Teknikens Varld drive final Saab 9-5, check out BAIC C71 and C60 in Beijing

Teknikens Valrd have been quite busy reporting on Saab related stuff this week.
First of all, they took the final Saab 9-5 to roll off the production line for a spin, ending up at the Saab museum in Trollhattan. I don’t understand Swedish, but it looks like they might have been met there by Peter Backstrom along with what I’m guessing is the first 9-5 to roll off the production line way back in the 1990s.
Apparently they talk about this final 9-5 drive in very nice terms.
Click here to watch the video (best if you speak Swedish).
Second, they’ve been in Beijing for the Auto Show and paid some special attention to the vehicles shown by Beijing Automotive that are based on old Saab models acquired by the company.
There are two C71 models on show, one of which is a regular car and the other being a prototype electric vehicle. BAIC are looking to turn Saab’s old 9-5 into an electric car capable of a 90 mile range, with a battery pack that can be swapped out and replaced at outlets set up for the purpose.
Teknikens Varld have a gallery of 20+ photos on their site.
The C60 on show is basically a recent model Saab 9-3 with some different lights front and rear. It’s likely something that was put together very quickly in Trollhattan in the lead up to the Beijing show.
It looks like they’ve put quite a bit more time into the customisation of the C71, based on the Saab 9-5. It also looks like the 9-5 wasn’t all they picked up whilst they were in Sweden 🙂
Whilst the C60 wears a basic Saab interior, the C71 interior seems to have been embellished quite a bit on the show car.
And it is important to remember that these are just show cars. BAIC won’t start building their Saab-derived vehicles for another 18 months to 2 years as they’re still building the factory at the moment.
We won’t know what the final vehicles will look like for a while yet.
The blue one, which we first saw coming off a truck out the back of the show building, is the C71 Electric Vehicle.
BAIC are pouring heaps of money not only into the Saab tooling acquisition and factory build, but also into electric propulsion.
Thanks to several people for the links to the various Tekniken’s articles today.

More on Beijing Automotive’s Saab-based show cars

UPDATE – new image below
There’s been a fair bit of interest – and some mixed feeling – about the Saab-based cars that Beijing Automotive (BAIC) will be showing at the Beijing Auto Show, starting this Friday.
Here are the two cars once again….
I’ve had a few emails come in from people in the region.
I’m pleased to let you all know that a local named Simo will be heading off the Beijing Auto Show and will send along some photos of the cars displayed on the stands. It’ll be great to hear his thoughts and get the images online.
Also, Kenny T has written in with a few bits and pieces about them as well.
Firstly, the word going around several Chinese forums (forii?) is that these vehicles have been built in Trollhattan as show specials. I know a few of you have speculated about this in comments and it seems you might be right.
It makes sense, too, that these would be purpose built show cars. All other manufacturers do it, and BAIC most likely don’t have the machinery they’ve acquired set up and ready to produce vehicles yet.
Secondly, Kenny has sent along a picture of the interior of the C60, which looks like it’s directly out of a 2007+ Saab 9-3. I don’t have a reference for the site where the image originates but you can see the different badge on the steering wheel.
Again, this would tend to confirm to me that it’s a Trolhattan built car. I’m sure the Chinese would modify the interior to some extent.
it does raise some questions as to which version of the 9-3 they might have bought, though. All indications that have come to me from Saab were that they bought pre-2006 Saab 9-3 ‘tooling’. Exactly what they mean by ‘tooling’ I’m not sure, but I’ve always assumed it’s the specialised machinery involved and the right to use any intellectual property in terms of design and engineering, etc.
The appearance of a 2007+ interior does muddy the waters a little on that count, but I don’t think it necessarily changes things.
If these are what they seem – show cars built in Trollhattan, essentially concept cars – then it would make perfect sense that an existing interior would be installed given the time constraints involved in putting these cars together.
Regardless, it’s very interesting to see what BAIC have done with Saab’s work and I look forward to watching these evolve and make their way to market in the future.
New images available over at BitAuto. Thanks Kenny!

News from Saab – new BAIC deal and

It’s non-stop action on many different fronts at Saab right now. There’s new and mysterious model variations going on, dealer presentations all around the world, a de-facto spokesman for Russia and in the midst of all that, new goings-on in China and Trollhattan as well.
Saab have had to pay a bill for services rendered by accounting firms Vinge and KPMG, who were hired by the Swedish National Debt Office to assess Saab’s assets when Saab were applying for government loan guarantees. The account came to 39million Swedish crowns, which is a lot of clams.
Just wait til they get my bill!!!!
Saab employees at the factory in Sweden will be having a shorter vacation this Summer. An agreement has been reached to shorten the traditional vacation from 4 weeks down to 3.
I think they’ll cope. It’s not like they’ve been overworked so far this year 🙂
Saab has reached a new agreement with Beijing Automotive. On top of the vehicle tooling they’ve already sold and the ongoing consultancy they’ll have regarding that, Saab now have a marketing agreement with BAIC.
The MoU was signed on Monday and means that Saab will have a foot in the door in China, as well as BAIC possibly having some access to some of Saab’s 1,100 dealers around the world.
This could be the beginning of a long, intricate relationship.
And on that Saab vehicle tooling that BAIC bought…… they’ve already commenced work on a new factory capable of building 150,000 cars a year, as well as an engine plant. Fast movers.

