2009 Saab 9-5 Griffin Edition announced

All: It’s been sometime since I’ve posted, it being the year-end and all. This press release on the 2009 Saab 9-5 Griffin Edition dropped into my in box this morning and I thought that I’d pass it along to you gentle readers.
The 9-5 Griffin Edition seems to be more about small cosmetic appointments and revised interior palette rather than anything radical. The real news here seems to be that a) 2009 is certainly the last year of the current 9-5, and b) Steve Shannon is referred to as “Executive Director, product and marketing, Saab USA”.

2009 Saab 9-5 Griffin Edition Takes Off in Detroit
DETROIT – In the luxurious 9-5 Griffin Edition, making its premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January, Saab offers levels of premium standard equipment that are unprecedented in the 62-year history of the Swedish car brand.
As underlined by its U.S. advertising tagline, “Born From Jets,” Saab’s illustrious aircraft heritage is part of its design philosophy that runs throughout its range of automobiles. With the vigor of its turbocharged engine and agile road manners, the Saab 9-5 Griffin Edition resonates with its aircraft namesake, the Gripen (Swedish for Griffin) – the first of the new generation of multi-role combat aircraft to enter into active service, developed by Saab Aircraft AB in Sweden.
“With the 9-5 Griffin Edition, Saab reaches a new altitude in terms of premium standard equipment and value,” said Steve Shannon, executive director, marketing and product, Saab Automobile USA.
Available in four-door Sedan as well as five-door SportCombi models, all versions feature Saab’s signature 2.3L, 260-horsepower (194 kW) four-cylinder engine and can be matched to five-speed manual or automatic transmissions without extra charge.
The exterior of the 9-5 Griffin shows influences from the recently updated Saab 9-3 family, such as the use of matte chrome for the front grill, as well as the frames around the Xenon headlamps. The Sedan has a rear spoiler on the trunk lid, while the SportCombi can be recognized by its roof spoiler and roof rails in matte chrome finish.
Unique five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels, plus Griffin badges on the front fenders adorn both body styles. In addition to Polar White, this special edition Saab 9-5 is available in six metallic colors, including Jet Black, Snow Silver, Nocturne Blue, Pepper Green, plus the new Carbon Grey and Glass Grey.
On the inside, every 9-5 Griffin shines with high-gloss interior trim, floor mats with grey piping, as well as the use of accent color stitching on the steering wheel, shift lever and handbrake. This premium stitching also applies to the Aero-inspired leather-appointed sport seats. They are available in two two-tone variations: black with parchment inserts and parchment with black inserts. Additional standard equipment includes a rear parking assist system, plus heated outside mirrors that are not only power-adjustable and foldable, but also auto-dimming.
Expected to start arriving in Saab dealer showrooms in January 2009, the 9-5 Griffin will be priced starting at U.S. $42,775 for the Sedan and $ 44,045 for the versatile and stylish SportCombi (prices include destination charges). In addition to the rich standard equipment, including an automatic transmission, the only options for the 9-5 Griffin are metallic paint, ventilated seats and a navigation system.
Saab is a division of General Motors Corp. Saab Automobile USA is the importer and/or distributor of the Saab 9-3, 9-5 and 9-7X for Saab Automobile AB, Sweden. For the 2009 model year, Saab offers 7 different models that deliver 27 mpg or better according to EPA Highway fuel economy standards. In addition to 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper warranty, including roadside assistance and courtesy transportation, every new Saab comes with 3 years/36,000 miles no-charge scheduled maintenance plus standard OnStar and XM Satellite Radio. Visit www.saabusa.com for more information

Saab9-5Griffin.jpg

Saab technology we didn’t get to see

In response to a request in comments…..

The quality and scope of Saab’s innovations in the car industry probably outweigh their size or reputation. There are a number of things, however, that we can’t add to that list because even though they were taken quite a long way through the development journey, for some reason or another, they didn’t get to the end of that journey.
There may well be very good reasons why these developments were left on the shelf. The hard part about being a Saab fan and knowing about these developments is not knowing why they were stopped.
Solar cooling – Saab EV1
saab-ev1thnOne of the many nifty innovations incorporated into Bjorn Envall’s Saab EV1 concept car in the mid 80s were a set of solar panels in the vehicle’s roof. These panels generated energy that would then drive cooling fans to keep the interior cabin cool in the sun.
If you think this is still somewhat space age, well it is to an extent, but there are car companies now offering this technology as an option, most notably Audi with their solar sunroof.
More recently, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept also featured solar cells in the roof of the vehicle. In this case, the solar energy is used to charge the vehicle’s lithium ion batteries.
The Saab V8
saab-v8-motorThis is one case where we probably do know why the development stopped before it really got off the ground.
Back in the late 1980’s, some of Saab’s cousins at Valmet in Finland decided to try and fit a V8 into a Saab 9000. Spurred on by their counterparts in Trollhattan who said it wouldn’t fit, the Finns developed a V8 engine using what appears to be two Saab B202s.
It slotted right into the Saab 9000 with no modifications necessary, but GM’s purchase of 50% of Saab the year after it was done made the engine somewhat redundant as GM had V6 engines they wanted Saab to utilise. I wonder which out of the GM V6 or “Saab’s” V8 would have been more efficient and reliable?
You can read Eggs’ full entry on this engine here.
Saab Variable Compression
saabvariablecompressionThis was going to be the Golden Egg but it ended up being squashed by a goose in a suit.
Saab variable compression, as the name suggests, should have been the next big development in engine technology. The project started around 1990 and Saab started to make serious noise about it in the late 1990s.
The idea was simple enough: engines are fairly inefficient given that the one engine has to cope with running at variable speeds and loads. What Saab did in response was to develop an engine that featured variable compression via a ‘monohead’ that was hinged on one side whilst the other side moved up and down via hydraulic rams.
The results were very promising. From a supercharged, five cylinder 1.6 litre engine, Saab generated around 225hp and 305Nm of torque, with around 30% less fuel consumption compared to a larger engine with similar output.
Saab Combustion Control
If you believe the press release, Saab Combustion Control was perhaps the most production-ready of any of these technologies. From the October 2000 press release on the technology:

