SU Hi-Po Challenge #12

Time for another entry in the Saab Hi-Po Challenge. I’ve got a couple of these left and I’ll get them out in short order as I’d like to wrap this up soon.

This one comes from TP in Denmark.


I admit to be one of those performance addicts that also admires technological achievement that manifests itself in racing victories and records.

I have owned 10 SAABs and upgraded nearly all of them to get more performance. My first car, a SAAB 99EMS was outfitted with a turbo engine running higher boost and a rally suspension. My wifes first car was a Sonett III and had the engine bored out to 1.8L and tuned to about 110HP, which made the nimble and light car perform phenomenally well.

Fast forward to our two latest SAAB’s, a 9-5Aero tuned to 300HP and a 9-3Aero 2.0T with 245HP are quick and fun to drive cars, but I want to go further than that. I bought a Corvette Z06, because 1) SAAB no longer makes a sportscar, 2) It had the LeMans winning racing pedigree and supercar performance that I could not find even in the used market for the same money. I only use the Corvette for track days and autocross, it’s the only environment where its performance can be experienced and enjoyed. I also have to admit to leasing an Audi A4 Avant when it looked like SAAB might not survive and my 9-5Aero hit the max age allowed for company cars.

Building a real business plan for a Halo car with limited knowledge and time is indeed impossible. So only a small framework of ideas is covered here. In my humble opinion the Hi-Po challenge has two different objectives and challenges:

1) Marketing: Build a customer recognizable sustainable competitive advantage, manifested /personified by a HaloCar. The AeroX achieved this from a design perspective, but it needs to go further. What’s the Technology breakthrough underneath the skin and how can it be utilized to achieve a breakthrough result consumers can identify with?

2) The passionate performance enthusiast car buyer who typically influences a lot of others to consider the brand they own: What can SAAB offer that’s compelling in the face of strong competition from the 3 Germans with their S,M,RS and AMG models or the cheaper Rally bread cars from Japan?

The Marketing Halo car needs to make a Statement of what SAAB aspires to be, it’s a vision that encompass the key traits of the brand that SAAB owners identify with, here are some of the reasons why I chose to buy SAABs for so many years:

  • SAAB’s are about not making compromises.
  • Small displacement turbo engines offer Performance when you need it and lower fuel and maintenance costs. => adding electrical hybrid system is the natural extension of the SAAB Philosophy.
  • Handling that inspires confidence and control => All wheel drive as already manifested in the excellent XWD system is the natural extension (but comes at a weight and fuel penalty)
  • Functional and practical: The combi coupe from the 99 and early 900’s and 9000 where extremely versatile and sporty. The Sport Wagons are ok, but not as distinctive and sporty.
  • Safety and value. SAAB’s have always been amongst the safest cars to drive and they have also offered more value than their German counterparts.

So keeping this in mind I propose the following two High PO vehicle lines developed and launched…….

The extremely limited edition “Marketing Halo” 9-9 only 9 of which will be sold for US$999,999 each and a new R performance version to the existing 9-3 and 9-5 range :

1 – The car must have 350hp minimum.

  • 9-9R gets 665HP to easily outperform RS6, Aston Rapide and Porsche Panamera. 0-100 under 4sec and a top speed limited to 300km/h
  • Current 9-3R gets 300HP 0-100 in 5.5s, top speed restricted to 275km/h
  • New 9-5R gets 485HP, 0-100 in about 5sec, top speed limited to 275km/h
  • Next gen 9-3 gets 400HP, 0-100 in 5.0s top speed restricted to 275km/h

2 – How you’ll achieve that sort of power, where you’ll source the engine from.

  • 9-9R uses exsisting 330HP Hirshed V6 running E85 + True Electric 335HP electric engine and battery pack for a total 665HP under acceleration. During city driving it runs on electric power only. Makes cut under 120g CO2 in the combined cycle as the only Ultra High performance 5 passenger car.
  • Current 9-3R uses new direct injection 9-5 2.0T engine running E85 tuned to 300HP with XWD and the 6speed manual as the only gearbox.
  • New 9-5R uses 300HP 2.0T running E85 and 185HP Electric engine and battery pack from True electric. 485HP under acceleration Makes cut under 120g CO2 in the combined cycle. Gearbox is current 6 speed automatic
  • Next gen 9-3 SR gets new 1.6 Turbo from BMW running E85 tuned to 215HP and 185HP True electric engine for a total of 400HP and easily drops below 100g CO2. Gearbox is automated dualclutch 7 speed unit sourced from Borg and Warner or BMW.

3 – Modifications you’ll do to the interior, exterior, suspension, etc.

