Unofficial: Saab PhoeniX concept to appear at the New York Auto Show

From MegH in comments:

Here’s my question. Since the Auto show will be in New York in April, will Saab be bringing the phoeniX to New York given the market demographic Saab has in the greater Tri-State area? I would love to see it in person along with the new SC’s and the Independence Edition of the convertible.

I can, albeit unofficially, confirm that the Saab PhoeniX concept will indeed make an appearance at the New York Auto Show, which begins on April 22 and runs through to May 1.

I emailed Victor Muller about this when I was still in Geneva and he confirmed to me via return email that Saab had plans to bring the car to The Big Apple.

There’s always a chance the car could fall off the back of a boat or something, but I’d take that as reasonable confirmation that the car will indeed be there. I’d encourage as many of you as possible to make plans to see the Saab stand in Gotham. You’ll love it.

New York Update: “The f*#@ing break-even!”

Our Saabs United representative at the New York Auto Show was Jeff P and he’s been doing a fantastic job sharing his NYIAS experience, as well as the all-important chats he had with various Saab executives.
Here’s the latest of several reports he’s filed today. You can read them in their original context over at the SaabsUnitedNY website.

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I won’t say whose mouth spoke the phrase in the title – at least three times within the span of 15 seconds – but I think you can guess. Lowering the break-even point is Saab’s greatest challenge in the next few years.
There are several ways to get there, each with their own pluses and minuses. Charge more for cars and make them more exclusive or pump up the volume and make them more accessible? I think the general attitude here is in favor of the latter, and for good reason. I think Victor and the team are smart enough to realize you can do both at once, and if you back up and pay attention to the ideas he has put forth, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
On one hand, you have the new 9-5 which will carry the upper end of Saab’s range with the 9-4x for some time to come. Fully optioned out they will likely carry the same price tag as a comparably equipped Audi. While I haven’t driven either, I can vouch that the 9-5 is nearly as good on the inside (better looking, not quite as super tight feeling) and much better outside than the A6 or BMW 535i. That’s not as a Saab fan, that’s an objective fact- nearly every casual observer I witnessed said the same thing, even groups of 20 year olds calling to each other to check it out.
The 9-4x has the opportunity to make a huge splash in the market too, not only because it’s incredibly good looking but will most likely drive as well or better than the competition. Charge the right price for both and they will fly off the floor. While the 9-5 will be in dealers in a matter of weeks, the 9-4x is still some months away.
My suggestion to Saab, especially to Mike Colleran: get one example of the most loaded up version of the SUV to every dealer in the country, build an innovative display around it, and have customers able to see it so they might delay their purchase of a similar Q5, RX, SRX, XC60, X5, or ML. Crowded segment isn’t it? That’s why Saab needs to be bold here and show customers it is serious.

Read moreNew York Update: “The f*#@ing break-even!”

New York Update: Why various Saab things are delayed

Our Saabs United representative at the New York Auto Show was Jeff P and he’s been doing a fantastic job sharing his NYIAS experience, as well as the all-important chats he had with various Saab executives.

Here’s the second of several reports he’s filed today. I’ll get the others up in due course, or if you’re really keen you can read them now over at the SaabsUnitedNY website.

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There are a few areas which many people are upset about, and seemingly for good reason. They range from paint color choices, interior materials, diesel engine options, all the way to just getting product in showrooms.

When the sale was under way, certain binding confidentiality agreements kept most details hidden from our view, and for good reason. We scoured day to day news for any crumbs and read as many swedish (and some chinese) tea leaves to try to discern what credible information there was to gleam. An unfortunate side effect of all of that mania was our fear that behind the scenes, there might have been conspiracies by GM perhaps to derail or sideline Saab’s chances.

I must tell you, I don’t believe any of that to be true anymore having spoken to the players.

In this economy and the way suppliers are set up, there isn’t much difference from one group to another. Saab is so credibly different that they present an opportunity for major OEMs and especially GM to boost their bottom line. I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that Saab’s development was sidelined by uncertainty, and only recently has been able to return to full speed.

Diesels are of course of great concern to many drivers out there, especially in the US. The prospect not only of driving further on a tank but also more efficiently carries a lot of promise. VW has done it in the US previously by not having its cars 50 state compliant. Mercedes now uses a urea injection system, AdBlue, which costs hundreds of dollars to refill at the dealer yearly. BMW covers the cost of the same system, but charges much more upfront for its diesels.

Only if gasoline prices rise substantially does the cost benefit become clear to switch to diesel, and at the moment when in the US diesel prices are in fact higher, it doesn’t seem like it would be a high priority to Saab given all the challenges they face. Indeed, Mike Colleran told me this exactly himself, and I’m with him 100%. Magnus did mention that when Euro6 regulations take effect in 2014, Saab will by then have a strategy that will be worldwide, but probably not until then.