The SCC system will be launched in the next generation of Saab cars.

I can’t claim to understand this one sufficiently well enough, so here’s some details from the Saab 9-3x press materials (the original one that could have been built 6 or 7 years ago, not the XWD vehicle we’ll see next year).

This revolutionary technology from Saab improves fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent and cuts emissions by as much as 75 per cent, all without impairing engine performance. Direct injection, variable valve timing and a variable spark gap are the key features, allied to a spark plug injector which provides air-assisted fuel injection and turbulence for better combustion, as well as a high-energy spark.
SCC allows exhaust gases to comprise up to 70 per cent of the combustion mixture, a far higher proportion than conventional exhaust-gas-recirculation systems. Carbon monoxide and hyrdocarbon emissions are reduced by almost 50 per cent and nitrogen oxides by 75 per cent. The Saab Ecopower 2 V6 is the first production engine designed to incorporate this technology.

A 10% reduction in fuel consumption and a potential 75% reduction in emissions – and again, in 2001 this was intended for production in the next generation of Saab cars.
You can read a full press release on Saab Combustion Control over at Saabnet and there’s also a great article at SAE.org.
Saab’s plug-in Hybrid
saab-hybrid-rear-thumbThe Saab BioPower Hybrid Convertible was first shown at the Stockholm Motor Show in March 2006. The big official news at that time was that it was the world’s first fossil-free hybrid vehicle and it was made all the more notable by the fact that all this technology was present in a convertible car.
The press release that accompanied the vehicle, however, wasn’t the original press release. What the published press release held back was the fact that the vehicle was also a plug-in hybrid. Behind the glued-in rear badge was a plug-in capability that lifted the technology and the mileage capability of the car to new levels. It was reported in Aftonbladet (in Swedish) that GM told Saab at the last minute before the Stockholm show, to re-write the press releases and glue shut the plug-in cover. The plug-in capability of this car was not to be revealed.
The original press release was circulated to several outlets and then pulled by Saab just prior to the Stockholm show. Some of those outlets published the original release, however, which read:

To optimise the availability of ‘Zero Mode’, a plug-in-feature is available which allows the battery bank to be connected to a mains electricity supply for additional charging in the garage. This would, for example, allow a driver commuting in heavy traffic to immediately resume in ‘Zero Mode’ the next morning after arriving home the previous evening having used up all its range. A neat socket is located behind the Saab badge on the 9-3 BioPower Hybrid Concept’s trunk lid.

It is thought that the plug-in capability was covered up as the technology was not going to be featured in light of the fact that GM had bigger fish to fry when it comes to electric cars – the Chevrolet Volt debuted in concept form in January 2007.

Saab 9-5 production coming back to Trollhattan?

With many thinks to Daniel B, here’s a translation of an article in today’s Dagens Industri newspaper in Sweden. There’s no link as at the time of publishing, it wasn’t online.
Maybe this is why Klaus Franz was trumpeting goodwill towards Saab and the German factory continuing to produce the 9-5 for Saab even if they’re sold off by GM.
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Saab wants to take the german production home
Saab Automobile is working hard to get the production of the new 9-5 from Russelsheim in Germany, back home to Sweden. It has shown that the factory in Trollhättan lately has passed the German factory in aspects of effeciency and cost.
According to the sources of Dagens Industri Saab has studied the options of taking the production of the new 9-5 home to Trollhättan as well as the 9-3 convertible. The suprisingly fast improvement of the efficiency in the Swedish factory presented itself at Saabs most recent board-meeting last Tuesday, when Carl-Peter Forster reported on the status.
Håkan Danielsson, the chairman of the union Swedish Engineers says: We had requested a presentation about which of the two factories were the most cost-efficient as per manufacturing cost per vehicle and the Trollhättan factory turned out to be the one.
The cost per manufactured 9-5 at Trollhättan is about 20 000 SEK (swedish kronor) which turned out to be approximately 2000 SEK less than the Russelsheim factory (Approx 20% ) (I’m not sure of the math there – SW).
This means that the original desicion to move the production of the new 9-5 from Sweden to Germany is being questioned.
“It is obvious that GM´s leaders in Europe first will protect the German interests as well as German jobs. One reason is probably fear of the German unions”, Håkan Danielsson says, who participated at the GM board-meeting.
“It was never an option at the meeting to change the desicion of manufacturing the NG 9-5 in Germany, on the contrary it was discussed to further move jobs to Russelsheim” Danielsson says.
Now they are speaking of design workers to move their jobs away from Trollhättan.
“For example designing of roof-boxes (for skiis), bike-holders and other optionals that we always have been good at in Trollhättan is being moved even though we are more cost-efficient.” says Danielsson.
One reason for Saabs efficiency, is the billion-class investments that has been made in the factory. Bodywork, painting, steelpresses and assembly departments are completely new with state of the art equipment and facilities. Manufacturing has been improved multiple times and the salory-costs is much lower than in Germany.
“For engineers and other white-collar workers the salories can be up to 40% lower in Trollhättan compared to Russelsheim and for the blue-collar workers the difference is approximately up to 50% lower at Trollhättan.” Danielsson says.
He tells us that more than few of the engineers makes approximately 3000 euros per month while the German engineers are being paid between 5-6000 euros.
The calculation of costs does not include logistics where Russelsheim is doing better, “but according to our calculations we still are cheaper then the Germans. Especially in Saabs big markets as Sweden, the US, UK we are better of then Russelsheim due to the fact that we are close to a major harbour”. (Gothenburg).
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I like it when the engineers talk. They seem to be pretty straight shooters.
You might remember that this same guy was speaking last week about the possibility of Saab and Volvo merging, in the company of a Volvo engineer. They were speaking as one and as representatives of Sveriges Ingenjörer, the association for graduate beer drinkers engineers.
I hope he gets to talk some more.