  • 9-9 uses new 9-5 platform with aero suspension. Body will be custom built in Aluminium or Carbonfiber using Jason Castriota 4 door interpretation of Aero-X design. Design goal is 5 passengers, room for engines and batteries and of course the practical hatchback. More distinctive than an Aston rapide. Body construction is outsourced to Italian or UK prototype builder, SAAB prototype team does final assembly.
  • Current gen 9-3R only comes in Sportcombi form uses current Aero spec body and suspension with 18” wheels, 345mm Hirsh brakes and Ultra high performance tires. Interior gets current Hirsh treatment, color satnav is std. LED lights on front and rear are applied for a distinctive look. 999 unit limited production run.
  • New 9-5R introduces the first facelift of this series and gets leather wrapped dashboard, color satnav with current Aero suspention setup with magnetic ride shocks added. Bigger break kit from Brembo. Only comes in new SportsCombi form. Production limited to ensure demand>supply.
  • Next gen 9-3R follows similar path, but opens up possibilities for customizing by owner.

4 – Timeframe for testing this car.

  • 9-9R is effectively 9 prototypes that are actually sold to help fund R&D and makes it a “real car” someone will actually eventually own. It’s a running development platform for the engineering team to test out high performance hybrid electronics and will properly take about 6mths to get a non running prototype to a show and another 18mths to finalize and deliver to the lucky few buyers that can afford something this unique.
  • Current Gen 9-3 is already here, I hope the direct injection 2.0T will become available in the 2011B models, Hirsh will quickly get the tuning sorted based on experience with the new 9-5. Just build 999 9-3R’s.
  • 9-5R will leverage from 9-9R drivetrain development and come out in 2013 as the spearhead of the facelifted 9-5 range.
  • Next gen 9-3R comes out in 2014 levering to lift the brilliant new intro to new levels of performance and desirability.

5 – Warrant the vehicle in all markets with confidence.

  • 9-9 register as prototype or even kitcar, extreamly limited nature should be able to get thru this requirement.
  • CG9-3R already certified
  • 9-5R engine already certified, should be limited in nature to get approved.
  • NG 9-3R done in parallel with certification of new series in all the markets.

6 – Expected sale price, based on current pricing in your market. (My home market in Demark has absurd prices due to Tax, so I will propose US prices as I lived their for many years in the past.)

  • 9-9R: $999,999 Could be more perhaps as it will be extremely rare with 9 units in the world.
  • CG 9-3R Needs to undercut BMW 335Xi, can charge a premium to Subaru WRX. $39995 will provide more value.
  • 9-5R competes with S6, RS6 and M5, Price at $69995 to provide more value.
  • NG 9-3R competes with S4, M3. Price at $59995 to provide more value.

7 – How many of these vehicles you think Saab could realistically sell?

  • 9-9: 9
  • CG9-3R: 999
  • 9-5R: 400/year
  • NG9-3R: 999/year
  • Key point: Make less than demanded, keep up desirability and value to ensure true Halo effect to rise sales of the volume models.

8 – How you’re going to fund the engineering, development and testing of this project.

  • 9-9, $9M from buyers, rest from Marketing and R&D budgets
  • Its already pretty much paid for, build and sell it!
  • 9-5R, leverage engineering effort from 9-9R, down deploy Hybrid technology into volume models with much lower power output. EIB funds should be able to support this as the engineering is focused on hybrid drivetrain.
  • NG9-3R: fund out of profit from the fully refreshed range.

9 – You have to fit it in to the current program by telling us which current priority is less important than a performance car.

  • Making the SAAB brand more desirable in broader circles is a huge priority.

As stated earlier I really don’t have the background to suggest a complete business plan for Halo models. But I will replace my A4 with a CG9-3R this year and replace the Corvette and my wifes 9-3 Aero with a NG9-3R if they become available.

14 thoughts on “SU Hi-Po Challenge #12”

    • Good story! But I really, really didn’t like this bit! It concerns the look of the NG 9-3:

      Teknikens Världs källor talar om en bil som lånar vissa attribut från läckra konceptbilen Aero X (har även nya 9-5 gjort), något som ska förstärka bandet till Saabs anknytning till flyget, men att det lugna, skandinaviska formspråket har slipats bort en aning. Formerna sägs vara mer effektsökande och enligt våra källor ska det hela vara ”lite väl förutsägbar”, vilket låter en gnutta överraskande med tanke på Castriotas tidigare verk.

      My translation:
      Teknikens Värld sources talk about a car that borrows some attributes from the funky Aero X concept (as did the new 9-5), which will strengthen the link to Saab’s aviation heritage, but that the calm Scandinavian design language has been tuned down a bit. The shapes are said to be more in a show-off style, and according to our sources, the whole is supposed to be “a little too predictable”, which sounds a little bit surprising, given Castriotas previous works.

  1. I like the ideas but on such a scale what would be the sacrifice to current projects-the probelm being for all of these (including mine) what should saab give up to do this, either the 9-2 or this, either the 9-5 coupe or this, either the “Sonnett type” or this. What elements do you see being sacrifuced to make this plan live?

    • Hi Toby, its a really good question. I took the easy way out claiming that strenghthening the brand perception is an important priority.

      For this to be realistic, the technology developed to create the halo cars would be down deployed to the volume models.

