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The 2014 SAAB 9-3 AERO and Pedestrian impact regulations

December 3, 2013 in Editorial, Technical

Skärmavbild 2013-12-03 kl. 13.37.02First off I’d like to say the reason for this article is all the negative comments that have been circulating around Facebook and other social media that the new SAAB 9-3 does not qualify for the 2013 requirements of safety.

This is partially true and partially not true. So lets first find out what the pedestrian impact regulations are and what the difference is? The Saab 9-3 qualifies for all other safety regulations except pedestrian impact.

There are two stages to the protection system, one deals with the reduction of the impact speed, the other deals with the collision itself by minimizing the damage caused by the impact to the pedestrian.

The rules were formed after more than 10 years of discussions on how to decrease the fatality rate within cities where speeds were relatively low but impact injuries severe.

Until not too long ago the automatic reduction of speed of impact system was technically almost impossible to implement and today it is still a very expensive system, so manufacturers are not yet forced to implement this into their cars even though many manufacturers of high-end cars have chosen to do so anyway. This basically includes some kind of distance measuring, most often doppler radar which is used in parking-sensors or automatic distance keeping cruise control to spot an object in close range and automatically engage the brakes of the car.

A normal human has a reaction time of about 2 seconds when being in good health and well rested. When driving 30-50 km/h in a city the distance covered in 2-4 seconds is great and the impact speed when pedestrians are hit is significant enough to often cause a fatality. The automatic speed reduction system would not save lives but as a component of the active collision protection it would according to many experts greatly reduce the risk of fatality.

The other function which is mandatory for manufacturers is as stated above the reduction of injury when impact has occurred. This is usually done with an ”active hood” making the hood of the car rise up to dampen the impact of the pedestrian and hopefully reduce the risk of the pedestrians head hitting the windshield which is the most common cause of death during these impacts. Most car manufacturers have solved this with an explosive charge shooting the hood upwards from the rear part to cushion the impact and to my knowledge this is the system that SAAB is also working on.

To build such a system is highly complex, this doesn’t just involve a simple explosive system but also a brand new computer system that monitors the surroundings of the car and is independently connected to the brake system of the car so that the driver can not override it. If the speed reduction system is also implemented then the system becomes even more complex. There are several companies that have developed the computer software to guide these systems and systems that are almost off-the-shelf are available, however they still need to be built in and tested.

So why doesn’t the 2014 9-3 have this system? Simply put, there has not been enough time to develop, test and build the system into the cars. A year of work is simply not enough and as we know Saab has a limited amount of manpower to work on the issues. But development is in progress, that I know for a fact!

There is a low-volume dispensation that SAAB has been allowed to use that states that a car manufacturer is allowed to produce and sell up to 1000 cars in the EU for a limited time that does not comply with the regulation that was implemented on January 1st 2013.

The Chinese safety organization is also looking at implementing similar regulations in China using the EU rules as a template for creating their own. The Chinese have been working a lot to increase safety of the vehicles on the roads in China and it would not surprise me if they adopt the same rules that have been implemented in the EU due to the extensive amount of research that has been going on since early 2002 in different EU countries.

The Chinese regulations will most likely be applicable within a year or two so I think we will see new 9-3’s coming out with the new pedestrian impact system probably with the launch of the facelift in 6 months or slightly there after.

Finally I’m gonna end this editorial with the 1000 cars restriction, to my knowledge NEVS plans to sell their first 200 cars to Swedish customers and 2-300 cars to China of the current model that was launched yesterday, this would probably account for the full production capability for the first 6 months. Once the facelift is launched it is a new yearmodel and another 1000 cars can be built and sold in Sweden if the protection system has not been implemented by then. Looking at Saabs salesfigures in Sweden historically I doubt that NEVS will be able to reach that kind of number. I’m no expert in sales numbers but when Saab was at its peak Saab sold about 5000 cars to private people on average in Sweden annually.