Thanks Daniel B!!

Bones

My apologies for the indulgent nature of this post, but sometimes you can’t get to write the things you should until you’ve cleared away all the stuff that’s clogging you up.
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The gut
I have a pretty good gut. I have a very large gut because I feed it too much, but that’s a whole other story, and thankfully its largesse hasn’t decreased my capacity to feel.
At age 16, my gut told me it wasn’t OK to try and drink my father’s death away one night. So I didn’t. I’ve barely touched a drop since and I’m ever so grateful for it.
At age 18, my gut told me it would be bad news to go out with that girl. But who listens to their gut in that situation? I should have.
At around age 21, despite a purely Australian automotive upbringing, my gut told me that the Saab 9000 I was riding in was absolutely brilliant and would probably change my life. It has.
At age 24, and with no job or higher education, my gut told me everything would be alright. And it is.
At age 34 and 11 months, my gut told me that this new-fangled blogging thing might be worth a try, and seeing cars (and Saabs in particular) were the only things I felt passionate about, that’s what I’d write about.
The head
Like everyone else, I can feel right and wrong in my gut sometimes. And yet somehow, I don’t tend to act on it anywhere near as often as I should.
Some of that is down to timidity. I’m a fairly cautious person by nature. But it’s more than just timidity. It’s where my head comes in to the picture. Whilst my gut’s all emotion, my head is infatuated with a desire to reason. I am more often than not the devil’s advocate, no matter how lame the plight of the weakened argument I try to support.
At age 28, my head told me to marry my first wife, despite any misgivings I might have about us at the time.
After a national IQ test was held on television, my head told me to go and sit the IQ test being held locally shortly thereafter, sponsored by Mensa. My gut told me not to join, though.*
My head’s told me for the last four years that things will work out with Saab, that the next killer model is just around the corner.
My head tells me that I should continue negotiations with the media company that’s interested in buying Trollhattan Saab because I’ve worked bloody hard on it for four and a half years and something concrete should come out of that.
But then come the bones.
The bones
The bones are like the gut, but much, much stronger. When you feel something in your bones, it’s like you can smell it in a high wind. It’s the fear of loss. The thrill of imminent pleasure. The joy of a promosing road and knowing there’s not a soul around.
At age 30, my bones told me I’d never really loved my first wife. We divorced and it was 100% the right thing to do. At age 31 my bones told me I’d met the perfect woman for me. We married two years later.
At the same age my bones told me I was making a mistake selling my 99 Turbo. I bought it back three years later.
Your head can reason with your gut, but the bones are undeniable. I’ll probably buy that 99 Turbo a third time before things are all done and finished (if Bill will sell it).
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At age 38, my head is arguing that Saab are on a knife’s edge. My head tells me that the most promising way forward for Saab is with as little interruption and instability as possible, as if they’re doing a finely balanced juggling act and the slightest interruption could send it all tumbling. My head keeps telling me that the best way forward is for GM to still own Saab in few years from now, because that’s the most promising way for a continued existence.
But my gut tells me that Saab would be much better off without GM. My gut tells me that Saab are always going to be like a neglected child in GM’s house, eating scraps from the table and wearing hand-me-downs from older, more important siblings.
My gut tells me that if Saab were given one unrestrained chance at hitting a home run, they’d slug it into the next suburb.
My gut tells me that Saab will survive this somehow, in some form.
My bones don’t tell me anything other than the fact that this journey, this blog, is tied to Saab’s own journey, in as much as that journey still holds some promise of Saab being the company that I think they can be. The negotiations to sell this site are off becuase I can’t, in good faith, tie myself contractually to a brand when there’s a chance I may not believe in that brand any more.
Saab will survive. It’s just a matter of how, and how well.
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For what it’s worth, I think GM is too full of ‘head’ guys and too devoid of ‘gut’ guys. I think Bob Sinclair was a great businessman, and a ‘gut’ guy at heart. I think Bjorn Envall was totally a ‘gut’ guy, and most designers are. Their problem is that the ‘head’ guys are the ones with all the power. You can’t work gut into a ROI formula.
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And a final thought….
My head tells me that a replacement flagship vehicle in the Saab 9-5 is incredibly important for Saab, but my bones tell me that a smaller Saab 9-3 like the one they’ve talked about is the vehicle that Saab need more than any other.
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* Yes, I sat the Mensa exam and yes, I passed and was told I was in the top percentile of people who had taken the exam. This should tell you little about me, though, and more about the nature of perceived intelligence. If you want to know something about my own intelligence, witness the frequent mistakes here on this site. I’m just as dumb as the next guy.

