Saab’s technology, top or flop?

After my visit at the IAA I’ve started reviewing some of the press kits the different brands were so keen to distribute among the press people during the press days of the motor show. Too bad I started collecting the press kits on the second day, as many brands ran out of them and the only one I got was a visit card with a web-address to their media site.

But for some of Saab direct competitors I have the information I wanted. No this time I will not talk about the current product portfolio, or about visionary prototypes on the mobility in the future like the VW NILS, this time I will talk about technology other brands will introduce in normal cars in the near future and compare this with announcements Saab has already made about their future plans.

So let us check if Saab can be competitive in terms of technology or not.

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Volvo throws down gauntlet with V60 plug-in hybrid – can Saab pick it up?

Around five years ago now, Saab unveiled a concept car at the Stockholm Motor Show. It was just after the Geneva Salon of 2006, and consequently it got lost in the backwash of the stunning Aero X concept.

That car was the Saab 9-3 BioPower Hybrid – a hybrid car in a Saab 9-3 Convertible body. What wasn’t known widely at the time (and still isn’t) is that that concept car was also intended to be presented as a plug-in hybrid vehicle. GM ordered the press release to be changed and it’s rumoured that the plug cover – the rear badge – was glued shut.

So….. the concept of a plugin hybrid running in concert with environmentally friendly fuel isn’t a totally foreign concept where Saab is concerned. The only thing is, they haven’t actually built one yet.

And apparently Volvo have.

The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid combines rear electric motors with a regular diesel engine at the front to consume just 1.9 litres of diesel per 100km, emitting just 49g/km of CO2 when in hybrid mode.

The diesel engine produces 150kW and 440Nm and the electric motors at the back add another 50kW and 200Nm, meaning this car will have the capacity to drive ‘big’ when needed.

It also has three switchable modes – electric, hybrid and diesel, meaning it can run purely off the fuel engine, the electric engine, or a combination of the two.

The car will go on sale in 2012 (they don’t say when in 2012).

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Saab’s 9-3 replacement vehicle will go on sale in the last quarter of 2012.

Saab’s 9-3 replacement will have a new rear-drive electric propulsion system to work in conjunction with a fossil fuel motor at the front.

Volvo have chosen an existing vehicle for their new groundbreaking drivetrain, which means they can show it now. Saab will be using an all-new vehicle, which means we won’t see it for some time.

The big question is – can Saab do something as compelling as what this Volvo seems to be? Will it offer a plug-in charging capability? Does it need to? Do Saab’s engineers have any more tricks up their sleeve? Can they bring a new dimension to the marketplace in 18 months from now?

I’m pretty sure they can, but it will be very interesting to watch.

Thanks Jeff, for the Volvtip

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWQEacZfqHQ

Saab trademarks – IQon and eXWD

EduSaab has been keeping an eye on trademark developments and has noted two new Saab trademarks being registered in the last six months or so.

IQon:

Apparatus for regulating and controlling electric functions of vehicles; on board vehicle electronic systems, namely interactive vehicle control system for integrating, managing and providing driver access to functions of vehicle navigation system; entertainment system; telephones; vehicle environmental information and control systems for heating and cooling systems in vehicles.

Swade’s read: Pronounced ‘icon’, this should be the system that controls various user systems in your car, as well as integrating your personal device (i.e. your phone) with your vehicle. Look for a lot more integratation and access from the Saab 9-3 replacement vehicle late in 2012.

OS? My bet is Android.

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eXWD:

Reproduction of the mark where the mark is represented in standard characters.

Used on: Motor vehicles, namely, automobiles, sport utility vehicles, trucks, vans, engines therefor and structural parts thereof.

Swade’s read: Again, applicable to the Saab 9-3 replacement vehicle, eXWD will relate to the electronic rear drive system being developed by e-AAM, a system that will make its debut on the 9-3 replacement vehicle.

Geneva invitation hints at four premieres for Saab

Last month I wrote a post spelling out the new Saabs we can expect to see in 2011 and at which show we might see them.

I’m not sure how right I was, but by the looks of the 2011 Geneva Motor Show invitation, there might not be a lot left for later on in the year. Geneva’s going to be HUGE!

If the imagery on the invitation is deliberate – and one would have to think it is – then we will see four vehicle debuts at the Geneva Motor Show:

UPDATE: I’m a cock.

Just look up the freaking web address on the image, which I completely overlooked because I was too excited playing detective. It spells out which model is which. At least I got them right.

