While we’ve been waiting on pins and needles to see if Mahindra & Mahindra may actually comes out as the chief OEM investor in NEVS, there’s a piece on Bloomberg that claims they’re also looking at buying up Pininfarina. You’ll remember that the Italian design firm also employed Jason Castriota not so long ago. Might we live in a world with an Italian designed, Swedish engineered and produced, Indian owned car maker?
Some of you might have read by now that Apple has a secret program named Project Titan to build an electric car. As a few curious photographers witnessed, they’ve leased Chrysler minivans driving all around Silicon Valley with advanced sensors. Several top auto industry personnel from Mercedes and Tesla have already been poached, not to mention visits by Apple executive visits to Austria– think Magna Steyr where they built all those 9-3 Convertibles. This may not mean Apple is 100% absolutely surely going to be coming out with a car, and even if they did it would be years away. They might just be investigating technologies that could end up in future personal electronics, or software interfaces for OEMs to integrate like their CarPlay system. But what if they were, and what if they could leapfrog ahead by aquiring the bankrupt assets of a certain automobile company in Sweden with a rich history of intelligent design and innovation, coupled with a huge factory capable of supplying the Euro Zone with 200,000 plus units?
Follow me here– what would an Apple car look like? Would people want a car designed by their computer company? I’ve seen it work in reverse, Porsche designed phones, but I don’t see the reverse ever truly working. The other silicon valley auto company producing electric cars, Tesla has made a name for themselves by launching an exclusive high end brand that is first and foremost about the core product, autos. While they might end up moving more into home power or grid power backup systems or other different fields, when you hear Tesla, you visualize a Model S. The same can’t be said for Apple.
Just like Mahindra sees the potential value in a prestigious brand with cache, Apple should see the advantages of acquiring such a dirt cheap and storied brand with such similar brand values. It wasn’t so long ago that Saab’s Global brand director Knut Simonsson told Autocar that they were trying to position themselves as the Apple of car brands. Before their demise, Saab was not about blending in, “We don’t want to be another Audi,” Simonsson said. In fact, Audi has been tying themselves to Google, not only through their MMI, but their self driving car experiments. Even if Apple wanted to start completely fresh with design and do something all new and different to what Saab had done before, just having the engineering chops, the crash facilities, the testing and state of the art production labs, the proximity to northern Sweden for winter testing, and most of all the bonafide legacy of well engineered Scandinavian design, it just makes sense.
Today was the first media day in Detroit, and three new Asian car manufacturers released their concept cars showing the direction of future styling. Is it just me, or is the wraparound glass, blacked out A-pillar and roof graphic a bit Saab? Sure there have been a few cars with notable blacked out A-pillars like the Range Rover and the Nissan GTR has been doing it for a little while (though well after the Aero X hit the scene). These new concepts just came across as blatant xerox copies in my eyes.
It kills me to see them harvesting the ideas of Saab designers from a decade ago, while the brand languished and is only now getting back to a crawl.
Well, not exactly, but in the new BAIC D Series commercial, Nicholas Cage drives on two wheels as the car’s official spokesperson.
Clearly he had some help from the Saab Performance Team. It’s amazing to me how a great looking Saab can be transformed into something so bland and tired looking. I’m sure an authentic Saab will have a much better reception on the Chinese market, and I’m pretty sure it won’t need washed up American actors to endorse it (though I’d take a relevant celebrity if they’re interested).
A few months ago on a random internet search for NEVS, I came across a statement in an electric engine company’s annual report about having meetings in China. The company is familar to us at SU, since their engine powered the Saab ePower– UQM.
I wanted to direct people’s attention to friend of SU Patrick George’s interview with Jason Castriota over at Jalopnik. It covers a lot of what we’ve already talked about in the past here, which conveniently leaves lots of blanks to fill in which he did in my interview for SU which will be posted later this week.
He also showed me the production Sonett and 9-1 designs, suffice it to say they all complement each other very well, and play off of old Saab design traits very well. We’re working with him on getting more images of the 9-3 released, and we’ll hopefully be seeing some interior designs for the 9-3 soon.
Now that the CGI images from Jason Castriota have had chance to circulate a little more, we’ve had time to really start to study what Saab details he chose to celebrate. For me, my favorite part is the side profile and back. I even love the controversial ducktail and its connection to the 900. To start out, I wanted to see what would happen if we put a set of my favorite black Hirsch wheels on it to see what it might look like.
After the break we’ll see have some more fun with photoshop and Jason’s 9-3.
Proving once again that Saabs will always be prep icons, Vampire Weekend’s first single Diane Young from their highly anticipated new album Modern Vampires of the City recently dropped, and features two 80s Saabs that are literally on fire. While some may find it sad and distasteful to waste such great cars (and I’ll admit I’m in that camp), I’d hope that their artistic death may actually reach a younger generation of car fans who can appreciate how freaking beautiful they are. Ah, who am I kidding? I’m reaching for an excuse because I like the band, I’m still sore that they killed them. Still, I don’t think it deserves the fanatic ranting its received on social media. My hope is that the outrage prompts them to do something awesome with other Saabs in the future. I’m not sure yet if the video is about someone who actually torched the lead singer’s car (see the lyrics), or if its a metaphor to Sweden killing Saab, but at the very least it proves Saabs are still relevant. In any event, a lot more cars die for far worse causes than a good band’s music.
Filmed in Brooklyn looking towards the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridges towards Lower Manhattan, the video is a good reminder that the New York Auto Show is this week. I’ll be there with Jason Castriota for an SU exclusive interview with much more insight into what was to come for the 9-3. If you’re a Vampire Weekend fan, click past the break for their other new single, Step.