Who could buy Saab?

Ok. Now I know that Saab being sold isn’t a done deal just yet.
Jan-Ake Jonsson has come out saying that an all-out sale is lower down on the list of options they’re exploring right now. In addition to that, GM might get through their expedited “review” and decide they’re better off keeping Saab.
And in addition to that, that the current climate means that GM may not get a decent return for Saab as other companies are suffering, too, and will want to strip any purchase to the lowest amount possible.
BUT….let’s dream anyway, shall we?
The following images are taken from a slightly out-of-date automotive family tree diagram, which you can bamboozle yourself with in full over at Jalopnik if you so desire. Taking snippets like this means that you don’t get the full impression of joint ventures and other relationships, but you’ll get the gist of it.
Click on the thumbnail to see the full (slightly outdated) relationship diagram for each group.
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General Motors
As mentioned at the top, it may not be all over for Saab within General Motors. GM have put Saab under review and Fritz Henderson has come out saying that they will explore all options, including a sale of Saab to another company. Jan-Ake Jonsson says there have been a number of expressions of interest, but won’t so say who.
Despite all this, Saab may still stay with GM. Saab made a US$360m loss last year, which in automotive terms is very nearly a profit! They’ve got two all-new vehicles well into development (9-5 and 9-4x) and an alternate version of an existing vehicle (the 9-3x) due early next year.
GM may just find that the global crisis is hitting potential buyers hard enough that they won’t get a desireable purchase price. In that instance, and with revenues due to increase soon thanks to those new models, they might just try to hold on and convince the US Congress that it’s worthwhile doing so.
On the downside, GM have only recently shown the beginnings of understanding Saab. They say they’re committed to it but then they undermine that commitment by pouring heaps of funds into a doomed-from-the-start promotion of Cadillac in Europe. If they keep Saab, will they really commit to making it what it can be?
TS verdict:
Potential – Medium to High, though it could well turn out to be Low.
Probability – Quite possible
Desireability – Low
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Ford or Chrysler:
Let’s not go there, shall we. But here are their diagrams anyway.


