Day 1 at the Geneva Motor Show – the summary

It’s only around 6 hours until day 2 starts, but I can’t help but sit back in wonder at everything that happened today.

I know some people are keen to hear about the other vehicles on the Saab stand, but today really belonged to the PhoeniX Concept and I can’t apologise for the constant coverage of the car.

I will get to the other vehicles tomorrow, including more detail on the Saab 9-5 wagon.


We finished the day with a great dinner in central Geneva. It was a great dinner because of the collection of people gathered there. It nearly wasn’t a great dinner because of the traffic in Geneva, which made us around an hour late.

So much for Swiss planning and efficiency. We rarely travelled more then 40 meters before having to stop for a red light somewhere in the distance. Incredible.

The great thing about dinner – there were eight people present, and between us, the collective Saab ownership count was 28 cars πŸ™‚


I got a look around some other exhibitions at the Geneva Show today and I refuse to let the traffic in the city dampen my enthusiasm for what is an incredible car show. It is without doubt the classiest and best motor show I’ve ever attended. So many great manufacturers in a perfectly proportioned space.

Some points:

  • Matte finishes are the new black, or white, or whatever the latest thing is. They were every where and in all sorts of colors, too.
  • I think the Alfa Romeo 4C will end up being best-in-show. It was absolutely outstanding and like it’s bigger brother, the 8C, the new 4C will see production. Ray Wert from Jalopnik did his entire day’s work sitting next to me at the Saab stand today and he couldn’t help but sing love songs about the 4C all day.
  • I will try to get photos tomorrow, but the Koenigsegg Agera R also looked awesome (also finished in matte – white). CvK and Bard Eker had matching white “Speed Racer” uniforms πŸ™‚
  • Lars Carlstrom from the Genii group, who also tried to acquire Saab, was present at the show today. It was great to meet him.
  • US sales data was released today and it met their current target for this month (just over 700 vehicles delivered). Too low.
  • Sentiments from the various national executives I met today were what I would call realistically positive. They are seeing a genuine upswing in interest, but they know they have a long road to climb in order to win back the attention of customers. New products are going to be key to this.
  • If you haven’t seen the Chris Bangle vs Jason Castriota video yet, it’s must-see viewing. I think Jason handled himself exceptionally well.
  • ——

    Thanks for all your comments throughout the day today. We had so much interaction here, the server blew up and had to be reset by my incredibly supportive host in Australia – a 2am Aussie time. is their name and I’m not shy about thanking them or recommending Andrew’s services.


    I fully expected to hear some negative sentiment in comments and we definitely got some of that.

    It’s a beautiful thing, too. This PhoeniX concept is meant to create discussion about what’s going on, what are the reasons for it, etc.

    The more I’ve looked at it and the more I’ve absorbed the feedback on it, the greater the pride I feel in Saab’s efforts and those of Jason Castriota, the Saab Design team and the Saab executive.

    Make no mistake, people. Pledging to complete and show this design so early was a very courageous decision and I comment all concerned.


    Some photos from today, around various parts of the Geneva show….. lots of matte colors there.

    61 thoughts on “Day 1 at the Geneva Motor Show – the summary”

    1. Matte finishes? Interesting. How does one polish/wax a matte finish?

      While the Alfa is certainly beautiful, it has the unfair advantage of apparently being continuously surrounded by beautiful women. πŸ™‚

      Swade, when you go through walk-around on the PhoeniX tomorrow with JC, will you ask about how the IQon features mesh with Saab’s safety and focus on the driver. They seem cool, but also potential distractions for some drivers….perhaps certain apps do not work when the car is in motion?

      • I for one, as I expressed, elsewhere am less than thrilled about the design: bling more than cool. But I will admit, it looks pretty good up there on the banner.

      • regarding safety and driver focus of the IQon, I think Saab will handle it very simple as they did it with the 9-5 satnav-unit : once the car is moving it’s game over πŸ™

        • Not so sure, since the video on the Saab Newsroom site seems to indicate it can be used in motion. Even if nav & custom apps are disabled, it would still need to be available for climate and audio settings. However, with feedback from the car’s other electronic systems (perhaps even accessories?), it wouldn’t be too difficult to program apps such that they automatically pause or disable the touchscreen when, for example, the car starts to drift out of its lane, another car is within range (front/side/back), steering wheel is turned far enough, combined workload on the driver exceeds a threshold, etc. As groundbreaking as the PhoeniX is, I think IQon has incredible potential for innovation that may be getting somewhat overlooked by the press.

