Saab are Swedish

I figured I’d better write that headline just in case anybody who’s important at Saab forgot. Or maybe it’s for those at GM who aren’t directly playing in the Saab sandbox, but make decisions that effect Saab.
It sounds pretty rudimentary, but sometimes it’s the simple things that get overlooked.
After writing the recent editorial piece at The Truth About Cars and after thinking about Bell Springsteen’s follow up piece a little, there was something he wrote that resonated with me:

I read Trollhattansaab.net in order to explore the main question that Mr. Wade often contemplates on his site. How does a brand that currently sells under 160k vehicles a year attract enough passionate owners that Trollhattansaab.net receives well over 5k unique visitors per day? Why is it that Saab drivers are so passionate about being Saab drivers?

Firstly, being the pedant that I am, I need to clarify those numbers. Saab sell around 130,000 vehicles per year. last year was their best ever at around 134,000. Also, sadly, this site attracts more like 4,000 individuals per day on average. It serves around 6,000 pages to those individuals, but there’s not as many as mentioned.

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Onwards then, to the crux of the matter.
What gives this brand it’s mojo? Why do we Saab drivers love being Saab drivers? And is that in danger?

Read more

Saab Everywhere Bike

I’m a little red-faced to say that I’m not much of an environmentalist. I recycle, my wife and I carpool most of the time, and I’ve installed a few energy-saver light bulbs. I’m pro-biofuels but I also love giving the car a bit of welly. And whilst I once enjoyed a bit of cycling, the mere thought of it nowadays makes my legs ache.
Gripen’s much more of a greenie than I am. I’m sure he’d ride a bike more often if he wasn’t out in the sprawling suburbia of LA. Given his interest, Gripen thought he’d check out Saab’s two-wheeled offering:

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Saab has often been criticized by supporters and critics alike in recent years for bringing products to market “too late”. An oft-pointed-to example of this is how Saab entered the SUV market with the 9-7x just as the SUV market was cooling-off and transitioning apparently to “crossover” vehicles being the next hot trend.
The automotive industry seems to be cyclical in regards to trends. In the 1980s when the “minivan” was the hot segment to have an offering in, sales of coupés dropped drastically. Whilst families saw the practicality in owning a minivan, it eventually became a symbol of giving up on your dreams and trading-in your life and it was no longer fashionable.
Enter the Sport Utility Vehicle. You can still fit the wife and 2.5 kids and the family dog in there, but now it will look to others like you’re about to take the family up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro. After a while there was a backlash upon SUV owners and now we have the kinder, gentler “crossover” vehicle.
Saab’s missed/ignored most of these waves, but I’m pleased to report that Saab is releasing a ‘vehicle’ just as the trend is taking off. No, I’m not referring to their upcoming crossover. I’m referring to the Saab Everywhere Bike.
Saab Everywhere Bike
The Saab Everywhere Bike is a “city bike” designed by Dutch bicycle firm Biomega.
It features a foldable design which allows one to fold the bike small enough to fit in the smallest of Saab trunks (that of the convertible). Further, if one needed to take one’s bicycle into an elevator or a confined space like a stairwell the bike folds up small enough to do so as to not be unwieldy.
The bike also features eight gears with hidden cables (they’re internal to the frame), disc brakes, and includes an integrated cable bike lock. The cable is actually a structural element that acts as the downtube when the bike is unfolded, so if a thief were to cut the cable to steal the bike it’d be all but useless to him as it would just collapse when the thief tries to unfold it. Saab Bike RackAlso available is an optional carrier which affixes to the seat post and allows one to carry a light load .
The picture below is of another related Biomega product, the Puma Urban Mobility bike (US$775), and you can see what the carrier looks like attached to the bike.
Puma Bike
I’ve looked-into it and though some of Saab’s automotive competition have offered bicycles in the past, they oftentimes are either straight road (race) bicycles or high-tech mountain bikes. Saab is the only one offering a “city bike” as best as I can tell. Audi used to sell a couple of mountain bikes designed by their Quattro GmbH division but I don’t think they sell them anymore, Mercedes-Benz has a “hybrid” bike, which is a bicycle with electric motor assist, and I’m pretty sure F.A. Porsche design used to sell a road bicycle.
The Saab Everywhere Bike is available from Saab Expressions for SEK10.705,000; €1 190,00; £812,50; or US$1,169.00 (from the U.S. Saab Expressions store. The European Saab Expressions store is charging over US$1,500.00) depending on your local currency plus shipping charges. The carrier doesn’t appear to be available to U.S. buyers unless it’s ordered through the non-U.S. Saab Expressions store and shipped internationally ($90 plus shipping/handling). Those of you in Great Britain might be able to save some shipping costs by ordering the bike and carrier through Elkparts, which is also selling the bike for less (£749,00) than Saab Expressions.
Cycling is a great way to get exercise and avoid a lot of urban congestion. The Saab Everywhere Bike is the right product at the right time from Saab.
Saab Everywhere Bike

