Saab 9-3x early review

Alltommotor were one of the Swedish motoring mags to get a ticket to the recent Saab 9-3x test drive at Jukkasjarvi and they’ve just published their quick Saab 9-3x review online.
They must be feeling a little cheeky this weekend as they’ve rated the car as being 4 Mauds out of 5!
Those of you who read Swedish might want to click through at that link and read the story for yourselves in full.
The rest of you will have to be satisfied with my interpretation of a googletrans:

  • They really like the 9-3x and the segment that it’s moving to, which they see as a growing area: cars that can handle the rougher stuff without being full blown SUVs. The bonus is much better fuel economy.
  • Diesel is not available with XWD due to cost constraints. The trade off is the excellent economy and low emissions with the FWD twin-turbo diesel.
  • The added height means you can handle the rougher stuff but the Saab remains stable and is suited to more ‘active’ driving
  • Saab enthusiasts should love it, but they wonder if it will win people from other brands, whether it makes the technical leap needed to do that.

Overall, they give a very positive impression of the car. As the first shot out of the locker in Saab’s new model program, it should be a good one. One they can build on, I dare to hope.
Swede-speakers and others might also want to click through for the video they have there. There’s some rolling footage of the 9-3x as well as some face time with Jan-Ake Jonsson (screenshot below 🙂

Great moments in Saab design – early Saab windows

People have a lot of memorable “firsts” with Saabs. The first time they really ‘see’ one. The first time they note the key between the seats. The first time they feel the turbo rush. The first time someone uses the Night Panel button.
There’s a bunch more you could add to that list, but one of my memorable “firsts” was the first time I saw the door windows of a Saab 95 being lowered. The same window was used on the Saab 96, of course, so you may have seen it on one of those, too.
Normally, when you wind a car window down, it comes down a uniform fashion with the top of the window staying horizontal as it lowers. The windows on these early Saabs were different, however.
These windows were “attached” at the bottom front corner. When the window is lowered, the whole window pivots on that front corner, so it comes down in a rather odd-looking fashion and lowers down into the door.
It’s hard to describe without seeing it and unfortunately I couldn’t find any video of one being lowered, but here’s a still shot from Youtube showing one that’s partially lowered.
Hopefully, you get the picture.
I’m sure there was no advantage to having the window work this way or they would have kept using this system. The Saab 99 that followed didn’t use it.
Perhaps it allowed some more air in through the bigger gap at the rear without blowing directly on the driver?
Whatever the reason, it was memorable and it certainly made an impression on me.
Other Great Saab Designs:
Saab 900 HVAC system
The button dash

2010 Saab 9-5 sketches

Swedish newspaper Expressen claims to have got hold of some sketches of the 2010 Saab 9-5 sedan and the wagon that will most likely follow a year later.
No point beating around the bush…..
To be honest…..IF this is it, then it’s a tiny bit underwhelming. BUT, one must remember that this is a crude-ish sketch that’s very small in size. Production cars inevitably look a lot better that their prototypes, which invariably look a bucketload better than raw sketches like these.
It’s early days. No point getting too excited or otherwise. People who have seen advance viewings of the real thing rave about it. This article at Expressen says the rear, with it’s large raking window, is quite reminiscent of the Saab 9000, which is encouraging.
The wagon does look quite fetching. Much better than that monstrosity featured in the recent issue of Autobild.
Thanks to Francis S for the Autobild pic. Click to enlarge.
Thanks to ctm for the Expressen link!

Consumer Reports rub me the wrong way – again

I got taken to task a little in comments for criticising Consumer Reports’ description of Saab’s restructuring procedure last week.
Time to go again.
Consumer Reports have covered Saab’s production problem this week on their blog, and they’ve got it wrong on a number of counts:

After seeking bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, Saab shut down its Swedish factory after customs agents seized control of it, according to an English-language Swedish news site.
According to The Local, Swedish customs authorities blocked parts deliveries to the factory from outside the European Union, over unpaid duties on the imported parts. Since Saab relies on many GM parts from the United States, the lack of these parts shut down the factory.
A spokesman for the Swedish customs service was quoted as saying the amount Saab owed was “considerable.”
Saab has since resolved the dispute by negotiating with Swedish customs authorities. The touch-and-go nature of this arrangement speaks to the challenges General Motors and its various divisions face.