51 responses to The 2014 SAAB 9-3 AERO and Pedestrian impact regulations

  1. Tim, Saab sold over 30000/year in Sweden at its peak. 5000 is maybe a peak month from history

    • I’d be very interested to know what year that was

      • These are Saab’s annual sales figures for the Swedish market:
        2012: 694
        2011: 3.484
        2010: 8.647
        2009: 7.036
        2008: 19.871
        2007: 24.884
        2006: 25.624
        2005: 21.273
        2004: 25.085
        2003: 27.044
        2002: 24.562
        2001: 26.052

        With an updated 9-3, with an extensively updated dashboard and good CO2-figures, sales of some 500-1.000 must be manageable in Sweden for the whole of 2014. One must consider that there will be hundreds of factory employees, even if just 10 or 20% of them sign up to get a car a big slice of the production is already accounted for. I think the slow pace of NEVS is very wise, making just enough cars to “break in” the factory, in order not to bleed cash on the production side of the business at this time. When the electric cars are there, they are all set to stop taxi’ing and take off :)

        • Good points! =)

          • I asked my source, former manager at Saab Sweden and if we think about the numbers a bit in detail the picture becomes a bit different. Each year about 3500 cars were leased to employees at Saab so we’re counting private sales which is what NEVS are doing now, we’d have to remove them. About 50% of the figures above could probably be accounted to leasing contracts from companies and taxi companies so they would have to be removed as well. So private sales in Sweden would peak at about 7500 at best per year which rimes pretty well with what I’ve heard from the dealers.

      • Remember this car costs £26100 gb pounds! I can’t see to many being sold ! They haven’t even changed dash from 2002, apart from update to 2007 model which is exact same in this car! Ask yourself- really are you going to spend that type of money on it? When it will be worth around £6000 in 3 years time!

        • Good point, I’m thinking the same thing… add that on top that there is no biopower option, that plus the fact that I want a Combi makes me wait for the facelift which is due in 6 months.

          • Which is partially what doomed the old Saab Automobile AB – people waiting for the 9-5 Combi, or to be able to buy the NG 9-5 used, due to depreciation.

  2. Tim, if the 1000 cars restriction is truly the case, then why didn’t they put it on the table and tell the story as it is yesterday? I mean, people would understand that. It would perfectly fit into the ‘step by step’ scheme, too. People can easily handle and explaination saying that they want to start their sales model without having to commit to selling many cars, but show presence this way, while the machine is warming up slowly. Such argument would have strengthen NEVS credibility a lot more than anything else they’ve done at the occasion. Now, I wonder how long the way to go actually is, considering the fact that they haven’t even released the specs on the model that came off the line yesterday…

  3. Anemic and ridiculous restart. It’s very weak. How I wish Saab would have gone to a serious player with the pockets and the know-how to relaunch the brand properly. Well, we might not keep calm but what else can we do except carry on, right?

    • Did you think of the Tesla Roadster as anemic and rediculous? NEVS is basically a very well funded start up company, that needs to build up all its processes from start (not just production and R&D, but distribution, customer care etc.). That can’t be done on a whim, but needs careful preparation in order to actually make money.

      • I think of the Tesla as overpriced and out of touch. But Elon Musk is a powerful personality—someone who has vision and incredible communicative skills. I don’t think of Tesla as anemic, because long before their first car rolled off the assembly line, I had seen drawings of it, had heard Elon Must (or read interviews with him at least) explaining the Tesla mission—-the idea. I don’t even agree with him, but I was captured by his enthusiasm and his drive (no pun intended) to make Tesla something great. I refer to NEVS as anemic because they are. What have they done to instill confidence, to build enthusiasm? Nothing. Nothing yet.

        • From what I’m reading I think some of your, how should I put this… “concerned frustration”, should be aimed at the EU for all of their regulations. Saabs can’t be built in quantity because of the hood not protecting jay walkers, The sale to a better company was blocked by government jockeys, and GM most likely won’t give up some of the old Saab tech OR want to charge an arm and a leg. Your constructive criticism seems more like nagging after all these years, and frankly unless you front them a few hundred million dollars and hire them a staff three times larger you’re not going to get your ICE phoenix car any sooner. This beating a dead horse over how much NEVS has failed or will fail is about as useful as pretending we can go back in time and change GM era decisions or any other farcical comment. You don’t know what kind of regulation they have to go through or how long that paperwork will take, so if they want to sell some old tech cars to China to get SOME income flowing in maybe you should just be happy they’re not dead entirely, and maybe in a few years we’ll be privileged enough to see a few of the Phoenix cars here in the US with any kind of power train.
          I acknowledge you’ve mentioned your gratitude to car production starting again, but frankly one nice comment in a sea of grumbling means nothing. “I’m not an honest person, but you’re interesting!” Similar effect.