Thanks to MrY and Justyn for tips!

Mary Kay has a lot to answer for…..

There’s the right way to combat the growing number of black/silver/white vehicles on the road, and then there’s the wrong way. If you’ve been hanging around this site for a prolonged period of time then you’ll know that painting cars pink is not considered the right way.
This is a Mary Kay cosmetics fleet vehicle spotted recently in China…..
Click to enlarge.
With thanks to Ying!

Saturday Morning Snippets – copycat edition

Jetlag’s kicked my a$$ overnight. I’ve come from Sweden to Australia and somehow I seem to have split the difference and am running closer to American time.
I had my first suspicious thought about Hyundai’s design crew copying Saab several years ago when I saw a Hyundai SUV that looked just like the 9-7x. I know a few others have raised this question from time to time, too.
Autoblog have images of a new Hyundai Santa Fe today and it’s almost to the stage where an official enquiry is warranted. Check this out:
The front air dams a-la Aero X. The grille notching up into the front bonnet. Even the shape of the hood where it meets the A-pillar. All of it is Saab.
2010 Saab 9-5
Damn you, Hyundai!!!!
I mentioned some concerns about old generation Saab 9-5’s being produced in China in an earlier post from today.
Whilst I hinted at this outcome from Frankfurt last week, I haven’t got around to covering the actual stories in the news on this issue.
The primary story seems to come from Trading Markets:

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Ltd. (BAIC) is considering the local production of Saab brand in China, according to an insider of the leading Chinese automaker, saying that the final result depends on bilateral negotiations.
A consortium headed by Swedish sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg is buying Saab from General Motors Corporation, while BAIC has inked an agreement with Koenigsegg on the purchase of the latter’s minority stake.
Saab Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson has also disclosed the intention to have local production in China, saying that the company plans to double its dealer number in the country.

……and Bloomberg elaborate on the selling story, saying that there are no restrictions from GM on Saab expanding their interest in China

[CvK] said he doesn’t expect GM to impose restrictions on Saab’s role in China similar to those facing the Opel brand that the Detroit-based carmaker is also selling. Opel is blocked from marketing its Astra and Insignia models in China as a condition of Magna International Inc. and OAO Sberbank taking over the German unit.
Beijing Automotive’s Role
An agreement with GM would unlock a growing economy with sales of 12 million cars this year, almost 50 times larger than Saab’s home market, according to China’s top planning agency. Saab plans to use Beijing Automotive’s sales network to sell its sedans and station wagons, and will share technology with the Chinese manufacturer, Koenigsegg Group said last week.
Saab sold fewer than 900 cars in China last year. Its models were introduced there about five years ago by GM.
“Beijing Automotive is an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the Chinese market with their experience,” Saab Chief Executive Officer Jan-Aake Jonsson said at a news conference in Frankfurt yesterday.
Saab has “GM’s support” for expanding in China, Jonsson said today in a Bloomberg Television interview at the show. The Swedish company also aims to develop its own sales network in the U.S. once it separates from GM, he said.

…..meanwhile, Beijing Automotive executives are looking towards a Renault/Nissan type alliance that will see both BAIC and Saab share technologies and growth by addition rather then rationalisation.

Wang Dazong, president of Beijing Auto, said: “The model we want to pattern after is Renault-Nissan. It is an alliance that uses each other’s strength to benefit both.”
Mr. Dazong continued that Beijing Auto and Sweden’s Koenigsegg Group, aims to increase efficiency by sharing technology and other resources, through an alliance of “addition, not reduction,” focusing on growth rather than on reducing headcounts and shuttering plants to save money…..
….The company seeks help from Saab in vehicle-engineering and manufacturing technology and know-how. Currently, under the little-known Beijing brand, the company sells aging SUV models through a chain of around 100 dealers but with limited success. In 2008, Beijing Auto sold around 50,000 such SUVs, said the company.
Mr. Wang said that Beijing Auto’s first of a series of cars and SUVs for the brand are expected to be displayed in the showrooms by the end of 2010, and the company plans to increase the number of dealers to “300 to 500 over the next five years.”

