homogenization) Saabs are for the most part unique product.

Plus, even though I know it's economically irrelevant, I still don't see the sense of throwing away the time and money already put into Saab. I don't think it's a lost cause yet.
  • 0

#8

Northstar

    Be afraid of Jake. Very, very afaid.

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,304 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 06:25 PM

It's a problem that I can think be remedied by making vehicles that more of the public would want to own which in turn would make aabs a more attractive proposition for those interested in owning a franchise to invest in.
Remember when GM killed off Oldsmobile and a great deal of their consumer base went to other brands from its competitors? That will happen again if they kill Saab. Plus, I'm willing to wager a much lesser percentage of former Saab customers will transition to other GM brands than former Olds customers did since (despite the recent attempt GM interior homogenization) Saabs are for the most part unique product.

Plus, even though I know it's economically irrelevant, I still don't see the sense of throwing away the time and money already put into Saab. I don't think it's a lost cause yet.


Saab is so small though. Last year they sold only 36k vehicles the entire year, Pontiac does that in one month most of the time. I don't think 36k sales in a market that sells 16-17 million vehicles a year is going to hurt GM much, especially if they free up money to spend on higher-volume vehicles. Heck, the Buick "9-4x" and Buick "9-3" I proposed would probably sell 100k units. I see no reason why the 9-4x can't sell at least as good as the Rendezvous, which I believe did over 70k units one year. That's double what the whole Saab brand does at a not much cheaper price (most likely).
  • 0

#9

sciguy_0504

    Denali Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,828 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 07:02 PM

Good article. I think Saab needs to run with its heritage and design cars around the whole jet theme, much more than it has up to this point. I wish I had some artistic ability to show you (and myself) what I mean.
  • 0

#10

MyerShift

    OSV Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2,053 posts

Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:55 PM

Very interesting. I do find Saabs (and the 9-3 in particular) appealing. I was disappointed in the GM-ization of the interior. I feel that Saab, like Cadillac, needs to be as unique as possible to ensure that it's not just another option. The BLS is the only exception I would make regarding Cadillacs being unique from other GM models as it truly does look the part. Plus, Saab needs more and a "Saab" updated model range. For instance, if a 9-2 is produced and based on the Astra, then let the Saab have as many unique traits as possible. Things like ignition between the seats, the Saab Information Display at the top of the dash, night panel, and no GM-corporate stereo/climate control units.
  • 0

#11

Camino LS6

    Head Skunk of the Underground

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 28,847 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 07:52 PM

Interesting article, I think all of us here have largely ignored Saab and I'm feeling a bit guilty now.

I will say this to anyone that thinks GM should sell-off the Saab brand: I think it would be a mistake.

Reason #1: Saab has a loyal following in Europe. We shouldn't be judging Saabs value by its US sales alone.

Reason #2: Saab gives GM an essential manufacturing capability which it needs for the European market. Most critical is the ability to build Cadillacs in theater so to speak, as much of GM's european hopes ride with that brand.


So, Saab has value beyond the obvious.

But as Variance has pointed out, they need product - badly.
  • 0

#12

CreativeVision

    Super Sport Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 269 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 07:53 PM

I like the 9-3 Sportcombi alot, but it would be much more appealing had it been on the longer chassis that is under the G6 and Aura. Its just too cramped inside and when I start to look at what I get for the money, the 9-3 starts to make less sense. However I would not suggest killing the brand. But more importantly if GM retains Saab, they must create unique cars for the brand and not base them off something existing. The 9-2x was ridiculous. I laughed my butt off anytime I saw one on the road, because I knew it was essentially a rebadged Subie. I thought to myself what fool would pay the extra money for a Saab badge and a few other small saab-esque touches? The 9-7x is another example. While I agree it was the best looking of the Envoy/Trailblazer/Rainer cousins, I couldn't see how anyone could justify the need to spend so much money for what it offered. Actually the more I write, I begin to wonder...Who is Saab's target market and who are their main competitors? I would say clearly not the entry level japanese makes, so maybe Volvo only? Volkswagen? And if Saturn is now going after the entry luxury European arena and Cadillac becoming a more independent brand competing against other luxury makes, does that push Saab out? Is there too much product overlap for Saab to remain under the GM umbrella and still justify the low sales volume? My final question to the group is this...Where should Saab position itself in the future?
  • 0

#13

cavalier36

    Super Sport Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 402 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 09:21 PM

Saab does need some more and better products.. here is what i would do.. 9-1, this would be a small delta based hatchback sedan. in essense a reskinned chevy cobalt but with more upscale features.. it would be built in Ohio alongside the Cobalt.. 9-4, this would be a kappa based hatchback 2 seat coupe based on the saturn sky. it would be built in delaware alongside that model.. 9-3, this would continue to be built in europe and be on the epsilion platform.. 9-5, i would redesign this on the sigma platform, with an AWD option.. 9-6, this would be a rebadged saturn outlook. it would be built in michigan with that model.. any thoughts??
  • 0

#14

CreativeVision

    Super Sport Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 269 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 10:05 PM

Saab does need some more and better products.. here is what i would do..

9-1, this would be a small delta based hatchback sedan. in essense a reskinned chevy cobalt but with more upscale features.. it would be built in Ohio alongside the Cobalt..

9-4, this would be a kappa based hatchback 2 seat coupe based on the saturn sky. it would be built in delaware alongside that model..

9-3, this would continue to be built in europe and be on the epsilion platform..