That first paragraph is kinda jaw-dropping in its inaccuracy:

…..after customs agents seized control of it

Do you have images of armed, uniformed men standing at the gates, rappelling down from rooftops and overpowering line workers as they try to install a dashboard on a 9-3?
Of course, no such thing happened. And I’d question several other elements of their report as well.
If Consumer Reports had followed up on subsequent reports on this issue, they’d know that the stoppage of production was more to do with one supplier, Schenker, rather than the Swedish Customs issue.
Both the Schenker and Swedish Customs issues happened on the same day, but the entire stoppage was attributed to the Customs issue.
All of this, of course, is attributable to the changed conditions under which Saab are now trading as a result of the reconstruction process. The timing of their payment obligations changed suddenly and these issues are the teething problems symptomatic of that changed process.
What annoys me is that an influential publication like Consumer Reports can get it so wrong, effectively flinging so much mud at Saab in the public arena.
I hope they print a correction and publicise it as effectively as the original blog article.

Saab dealer in NJ sees positive future

There’s around 70 standalone Saab dealers in the US. Whilst I hope that all Saab dealers end up not only surviving, but thriving, it’s the standalone dealers that I am most hopeful for.
These are the guys with a true belief in Saab. Belief enough to spend serious money on Saab-designed facilities. Guys who have embraced the Saab philosophy and made it their business, their livelihood.
So I was pleased when Kurt K forwarded this email from the dealer he’s been using for years, Reinersten Motors, in New Jersey.
I’m sure many of you have questions about the outlook for Saab and Reinertsen Motors. I’ve attached a letter directly from General Motors that is addressed to you, our customers, to gain a bit of insight into the future for Saab Automobile AB.
Independence from GM is a very exciting initiative as far as we are concerned! I want to thank you for your business and assure you that we will be here to continue providing the excellent service you expect from your local Saab Experts. While the future is unknown, we have a long-standing reputation to uphold. We have no plans to change our focus and we commit to fostering the same great relationship we have had with you, our loyal Saab owners, since 1970.
Choose NOT to participate in the recession! NOW is a great time to buy or lease a new Saab. Your new Saab is fully protected with all the warranties and maintenance programs offered at the time of purchase. And, we currently have an excellent selection of Certified Pre-Owned vehicles that provide great savings and the comfort of knowing that your vehicle comes with a 6-year or 100,000 mile warranty.
If you’ve recently been in to see us, thanks for coming by and stay tuned for more updates about Saab’s exciting Road to Independence.
Here’s to many more years of Happy Saab Motoring!
My best wishes to all at Reinertsen and all the other standalone Saab guys as well.
Hang in there. You folks are the cream of the crop as far as I’m concerned. I hope your faith in the Saab brand is rewarded.

State of Nine seek your thoughts in a “Save Saab” survey

SaabsUnited sponsor and purveyor of fine Saab accessories, State of Nine, are conducting a survey to get just a few details as to what Saab’s customers think should happen in Saab’s future.
As they tell it, it’s Saab’s customers who are really up for sale here, so the thoughts of Saab customers should be known and considered.
There’s a few interesting questions there and a few very interesting results. As it stands right now, for example, most respondents (there’s been more than 1,000 so far) would favour a takeover by Volvo or BMW in the event that Saab are bought by another company.
The BMW bit surprised me.
The survey is very short, there’s no information collected about you as a respondent and you’ll even get a discount coupon at the end as a thankyou for completing it. State of Nine plan on distributing the results of the survey once it’s completed, so I’ll be sure to fill you all in on how that goes.
Click here to take the survey.