This is going to be a very interesting time in the history of Saab. No doubt about it.
And finally, if you manage to get through all that, The Economist has a very interesting read about the conundrum facing car makers and car buyers in the next few years.
Everyone wants more for less, though now there’s a new empashis on getting more in your small car for less.
The problem?
Small cars make very little money for carmakers. No profit means no investment.
Be careful what you wish for. Personally, I plan to continue working hard so I can continue to afford fuel and drive whatever the heck I want (which is hardly a gas guzzler, anyway).

On producing (OG) Saab 9-5s in China

I hinted at this story from the first day of the Frankfurt Motor Show and there have been some articles on the web in the last few days in support of it.
Saab China.jpg The story is is this: that Saab, fresh with a new Chinese connection, might look to produce the older generation Saab 9-5 in China once they get the new generation Saab 9-5 up and running in Trollhattan.
Sounds like a good re-use of resources, eh? A win-win for everyone.
It could well turn out to be a win-win if it goes ahead, but Saab/Koenigsegg will have to listen to their Chinese partners and play the marketing of this vehicle very carefully.
One of our regular readers at SU, Ying, is originally from China and now lives in the US. He still frequents the Chinese car blogs and websites and wrote to me about what this situation could mean for Saab in China.

There are some reports on BAIC picking up the tooling of the GM9-5 and will start producing them in China (in fact I think you hinted it yourself).
This news has now spread to various Chinese Saab forums and the general feeling is very negative indeed. Saab owners are a special bunch wherever they are. The idea of an ultra cheap 9-5 produced locally (and possibly not up to the same standard in material and QC) flooding the streets does not sit comfortably with these people.
There is also the general consensus that it would be an insult of the Chinese people’s intelligence to dump an old (VERY old) platform on them, as if they can’t tell the difference between the new generation and the old. These people also appreciate a certain degree of exclusivity and anonymous quality associated with Saabs – many picked Saab over Audi and BMW exactly because it is NOT German.
These tactics works for a time in the past in China, witness the VW Santana, some old Golf etc, but it looks like the locals are catching up. When Mazda decided to continually producing the old 6, and sell it along side the new 6, the backlash was such that sales of both were seriously affected and they had to scramble to do damage control.
I remember Sony’s former chairman once commented the Chinese wanted products cheap and to last but maybe not at the cutting edge, well that was the 1980’s.
IMO the locals have purchasing power are now more savvy. In fact, they’re very conscious about being seen to have the latest and best (ask Bentley and RR and Merc how many Continental, Phantom and S class they sell and China’s market share ranking in the world). People are fairly materialistic and want to show off it seems.
I am sure the Chinese deal is beneficial to Saab, however, I hope in chasing short term cash flow they do not ruin their long term reputation, especially amongst enthusiasts.
I hope they do not repeat the mistake of SIAC and the Roewe 7 (Rover 75), SIAC assembled the 75 in China, re-branded it, and tried to push it as an alternative to the Germans. They have a rather embarrassing all English speaking advert campaign (in China…), a high price point and tried to use fancy buzz words like pure breed, aristocratic British design to lure in buyers, Well, the buyers saw through it and it ain’t pretty.
I have confidence (in their chances) if Saab treat their local customers with respect and do not patronize them. By establish mutual respect in customer/supply relationship, they will have a bright future in that huge potential market.

There are some really good thoughts there and I agree that Saab will need to do their market analysis properly. Hopefully someone at Saab is way ahead of us on this issue and they’re already considering this.
I think there’s some merit in the possibility of producing the older generation 9-5 in China, though. The key will be transperancy and honesty with the marketplace. If they give the model another name, for example, and position it as an introductory model rather than try and pass it off as a new model, I think it could be a success and an honest attempt at breaking into the market.
The customers that Ying mentions are very, very small in number (around 900 in 2008) and Saab need to expand that number in the hope of upselling them into newer models in the future.
As it stands now, their ability to sell newer models is going to be hampered by a lack of local production and the tax penalties the exist for imports. Right now, Saab just aren’t big enough to contemplate the investment required to produce current and new models there. The possible sale of the older generation 9-5 might be a key to getting to a size where that’s a possibility.
I’m pretty confident that the 9-3 would be outselling the 9-5 in China (in the last few years) by a very, very large margin. The number of customers you risk offending by offering the older 9-5 as a cheaper model with a strong safety and equipment list is therefore quite minimal.
It’s got to be a very tempting scenario for all concerned. I just hope that if they do it, they can do it right. As Ying mentions, this is a massive new market, growing stronger by the year. Saab’s local connections will give them a genuine advantage but they’ve got to treat the market with respect.

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