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These invitations were sent out in the last day or so and this one was forwarded to me by the guys at Dimini.ch (who sell the best Saab scale models you’ll ever see – I’ve just ordered a 900 Turbo and a 99Turbo to add to my collection and will pick them up in Geneva).

Ok, so what are we looking at here?

I believe the draping is deliberately constructed to give us a hint as to what we’re looking at. Obviously, showing some color and vehicle feature is part of the ploy.

Closest to ‘camera’ we have the Saab 9-5 wagon. No prizes there.

Furthest from camera we have the Saab Design Concept that they’ll unveil there to show the general direction that Saab Design will take under Jason Castriota. That car’s completely unknown, hence the drapery hiding absolutely everything.

That leaves two other cars in the middle.

My guess is that the second car, in a shade of what looks to be almost an orange-red color, is the Saab 9-3 Independence Edition convertible. The color of that vehicle is ‘Sunset Red’ and that orangey-red color looks very sunsettish to me.

I predicted a NY Auto Show debut for that one as it’s expected to go on sale in May. Given that Independence Day is this month, however, maybe it’s pointless holding the vehicle beyond Geneva.

The third vehicle?

Possibly the Griffin Edition Saab 9-3 that we might see MY2011.5?

I don’t know, but it’ll sure be one hell of an interesting show.

Saab 9-3 Griffin spotted in Trollhattan

UPDATE: Now with video!

If these cars are out on the streets, they will be seen. If they can be seen, they can be photographed.

Below we have what appears to be a Saab 9-3 Griffin. The Griffin is part of the enhanced model range that we believe will carry the 9-3 through to the end of it’s life when an all-new 9-3 replacement vehicle comes. This photo gives you a better look at the new front bumper treatment, with the bigger and more 9-5-like front foglight surrounds. As the car is in Java Metallic, the black surrounds aren’t as easy to see as they would be if it’s a lighter color, but they’re there.

The changes are subtle, but there, and it does look a bit racier. You’ll also note the Griffin badging on the side (which is the biggest giveaway of all).

Comparative image of a 2011 Saab 9-3 in Java, below…..

The 9-3 Griffin is said to have some subtle interior upgrades as well, with the biggest change to the car being the installation of the same direct injected 2.0T engine as in the Saab 9-5 making 220hp instead of the current 210 with better economy expected as well.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyoQl7VldHA

Djup Strupe and the Saab 9-3 replacement

You know that I’ve already seen pictures of the Saab 9-3 replacement.

If you saw that entry, then you got to read my initial positivity to what I saw, even if I couldn’t talk about it much except to say that I’d seen it.

Someone else saw it recently, and this is what he said…..

Today I got to see a single photo of the new 9-3. It was a rear quarter view from the left side. I can only say that from the little I saw, it looks to be a home run!

The good news is that it is all Saab. The car was a five door hatchback. It looked like a true Saab, modern, but the look of the 900 prior to the GM 900. I think it will be a winner with both Saab owners and younger buyer, 28-45 year old buyers.

My thanks to Djup Strupe for the thoughts…..

One man’s thoughts – manufacturing the essence of Saab

I received this from Jon C via email last week, as the SU Hi-Po Challenge was drawing to a close. Jon doesn’t propose a Hi-Po model framework here. He doesn’t give his version of what a halo Saab might look like.

What he does do, however, is take a brief look at what Audi did to develop their model line over time and what Saab might be able to take from this.

It’s a good thinking piece and I thank Jon for sending it in.

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I have been thinking a lot this past week, whilst the HiPo challenge was concluding. It prompted me to do something I promised Swade I would do about 3 years ago. That was to share some insights I gathered while working for a dealer group comprising;
Volkswagen, Seat, Saab, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Volvo, BMW/Mini, Seat and – rather oddly – Suzuki (which was managed by the BMW franchise).

I pretty much saw each of the dealerships front to back and met some great and not-so-great people. I made one friendship that remains to this day. Some of it was fun and some of it a total nightmare. Trying to trace a water leak on an RS6 will stay with me ‘til the day I die. The fact that when we traced the leak we found it was leaking at the other end as well pretty much finished me off.

Lets go back to 1992. I was at Uni, my fellow countrymen were killing each other with depressing regularity and Sweden won the world ice hockey championships. Audi fields a range of 5 cars, BMW 4 and Mercedes 5 (I am discounting estates etc. as distinct models). The local Saab showroom contained a total of 2 display cars and had one service ramp. It was a different time, maybe even a different world.