          • Well, I guess you’re correct in “what’s done is done.” And if you’ve read my comments for the last couple years, you know how I feel about government overregulation and the burden it is to business enterprises large and small. It’s sometimes necessary to protect consumers, but too often a maze of over the top craziness to hold power and authority over us all. In any event, I agree with you—-they make it too difficult for “economically challenged” start-ups to compete—-and that’s a pity. I also believe an extremely well funded and competent player like Mahindra would have been an ideal choice to take over the bankrupt Saab—-as they would have infused Saab with enough cash to hire those people you speak of and invest the millions necessary to get their new cars approved in the markets that are important. So I’ll circle back to the horrific mistake that the Receivers made in awarding this all to an inexperienced newbie without the clout to make a proper go of it. All that said—I’m still hoping for the best even if I’m not seeing it at this point in time.

  4. Good to know that they are working on this and this explains why they build just 1.000 cars or so. NEVS should do the explaining themselves. Public and customers would understand this. This refers to earlier comments of a couple of us (me being a marketing communcation manager) on the lack of story telling/PR about the resurection of SAAB. The good thing is SAAB is back and it takes a long road. Step by step SAAB will get there. I can wait since SAAB’s have been built to last and mine does. Don’t know if less loyal European en North American customers will have the same patience. SAAB should be in those markets they think they can earn money. For instance in The Netherlands 616 Tesla model S, 1 Tesla roadster were sold en a combined 2253 of GM’s Ampera’s/Volts up to now. (www.autoweek.nl). Ergo, there is to my opninion also a market for NEVS in Europe. Keep us involved.

  5. Today in dutch carmagazine autoweek/ autobild was written that after Saab runs out of GM engines from the left over of Saab ab, in 2014 nevs will mount a totally different petrol engine in the 93n. Is there information about what engine that would be? ( If true) By the way , we are interested in a Diesel engine since our boat is aprox 150 km away from our home in a lake up north. We will be making more km ‘s in the future. No Saab diesels in the future? Why not the 1.6 BMW diesel that are now even mounted in the Toyota verso ?

    • Mattias Bergman stated in the press-conference yesterday that a new engine will be launched with the facelift in May.

      I’m putting my money on the GM 1,6 liter engine…

  6. don’t know much about pedestrian impact regulations but if they save lives then they are a very good thing, for me the press event was very much underdone but at the same time nevs had to commence interacting with the car buying public, motoring journalists and possibly the green movement as they seem to think electric cars will solve all of the worlds air pollution problems. i am also delighted that 600+ people are in gainful employment than were this time last year, i am concerned that output of electric and ice does not include hybrid, building a business with focus on one country is a bit bizarre and Volvo is hardly setting the sales figures charts on fire in China.

    • Banning cars, trucks and buses would save lives too. This whole thing is silly. God forbid the U.S. government will be next up to lord it over carmakers with even more things to regulate. Lord help us. By the way—-if anything, hybrids/EVs are dangerous for pedestrians because people don’t hear the engines. I guess we’ll install whistles on them? Here’s an idea: Glue marshmallows all over the front of the car to cushion the blow if you hit a person, animal or insect. And what about the back of the car? In all seriousness, I think people have a hard time seeing behind them and often hit people backing out of parking spaces—-children have been killed being run over by a car in reverse. Is that being addressed by the safety Nazis?

  7. “The automatic speed reduction system would not save lives but as a component of the active collision protection it would according to many experts greatly reduce the risk of fatality.”
    Should this say “would not stop accidents” rather than “would not save lives”?

  8. After seeing the last NCAP Test results, I wouldn’t bother much about the performance of the 9-3, no matter if it qualifies or not for the 2013 regulation.

    Lets look at the rather new VW T5;
    Pedestrian result 32%
    Points achieved in the leg region 0
    Points achieved in the pelvis region 0
    Points achieved in the head region 10, but only because the windscreen was not too stiff. Too bad for Kids smaller than 1,5 m, their head will never reach the soft windscreen.