9-5, i would redesign this on the sigma platform, with an AWD option..

9-6, this would be a rebadged saturn outlook. it would be built in michigan with that model..
any thoughts??


Here's a thought...Saab will not survive, nor should it, as a rebadge of any other current GM brand. Stop the insanity!!! :banghead:

Saab needs to be truly unique vehicles (note: they can share the same platforms as other GM brands, but must be styling extraodinaires). Think Enclave versus Acadia/Outlook...same platform, vastly different styling. This is no rebadge, its re-engineered. Aside the from the 9-2 and 9-7, Saab already is what I am describing. BUT there is no excitement, no cutting edge design, and recently it has been stealing from the GM parts bin to help dumb it down some more.

I just can't get my arms around what the US market looks like for this kind of car(see my post above).
  • 0

#15

Sixty8panther

    Firing on all 16 cylinders

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,576 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 10:07 PM

S44B has always been quirky, it's too bland these days... although the 9-3 is a delightfuly clean and pure design. Back in the day SAAB was FWD when most were RWD. I say they should be RWD only from now on. 8)
  • 0

#16

Camino LS6

    Head Skunk of the Underground

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 28,847 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 10:26 PM

Here's a thought...Saab will not survive, nor should it, as a rebadge of any other current GM brand. Stop the insanity!!! :banghead:

Saab needs to be truly unique vehicles (note: they can share the same platforms as other GM brands, but must be styling extraodinaires). Think Enclave versus Acadia/Outlook...same platform, vastly different styling. This is no rebadge, its re-engineered. Aside the from the 9-2 and 9-7, Saab already is what I am describing. BUT there is no excitement, no cutting edge design, and recently it has been stealing from the GM parts bin to help dumb it down some more.

I just can't get my arms around what the US market looks like for this kind of car(see my post above).


100% agree
  • 0

#17

cletus8269

    OSV Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2,439 posts

Posted 22 January 2007 - 11:18 PM

there was actually a show on history channel or history international a few weeks ago about saabs beginings in WW2 to the present. it was pretty interesting to watch, i had no idea the company was founded by jet engineers.
  • 0

#18

carman21

    Super Sport Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 460 posts

Posted 23 January 2007 - 02:39 AM

I give Saab 3 years of life in the US. Beyond that its stupid to continue putting resources into it at least in the US.
  • 0

#19

drew770

    Red-Line

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 140 posts

Posted 23 January 2007 - 01:12 PM

I like the 9-3 Sportcombi alot, but it would be much more appealing had it been on the longer chassis that is under the G6 and Aura. Its just too cramped inside and when I start to look at what I get for the money, the 9-3 starts to make less sense. However I would not suggest killing the brand. But more importantly if GM retains Saab, they must create unique cars for the brand and not base them off something existing. The 9-2x was ridiculous. I laughed my butt off anytime I saw one on the road, because I knew it was essentially a rebadged Subie. I thought to myself what fool would pay the extra money for a Saab badge and a few other small saab-esque touches? The 9-7x is another example. While I agree it was the best looking of the Envoy/Trailblazer/Rainer cousins, I couldn't see how anyone could justify the need to spend so much money for what it offered.

Actually the more I write, I begin to wonder...Who is Saab's target market and who are their main competitors? I would say clearly not the entry level japanese makes, so maybe Volvo only? Volkswagen?

And if Saturn is now going after the entry luxury European arena and Cadillac becoming a more independent brand competing against other luxury makes, does that push Saab out? Is there too much product overlap for Saab to remain under the GM umbrella and still justify the low sales volume?

My final question to the group is this...Where should Saab position itself in the future?


That's a good question and a question that GM should be able to answer but will not.

Saabs can command a higher price than a Saturn so I would like for GM to make Saab more like Volvo and Acura minus the RL. Since the TL is nothing but a dressed up European Accord then Saab and do the same thing with the NG EP platform.
Saab should offer unigue interiors and options that you can't find on any Buick or Saturn.
But with GM's idea of Saturn moving upscale this leaves Saab out in the cold.
My final option for Saab would be to be sold to the highest bidder.
  • 0

#20

Drew Dowdell

    Unimatrix 01

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,625 posts

Posted 23 January 2007 - 08:38 PM

step 1: more 4-cylinder turbos all around. start pumping out 300hp turbo 4-cylinders like Subaru does. No car should be sold by saab that doesn't have a turbo. Turbo and Saab go together like AWD and Subaru or Quattro and Audi or Toyota and Fly's car. step 2: drop the 2.8 turbo and use a 3.6 DI turbo instead. they take up the same physical space... only on a RS/M/V-series level car though. AWD must <out of necessity> be standard. step 3: more Combis and hatches. This is what made a Saab a Saab. just cause it took 3 years for the epsilon 9-3 combi to come out means that there were 3 years of no wagons available in the 9-3 series Step 4: A small A3 sized hatch Step 5: A proper replacement for the 9-7x. You've already proven there is a market for it. Now go make something that will beat the snot out of a FX45. Don't forget to turbo charge it. Dropping a turboed Atlas I5 or I6 in here would just reek of quirkiness. Step 6: All the other guys are doing it... so a premium small crossover for you too. Just try to make it not suck gas like the RDX. Theta is usable if you mod it enough. It already has the center mounted window switches. AWD and turboed I5 would round out the package nicely.
  • 0



Reply to this topic



  


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users