      • Swisswax has a range of waxes for matte finishes. Benz have a number of colours available.

    2. Matte finishes may be the new colour of today, but “liquid metal” is definitely the colour of tomorrow πŸ™‚ …
      Thx to the SU-team for the great “live” reports.
      Would be nice if one could check/ask the way the luggage compartment of the 9-5 SC is covered : rigid folding pieces (aka OG 9-5 ) or retractable curtain ?
      And I wonder where the window-switches are located in the PhoeniX ( on the door, or “driver-orientated” on the central dash-tunnel πŸ™‚ )

    3. What is there not to like? Isn’t this Phoenix concept car, the sporty 2-door halo car, everyone was crying for 3 months ago? It is certainly Saaby enough in it’s design background, read egg shell. I’m not sure why any of us could not wish it was in the showrooms tonight? Of course it will not, It is only a concept car. And I’m sure they can’t work in the gull-wing doors in the next 9-3, but I wish they could ! For a car nut, and a Saab nut, does it get any better than this ? Enjoy the moment.
      Build it, and they will come!

        • Interesting closeup picture of the dash/console. It looks like SAAB are using an electric Parking Brake, similar to the one on my A5.

          Not sure I’m too fond of these things, as it is not possible to apply the Parking/Hand Brake when the car is moving…unless one wants to get to know your steering wheel really well. πŸ™

          Hopefully, this one will have a lockout feature for when the car is moving.

          I have used the mechanical hand brake in many cars, and find it useful…especially as an “aid” in making quick turns on ice/snow, or loose dirt/gravel surfaces. πŸ˜‰ This ends that.

          • Well, if you choose XWD you can make nice turns even without the handbrake. Just switch off ESP. πŸ˜‰

            And, sorry, what again was an “A5”? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

          • Actually I disagree. I know of at least 3 Saab 93s and 95s that were lost sales because people found the manual handbrake too difficult to move.

            I have an electronic handbrake in our Tiguan and its not bad. The biggest improvement is the extra space that’s freed up.

            • Hmmm, maybe those people should return their license?

              Geeez, people have been using conventional handbrakes for decades and decades, and now suddenly because there’s an alternative, they find it “hard to handle”….

              *shakin’ head*


            • Agree, Henrik! If they cannot handle the conventional handbrake… How can they drive anyway?

    4. While I’m not a big fan of the PhoeniX, nor of Castriota’s design portfolio in general, I do admire the way he handled himself against the (unearned) arrogance of Bangle.

      • Yes he came out of that little encounter the clear winner, with bangle coming across as a most arrogant and unlikeable person. I wonder who he thinks he is exactly? He’s not my idea of a design legend (in a positive way) that’s for sure.

        • I’m with you on JC handling himself admirably, but Bangle really is the big cheese in car design along with daSilva (from VW/Audi/Lamborghini). He’s sort of the dean of automotive and product design among his set. I think he’s just used to offering a critique- he acted just like it was a design review with Jason as his student. I found it much lighter than most of you probably do, maybe Troels would agree with me, it seemed like a very standard design discussion. You should see how heated a review can get with designers and architects, phew. I really don’t think there was any ill intent.

          • I am an industrial designer (furniture) and I generally agree with you on heated design challenges/debates. However, the fact that Bangle knew they were on camera makes his professor role playing seem very much like it was rooted in ill intent. Sure JC is a young guy but he has some decent palmares and I don’t think he deserved Bangle’s comment about a 30 second time limit and, most especially, his declaration at the end, “Now that is the right answer!”

    5. I think that 4C is kinda ugly looking seen in pictures. My bet is for PhoeniX to be best-in-show. The more I look at Jason’s creation the more I like it.

      Bring back the griffin!! πŸ™‚

    6. I just LOVE IT, but I like the stance the most.
      Thank you JC,JAJ and VM……………..SAAB is going in the “great” direction.

      Keep on SAABing !!!!

    7. The Chris Bangle vs Jason Castriota video is very interesting and i can believe missed it. Its very interesting in a Anthropology sense if nothing else. I think that even if Jason don’t win the battle with the top dog it shows how serious and emotional he is with what he is doing. I have a lot of issues with his concept but i like it more then i dislike it. Go Jason!

      • So what we are waiting for is a Saab 900 insprired very aerodynamical new 9-3 with touches of the PhoeniX… I got some trouble picturing it, but am sure looking forward to it!