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BMW:
BMW actually have room in their portfolio and I’m sure they’ve got plenty in the way of reserves, too. They’re no stranger to working with GM, having been part of a joint venture to develop the two-mode hybrid system that GM use in their hybrid SUV’s now.
Saab could provide an outlet for those who want a BMW-sized vehicle but with front-wheel-drive versatility, which is an option that their other two marques don’t offer. Saab could also offer further turbocharging expertise seeing as how BMW are getting into that more and more now. Much as I hate to say it, a link with BMW would also provide an instant lift to market perceptions towards Saab, as well.
Downside – BMW just don’t need it. Or they don’t think they do, even if they could benefit from it in some markets. The downside for Saab would be being associated with one of the larger companies to offend the cockometer.
TS verdict:
Potential – Medium
Probability – Low
Desireability – Hausfrau
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Honda:
This is a fascinating one on a number of levels. Honda are a well respected brand in most facets. They’re an engine company that makes cars, amongst other things, and people generally love their products. They are the Japanese brand that’s sporting, yet unpretentious, and their luxury line is – generally speaking – a genuine extension of their regular offerings rather than a pure rebadge like some others.
Honda could definitely benefit from Saab’s safety expertise and I’m sure they’d be interested in Swedish hybrid and flexfuel developments, too. They’re big in Asia and the US, but my impression is that they’re not so big in Europe, though still a player. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind enhancing their status there.
I can’t think of a downside, though I’m sure a few of you can. Personally, a Honda is one of the few Japanese cars I’d consider for my own garage.
TS verdict:
Potential – High
Probability – Unknown, probably Low
Desireability – High
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Daimler:
I’m tired of this one before I even start writing about it.
I suppose Mercedes could use a smaller, FWD brand in some sort of way, but I can’t imagine for what – and I’m sure they can’t imagine a use for it either. They believe they’re perfect as they are. And if you think Opel have stripped Saab of much of their engineering prowess, I can’t imagine what Daimler would do. There’d barely be a shred of Saab’s identity left, I wouldn’t think.
For some reason this just doesn’t sit well at all and aside from that, I just can’t imagine it happening.
TS verdict:
Potential – Low
Probability – Lower
Desireability – Ocean depths
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Proton:
This one is a favourite of 1985Gripen and I can see why, though I can’t necessarily see it happening. Proton was started by order of the Malaysian government and is now publicly traded, but the Malaysians want to be more of a player in the Asian marketplace. Protons themselves are nothing to get charged about, but the company also owns a majority stake in Lotus, which is where it gets really interesting.
Proton have let Lotus stay in England and Lotus are still regarded as a highly desireable sports car, as well as a sought-after engineering firm. The fact that Lotus are still regarded worldwide as essentially an English company is testament to Proton’s ability to let a company get on with doing what they do.
On the downside, Lotus are a smaller company to swallow than Saab, and Proton aren’t that big themselves. Additionally, they’ve suffered sales slumps in recent years so in the current climate would be even less likely to be interested.
TS verdict:
Potential: Definitely
Probability: Low-ish
Desireability: Olsen twins. Clear and present danger for tragedy, but you can’t help but look anyway.
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Porsche/VW:
Oh my, I think I just dribbled on my keyboard.
Sweet salivation!
Contrary to popular belief, Porsche do not currently own Volkswagen. They own the single largest stake, at just over 45% and they have the definite and stated intention of increasing that to 75%, but only when the prices of VAG shares come back down.
Therein lies the tragedy for Saab lovers. Porsche, on their own, would make the perfect parent for Saab and Saab could compliment their vehicle lineup like a glove. Imagine sporting-plus-luxurious sedans and hatches leading a path to what many consider to be some of the best sportscars in the world today. No more need for a wierd looking Panamera or the brand-diluting Cayenne.
And for Saab, their engineers could work with some of the fussiest and finnicky engineers in the world to extend a good range of cars into a fantastic range of cars.
Sadly, Porsche will take over Volkswagen in the medium term and have no need for Saab in those circumstances, but it would be so good.
TS Verdict:
Potential: Massive, for Saab at least
Probability: Sadly, very low
Desireability: Schwinnnnngggg!!!
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Toyota:
They don’t scare me like Mercedes Benz do, but they scare me nonetheless. Toyota remind me of a Japanese version of the Borg collective, a characterisation I used to use for GM.
The upside is that they’re cashed up and could probably see a genuine European label as something of value. They might also benefit from Saab’s safety expertise and I’m sure they’d like to get one over the General.
I just don’t think they’d be interested, though. And I fear that Saab would become uninteresting as a result of Toyota being in charge, too. I’ve rarely seen an interesting Toyota. When considering all the cars I’d like to own before my driving life ends, I discovered that I could just barely place an MR2 on the list, but only if a decent Honda CRX wasn’t available.
TS Verdict:
Potential: Probably high
Probability: Low
Desireability: Zzzzzzzz
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Renault and/or Nissan
This is another fascinating one on a number of levels. Just how many frequent flier miles can Carlos Ghosn chalk up and should they get into airlines, too?
Renault and Nissan own stakes in one another, and as you can see, there’s other operations in the mix. Curiously, they’ve both managed to retain their identities whilst building some white hot cars (the new Z) and some very…..quirky (eek!) cars as well.
Somehow this alliance works despite the fact Renault doesn’t have a US presence. An acquisition of Saab could be a small foot in the door in that regard. With France having a growing interest in biofuels, Saab would be appealing from that front as well. Saab would also provide a more upscale presence that Renault lack to a degree.
The downsides: I’m no European but I’ve heard enough stories about French labour unions to scare me witless. Though Renault and Nissan retain their own identities as partners in an alliance, I’d imagine a Renault transaction with Saab would be a buyout, not an alliance (though it’s an attractive option if there were another willing party) and Saab’s Swedish identity could be hijacked at the insistence of French unions.
It should be noted here that Renault have been asked about their level of interest by the media and promptly smacked the reporter on the head with a baguette before riding off on a bicycle. I believe “Non” was the answer.
TS Verdict:
Potential: definitely
Probability: Medium
Desireability: Medium
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Hyundai
Hyundai are building some good vehicles nowadays. Their new Genesis thingy has people genuinely buzzing. They have a very strong corporate culture, a wide industrial base and like other Asian manufacturers, they could probably see some value in having a genuine European brand under their wing.
Ah, who am I kidding?
Hyundai are like the brussel sprouts of the car business. Apparently they’re good for you but it’s a rare person that really likes them.
They might have money (they might not, too) but they’ve got no soul when it comes to the car business. They need to go out and do something extraordinary. Until then, I’m just not interested.
TS Verdict:
Potential: Medium
Probability: Unknown, could be anything
Desireability: What?
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FIAT
This is a scenario that I just can’t help being attracted to.
I own an Italian car. I’m sure they screw them together better nowadays, but my Italian car falls apart just a little bit more with every pebble I drive over. The build quality is just shocking. The interior materials and design are both horrendous (again, definitely not so in a modern Alfa) and rumour has it that you can only tell if your Italian is working by the rate of oil leakage (surprisingly, not a problem for me).
Despite all these drawbacks, I absolutely adore my Italian car and I’ll cry like a baby when I eventually give it up. I may even wet my pants. It’s incredibly engaging to drive, with an engine that’s as mad as a barrel full of bats.
This is what Italians do. They wave their arms, talk a mile-a-minute at fighter-jet volumes and yet somehow, you can’t help but love them. Has there ever been a more lovable evil person than Vito Corleone? I rest my case.
Somehow, Saab managed to work with Fiat in the past, and work with them very well, too. The thought of them getting together with a vastly more organised Fiat is tantalising indeed, though one can’t help but feel that Fiat are always just one bad period away from complete collapse.
Fiat are looking to try the American market once again and Saab’s presence there could be an attractive, albeit small, foot in the door.
It’d also have the added benefit of me not having to be occasionally shamed in Saab circles by my Alfa.
TS Verdict:
Potential: High
Probability: Unknown, but possibly moderate
Desireablity: Medium-High
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Peugeot / Citroen:
This is another fascinating one, though probably less so than the Renault version.
It has the same benefits in being able to manage and even encourage things that are considered to be non-mainstream.
The same concerns arise with regard to Saab’s identity being preserved, as well as their Swedish base.
The same opportunities arise with Saab’s US connections if Citroen want to try a venture into the US market (and of the two, I think Citroen would be the most likely to try).
Despite all this, the thought of Saab being taken over by PSA just doesn’t register whatsoever on my emotional radar.
TS Verdict:
Potential: Unknown
Probability: Unknown
Desireability: Unknown
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Fuji Heavy Industries
They’re 20% owned by Toyota these days, but that’s no reason to eliminate the possibility of the Saaburu arising again. Did that sentence make you wince?
Actually, many people consider Subaru to be the closest thing to Saab in character. Subaru build reliable AWD cars with no small amount of character, though personally I’m not into them (even after spending four months in a WRX earlier this year).
Both are familiar with turbocharging. Both have strong safety credentials. Both have rallying success in their past.
Too similar?
TS Verdict:
Potential: Medium
Probability: Unknown, Low
Desireability: Meh
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Prodrive/Virgin
Here’s one out of left field, suggested by Turbin via email and in comments. It’s an interesting proposition:
Branson has been paying more than lip service to ethanol, has an emotional stake in the brand and could even be looking for a chance to play in the auto sandpit.
Dave Richards has been called the ‘Branson of Motorsport’. Through his interest in Prodrive and more importantly Aston Martin there is serious potential.
How about Saab as the green Aston Martin solution??
* AM logo has wings. Saab needs a new one.
* Virgin is into jets and ethanol.
* AM platfrom would make for a wicked Aero-X
* These guys have guts and vision.
* AM and Saab are both incredibly style driven backed with real performance.
* Prodrive could make some wicked Saab rally cars.
* Use AM to help lift Saab to the premium player it pretends to be.
* Branson/Richards, performance and adventure.
TS Verdict:
Potential: Huge
Probability: Miniscule
Desireability: Schwinnngiddy-ding!!
——
Various car companies from Russia and China
No.
In every way, no.
I don’t know why, but something seems….dirty…..about the thought of Saab being an emerging market’s plaything. again, like the Hyundai argument, I’d like Saab to go to someone with a track record, someone who understands and values a carmaker’s heritage.
A Russian buyer would probably be much more palatable than a Chinese buyer, but I can’t help but think that it’d just be temporary and heartbreaking (Russian ownership of TVR comes to mind).
It’s always possible, too, that a Chinese acquisition could take the form of the Malaysian acquisition of Proton, with the company financed and allowed to do its thing. I guess that for that reason alone I’d probably try and accept it, at least until evidence to the contrary arose.
No diagrams for this one. I don’t want to encourage anyone.
——
Well, that’s it for me.
I’m sure you’ve all got your thoughts to contribute (again).
Let fly!