In the world of today Audi, BMW and Mercedes are the industry leaders while Saab is on the painful road to health. What I want to address is why these companies succeeded (specifically Audi). I don’t intend to look at where Saab failed, that’s a painful can of worms that has been opened many times before.

Firstly, Audi know where they have been, where they are going and where they want to be. Audi looked at what creates prestige and the two biggest factors were driver appeal and product. Motorsport and heritage were well down the list. Audi also knew from prior research that “perceived” quality was far more important than actual quality when selling a car and generating an image. Their research found that if, for example the car had a well constructed glove box, the customer subconsciously figures out that the gearbox will be equally well built and therefore more reliable. It’s the same factor that makes SUV drivers think that their car is safer. Not logical but people aren’t always logical.

Thus you will remember in the mid 90s things like damped grab handles and clever boot/trunk hinges appearing on German cars. The public perceived that Audis were better built than their competitors. You may argue, but I respectfully suggest the sales figures support Audis research.

Secondly, they made desirable cars. Hard to remember now but think of the impact that the TT made when it was launched. It was similar to the “ipod” effect. As people who were perceived to be trendsetters bought the car, potential customers who previously dismissed Audis as “old men’s cars” now felt comfortable with the idea of owning a TT and any other type of Audi. People who would not enter a Saab, BMW or Mercedes showroom. Combined with the A3 this means that those first customers are now moving into A4s, A6s and A8s. Audi will have customers who have never driven anything else and have no inclination to do so.

Thirdly, they marketed and publicised shrewdly. Princess Diana drove an Audi convertible. Sales in London rocketed. They made sure A8s were on side for chauffer duties at awards and major sporting events (if its good enough for movie stars…)
They run careful, well-respected advertising campaigns cementing brand awareness (where the product and message take centre stage, the slogan is incidental).

Lastly, customer service. Cars can go wrong, things can go wrong but the manufacturer must step up and support the dealer in fixing problems. That builds trust.

The interesting thing is that the cars are regularly criticised by the press (at least in the UK) and always come second to BMW at best. The public don’t seem to care.

So my message to Saab? (A big presumption on my part, that my opinion matters).

Keep doing what you are doing. Desirable product will always find success. High power models and advertising slogans are “quick fixes” that never last (if you even fool them in the first place). I do not suggest that Saab copy Audi – they must find their own way – but mistakes from the past must not be repeated. For example AMG, S Line, M Sport, all clearly defined sub brands while Saab has Aero, Viggen, Carlsson, TurboX. The sheep (sadly the people we need to pay the bills) need a clear strategy from the brand from top to bottom (and I think we are on the right road).

I make no comment on whether Saab needs more horsepower or lighter cars but I will tell you that in a world where BMW is dropping rwd on the 1 series (because the customers don’t care), the big 3 are dropping V8s and Porsche is developing hybrids we (and Saab) must not be dogmatic. We must hold onto what is important – the essence of Saab – but we must also move with the times.

Saab aiming to cut weight in future cars

Here’s an aspiration I can relate to…..

Ny Teknik has a report today, talking about Saab’s plans to reduce weight in future vehicles from between 20% to a massive 40%.

Cue the Googletrans:

The concept car which will be completed by summer 2013 will include solutions that make it possible to build cars 20 to 40 percent lighter than today. Without making major compromises elsewhere. Last fall, invited Saab therefore the Scandinavian suppliers to a workshop to reflect together on new solutions.

– We thought it would be difficult for suppliers that are competitors to cooperate in the forms, but it went really well, “says project leader Anders Holmkvist….

….The clear and specific goals will mean reduced weight. But another equally important part in the project according to Anna-Lena Björkstam, purchasing director for bilmaterial at Saab, cooperation with and between suppliers

it goes on to talk about Saab’s different practices now that Saab are out of the GM fold. They key point is the freedom that Saab now have to talk to supplies of their choosing, with goals of their choosing.

You don’t have to be Einstein to see the potential benefits of such substantial weight cuts. Reduced fuel consumption and emissions are obvious benefits. Cars of such weight, depending on the powerplant, could also be quite entertaining. The key will be maintaining ride comfort and safety.

I imagine the goal of putting these brains together is to figure out the solution to that question.

The whole thing sounds quite Saaby to me. Clever stuff. I really hope they get it done.

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