    8. Thanks for mentioning the SU server crash since I noticed it appeared down after an attempted refresh and wondered what might have happened. Fortunately, we got to see all the new material after the C&D post through Swade hugging the PhoeniX post. A little math on the 2 am Aussie time matches my timing. It seems it was less than an hour of down time. Nice recovery!

      • I noticed earlier today everything freezed when i tried to refresh pages or watch some video on this site. It was the first time i experienced that here. It was nice.

    9. This is magnificent.
      12 months ago, who would have thought???? Chris Bangle and Jason Castriota comparing notes over a new Saab concept that is challenging all the boundaries while new production cars are launched at the same time. Its quite astonishing really. Saab was essentially closed and now look. PhoeniX indeed.

      As Chris says above – I am very much enjoying the moment ( and the coverage – brilliant work guys).

    10. A year ago our only hope was some obscure dutch car manufacturer and now chris bangle tries to intimidate our top design guy

      • I don’t read it that way, more challenging him to step up and show his pride, I see a mutual respect there. I don’t think Bangle intentionally tried to intimidate JC but JC was a bit nervous and wanting to impress Bangle.

    11. I’d love to hear if it might be possible (perhaps with the right app) to do in-car diagnostics (think Tech2 or better) with the new Iqon system? Would be very cool to hear back from the Saab authorities on that!


    12. Hey! The site seems to be “down”…perhaps in the process of updating it to contain the PhoeniX info like the international site? Or, maybe the server(s) have been swamped with all the interest in the PhoeniX? πŸ™‚

      When I just tried to go to the site, I get a simple text based page that says the site requires Javascript and Flash (which I already have enabled in Firefox)….and then offers options to go to the international Saab newsroom.

    13. A day later and my opinion has changed, again haha.

      I LOVE this car. It has the exact body shape a Saab coupe/halo car would have in my mind. I see the odd bits and pieces that have been added on as just JC exploring how far he can take the aerowhateveriswasdesign. I think the more people look at it the better it becomes. It just needs a bit of time to get used to, as there is a lot going on. Once you guy used to it, those features that stand out become familiar and it looks great. By the end, I’m sure it will be one of the most memorable cars on display.

      Keep the green however.

    14. Wow, that Alfa is very born from jets. Wrap around wind screen, side air intakes, afterburner tail lights… even a matte finish.

    15. Spent last three hours reading comments from previous day (jet-lagged in a Cardiff hotel room). Believe this is the most powerful expression of Saab-ness imaginable : Ur…Turbo X at rear…in rapture with winglets (what a clever reinterpretation of the 99 Turbo spoiler– it would have been too easy to stick a wedge back there). Outflanks the competition. Best Of Show.

      And Go: Even the performance is acceptable (0-100 in 5.9)…high mileage to boot — though I’d happily sacrifice 1L per 100km for another 50 HP…and be able to out-duel an M3…we’re almost there. Haven’t digested the interior, but embrace Android fully (I’m utterly disappointed with my new BB Torch: Had it not been for ease of Outlook integration I’d have a Samsung Galaxy in my hands…).

      And Bangle trying to come to terms with a superior execution….Delicious!

      This kind of daring can’t filter into the existing lineup fast enough (though thrilled to see the new fascia for the 9-5).

      • “And Bangle trying to come to terms with a superior execution….” that’s probably an accurate interpretation of what took place. My immediate interpretation was that Chris acted condescendingly towards a struggling manufacturer, basically trying to assert his top dog position in front of the cameras on SAAB’s home turf. Not very classy.

    16. Difficult to digest all the news, but:
      – the base technology of the concept car car is fine: Downsized powerful engine, eXWD, low fuel consumption,
      – the IQon infotainment system is okay, except for the name. One can choose Android instead of Apple iOS, but then do not call it i or I something. I is related to Apple. Terrible like the i20, i40 from Hyundai or i BMW. Simply too many that want to benefit from the i shine.
      – The design after 24 hours still looks terrible to me, though I now see more of the rationale behind it. Front: Too aggressive, rough, macho, hood: too many lines, not simplistic skandinavian. Side: Primacy apparently on aerodynamics/ optimization of airflow. But: The winglets might improve airflow, but are really dangerous in a car accident with pedestrians and conflict thus with Saab’s safety first philosophy. Oversized wheels with too much pounds: A Saab wheel should put emphasis on reducing unsprung mass, not on overextended turbine like show effects. Back: too macho, bad copy of a sports car. Exterior design overall: Aside from aerodynamics and a similarity to the Sonnett, a model that btw never reached important sales numbers, not too much Saab DNA. Interior: More difficult to judge, but the red is a no go.
      Overall: An eye-catcher, but ugly and not at all skandinavian simplistic; too much Spyker or Bertone or whatsoever, that hopefully in many respects will not make it to the production series.