Jonsson and Geers on Saab’s review

UPDATE: CNN Money Report at the bottom
UPDATE II: Automotive News comment
UPDATE III: Swedish minister meeting with German counterparts
——
Swedish newspapers Dagens Nhyeter and Dagens Industri have run a few articles featuring comments by Saab Sweden’s Jan-Ake Jonsson and Eric Geers.
Thankfully, ctm’s provided a translation of the salient points. I’ll get to work on a full translation shortly.
——
Jan-Åke Jonsson at Dagens Nhyeter:
He does not interpret the strategic review as Saab is up for sale – despite that Fritz henderson said that GM is looking for a buyer.
He says that Saab is now working on a plan to secure the short and long term funding.
He characterizes the current dialogue with the Swedish government as “good and constructive,” and he sees major possibilities for the government to ha ve a positive impact in this “critical situation.”
– “The government now has the possibility to have some influence and create some cooperation between the four auto industries in the country.”
He thinks that Saab is well prepared when that market gets going again, and claims that the brand is an important part in the GM brand portfolio.
– “Saab is GMs only European premium brand in a growing and important segment.”
——
Eric Geers at Dagens Industri:
– “A global strategic review of Saab does not mean a sale of Saab, but rather how we can secure the future of Saab and how to raise the money.”
– “It could mean that we work together with an external partner.”
– “There are a number of interesting possibilities. But, of course, you can never exclude the possibility that we sometime will be sold.”
He points out that the most important now is to secure the future products and the funding of those.”
Do you think that Saab will benefit from the money that GM eventually can get from the Congress?
– “It depends solely on the Congress and their attitude. One could imagine that there will a bit too much America.”
– “But it is probably the same with other governments.”
As many others do, Saab also seeks support from the government. But so far, it has been without much result.
– “The current economic situation is as it is. But it extremely important to find a solution to secure future investments.”
——
From CNN Money, a further comment on the Jan-Ake Jonsson interviews:

STOCKHOLM (AFP)–Several companies have voiced interest in purchasing beleaguered Swedish car maker Saab if its owner, struggling U.S. giant General Motors Corp. (GM), decided to sell, Saab’s chief executive told Swedish public radio on Wednesday.
“There are many interested parties. I don’t want to mention any specific names but there are many (interested) companies that work with development and support car production, both in Europe and outside of Europe,” Jan Aake Jonsson said.
“There are many different alternatives and I don’t want to go into specifics but it’s obvious the discussions we have had so far have been with companies within the automobile industry,” he said.
Jonsson’s comments came a day after GM said it would “review” the future of its Saab and Saturn brands as it struggles to survive and restructures its business to focus on core brands.
GM said it will “immediately undertake a global strategic review of the Saab brand,” in a statement outlining a restructuring plan it presented to Congress in hopes of securing some $18 billion in government-backed loans.
BMW AG (BMW.XE), Renault SA (13190.FR) and Tata Motors (TTM) are all reportedly potential buyers.