      Developing a 9-2 model would be a higher priority, but actually much much more expensive and high risk as the volumes will need to be quite high to break even on the project. I don’t think SAAB can take on a 9-2 before general perception of the brand is lifted substantially from where it is today and Sales of the 9-5, 9-4X and NG9-3 is well above 100k vehicles/year.

      A Sonnett or 9-5 Coupe would be fun, but I think the Halo cars proposed would do more for the brand by being both Sporty and functional/practical.

      The top priority for SAAB is to get the next 9-3 right. I think the Halo cars come next from a perspective of building a strong brand to take market share across the entire range (Assumption here being that POR launch of 9-4X and 9-5SC continues as is)

      • I agree with the ideas you’re presenting- grab attention with a 9-9 and shout loudly about Saab’s relevance. I don’t necessarily know that it speaks to Saab’s image to release a $1,000,000 car though. To release it as a fundraising device makes it even worse in terms of image, almost like buyers are paying more for something out of charity to fund other projects. I don’t know how that would all actually play out, just playing devils advocate. That said, I don’t even know if $9 million would cover the cost of upgrading the Epsilon II platform that the 9-5 rides on to be competitive with Astons and Panameras. What do I know though?

        The rest of the plan sounds smart to me. It takes the best of mine and extends it into other performance models. There’s no reason Saab shouldn’t offer Hirsch style performance from the factory, unless reliability comes into question. Great job.

        One question- what do R and SR stand for? 🙂

        • SR was a typo, it should be just R. What it stands for ? Could be radical/Rally/Racing. The thought is to make it different then the S/RS/AMG cars and keep it simple with one letter. Farankly it would diserve more creativity. Perhaps GP for Green Performance or GP= Green Power with a natural relation to GP = Grand Prix. Audi stole the S and RS lables from Porsche with success.

          The market for very low volume Super expeisive cars is very limited, I would imaging Victor M. has a good number of them in his contact list. This must never be viewed as a charity, rather the possibility to own something unique, exceptional and historical similar in idea to the Ferrari FXX project, but for street use. It would not be hard to make a few calls to guage interest. The point is: If you can make front pages of every mager car magazine with the 9-9R, all 9 pre sold at $1M each, it creates a powerfull message to the global audience that SAAB is here, alive and well and people are willing to spend $1M to get the ultimate manifastation of what the brand is all about.

  2. On a slightly related note, while surfing for pr0n yesterday, I accidentally stumbled over this blog entry:

    That guy has some interesting views on product development which might also translate into the automobile industry. Among other things, he mentions working on a HP project where they basically should have developed an iPhone precursor, but ended up developing a calculator emulator that ate batteries like crazy. By trying to adopt to the customer’s perceived requirements, the result was a product that nobody would actually want to pay good money for.

    (My comment is not necessarily directed at the Hi-Po challenge as such, but more to all of us that make possible and impossible demands when shopping for products with four wheels)

  3. Toby, I have to disagree. The 9-2 is required to bring new buyers into the brand. If the 9-2 is well designed and marketed it will sell. The Fiat 500 and Mini seem to do ok with out “bigger brothers”. in fact it is a large part of the appeal. Young men and women DO NOT want to drive their dads car. Something that will work in Saabs favour.

    • Jon, you are right that the 9-2 will bring a new demographic in to buy SAABs. The mini, Fiat 500 and Beetle are all icons known by a very large audience. they are also very retro. Even though I love the SAAB 92 and 96, they unfortunately do not get the same instant recognition in broader circles. If the new 9-2 is in the premium small car segment it will need the buying audience to desire the brand and the car. The purpose of the Halo cars are mostly to create desirability for the brand.

  4. TP, heritage does not guarantee sales, witness the Beetle, Ford Thunderbird and Jaguars early 2000s product range. The buyers do not need to desire the brand, just the car. The girls I work with don’t know or care about the original Fiat 500 they just know they like the car. My neighbour who would kill for an Audi never talks about the R8 but drools over TTs.

    • Fair point, I agree that its not enough to be retro, the car needs to be very good in its own right. The success of the Mini and Fiat 500 has a lot to do with the fact that they have succesfully created a modern interpretation, which extends on the core values of the original car. I would argue the Mini is benefiting from the Halo effect of being part of the BMW group, the car is good, but i think the Halo effect helps boost interest and sales. For the Fiat 500, the same argument does not apply, their is no question the car is cute and also well handling (drove a rental 500 in Rome, it was fun for city use). i wonder if it will keep up interest like the mini has or if it will loose fashionability and end up on a path similar to the new beetle.

  5. A good question. I think the answer lies with the Beetle running a Golf 4 platform ie mediocre, and the Fiat 500 running a Panda platform ie good. The Beetle concept was not as well resolved as the Mini or the Fiat either. There is an element of Built by BMW to the success of the mini but again the concept and the drive clinch the deal. The BMW halo effect did very little for the Rover 75 😉 (great drive crap concept).

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