To bridge the gap, they are looking at bringing electric propulsion technology to boost performance while keeping costs down and efficiencies up. Even Ferrari is using KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) in their brakes, and I expect Saab to use similar measures as well as the typical start/stop and other means. Don’t forget, Saab had a plugin hybrid 9-3 convertible before the Volt was introduced. I think it makes a lot more sense to push for these new technologies rather than just ship some diesels over for sale in a few states.

While the color debate I think has been resolved, the issue did come up this week. The main reason for not being able to paint one car or another comes down to plastics especially. Coating the lower panels on the 95 is going to be an entirely different formula than the one they are using, so it’s not like you can just dip it in the same paints. This is the main reason for the delay, so if you really must have a bright red Saab, you’ll just have to wait. I for one prefer the colors they have lined up already, and think that grey will sell loads more than red. Keep in mind people who go for understated colors also tend not to be ones who rant on blogs ;-).

Getting product into showrooms is top priority right now, I’d say above everything else. The dealers know this well and were briefed on it all over the world this week. By memorial day weekend we should start to see things back to normal, and by July 4th you should really start to get the excitement getting back at the dealers.

To all of those who take their cars to an independent mechanic, this might be the time just to peek your head in, heck maybe even be nice enough to get an oil change since those tend not to be hugely marked up by most dealers. It’s all about faith in the dealers, and if the enthusiasts can’t show it to our own dealers, then we have less of a community than I thought. Even if you hate your dealer but you love Saab, try to work with them, channel your frustration into constructive criticism and help them get on the right track. They’re as happy the company is alive as you are.

So no…delays aren’t a result of the GM boogey man, Victor is not planning some jet propulsion rocketSaab behind closed doors, and the 94x won’t be debuting in bright orange most likely.

Delays happened because Saab almost died. Let’s all just be thankful that there are people who are pulling 18 hour days back in Trollhättan to get the stock replenished and to every individual’s liking. I’m sure you have your own expression back home but- hålla uppe det goda arbetet.

New York update: The next Saab 9-3 (900?)

Our Saabs United representative at the New York Auto Show was Jeff P and he’s been doing a fantastic job sharing his NYIAS experience, as well as the all-important chats he had with various Saab executives.
Here’s the first of several reports he’s filed today. I’ll get the others up in due course, or if you’re really keen you can read them now over at the SaabsUnitedNY website.

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One of the more interesting conversations I had was with Magnus Hansson about the design language on the new 95. The key focus for Saab designers was using the new design language from the Aero-X but with new elements that took into consideration Saab’s rich past. The C-Pillar’s slope is the most glaring example of this, but simple details within the headlamp and taillamp units, the body panels, even the wheel arches and hood proportion mesh with examples from the 99 to the 9000.
When most car designers are assigned a role in the process, they usually get one or two elements at a time. One group will get the front, another the back. What Saab tried to do was unify the front and rear design language, and for the first time you see the back trying to mimic or play off what is going on in the front of the car, so much so in fact that even the pattern of LED brake indicators matches identically the LED iceblock graphic from the front (I like to think of them like Viking horns). The key here is- Saab is very serious about making cohesive designs that are both modern yet respect their past.
The new 93 gets all of the executives excited. When you talk about the 95 most say, “Oh yes, it’s a beautiful car. We’re very proud of it.” But when you mention the 93 they light up. I keep going to Magnus, probably because I spent the most time with him, but I asked specifically for one detail he could spill, and that was the rear light graphic. He claims it is much more horizontal and solid than I might have expected and that the shape is extremely Saab. He wouldn’t mention specific model inspiration, and even if he did it’s not like I could tell you. All we need to know at this point is we should prepare for the return of Saabs as Saabs, not as a GM brand division.
The reason for staying on the existing platform was explained to me as a simple choice. The engineers were given the opportunity to work with Delta, to work with Epsilon II, and come up with iterations that would make sense. Staying with Epsilon I but implementing the core changes they believed could transform the car into their ideal platform while keeping costs down and control to a maximum was a no brainer at that point.
How often have you heard from critical douchebags (pardon my language) saying “Ehh that 9-3 is just a rebadged Malibu,” or something to that effect. Now you can finally shut them down. This will be a Saab platform now, with some genetic similarity deep down but so much individuality there will be no mistaking it as such.
Finally the name 93 may soon come to an end. After speaking with Eric Geers, especially about branding, we wondered how important the older names might be to Saab like 900 and Sonnet. We recalled certain blunders like Ford’s Taurus.
On the other hand Saab has invested a lot of money in bringing brand consciousness for the new 95 already, so there could be risks. I think there’s no better time to mark a fundamental shift at the company, and perhaps no better way then by retruning to a naming convention system from its 80’s heydays.
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Click through to the SUNY website for a poll on the name of the next Saab midsize car.

