LA Notes – Day 1

I’ve been awake for 39 hours straight, so forgive me if these aren’t totally coherent.

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We just had the first of two wonderful dinners, at a spot called Geoffrey’s. Fantastic food, but even better was some of the conversation and discussion. It was an event with various members of the motoring press, from Holland, France, Sweden and the US. A small gathering, but quite nice (sensational food – I even ate salad!).

Here’s an example of the smaller, more nimble Saab for you. Efficiencies gained since the GM separation mean that Saab will deliver it’s next all-new vehicle (the successor to the Saab 9-3), in at least three body styles, for the same cost as what it took to do the 2008 Saab 9-3 re-fresh.

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I met Jason Castriota for the first time in person this evening. He’s just as warm, personable and communicative in person as he is in the interviews. We didn’t have much time to chat but I’m sure we’ll get opportunities over the next few days.

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I know from comments that people will be watching the pricing of the Saab 9-4x quite closely and making comparisons with the Cadillac SRX.

I raised this issue with Mikael Jakobsson, who’s one of the product managers for the Saab 9-4x and he mentioned some poignant truths in response.

First – if one were asking oneself about what car they wanted, you’d have a choice between the Cadillac exterior/interior and the Saab exterior/interior. Which one suits you best? I know what my answer would be.

Second – whilst two brands, or even two manufacturers might have the same thing listed on the equipment list, it doesn’t mean that the package is the same. The Saab – and everything in it – has been calibrated as a Saab…. to Saab’s specifications. We often get judgmental after making back-of-the-envelope comparisons between vehicles but you really have to get the vehicle in your hands to see what it’s actually like.

I’ve dwelled a fair bit on this point as it’s been a frustration of mine for a while. Let me put it this way – just because you’ve got a voice and a forum like SU to have it heard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think hard about what you write before you write it.

What you say has ramifications for others who read it. So you dislike a light/trimpiece/advertisement/whatever – think hard before you try to amuse those around you with your witty remarks about how it “makes you feel”. There’s a time to be moved to anger and a time to temper your words and make sure you’ve put your opinion in perspective.

“I don’t particularly like those tail lights” makes more sense and gets your point across more effectively than “those tail lights make me sick” – which is an outright condemnation as well as an indicator of a particularly strange physiological constitution.

I try very hard to avoid having delusions of adequacy, especially when it comes to technical matters. I freely acknowledge my own lack of understanding. The same should go for all situations where you can’t easily put your thoughts in the appropriate context.

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I’m compelled to say that I was really surprised at the Saab 9-4x preview today and I’m looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow.

Having seen the Saab 9-4x in concept form a number of times, I was ready to appreciate seeing the 9-4x for real today. What I wasn’t ready for was the totality of the impression it made on me.

Seeing it through the prism of the 9-5’s launch – as an extension and genuine improvement on Saab’s design execution (think interiors) – makes the Saab 9-4x make a whole lot of sense. It’s a very handsome vehicle when seen in person and when you consider the number of vehicles in this class that are on LA streets, it bodes well for some successful sales for Saab in the future.

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Visitors to the LA Auto Show over the next couple of weeks should know that the 9-4x they’re showing there isn’t perfect. As mentioned earlier today, this is essentially a pre-production type car. It uses production-standard parts but it isn’t up a grade that you’d ship to a customer at this stage.

This is just a show car.

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We had a guy from Autospies.com there at dinner tonight and he was genuinely enthusiastic about Saab’s future and the potential for doing things in new ways.

It was refreshing to hear someone outside the usual circles talking about things like the huge list of achievements Saab has accomplished this year, especially in the light of them being a dead brand walking earlier this year.

Seeing the Saab 9-5 and 9-4x together today and knowing there’s a successor to the Saab 9-3 just two years away does indeed bode well for the future.

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Time for bed.

It’ll be a big day tomorrow, featuring a real iceberg in the middle of the Saab stand that Chris McKinnon will have to navigate around when bringing the 9-4x on to the stage during the reveal – should be fun.

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