      Many people write here: Maybe it is not perfect, but it attracts maximum attention and shows, that Saab is not dead, but well alive. Maybe. Maybe, by creating such a break with the current design, it depletes the current offering, which is beautyful. Saab has the best product offering since decennies after the fine and subtle upgrades for the 9-3 and 9-5, and they are important for Saab to survive. Saab cannot sell dreams, but just can sell actual cars in order to generate cash. Never thought about that?

      • Saab cannot sell dreams, but just can sell actual cars in order to generate cash.

        The “don’t show your hand because people might wait to buy”-argument is an old one. You could also look at it this way: If customers hesitate to buy your current offering, maybe it is better to show them the up-coming products so they don’t start looking at the competitors’ products instead?

        Besides, at this point, there are still some voices that question Saab’s future. It seems people hesitate to buy, because they do not believe the company will be around for much longer. By showing a glimpse of the future, Saab are demonstrating to the world that it is safe to buy a Saab now. Plus it clearly helps them get some attention and that attention will lead to more sales both now and in the future.

        • +1

          So true Rune!
          Just think about the publicity this Concept is creating. Showing that Saab is very much alive. Shutting up the last negative journalists…


    17. “I think the Alfa Romeo 4C will end up being best-in-show.”

      Swade, surely you must be kidding! That Alfa is a direct Lotus ripoff.

    18. Oh my God!! What is happening with the leather dash, in the Saab 9-3 Hirsch?? Yes, I DO like leather and it gives a little more classy touch – way better than the hard plastic now – but why do the have to immitate carbonfiber, with the leather? Who in the world thinks carbonfiber looks cool? I don’t, I think it looks like a meterial/surface that’s still lacking the final finish!

      About the new faschia in the Saab 9-5 – Cool! It’s better than the current black plastic. Although I don’t find the 9-5 to be behind the competition. Went looking at in on sunday, with a friend who had been trying the new Volvo S60 and an Audi A6. And also said that the Saab was at the same level as the two competitors – finish wise.

      About the PhoeniX. Well, at first glance, I didn’t like it. But the more I look at the pics, the cooler I think it is. And I can’t wait to see, some of the design-elements being implemented into future Saab’s. And as a future Sonett, it would be really cool.


    19. In AutoExpress website JC gave some nice pieces of info:

      How much of the PhoeniX will be translated to the new 9-3?

      The platform, of course, [the new Phoenix platform has been developed by Saab from the old General Motors’ Epsilion chassis), the 1.6-litre turbo engine [from new partner BMW] and the E-all-wheel-drive hybrid four-wheel drive set-up.

      Design-wise, the character of the nose, the front end graphic, the strength of the stance and the fuselage-style body will all be translated to the production-ready 9-3 when it arrives in 2012. But we will not do Russian doll cars that all look the same let me assure you!

      Read more:

    20. Ok, the Baby Alfa is akward. I always had an eye for Alfas but this is nothing in comparison with 8c, it’s lacking elegance, pride and finishing touches. No thanks for me.

    21. Don’t you think Bangle was a bit too cocky/provocative? I was kind of annoyed by his “that was the good answer….”
      Anyhow Jason was very cool …..

      • I agree, he appeared to be pretty arrogant from my point of view, as he treats Castriota as a student! I was pretty happy when he got kicked from BMW. He destroyed a lot of design cues in what was so typical about BMW. But anyhow, Castriota handled it very well;). I LOVE the Phoenix! Especially from the side it felt so Saab!

    22. If Im correct Swade is clearly visible in a picture in Swedish biggest news paper DN this morning!

    23. The taste is as the buttox – diveded, but my favorite to best in show is not 4C. I have not seen all so I do not know who it is but between the PhoneiX and 4C i prefer the former.

    24. Bangle is a joke if he didnt know that SAAB was founded from aeroplanes! SAAB still do better fighter jets then germany! πŸ™‚ But its good that it even stir up him! Gets the buzz going.

    Comments are closed.

    By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

    The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.