Saab and Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound

The 2008 Saab 9-3 is making it’s way into showrooms in various locations at the moment. One thing that you won’t see just yet, however, is the Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system. For the US market at least, it won’t be available until later in the model year. I’m unsure about other markets.
For those audiophiles that are keen on the idea, here’s a look at what you’ll get. This is the briefing that the bloke who’ll sell it to you got.
Click on each image to enlarge.
Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound
Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound
Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound
Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound
Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound

Saab Turbo X – first pictures

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UPDATE: For all the information about the Turbo-X in one entry, including specs, pictures and video, click here.
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Saab Turbo X
Once again the Djup Strupe conglomerate – my group of Saab insiders – has come to the party. And this time Monsieur Strupe brought pictures!
These are the first images of the Turbo X, which will be unveiled this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This has been an eagerly anticipated model and given its limited numbers it’s sure to be an instant collectable.
It looks absolutely beautiful. Click on the images to enlarge.
Saab Turbo X
Saab Turbo X
The stuff we know so far, pending receipt of an official press release:
The Saab Turbo X is a special, limited edition release to mark the debut of Saab’s new XWD system. Sourced from Haldex, this latest generation system is capable of splitting power between front and rear wheels, as well as from side to side at the rear thanks to a new electronic limited slip differential (eLSD).
The system allows for extraordinary roadholding. Saab’s own testing on a slalom course during development showed the system outpacing German and Japanese competition, including a special test against the Porsche 911 Turbo.
The Saab Turbo X will feature an uprated version of the 2.8 litre V6 engine producing 280hp and 400Nm of torque and will do the 0-100 sprint in 5.7 seconds. All models produced are believe to be manual transmission only. Automatic IS available!
The Saab Turbo X will feature a unique black paint finish, special edition 19″ wheels (18″ for North America) and unique interior trim as seen in the shot above. There’s also new body treatment front and rear with a deeper front bumper, new rear deck spoiler and new dual exhaust tailpipe treatment.
The model will be limited to 2,000 units world-wide and these will include both Sport Sedans and SportCombis. The Saab Turbo X is expected to be available for sale early in 2008.

Saab Quality Ratings Problems

If you owned a 2004 Saab 9-3 and you sold it yesterday you’d be pretty happy right now.
As if resale value issues weren’t tough enough already, JD Power released their vehicle dependability ratings earlier today. These ratings rank vehicles that are three years old based on problems recorded per 100 vehicles. The early Saab 9-3 Sport Sedans have suffered with a poor anecdotal reputation and it seems that reputation now has some numbers to back it up.
The industry average, as recorded by JD Power, was 216 problems per 100 vehicles. Saab ranked quite poorly with 319 problems per 100 vehicles.
It could have been worse. We could be cheering for Isuzu, Suzuki or Land Rover. Those three did worse.
These rankings should improve over the next couple of years for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, problems with the 9-3 did get sorted a little more in the 2005 and 2006 years. Secondly, a larger number of non-9-3 vehicles should take up some numbers. The 9-5 was quite solid all this time, but it occupies such a small proportion of Saab’s sales in the US that it hardly makes a dent. Next year, though, the first 9-2x’s will be three years old and the inclusion of 9-7x and 9-2x figures over the coming years should temper things a bit.

Hirsch carbon leather interior for Saab 9-3

Hirsch logo File this under “Things the US market can’t get that their customers probably wish they could”.
I first wrote about the Hirsch carbon leather dash kit a little while ago. I’ve just now arrived home and found an email from Hirsch in my inbox with this detail picture of the dash.
One of the criticisms of the 9-3 is the standard of materials inside the vehicle. The seats are fine and almost everything else is fine but that dash can have a sea-of-plastic feel to it. If I had a 2007 model 9-3 then I’d be doing backflips to get the money for this. Beeewdiful!
Click to enlarge.
Hirsch Carbon Leather dash
And here’s the blurb from Hirsch:

The new Hirsch Performance leather instrument panel for the Saab 9-3 MY07- brings a completely new feeling to the car’s interior. Just as its predecessor, the new instrument panel is leather-covered with black leather of the highest quality. New for this year is the combination of black full grain leather with a new leather quality called carbon leather.
Carbon leather is a natural leather, embossed with a carbon-fibrestructure, that allows a truly unique leather instrument panel design. It can be treated and maintained just like normal leather. For a very special touch for the Saab 9-3’s cockpit, the new carbon leather instrument panel is an excellent choice.
Glare is minimised through the use of black leather, making this leather instrument panel ideal for both night driving and sunny environments.
The leather instrument panel can be ordered separately, or as part of an interior package together with the Hirsch Performance Aluminium Pedals.

