New York Update: Why various Saab things are delayed

Our Saabs United representative at the New York Auto Show was Jeff P and he’s been doing a fantastic job sharing his NYIAS experience, as well as the all-important chats he had with various Saab executives.

Here’s the second of several reports he’s filed today. I’ll get the others up in due course, or if you’re really keen you can read them now over at the SaabsUnitedNY website.

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There are a few areas which many people are upset about, and seemingly for good reason. They range from paint color choices, interior materials, diesel engine options, all the way to just getting product in showrooms.

When the sale was under way, certain binding confidentiality agreements kept most details hidden from our view, and for good reason. We scoured day to day news for any crumbs and read as many swedish (and some chinese) tea leaves to try to discern what credible information there was to gleam. An unfortunate side effect of all of that mania was our fear that behind the scenes, there might have been conspiracies by GM perhaps to derail or sideline Saab’s chances.

I must tell you, I don’t believe any of that to be true anymore having spoken to the players.

In this economy and the way suppliers are set up, there isn’t much difference from one group to another. Saab is so credibly different that they present an opportunity for major OEMs and especially GM to boost their bottom line. I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that Saab’s development was sidelined by uncertainty, and only recently has been able to return to full speed.

Diesels are of course of great concern to many drivers out there, especially in the US. The prospect not only of driving further on a tank but also more efficiently carries a lot of promise. VW has done it in the US previously by not having its cars 50 state compliant. Mercedes now uses a urea injection system, AdBlue, which costs hundreds of dollars to refill at the dealer yearly. BMW covers the cost of the same system, but charges much more upfront for its diesels.

Only if gasoline prices rise substantially does the cost benefit become clear to switch to diesel, and at the moment when in the US diesel prices are in fact higher, it doesn’t seem like it would be a high priority to Saab given all the challenges they face. Indeed, Mike Colleran told me this exactly himself, and I’m with him 100%. Magnus did mention that when Euro6 regulations take effect in 2014, Saab will by then have a strategy that will be worldwide, but probably not until then.

To bridge the gap, they are looking at bringing electric propulsion technology to boost performance while keeping costs down and efficiencies up. Even Ferrari is using KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) in their brakes, and I expect Saab to use similar measures as well as the typical start/stop and other means. Don’t forget, Saab had a plugin hybrid 9-3 convertible before the Volt was introduced. I think it makes a lot more sense to push for these new technologies rather than just ship some diesels over for sale in a few states.

While the color debate I think has been resolved, the issue did come up this week. The main reason for not being able to paint one car or another comes down to plastics especially. Coating the lower panels on the 95 is going to be an entirely different formula than the one they are using, so it’s not like you can just dip it in the same paints. This is the main reason for the delay, so if you really must have a bright red Saab, you’ll just have to wait. I for one prefer the colors they have lined up already, and think that grey will sell loads more than red. Keep in mind people who go for understated colors also tend not to be ones who rant on blogs ;-).

Getting product into showrooms is top priority right now, I’d say above everything else. The dealers know this well and were briefed on it all over the world this week. By memorial day weekend we should start to see things back to normal, and by July 4th you should really start to get the excitement getting back at the dealers.

To all of those who take their cars to an independent mechanic, this might be the time just to peek your head in, heck maybe even be nice enough to get an oil change since those tend not to be hugely marked up by most dealers. It’s all about faith in the dealers, and if the enthusiasts can’t show it to our own dealers, then we have less of a community than I thought. Even if you hate your dealer but you love Saab, try to work with them, channel your frustration into constructive criticism and help them get on the right track. They’re as happy the company is alive as you are.

So no…delays aren’t a result of the GM boogey man, Victor is not planning some jet propulsion rocketSaab behind closed doors, and the 94x won’t be debuting in bright orange most likely.

Delays happened because Saab almost died. Let’s all just be thankful that there are people who are pulling 18 hour days back in Trollhättan to get the stock replenished and to every individual’s liking. I’m sure you have your own expression back home but- hålla uppe det goda arbetet.

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