Mysterious 9-4x with German licence plates

My friend Tom at has an interesting post about a 9-4x with German plates.


Three weeks before Saab filed for bankruptcy, in the last November week of 2011, a german Saab driver made this picture on a German road somewhere in the Brandenburg region, which is not the most populated region in Germany. My friend Tom has his own contacts in Sweden, and none of them knew about any measurement drive of a 9-4x in Germany. Yes, some test equipment was on board.

So my question is, what does a 9-4x with measurement instruments in the less populated region of Germany with GG (read Opel-HQ) plates and Cadillc SRX wheels do, knowing that Saab did not know anything bout that?

Tom, from has three theories.

  • Opel is making some European adaption of the SRX.
  • GM is planing to rebadge the 9-4x as the Opel Antara II
  • GM has a plan B for Saab, and in cooperation with their preferred investor for Saab are already working on Saab products.

Tom thinks that the first option makes the most sense, but I’m not so sure about that. I mean, everyone knows how the SRX looks like, and on top of that the SRX and the 9-4x behave differently on the road, so you can’t work with the 9-4x to tune the chassis of the SRX.

I’don’t know but I think we might see the 9-4x as an Opel/Buick maybe already in 2012.

Would I buy an Opel rebadged 9-4x? Absolutely not.

Thanks to Tom at for allowing us to use this pictures.

Just an Update,
this is not a private car as it clearly has some measurement equipment inside (see second picture).

I don’t give a shit if GM plans to build a Buick/Opel/Vauxhall based on premium Theta platform, I even think that they should do it, but it just feels strange that GM Europe uses the Saab for testing as they could also use an SRX.

73 thoughts on “Mysterious 9-4x with German licence plates”

  1. Wish this car had a chance to actually live in the US, much more attractive than the SRX and that’s saying a lot since new Cadillac design is pretty much in a league of it’s own right now.

    • Eric: I’m past the “new” wedge and angular Cadillac design school. It was fresh a few years ago—-not anymore. I think GM is doing a wonderful job on the Cadillac interiors, but to me, the exteriors look like rap star designs—-not beautiful cars by any stretch. Just an opinion.

  2. “GG”-license plate.. It could be a GM/Opel test vehicle since Opel uses “GG” for all their vehicles and Rüsselheim is located in Kreis Gross-Gerau (Hessen).

    • correct. In this area you see all their testing vehicles driving arround with these plates.
      I will keep my camera on hand while quite often in this area.

  3. I hope for GM that they’re not rebadge the 9-4X into an Opel or I will personally mount 2 rocket launchers on the TurboX and take off to Russelsheim…

  4. Does Saab have any (IP) rights to 9-4X because they have developed it? If 9-4X is rebadged to Opel or whatver, is GM then doing themselves what they are afraid chinese would have done and what they are against for? I hope I´m wrong.

    • Saab did little to “develop” the 9-4x besides changing the suspension setup (spring rates, damping) and reworking the interior and body panels into Saab-like forms. That’s not engineering, that’s cosmetics. Saab engineers did have some input into the development of the Haldex torque-vectoring AWD system but that tech is owned by Haldex and is available to any manufacturer.

      The heavy lifting to develop the actual vehicle platform was done by Opel. That’s how GM can market the Cadillac as a “European tuned luxury crossover…” In fact, GM is doing the same with the new Buicks….

      • “That’s how GM can market the Cadillac as a “European tuned luxury crossover…”

        -this make perfect sense according to conventional GM thinking.

      • Sound strange to me, as Peter Dörrich at Saab presented the 9-4X as developed by him. Even if he and his crew did it in the US it was a Saab team that did it. Thats the story I´ve heard/read so far.
        That also gave the sibbling SRX a more european performance.

        • +1 and there was a video in SU some time ago where he was explaining all the work by SAAB around 9-4x. It is SAAB team work and very little US-GM. Not to mention I don’t think Opel can think of anything like that – i.e. Antara – Captiva pair is more likely.

