Lament

Saab 9-3X concept, circa 2002. Never made.

The fact that the Saab 9X was an even bigger shame, but I digress.

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Hyundai aren’t going to make this vehicle, either, or so they say.

But they will unveil this small SUV, called the Curb, as a concept vehicle in Detroit next week. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a Hyundai that looks a bit like another car. It’s not the first time I’ve seen one that looks like a Saab, either.

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I’m not contending that Hyundai stole this design language from Saab, no matter how derivative I find their work. I simply saw this Hyundai in a news article today and that duo of Saab concepts was the first thing I thought of. The 9X still makes me drool.

I’m just lamenting that one of my favourite concept families of all time, the 9X and 93X didn’t get to see the light of day. They could have been so good.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zP0T5A93K0

Monday Night Snippets – iCrap edition

Pray for me.

Today I had to drive 4 hours in this:

Hyundai i30

It’s a Hyundai i30, which is like a Toyota Corolla, only more ripoff-ier. It rips off the 1 Series BMW at the back and it rips off a bashed crab at the front. Inside it’s Korea doing to Japan what Debbie did to Dallas Japan did to everyone 30 years ago – screwed ’em over with cheaper, but still reliable design and plastics.

Four hours in this little car, with an automatic transmission and no cruise control. What did I do to deserve this?

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Hilton Holloway from Autocar says….

Saab’s all new 9-3 will make its debut at the 2012 Paris show, according to company sources.

That seems a little late to me, if they’re going to start selling it in Q4 of 2012. I’m doubting Hilton’s sources as I know they’re impeccable, but it just seems strange.

Rumour has it that we’ll see a concept well before that and interviews with Jason Castriota held just last week suggest that they’re in the wind tunnel with this car at the moment.

You can read more at Autocar.

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Good news for Saab owner Nicholas D, who had the first smashed Saab 9-5 in Belgium.

Smashed Saab 9-5

His dealer, Callens-Bouckaert, had some trouble at first getting the required parts to fix the car because it was such a new model.

They, along with the Saab importer Behermans, worked feverishly for their client and I’m happy to pass on that the car is now fixed and Nicholas is one very happy guy!

Nicholas Saab 9-5

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Congratulations to Tom Blomqvist, son of Stig, who just made history:

Tom Blomqvist made history at the weekend by becoming the youngest ever winner of the Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at just 16 years old in a thrilling climax to the 2010 season at Brands Hatch Indy circuit on 9th/10th October.

At just 16 years and 313 days, the son of rally legend Stig, was level on points with title rival Manor Competition’s Lewis Williamson heading into the final round of the season. The teenager though held his nerves to bring his Fortec Motorsport car home in second place, two places ahead of Williamson, to win the coveted title by a mere six points and follow in the footsteps of previous champions Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.

Tom Blomqvist

Tom Blomqvist

Thanks to Par Brandt for the tip!

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If you’re a Saab nut and you’re on Twitter, but not following @elkparts, you’re quite possibly missing out on the occasional half-price bargain (SportCombi Eibach spring kit, anyone?).

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After the success of the Mt Washington run, the guy who organized it, Luke L, is organizing another drive. This time it’s a Fall Cruise Through Eastern Connecticut. Join up at that link. It should be a visual spectacular.

I’m also told there’s a drive being organised for the Saab Club of Central Ohio. They’re heading out to the Hocking Hills to observe and admire the changing colors this weekend. Interested parties should contact Dan Orzano via email at [email protected]

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We have a pilots in our midst. Me old mate Lance Cole is one of them, albeit the strong silent type.

Chris wrote to me today, telling me of the recent passing of a prominent French pilot named Renaud Ecalle. There’s no Saab connection here, but just for the pilots, here’s some video showing what he could do….. crazy stuff.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQISdW8WjnM

Is there a possible fourth mystery buyer for Saab?

Here’s a story I’d missed earlier, from SvD, though i think someone’s touched on it in comments. Tonight’s just a blur……
Svenska Dagbladet are reporting that there’s an as-yet unidentified fourth interested party in Saab, on top of Merbanco, Renco and BAIC.