There’s no price quoted on the Hirsch website for this product, or for the combined interior trim kit that includes the aluminium pedals. But the pedals alone cost 230GBP so I assume this isn’t a cheap upgrade.
But it does look sooooooo good.
Hirsch CL dash

An open letter to Saab USA management

This letter was originally published in April 2007 as an open letter to Steven Shannon.
It was written after SaabUSA chief Jay Spenchian was moved elsewhere within General Motors and replaced by Steve Shannon. Jay’s tenure was yet another appointment at the top of Saab USA that lasted only a short period.
History will record that Steve Shannon didn’t last long, either.

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Hi Steve,
I hope Jay’s left you a warm seat.
Two years and 16 days agi I wrote an open letter to Jay Spenchian, your predecessor at Saab USA. Jay was welcomed with open arms as his predecessor, Debra Kelly-Ennis was viewed as being about as Saab-savvy as a pepper grinder.
Jay presided over two Saab Owners Conventions. As I understand it he was heckled a little during his keynote speech at the first one. On the video I saw of the second one he was applauded. I really, really hope he makes it to this year’s Saab Owners Convention even though he’s now out of the brand. A lot of us Saabophiles put faith in him as someone who really embraced the brand and what it stood for.
Saab’s in a somewhat better position now than what it was when Jay took the seat. You should thank him and his team for that. The 9-7x has been established and is selling consistently. The 9-2x has been culled. The 9-3 is about to be updated with a new look, XWD and some more power and the 9-5 will receive a whole new life some time after that. Add the coming 9-4x and the future small Saab and you’ve got a lot to play with.
If you hang around long enough.
Steve, the Saab community is one of the most passionate online motoring communities there is. A small brand like Saab doesn’t survive without passionate support. This ain’t Buick, kid.
We all believe that there’s an immense amount of potential in the Saab way of doing things. Your employer does, too, which is why Saab engineers are showing the rest of the GM lads how it’s done with turbocharging and flex fuel right now. That immense potential is yet to be realised in terms of showroom products yet, however.
I’m sure Jan-Willem and Leanne will bring you up to speed in quick time, but it’s official that GM has committed to Saab and building it up for the future. I’ve even got dealers writing in to me to state that this is the case. It’s no false dawn, apparently. There’s products in the pipeline that are going to make Saab a real player in the premium European sector.
I’ll put on my economist’s hat and make an assumption here. I’ll assume that all that’s true (hey, ever hear about the economist stuck on a desert island with only tinned food to eat. He assumed a can opener). If that’s the case then you’ve got quite an exciting time ahead of you.
If you hang around long enough.
The one thing I’m starting to worry about a little is that Saab might be becoming a stepping stone for young executives. You’re 48, which is pretty young for an executive. You’re stepping into a chair in which another young executive has made yet another mark in his career. After helping to rescucitate Cadillac, Jay crafted the Born from Jets campaign. It’s been cited as being one of the most recongnisable automotive advertising campaigns in the US. As Jay’s vocational movement has been descrived to me as a promotion, I can only assume that someone upstairs is happy with his work on BFJ (though two years of sales falls is another thing, but I digress).
Is this your stepping stone, Steve?
Let me get to the point:
Welcome to the family. I hope you have a fruitful and successful time at Saab USA. I hope you kick the living daylights out of your competition with your skills, nouse and quick rapier wit. I hope you preside over a golden era at Saab. I hope I can sit down with you one day and buy you a drink. I hope to race you on the track one day in a pair of Black Turbos (you’ll understand that shortly).
But please forgive me, and us, if we wait and watch, and see you put a score on the board first.
Saab definitely needs bright ideas. Saab will live and die by the quality of it’s product but even if the product’s great someone still has to co-ordinate the marketing and selling of that product. You can rarely have too much youth, exuberance and energy when promoting a promising and developing car brand. But in the next few years, I think they need some stability even more.
Someone who can envision something for the longer term and actually see it to fruition. Someone who can build relationships with dealers, the press, the design people and all the other stakeholders in this business and actually carry those relationships forward.
I keep hearing that the car business is a long-term business. So why do people change jobs in it so often? Is it greed or just sloppy recruiting in the first place? I don’t mean a slight against Jay with that either, it’s just that when you’re a Saab guy, you really hope that they people running the place are Saab guys too.
So I hope that you’re great at your job. I hope you hava a great time doing your job. I hope you see the value in Saab as a brand, as a car to be driven and enjoyed. I hope I can write to you and bug you about Saab stuff in 5 years time. I hope you spend enough time in the job to get to know all the great Saab people out there. I hope you never use the word ‘quirky’. Ever.
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Steve, in my open letter to Jay back in 2005, I wrote under five different headings, and I think they’re all still relevant today, so I’ll repeat it verbatim for you below. Maybe it’ll mean something.