    BMW i3 (the newest and fanciest)
    Pedestrian result 57%
    Points achieved in the leg region 6
    Points achieved in the pelvis region 0
    Points achieved in the head region 15
    If your kid has an accident with an i3, he will not have a broken leg, but the chance that the head impact is too heavy are quite high.

    So, today there are some very dangerous cars on the road that qualify for the 2013 pedestrian protection regulation, and I really can’t imagine that the current 9-3 is much worse than that.

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. I’m tired of agonizing about all the questions I have regarding whether or not a new SAAB may come along my way in 2014/15. Let me list a few things that I do like about yesterdays’s occasion hoping for an open discussion:

    The new corporate design of NEVS/SAAB is wonderful. I love these landscape fotos that add something natural to the clean and technical look&feel of the CD. Also the new badge on the car is right on point. Signing the electric model variants with this new sub-logo “E” is another well understandable feature of the new design language.

    Further, I like that there is going to be a Sport Combi and a Convertible in the facelifted model range. Mr. Bergman’s presentation also showed a 9-3X but didn’t list this model below the picture… Has anybody had a chance to ask for a confirmation whether the 9-3X will be relaunched, too? We unfortunately already heard that AWD is not on the list of options at the moment… So, why the picture?

    I like the way Nevs expressed their company mission in this new piece of writing on their website: http://www.saabcars.com/en/the-company/

    I want to believe.

    • I also like the new badge. I think it’s classy. I like the black and silver, I like the traditional Saab font—-simplicity that works. That is what it’s all about. They got that right as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard people complain that it’s not colorful enough or that they miss the Griffin. I don’t. I am very content with the new badge. If anything—for EVs, maybe they could differentiate by making the badge dark green and white instead of black and silver. Or even just green and silver vs. black and silver for the ICE Saabs.

  10. I may be mistaken but I failed to read the 3rd option for pedestrian safety. Building the front of the car bonnet in such a way that the a pedestrian’s head does not hit the windshield and the hood has sufficient height above the engine . I believe this is how most vehicles are designed today.

    • Actually when I checked the different brands, almost all of them go with the explosive cartridge system: Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Skoda, Hyundai…. The raised bonnet is the way that JC designed his NG9-3.

    • …which is why so many cars today look so similar. If every car has to have a grill and hood/bonnet at a certain height, not much chance for different shapes and design.

  11. What about SAHR II ??? I know people who swears by it….
    The seats seem redesigned in the crucial area, is that now GM IP, not licensed???
    If a number of safety features are missing or not implemented, I am a bit disappointed.
    Is my 2008 more safe than the 2014 9-3 ???
    But step-by-step I guess….

  12. Here’s an idea. How about we teach citizens not to walk out in front of cars in cities like they own the road which was clearly designed for cars, and teach drivers to stop playing with cellphones so they are alert enough to NOT hit the fools who do walk out in front of the cars. When I was young I lived in the country, and if I went near the road I got my ear chewed off by my mother. I can still here her screaming to look both ways before I cross to this day, doesn’t anyone in the city know that rule?
    I was thinking about this and I have a solution. Since it’s not possible to have a million officers for the million idiots who use their cellphones while driving I think they should use the traffic cameras to take snapshots and try to analyze if someone is texting or talking on the phone. Have a center where actual humans then check the images the computer screened, and then send those people a ticket and points deducted off their license through the mail. Either that or finally remove everyone’s freedom of phones in cars by turning off a phones wireless while the phone is in a moving vehicle. As for those who say that that’s removing their freedom to use the cellphone as a passenger… it only takes a few fools to ruin the fun for everyone. I’ve worked in plenty of places where the rules over the years changed because of a few goons ruining it for everyone.

    • I agree with you, the population is becoming more and more obsessed with paying their attention on futile things rather than on what they’re actually doing… I walked in Malmö today and I thought about how many people were talking on the phone, playing games or doing anything but actually looking at the road or their surroundings while walking. Getting more points on a game was more important than looking both ways before crossing the street.