“It is an international group where many countries are represented. But no one is Swedish,” said a person with good insight into the process.
“I do not think that this new ownership group has been so public. There is no one who knows them.

Robin, in comments, has pointed out that it could be Hyundai/Kia, who also have production interests with BAIC in China.
I enquired a little further and Robin does have sound experience in the industry (to say the least) and some reasonable grounds for his statement here, though he concedes that it’s from association rather than direct knowledge.
Hyundai have been kicking goals all year and would certainly be cashed up, but Robin reasons that they lack a premium brand, especially in Europe, and would benefit from something that can built up into something good.
Would GM want to share with them, though? Hyundai have taken a reasonable amount of marketshare from GM in 2009. In fact, Hyundai are one of the few companies who have actually grown their sales this year in the US market. I’m not sure GM would want to hand them access to modern GM technologies.
It’s an interesting theory and SvD’s source is correct and there is a mystery fourth bidder, then at least we’ve got something to pass the time 🙂

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.
Grrrrr.
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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:
HyundaiSantaFe.jpg
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!!!!
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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.
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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).

News sources name some interesting suitors for Saab

There are reports in from both Dagens Industri and TTELA naming some interesting names in the chase for Saab.
I’ve covered bits of the Dagens report via Reuters earlier, but I’ll cover it again here to tie it all up here in one post so the conversation is concentrated in one place.
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Latest news indicates that Deutsche Bank are asking around 10 of the initial 27 suitors who signed confidentiality agreements to discuss their intentions for the company, which will go some way to whittling down this group to the four or five who will be asked to submit a bid for Saab.
We’re getting to the pointy end, people. Saab’s initial reorganisation period ends on May 20 (or is it May 19??) and I’m sure all parties would like to get these preliminaries tied away prior to asking for another three-month extension.
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So, the suitors and the way they’re described.
Geely – have previously denied any interest but were reported to be in Sweden getting the grand tour in the last few weeks.
Koenigsegg – the one we’re all hoping for, though it may be for all the wrong reasons. Romantically, they must be the favourite.
US investors – their identities are unknown, but DI report that there’s some US money sniffing around, and they’re big players. More than one of them, apparently.
Both TTELA and DI note that Chinese company Chery have received state approval to go forth and multiply. Chery are China’s biggest privately owned car company.
TTELA also mention BMW and Hyundai as possibilities. Hyundai I can see, BMW I can’t. I just don’t see why they’d have the need to stray from their formula with something in a similar market space.
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Let’s not forget the potential suitor that they didn’t mention in those articles – the Norwegians and Think! I wrote about them last week:
Norwegian State is one of the speculators who have been in and looked at Trollhättan Saab, writes the newspaper GT today.

According to a source within GM, representatives of the Norwegian Government have been in Trollhättan and looked at the factory. It should, according to data, act on a wager on a Swedish built hybrid electric with Norwegian origin.

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Geely and Chery would have to be considered outsiders. One thing a potential investor will have to do is obtain loan guarantees from the Swedish government. There is a train of thought in both articles that the Swedes would be concerned about both the loss of jobs to China, and the loss of technological know-how to China.
The marraige of two Swedish companies, one of whom is a 62-year-old Swedish sporting and design icon and the other being an upstart supercar maker working out of an aircraft hangar. Reportedly, Koenigsegg made their tour in the company of a venture capital representative. Can Koenigsegg, a small quantity manufacturer manage a volume producer, even one of Saab’s small size? I’d love to find out.
The thought of US investors makes me nervous. Unless they’ve got heaps of money, so much so that they won’t try and six-sigma the company out of its identity, I’d be wary. Yes, recent experience may have something to do with this.
Hyundai are kicking goals wherever they go at the moment, though I wonder how it’s going to work out in the long run. Their recent sales efforts in the US, where they guarantee to take your car back with no penalty if you lose your job, have led to great sales numbers, but it could come back to bite them big-time in 2010 when the full effect of the global financial crisis may be felt. They are building much better cars, though.

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