So, here’s a few tips. You want to know what the people want? What your typical Saab buyer will look for? OK. Listen up. Read on.
Differentiation – Jay, even the modern Saab enthusiast knows that you’re going to have some constraints placed on model development. There’s going to be some platform sharing etc. It’s a commercial reality. But please, get on the phone to the design team and make sure that this is never obvious from a look at the car. Your average Saab buyer IS an individual. They look at Saabs and see them as thoughtfully designed, practical, stylish and fast. Not 350 cu in fast. Smart fast. They like the aircraft heritage and they like the fact that their car doesn’t look like everyone else’s on the street. They’re not loud about it, but they like it.
Innovation – whether it’s fuel cells, hybrid, whatever….the time is right for another big winner on the Saab innovations list. This is your global premium brand Jay and it needs to hit some home-runs again. Saab survived as a minnow in a whales-only industry for 60 years by doing things first and doing them right. With another oil crisis looming, the time is certainly right for Saab to be seen as a leader here. Don’t let Toyota take all the glory. Somewhere in a warehouse in Trollhattan is an SVC engine. Go look it up.
The hype for the last 3 or 4 years has been SUV’s and small trucks. Big mothers that will tow a house. Everything comes full circle though, Jay. We’re all sitting on the cusp of a new dawn in motoring and Saab should be right there, setting the pace and leading the pack.
Fun – Go check out the bulletin boards Jay. There’s a whole bunch of them where people are mentioning a name from Saab’s past – Sonnet. A smallish, fun sports car. Think Miata with innovation, genuine torquey power and more class. Think entry level for the young professional. Think retired 50-something cruising the coast.
Not just a Sonnet though. All Saabs should be fun to drive and enjoyment comes from fitting the car to a driver’s requirements. Saab have done this for years and you’ve got to allow genuine Saab design to lead the way in this segment.
For the grunt-lovers, there’s got to be some real fun when the pedal hits the metal. All the big boys, the target brands, have a performance moniker. Some might mention Aero to you, Jay, but don’t be fooled. The Aero is a classy car, but we’re talking about a hero vehicle here. The one where the bar is set.
Viggen. (and I wrote this before I owned a Viggen, by the way – SW Apr 07)
And for goodness sakes, make us proud. Rally the thing. Per Eklund is apparently working on his own rally 9-3. Get him in as a rally team manager and let’s whip some Suuby/Mitsu/Toyo/Pug/Citroen butt!!
Quality – well duh!! As obvious as it may seem, quality is key in this segment of the market. There’s a very big target out there for Saab to aim at. Several of them in fact. One wears a blue and white target on its front and back end and the other wears an upside-down peace sign. You’re taking on a bunch of German anal-retentive precision automobiles here, Jay, and it’s going to take a quality finish to beat them. Can Saab compete? Damn it, we can win!
You know things are getting strange when a man quotes himself, but here we go anyway:

I want to see Saabs made by proud Swedes, speeding down the Autobahns with Beamers in tow, their drivers ashen-faced and crying for their mommas!! I want to see Swedish auto workers abuzz with the idea of harnessing all their intelligence and building the best cars they’ve ever dreamed of. I want to see Saabs full of innovation, power and practicality, like they’ve always been, but I also want to see people shouting from the rooftops about how good they are instead of ads that are just as subtle and clever as the cars.


Respect – Saab owners want to be respected for their choice, Jay. We ain’t dumb. And we ain’t ‘quirky’. Do NOT let one of your young execs try to talk you into using the word ‘quirky’. Ever.
GM can best show respect for its customers (read: Saab owners) by continuing to research and build Saabs in the tradition upon which the company was founded. Practicality, Innovation, Power, Comfort, Style.
Don’t disrespect us (we are your family, Jay) by portraying us as idiots. You’ll do that if you produce dumb ads. Yes we are individual, independant free thinking types, but if you use those words straight up, all you’re going to do is interest those that are interested in seeing themselves as individual, independant, free thinking types.
Just. Promote. The. Car.
The smart ones will get there. Trust me on this. Promote the car. You aren’t selling a lifestyle. You’re selling a car. Make sure it’s a great car and then tell people about it. Associating it with a lifestyle is somewhere around step 5. Let’s get Steps 2 and 3 in place first. Be smart about it. Rock it out. Fill ’em up. Get right into people’s faces but….promote the car.
Smart consumers can see the spin. Respect them. Promote the car.

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