      Granted its the law for motorists to stop at a pedestrian crossing if a pedestrian wants to cross but just because they are supposed to doesn’t mean that they always do, but one girl almost got hit because she was ignorant enough to believe that this was the case.

      As a pilot, situational awareness is the most important thing for us, have a plan, know where you are and where you’re gonna be in both distant and short future. Some young people seam to have lost this ability completely…

  13. I wouldn’t cal it negative, but as you pointed out, the reports were correct, it currently doesn’t meet European safety standards for pedestrians and NEVS can make use of the 1000 car limit until their cars do meet the new regulations.

    We all know its going to take time to sort out.

    • Many people used this fact to prove their own point that NEVS was nothing but a joke and claimed that the 9-3 was an unsafe car which it isn’t. They mistakenly thought that since the car did not qualify for pedestrian impact regulations, it didn’t qualify for any safety regulations at all. This post was an attempt to explain their error…

  14. I understand the need for cashflow, but I hope NEVS understands that by releasing a substandard vehicle in China, where Saab is all but unknown, they could very well damage brand perception later on when they hopefully will bring a more competitive vehicle to market. I know there is a lot of love for the old 9-3, but let’s face it, it’s not going to bring a lot of new buyers to the brand in China.

    • For those that have driven a late model 93 Aero know that this car drives better than any BMW, Merc, or Audi in it’s size class produced today… Why are people denoting this car as uncompetitive just because it’s on a platform developed quite some time ago!! The handling on this car was way ahead of it’s time. If they produced a new base 93 at 20-23k, at a profit(US/CAN) they would not be able to keep up with the demand even with full capacity employed at the current manufacturing site. I believe this may be NEVS strategy once the 93N arrives next year.
      Let’s keep our minds open!

      • Perhaps, but this isn’t anywhere close to $20-23k USD/CAD. It’s over $40K USD/CAD. NEVS wanted premium. Nothing about that dash says premium.

        • Keep in mind that the Swedish price quoted includes 25% VAT (and there might be some additional taxes I’m unaware of). You can’t simply use a currency converter to figure out the MSRP in a completely different market. Plus: The interior will likely change soon.

          • Thank you for pointing out that the VAT is included in the price. I still worry that China’s first glimpse at Saab will reveal that cheap dash coming from a company billing itself as premium. Perhaps there won’t be enough sold for the Chinese to form an opinion that will need to be changed. Let’s hope so.

            • I was recently asked, in Trollhättan, what I think is the most important aspect of a Saab. My reply was “superior road-holding qualities under adverse condition. King of the winter road.”.

              My idea of what makes Saab a Saab will be a tough sell in countries with minimal amounts of snow. :)

              So yeah, I have to concede that the dashboard fascia is important. The infotainment system also plays a vital role. I suspect a more premium feel would not necessarily be prohibitively more expensive, but I do notice that most cars comes with tradeoffs (the glovecompartment may give you a premium feel, but the brake line might be a bit too exposed — a random Mercedes example from 2006 springs to mind).

              But what about other niceties, such as a self-closing trunk lid? An extra motor that adds weight and complexity — do we want that? (I actually kind of do — I often end up carrying six-seven grocery bags and struggling with the lid without scratching the paint seems unnecessary)

  15. Is NEVS selling this vehicle in Sweden only because it was part of the deal with Saab AB to continue using the Saab name?

    • No, they are selling the car in Sweden because its their home market and they want to develop the sales system in small prudent steps in order not to make misstakes. They are starting with Sweden and once the maintenance and warranty systems have been proved to work well they will expand the sales to other countries. At that time the PIP should be developed as well so the 1000 car limitation will no longer be an obstacle.

  16. So, how many of you Swedish SU regulars are going to buy a new NEVS Saab after Dec 10 when the online shop opens. Eller kanske jag skulle fråga detta i svenska systerwebbsida =)

    • I need an SC and I wont drive on anything else than E85 so I’ll be waiting for the facelift… I’ve tried one time too many to bring 4 x 18″ wheels to the tyre-store in a sedan and its just a pain!.

      • Tim, I don’t blame you. I love my 2011 9-3X-SC. And its worth getting roof rails also; to tie a christmas tree to the roof, or to mount bike or ski racks, etc.

  17. Alternatively… Just sayin’…

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