New York update: The next Saab 9-3 (900?)

Our Saabs United representative at the New York Auto Show was Jeff P and he’s been doing a fantastic job sharing his NYIAS experience, as well as the all-important chats he had with various Saab executives.
Here’s the first of several reports he’s filed today. I’ll get the others up in due course, or if you’re really keen you can read them now over at the SaabsUnitedNY website.

One of the more interesting conversations I had was with Magnus Hansson about the design language on the new 95. The key focus for Saab designers was using the new design language from the Aero-X but with new elements that took into consideration Saab’s rich past. The C-Pillar’s slope is the most glaring example of this, but simple details within the headlamp and taillamp units, the body panels, even the wheel arches and hood proportion mesh with examples from the 99 to the 9000.
When most car designers are assigned a role in the process, they usually get one or two elements at a time. One group will get the front, another the back. What Saab tried to do was unify the front and rear design language, and for the first time you see the back trying to mimic or play off what is going on in the front of the car, so much so in fact that even the pattern of LED brake indicators matches identically the LED iceblock graphic from the front (I like to think of them like Viking horns). The key here is- Saab is very serious about making cohesive designs that are both modern yet respect their past.
The new 93 gets all of the executives excited. When you talk about the 95 most say, “Oh yes, it’s a beautiful car. We’re very proud of it.” But when you mention the 93 they light up. I keep going to Magnus, probably because I spent the most time with him, but I asked specifically for one detail he could spill, and that was the rear light graphic. He claims it is much more horizontal and solid than I might have expected and that the shape is extremely Saab. He wouldn’t mention specific model inspiration, and even if he did it’s not like I could tell you. All we need to know at this point is we should prepare for the return of Saabs as Saabs, not as a GM brand division.
The reason for staying on the existing platform was explained to me as a simple choice. The engineers were given the opportunity to work with Delta, to work with Epsilon II, and come up with iterations that would make sense. Staying with Epsilon I but implementing the core changes they believed could transform the car into their ideal platform while keeping costs down and control to a maximum was a no brainer at that point.
How often have you heard from critical douchebags (pardon my language) saying “Ehh that 9-3 is just a rebadged Malibu,” or something to that effect. Now you can finally shut them down. This will be a Saab platform now, with some genetic similarity deep down but so much individuality there will be no mistaking it as such.
Finally the name 93 may soon come to an end. After speaking with Eric Geers, especially about branding, we wondered how important the older names might be to Saab like 900 and Sonnet. We recalled certain blunders like Ford’s Taurus.
On the other hand Saab has invested a lot of money in bringing brand consciousness for the new 95 already, so there could be risks. I think there’s no better time to mark a fundamental shift at the company, and perhaps no better way then by retruning to a naming convention system from its 80’s heydays.
Click through to the SUNY website for a poll on the name of the next Saab midsize car.

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