BMW?
Not according to the last report. But that was then, I guess.
——
And from Automotive News:

With Ford Motor ready to sell Volvo and General Motors considering a possible sale of Saab, Sweden is being hit badly by the storm that is currently threatening the whole car industry.
The question is not just who would want the Swedish brands, but why would anyone want them?
…..In terms of being green, Saab is ahead of Volvo with its biofuel and turbocharging technology.
GM has neglected Saab’s brand character for too long. The Swedish brand has only received the attention it deserves in the last couple of years under Carl-Peter Forster, who is GM Europe’s president and Saab’s chairman.
Forster’s new Saab model range has still not been revealed but the 9-X BioHybrid and 9-X Air concepts have received very positive responses.
If GM sells Saab, Forster will neither enjoy the fruits of his efforts for the brand nor will Ford ever benefit from its commitment to develop Volvo into a world class brand with strong premium values.

——
I’m absolutely knackered from the last few nights, so please forgive me if I limit my own comment on this stuff and just pass on the news in bulk.
——
From Reuters:

Sweden’s industry minister said on Wednesday Sweden was talking to German authorities regarding its auto sector and she hoped to have more information soon on car units Volvo and Saab now the intent of their U.S. parents was clear.
Industry Minister Maud Olofsson told a news conference she does not think the state should be in the business of owning car companies.
“I have talked to my counterpart in Germany who is working on these issues. These (talks) revolve around the fact that Saab and Opel are very closely linked and we of course want to know how Germany is thinking about this,” Olofsson said.
“We want to know how they see their relationship with Opel and we will intend to try present how we see Saab’s situation. But in the current situation, these (talks) have had more of an exploratory nature.”

Saab officially placed “under review” by General Motors

The full text of GM’s submission to the US Congress leaked early (surprise surprise).
To save you all the trouble of looking, here’s the only sentence in the 27-page document that mentions Saab:

GM will also immediately undertake and expedite a strategic review of the Saab brand globally.

That’s it. One sentence. 15 words.
To make that little bit of corporate-speak clear – Saab is now up for sale.
You guys keep posting in comments. I’m going to try and make sense of it all and post a summary up here on site so keep checking in.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to scream a nice, loud SCREW YOU to all the mofos at GM have who have sucked the life out of our favourite little brand and now intend to hang it out to dry. May the hairs on your bum turn into fish hooks and rip the sh!t out of you.
——
Comment of the moment, from Troll96:

Notice how GM plans to increase its emphasis on flex-fuel cars, hybrid technology, turbocharging and 4 cylinder engines. So, of course, Saab has to get the ax. Am I missing something here?

Rignt now, in the heat of this particular moment, I hope Wagoner’s Malibu hybrid breaks down on the way to Washington.
——
Here are the bones of the GM plan for those who can’t be bothered reading through the whole thing:
GM’s plan involves the following moves:

• Slashing hourly costs in North America by $3.6 billion in an attempt to make GM competitive with foreign automakers no later than 2012. GM currently has 96,000 workers and the goal is to have 65,000 to 75,000 workers by 2012.
• Reducing or eliminating four of its eight brands and cutting the number of dealers. The plan involves exploring the sale of Saab, talking to dealers about the future of Saturn and shrinking the Pontiac brand to more of a niche offering.
• Cutting executive compensation and eliminating its corporate aircraft fleet. CEO Rick Wagoner will take a $1 salary next year, and GM is cutting the top four senior executives will see their cash compensation slashed 50 percent in 2009. Neither Wagoner nor top executives will receive bonuses this year or in 2009.
• Complying with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was designed to improve fuel efficiency and cut dependence on foreign oil. GM outlined its current lineup of cars and crossover vehicles and plans to shift its portfolio towards producing even more of the fuel-efficient vehicles. For 2009, GM has 18 models in the U.S. that gets 30 mpg on the highway and that push towards more fuel-efficient vehicles will continue, Henderson said.

The bill for all this?

GM is asking for $18 billion in financing, which includes a $12 billion loan and a $6 billion revolving line of credit that would be tapped if the market worsens.
The automaker would make several withdrawals of the cash in coming months. GM needs $4 billion this month to pay its bills and would draw $4 billion more in January.
GM would make a $2 billion withdrawal in February or March for a total of $10 billion. The remaining $2 billion would help ensure GM has enough cash to pay its bills through the end of next year, assuming an annualized sales rate of 12 million units.
The $6 billion line of credit could be tapped if the U.S. auto industry worsens to an annualized rate of 10.5 million units.