        • Tim,

          I think that the issue may be the term “develop” when engineering a vehicle to sit on a platform is a vastly different task than developing the platform itself. That’s the entire reason why companies put different models on the same platforms…

          But you’re right about Dorrich — and by extension, Saab — had much more input into the 9-4x than just cosmetics.

          • Mike,
            to be honest, I can’t remember of any work at Opel for the Eps-Theta platform. Even the Theta platform moved to Korea quite early.

      • As told by Tim and StefanH STHLM, as well as what Peter Dörrich told at the October Fest, the total opposite is valid. = SAAB engineers developed the 9-4x.
        GM thought it was RWD, but it was AWD.
        The 9-4x outperformed the BMW on ice.
        SAAB developed the structure of the car and gave it excellent performance.
        The SRX got some of SAAB developments, but not the good look.

        • Guys, I dont know. Mike has a point but its a stretched. There was indeed Saab engineering on the 9-4X i am not just sure “Saab developed the 9-4X” and GM took it and made the SRX.

          I dont think there was a 9-4X project going on in THN, in a similar fashion to other vehicles. I was looking for many CAD parts in TeamCenter Engineering and found nothing, they had not been imported from US.

          I think the truth is somewhere in between, but i dont think Saab developed the 9-4X, the entire vehicle.

          • As I understand it, Saab developed the car, just not in Trollhättan.
            And Great Mucus is stealing it, as far as I’m concerned.

            I am starting to feel pity for Opel, as they are next in line now that Saab is gone.

            • I think not.I would be very cautions in saying that. Sure Saab had Saab people in the process and made Saab 9-4X an Saab. Doesn’t mean Saab 9-4X was developed as the other Saab vehicles.Its quite a huge process,and i dont think Saab sent over such a team to US for a period to develop it.

  5. Wait, let me see if I have all the facts straight on this massive international conspiracy: One or more mystery drivers, presumably working for GM, were in a GM-based car with test equipment that might possibly lead to GM making another GM-based car from this GM-based car.

    Ummm…OK. 😉

    Yes, shame on GM/Opel for planning to use the Theta Premium platform — that was partially developed by Opel — in an actual Opel vehicle. How dare they share platforms among companies!

    • Killing one brand and put those products into another brand and make customers look like a fool
      make perfect sense..according to conventional GM thinking.

      • GM has been very good lately at making their customers look like fools. Ask owners of Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Hummers and Saturns if they feel stupid for having bought in good faith—-then having the plug pulled and watching resale values erode. I guess us Saab faithful are finding out how it feels too.

    • mike,
      If GM thinks that Opel/Buick (it looks like all Opels will be re-branded as Buicks in the US and China) should have a SUV based on the premium Theta its no problem, but why do they use a Saab for testing?

      I mean, GM has 38 dealers in Germany that sell Cadillacs, thus using the SRX for testing is less complicated than getting a 9-4x from Mexico to Germany.

      • That SRX you mention would have been shipped from Mexico to Europe as well whether for retail sales or for testing… GM wouldn’t go to a delar to buy itself a car they car get out fo the factory in the 1st place…

        • Yes, but they should be shipping some SRX’s from Mexico to Europe on a regular basis, just to have some stock on the old continent. On the other side a 9-4x has to be extra shipped to Europe.

  6. Option 3 is not an option. GM isn’t going to waste money spent and the potential for money earned, they will obviously re-brand it and make money somewhere.

    Perhaps they can take thier profits and offer some warranties on 2010 and 11 Saab’s or anti up a better “offer” aside from thier $250 off the biggest piece of crap they sell!

          • mike,
            as you say Opel has used the eLSD.

            To put it right,
            Peter Johansson, the son of Sigge Johansson, developed together with Haldex the Haldex Gen IV AWD system, what we know as XWD.

            As a result of this cooperation, Saab was allowed to use the XWD system exclusively for one year, and Haldex got a much better AWD system.

          • So… For something to be qualified as “pure Saab tech”, it must only exist on Saabs..? It can never show up on other vehicles?

            E.g. It was Per Sjæstad (a Saab engineer) who was in charge of developing SAHR, but I guess since that has been used in other brands too, then we cannot consider it a Saab tech..?

