The CO2 argument is bunk!

There’s been a big discussion in comments on the emissons output of the 2010 Saab 9-5. I figured the discussion got significant enough to bring it to the front page.
I haven’t been keeping up with the ‘green car’ rules in Sweden but apparently a car now has to get under 120 grams of CO2 per kilogram to qualify. Saab’s BioPower cars used to qualify for the conditions avoiding the congestion charges and parking fees in Stockholm. It seems, from the way some newspaper reports in Sweden are talking, that that may not be the case any longer. Perhaps some Swedes can fill us in?
The report at the center of all this discussion (and from what I hear, there may be a few similar reports out there) comes from Allt om Motor and it reads, in part, as follows:

Saab is hoping for a revival with the help of the new 9-5. It wont be a pushover. Who will buy a big sedan that emits 223 grams of CO2 per kilometer?
….It’s one thing that German executives choose to buy cars like that as status symbols. Even rich Russians like sedans. But a Saab sedan? If anything Saab should try to carve out a more sporty profile with a focus on the environment. A car for the individualist, for those who appreciate quality and sportiness, but don’t have the need to show it off so clearly.

Surprise at a Saab sedan? They spend the paragraph before this lampooning the Saab 9-5 for being 12 years old. Did they not realise as they wrote it that that car was a sedan?
But I digress….

Because there is a need for a smaller and more fuel-efficient car, a clever car that offers something others don’t have. An Iphone of the automotive world, that would make buyers consider camping in front of Saab dealers in anticipation of the premiere. Who will raise a tent for the new 9-5?
The version that is expected to sell best – or least bad – is the 9-5 2.0 T. It emits 223 grams of CO2 per kilometer with automatic transmission, which most buyers will choose. The limit for “green” cars in Sweden is 120 grams!

Saab are going to be late to the ultra-low CO2 party. Let’s get used to that now. It’s happening, it’s unavoidable at this point so we better just grin and bear it.
The lowest 2010 Saab 9-5 output at launch will come from the 2.0 TiD engine, with just 139g/kg when fitted with a manual transmission. That doesn’t fit into the ‘green car’ category.
But here’s my question – is anyone surprised?
We’ve known that the Saab 9-5 would be around 5 meters long for some time now. We’ve known that it was going to be Saab’s flagship car and whilst we’d expect Saab to make it emissions conscious relative to it’s size, did anyone realistically expect it to have small-car emissions at it’s size?
And how much is that going to effect the buying decisions of people who will be in the market for this car?
I’m thinking most in terms of the Swedish market here because that’s the context in which the article was written. Others know the Swedish markets a million times better than me, but it seems that the ‘green car’ incentive is basically for people travelling into Stockholm. Aside from that, I imagine there must be vehicle registration discounts for ‘green’ cars as well, which makes them more attractive to buyers.
Is the Saab 9-5 aimed at this type of customer, however? With it’s size and it’s level of equipment, is it likely to be marketed specifically at hypermiling soy-latte-sipping treehuggers? Or is it more likely to be pitched at executives, people who at a place in their life where the drive is more important than their annual registration tax bill?
Saab are still endeavouring to portray this car as enviromentally acceptable for it’s size. And I’ve got no doubt that as time goes on, Saab will be able to apply more and more of their own developments and technology to the 9-5.
Saab’s engineers have a lot of stuff in the back shed that hasn’t come to light yet. Hybrid technology has been spoken of. Optimised BioPower technology is another.
This 2010 Saab 9-5 is going to be a cracker of a drive, but one must remember that it was designed fully under GM’s ownership with access to GM technology. Some of that is good, and some of it will leave something to be desired. Saab haven’t even left the GM stable yet and it seems that people, especially the Swedish press, expect finger-snap solutions as if GM never existed or had control of Saab’s offerings.
Bottom line – the argument that CO2 rules will mean a downfall for this car is a strawman, it’s a diversion that doesn’t bear scrutiny when you look at this car’s place in the market. It was noted in comments that the CO2 argument will probably be more appropriate for the Saab 9-3 in it’s next generation and I think that’s pretty good thinking.
Saab has bigger hurdles when it comes to the 9-5. The availability of leasing arrangements is going to be a much greater hurdle, for example. The distribution network is another. The lack of a new-generation wagon for the next 12 months it yet another (esp in Sweden).
We can’t brag of a sub-120 emissions Saab at the moment. But we have got what looks like one heck of a good ride. The fresh-air stuff will come eventually.
It saddens me that the Swedish press can only note the coming of the Saab 9-5 by concentrating on perceived shortcomings. Hopefully Saab, under Koenigsegg’s ownership, can one day make some of these journos eat their words.
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Thanks to Blogo for the translation!
And please feel free to correct any errors I have with regard to the Swedish registration system and green car status – I know there will be a few of them, but I think the argument will be similar, regardless.

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