The dude speaks indirectly on the future of Saab

Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer is a Professor at the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisberg-Essen, in Germany.
Around here, he’s known simply as The Dude and he’s not always popular, but when The Dude speaks, we usually listen.
Today, The Dude is being quoted by the perpetually concerned-looking Neil Winton, from the Detroit News. The Dude is placing himself squarely at odds with Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, who recently prophesied that in the near future, there will only be around 5 car companies worldwide and that a company will need to produce around 6 million units a year to keep going.

Dudenhoeffer thinks any moves manufacturers make to seek safety by getting bigger are doomed to failure.
“The report about Opel and Mercedes makes no sense at all. There will no big mergers in the future. If you want to make companies like Opel with annual sales of only about 1.6 million (European market leader VW sold more than 6 million vehicles worldwide in 2008) long term sustainable you need platform sharing agreements rather than corporate mergers.
Opel could share say, a BMW 3-series platform for its larger cars. That would also allow BMW to compete better with (VW’s) Audi. And why not put Ford Europe’s Focus and Opel’s Astra on the same platform? This would allow Europeans to be more competitive against VW and Toyota, and the Chinese who will arrive tomorrow,” Dudenhoeffer said.
“We need to achieve scale economies by cooperation for success in the future,” he said.

I’m not sure how BMW agreeing to water down the exclusivity of its 3-series platform allows it to compete better with Audi, but that’s why The Dude is The Dude. Because he knows these things.
The thing that does make sense, especially for Saab’s future, is the idea of co-operation and specialisation. Lotus are probably the niche car company of the future? Building low volume, white-hot cars themselves and supporting that with engineering work for others.
The Saab of the future could very well end up looking like this. A company that takes a base from one manufacturer, engineers it to its needs and produces a car made in accord with Swedish ideas and Saab philosophies. Meanwhile, they build up and then outsource their safety, turbocharging, hybrid (they’re working on it) and engine management expertise to others in support of their car-building activities.
There’s a lot of exciting potential vehicle combinations out there using this scenario. The possibilities are endless.

Opel to partially separate from General Motors

Once again, the big news has broken whilst I was sleeping and whilst it doesn’t concern Saab directly, it definitely has an effect.
No doubt you’ve probably seen it already, but that big news is that GM Europe (read: Opel) is seeking a spin-off from the corporate mothership.

General Motors Europe has begun the process of separating from full GM ownership as part of its plans to raise 3.3 billion euros to ensure its survival.
GM Europe plans to form a joint stock company for its German-based Opel unit and UK sister brand Vauxhall.
The new company would remain linked to GM while letting outside investors take a stake of more than a quarter, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster told a news conference today.
“GM could be a majority shareholder in the new business structure with more than 50 percent,” a GM Europe source told Automotive News Europe.
The source said no decisions have been made on the new business structure. “Today a process has been started,” he said.
Forster said Opel is moving to restructure its business with as minimal an impact on jobs as possible but said plant closures could not be ruled out.

In fact, it’s a little more than just a plant closure. There’s already one report stating that Opel may sell one of it’s plants to Daimler.

General Motors sources today confirmed press reports that its Opel subsidiary could sell a German car plant to Daimler.
A GM source said a decision could be made within weeks on whether Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, will buy Opel’s plant in Eisenach, eastern Germany, where the Corsa small car is made.

So what’s the Saab angle here?
I’ve written previously on the difficulties between Saab and Opel. They’ve had a hard time co-operating when they were told by the mothership to play nice.
If Opel can pull off this separation from full GM control then they’re going to have a much stronger case for building a stronger corporate identity and taking the Opel brand further upmarket, which is what I believe they’ve wanted to do for some time now.
This only strengthens the argument for Saab seeking new ownership and an exit from the GM group. They’d be dead meat under Opel’s direction.

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