Re-starting with the 9-3 – is that enough?
January 19, 2012 in Editorial
If you look closely at the few news about Youngman’s plans for Saab it looks like they plan alter the current 9-3 so they don’t need GM’s IP. Of course this would mean that the current 9-5 and 9-4x are gone from Saabs portfolio as GM won’t license those models to Youngman. But why could the 9-3 work out without GM’s ok and how bad is the reduction to one model? Let’s take a look.
When the current 9-3 was developed the engineers hugely altered the Epsilon-I platform. It was said that this had been done to make sure the 9-3 was manufactured in Trollhättan only. As Spyker took over Saab this became a benefit as The 9-3 was the only model in the portfolio Saab did not have to pay license fees for. They still had a huge amount of GM stuff in the car but the IP of the 9-3 is owned by Saab. The task Youngman is facing now is to replace the GM stuff through other suppliers. This may be easy with certain parts but more difficult with others. In many cases it could even mean some improvement. The fact that Youngman themselves have big capacities when it comes to the manufacturing of parts will surely help here. Still, if Youngman want to start production within 15 weeks I’d expect this would not be enough to replace engines for example. Well, maybe GM would even deliver some parts – if they can’t block a deal, they could at least earn some money from Saab. But still, I am using common sense here and you can’t always apply that to GM.
So let’s get back to the initial question, is the 9-3 enough? Of course not in the long term. Saab needs a bigger family car like the 9-5 to serve their customer base and the 9-4x was a well received step into a new market segment. So it would surely be sad to leave those models behind but as it is now, this is not the point. I don’t see GM license their tech to anyone who wants to buy Saab. So for Youngman or anyone else who buys Saab continuing the 9-3 would mean lowering the loss that will surely occur until a complete model range based on the Phoenix is ready for the market. One model alone won’t let the company make profit but at least some money comes in, production can continue and Saab remains present on the market. Lots of benefits I’d say.
The 9-3 is a good base to make a car that people would buy. If you have to alter some components anyway you can easily add needed features like iPod integration that we missed up to now. The Griffin had improved a lot when it comes to the interior – so the base is there. You can even spec the car from a affordable base model to a performance (read Hirsch) model and serve a wide range of customers with Sedan, Convertible, Combi and 9-3x. So if you have to go with just one model the 9-3 is the best option.
Of course this path puts a lot of pressure on the next 9-3 that is likely to be the only Saab model available when it comes to market. But honestly, this pressure would have been there anyway. From what I’ve heared about the next 9-3 it is ready to take the challenge. And this would only mark the beginning of the new start for Saab, a true restart without chains from GM.
One may ask why it took so long for Youngman to take that route. The main reason should be that they need to have an alternative source for all the parts that GM won’t deliver. This takes time and even if they started this project before bankrupcy was declared it is not a small task. In any case they are there and if you believe di.se they are willing to spend roughly 560 milliom Euro on the purchase and the same sum again on development of the Phoenix and the next 9-3. Not enough to develop a comlete range but not too bad for a start I’d say.
This will still be a tough road for Saab. But tough roads are something that Saabs are really good at.