            Not sure I can agree with you on that Mike. It seems unreasonable, and it negates all efforts put in by Saab’s engineers (both those who moved to Germany and those who stayed behind in THN).

            • Rune, that’s a fair point.

              A Saab engineer was in charge of developing SAHR for Saab, mainly to give Saab a bit more appeal among safety-conscious buyers attracted by Volvo older (and less advanced) WHIPS system. But it’s also true that similar advancements were being developed simultaneously by larger manufacturers (Mercedes and Toyota, IIRC) but it’s easier to be first to the market with a product if it’s only being introduced in one or two models. 😉

              • mike,
                what is your point?
                Only because active head restraints were also developed by Mercedes and Toyota, SAHR is not worth a cent?

                And to your last sentence, Mercedes and BMW introduce their latest and greatest achievements only in one model,namely the S-Class and the 7 series.

      • You are missing the fact that all the different platforms is actually very similar and thus much of the 9-4X tech is same as in the Epsilion X one.

        Therfore it’s not fair to say that Saab didnt contributed to the BCM/ECM, HVAC,SIR and body systems etc.
        However i get the feeling that many of the body parts (other than design) was not a Saab topic at all, since there was alot of CAD/CAE material missing in the Engineering database in THN.So obvious Opel contributed a lot to it but saying that Saab didn’t do much more than cosemetic is a bit of a stretch…

  7. If I remember correct, Saab paid something like 40 MEUR for the production tooling. It was stated in the half year report last summer.
    That should mean that Saab still owns some necessary tooling and that GM needs in order to produce 9-4X. In that case, they need to get an agreement from the receivers.

  8. It could very well be a platform for road test of electronics, suspension, four wheel drive, tires, seats, drivers, engines, batteries, wind shields or whatever related to the Theta platform.

  9. How about this possibility:
    The 94x will be rebadged Buick and sold in china, by Saic…???
    Still European tuned, and the Chinese seem to love their buicks…

  10. You just go for option 1 or 2; do we really think GM has any interest in keeping Saab alive?
    Know your US companies and their mentality; at least these big ego companies.
    I luckily do work for a reasonable US company but I can tell you there aren’t many of these around.
    GM is the best example of an non-ethical group of managers that only see their own benefit.

    • Thanks kochje. And important to add: this has nothing to do with all the hard working US people (blue and white collar). From my own experience working with GM and the people over there it has been very positive and they were always intrested in getting to know more about Saab. GM had something called Golden-research projects, many of them was allocated to Saab THN. I was working on one them doing computional algortihms for probe measurements paths (collision free). GMNA was very keen on working with this and take an active role.

      It just the managment thing (in this specific case…i have no other experience) i cant stand.

      • I can only say that I see this also the way you describe it.
        Unfortunately it is the senior management that calls all the shots.
        And this despite of the energy and hard workmanship the lower level employees are offering to their respective companies.
        You would nearly state that an “Arabic” revolution should be started to get rid of these overpaid non-ethical group of “managers”.

    • The 40 9-4x’s they have in stock are most likely the ones that GM sold in Detroit at a Manheim auction in late December. There were about 60 listed as to be sold. One of them ended up at a dealer in Pittsburgh. Just like VanHorn, this dealer attempted to sell it via eBay.

      Schmelz VW/SAAB (St. Paul, MN) has around 10 9-4X’s in stock from $27,500 for a 3.0i to around $34,900 for a fully equipped Aero 2.8 Turbo. Their prices are anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 less than VanHorn for an equivalent vehicle. AND they are a SAAB dealer.

      • Is Schmelz sticking with SAAB? They seem to have some pretty low prices now … as if they want to move it all right now. I hope they stay SAAB obviously … or at least service.

  11. Well if I worked for GM I wouldn’t want to drive their rubbish-I would demand a Saab to do development work and at least have a pleasant and comfortable ride with a bit of class whilst I did my work.
    If they are GM boys in it then I hope it catches fire or leaves them stranded at the top of a mountain.

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