Developing a future Saab portfolio
January 23, 2012 in Editorial
You could see this as a follow-up to the post I did last week about a potential restart based on a 9-3 model alone or you could just see this as a bit of distraction while we are waiting for news to come. Either way is fine for me as this thoughts came out of some good discussions I had recently with members of our team. While we all thought that starting production based on the current 9-3 model would be a first step that could work we were drawing it a bit further asking us what should be next after the next 9-3 is there. I’ll put this into a bit of a fictional story to get you in the right mood for the discussion this piece is looking for…
So let’s imagine it’s early in 2014. The old generation 9-3 did a good job selling 35.000 units the year before after it has been refreshed when Saab was restarted in fall 2012. The next generation of the 9-3 just hit the market after it was presented at the IAA in 2013. For the first time in Saabs history hatch and Combi were released at the same time with a 3-door and convertible variant to debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2014. While that new 9-3 is expected to push up sales compared to the old model it is still pretty clear that it will not be enough to reach the break even point.
While in recent years Saab had tried to fill that gap in sales with the 9-5 and the 9-4x the new management decided to go a different route. They created the 9-1, an entry level Saab to attract new kinds of customers usually served by Audi A1, Fiat 500, Mini as well as those who used to drive a Saab but simpy don’t need a bigger car. The quick development of that model has been possible through a platform partnership with BMW and the help of engineering companies that were founded by former Saab employees during the bankrupcy of Saab. As the 9-1 is due to be released in a big event at the Saab museum in Trollhättan in May those engineering companies are already busy creating the first phoenix-based generation of the 9-5, that is unlike the previous 9-5 more aimed to the European market in terms of size. Rumors already mention a potential 9-4x or a similar vehicle but this is still not confirmed.
Of course that was a nice success story we’d all like to watch. But the main point in this is that I’d really prefer to see a 9-1 before a 9-5. Assuming that the 9-3 may grow a tad to offer enough space for a family of four in wagon configuration a small Saab could create more volume and attract new customers. Add fuel saving drivetrain technology and typical Saab design along with quirky features like the good old fasten seat belt signs – I bet it would sell pretty well.
Once that is archieved and some cashflow is there go for the bigger models to complete the model range. A major problem in 2010 was that the 9-5 was no car to make volumes. A new 9-3 had been a much better base for the restart of Saab. I spoke to many dealers here in Europe about that and most of them agreed. So for any buyer this is a big opportunity and a 9-1 would enlarge it even more.
Those are my thoughts, now it’s your turn…