Q&A with former Saab designer, Taras Czornyj

It’s a fait accompli that many Saab executives drive Saabs. A lot of the time they get them as company cars and whilst they might be nice versions of the Saabs currently on the market (earlier this year, Jan-Ake Jonsson assured me he was going to nab a Turbo X for a little while), I’m more interested in what they have in their personal garage, what they’ve spent their own hard earned money on.
I was pleased as punch when I learned that one of Jan-Ake Jonsson’s first cars was a Saab 600, for example. And whilst SaabUSA’s Jan-Willem Vester has a Porsche 911 for fun in the US, he’s also got a imaaculate classic Saab 900 back at home in the Netherlands. Saab 9-4x designer Andrew Dyson probably has some non-descript runabout at work in Germany, but he’s also got a C900 in his garage back in England.
These guys love Saab. And so does the guy I’ve been in touch with recently.
The name may or may not be familiar to you, but Taras Czornyj’s work will be very familiar to you. And his personal car is an absolute cracker!!!
Taras doesn’t work for Saab right now, as you’ll read about shortly, but he’s got good reasons for choosing the Saab that’s currently in his driveway, and good reasons for the way it’s been enhanced, too.
Here’s a little Q&A we did via email in the last week:
——
When were you with Saab?
I was at Saab from 2000 to 2006. I started in Trollhättan and moved to the new GME Advanced Design Center in Göteborg in 2003. Its a company I wanted to work for because of its design heritage and potential.

What did you work on?
My first project when I joined Saab was the 443 (9-3X) exterior design. There was no wagon at the time only a 9-3 based crossover. The project had been underway for a least a year. Michael Mauer restarted the project with a new phase of design development and it was then that my design was chosen to be developed. At this point the Sportcombi came into the picture. From a design point of view the crossover was the lead vehicle. Unfortunately this car was canned by GM, one of the reasons being that it was too small for the US. Interestingly the X3 and the Outback felt right at home with little or no competition in the US.
93-X Concept exterior design…..
This project ran parallel with the wagons. This concept was the preview to the 443. It was the same platform but in coupe/ hatch body style. Shows the rear design theme you see on today’s sportcombi.
I worked on the two last years of exterior production development of the 9-3 convertible. Following a design direction set by Michael Mauer and Tony Catignani.
9-3 Sporthatch Concept exterior design…..
A preview to the sportcombi. This project was close to me for a couple of reasons. This was the first show car to be built in house at Saabs prototype modelling dept KMX. There were a few all nighters spent on the car putting it together but the final result was world class. Secondly the exterior design was basically the canned 443, that the cladding splits were filled and the car was lowered giving a more rally on road look.
9-3 Sportcombi exterior design…..
A very satisfying project. A hard slog with engineers at times but well worth it! I learned a lot and worked with some fantastic people like Ziggy Bis the 9-3 studio engineer and Erik Sörum from design quality to name just a couple. I am particularly pleased about the rear lamps. One thing to point out was how streamlined and efficient the staff at Saab were, something I realised later, working at Volvo. There was myself on exterior design, Lars Falk on interior and we basically discussed the design directly with Michael Mauer. There was not the overblown set up as in other companies with a designer, senior designer, assistant chief designer, chief designer, exterior chief, and the design director.
Next generation convertible concept…..
A study into what could the next cab could be. A skunk works type of group was formed to look into this. Somebody from marketing, engineering, myself from design, and a few others. We test drove and benchmarked competitors, brainstormed and came up with a roof concept which was presented as a full size model to GME managment and culminated in a patent that I am 75% credited with. The basic idea was to be shown a couple of years later on the 9-X Air concept. These types of project are gold dust for a designer, where you are given the opportunity to start with a blank sheet and really do something new.
2008 9-3 facelift…..
I developed the design theme and carried out the early design development for the face lift which Ola Granlund later followed through to production.
I also worked on a variety of advanced design projects for various brands in the GM family. These will not see the light of day but might influence future products.
What have you been doing since you left?
When GM decided to move Saabs main design operations to Germany I made the decision not to follow. After six and a half years I felt I needed a change of scene and to experience the design process at another company. So in late 2006 I took up a position at Daihatsu in Ikeda, Japan leading a small group of non Japanese designers in a strategic and advanced design group. We developed ideas which ultimately became the Mud Master C, I love that name, OFC-1 and the HSC show cars.
In 2007 I started a design company Mutations AB together with my wife Ingrid who is also a designer. This was a real opportunity for a bit of freedom and to choose exactly the projects I wanted to work with. We work with a variety of partners primarily within transportation.

I spent most of 2007 at Volvo cars. I worked on a proposal for an all new model. Very interesting to see things from the ‘other side’.
Since late 2007 I have been working with Hirsch Performance developing initially the 2008 9-3 range exterior products. Wheels, aerodynamic kit, spoilers etc. Looking forward to working on future Saab cars.

I am presently leading the exterior design on a project at Scania Trucks. An exciting and new challenge in an industry where design is gaining more importance.
I am also tutoring at Umeå Institute of Design.
Cars that you drive?
As a daily driver a 2008 9-3 Sportcombi 2.0 Biopower Aero. Hirsch have recently fully upgraded it and I must say in my honest humble opinion the car moves like a rocket and looks s?#t hot!



I also own a 1995 Ovlov 480 Turbo, one of the last ones built. It’s the only ovlov I would drive and a car I loved when I was younger.


It’s actually quite Saabesque in concept, a practical sports car. A shooting brake bodystyle, one that I admire, think 2001 9X, P1800 ES, Z3 coupe. A body style gaining favour again with cars like the 2007 9X, Renault Altica concept, VW Scirroco, Mini Clubman and the C30. Now and then I take a spin in my wife’s 2002 9-3 Aero.
And a final question….how the heck do you pronounce Czornyj??
It’s pronouced chorneey. If you can, you roll the R.
Its Ukrainian and means black. Very designer! 🙂

My thanks to Taras for taking the time to fill us all in and sharing a few pics of his cars with us.
He is a deadset legend, as we like to say here in Oz.

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