New York Auto Show – Initial thoughts

Jeff attended the New York International Auto Show on behalf of Saabs United and he’s posted his first full entry over at the SaabsUnitedNY website, which I’ve reproduced below.
There are also photo galleries that he’ll be filling up soon.
I’d advise you get hooked up with the SaabsUnitedNY RSS feed and that way you’ll get updates as they happen and a little before they show here on the SU main page.

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SaabStandNY.jpg One thing that can’t be said enough about Saab is that the company is defined by the people who it employs. That may be true for most organizations, but it’s especially true for a company who when most had written its obituary, still had strong management and leaders who could steer through the storm.
The story of Saab’s rebirth as an independent company was so dramatic and unfolded so cinematically that to meet its major players, namely Saab management and Victor Muller, was for me like meeting A-list celebrities. We all watched as Djup Str

WSJ coverage from the NY auto show

Dan Neil, formerly of the LA Times and now of the Wall Street Journal, has a nice fat headline claiming The Next Saab 9-3: World Exclusive First Picture!
DanNielSketch.jpg
Now, I can tell you a few things about this.
1) It’s (reportedly) Dan’s own pencil work based on him seeing the famous rendering on Victor Muller’s mobile phone. As such, it’s not “the next Saab 9-3” as Dan wrote in his headline. The sketch on Victor’s mobile phone is his idea for a new smaller Saab, one that would be a Saab 9-2, or 9-1, or 92 or 91 depending on what the naming convention will be at that time.
2) It’s not a world exclusive, either. I described the sketch, which I saw as desktop wallpaper on VM’s laptop, in a post that I wrote from Schipol airport in Amsterdam back in February:

The desktop wallpaper on Victor Muller’s laptop is his sketched idea for a new small Saab. This is the Saab 92 inspired teardrop shaped vehicle that he’s been talking about recently. Think Saab 9-X Air at the front and Saab 92/96 at the rear.

Based on that description, Jeff came up with this rough photoshop, which gelled reasonably well with what I recall seeing.
Jeff'sVMsketch.jpg
So, sorry Dan, but it was neither a 9-3 or a world exclusive. But it’s a nice Saab 93 (1950’s generation) you’ve drawn there.
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The rest of the article makes for some good reading, summarising a good number of talking points with regard to Saab.

  • Manufacturing in Sweden.
  • Initial plans for the US
  • Partnership with BAIC
  • Technology sharing and breaking even

Recommended reading. Just ignore the sketch bit.

Saabs United at the New York Auto Show – prelude

It’s fair to say that things haven’t quite gone to plan.
The graphics card in Jeff’s computer decided it had had enough – today, of all days – so he’s been limited in what he’s been able to post.
And aside from that, he was at the New York freaking Auto Show with Victor Muller and Jan-Ake Jonsson – you think he wants to sit around writing freaking stories for your sorry a$$es all night??
OK, that’s me channeling some distant New York relative…….
But the following snippets have been gleaned and there’s a few photos over at the SaabsUnitedNY website:

  • Time to upload. Met with a ton of people, all very generous with their time and could not be a more professional and serious organization. Will update blog momentarily…
  • Saab didn’t really have many live moments worth covering, it was a very informal day for them. I left it on live sitting on a tripod when Victor was around if anyone caught the images. He went to the village for a lunch interview which took some time. I’m catching up with him tonight at the Cooper Classic Cars Saab event. Should be fun.
  • I think a lot of the staff are still getting their bearings from what I observed today, it’s like their learning to walk with two feet after only being able to use 1 for so long with GM. The good news is they’re all extremely positive and confident, and I believe they’ll get things sorted out.
  • The 9-5 is so much better than its predecessor it’s not even funny. I will share more on the blog later tonight or tomorrow, but it’s insane how many people who have never seen it just say, wow.

Jeff will have heaps more to write about and show you when the party’s all said and done.

Saabs United New York is online!!

UPDATE: The press day is today, so check it all out.
Includes a new LIVE area, which should hopefully capture the Saab press conference.
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This is embarrassingly good.
By that, I mean it’s really freaking good for you and embarrassing for me. Let me explain.
Jeff, he of the incredibly good Saab design photoshop images, will be attending the New York Auto Show as your Saabs United reporter, covering all the ins and outs of the show and getting to meet some of the Saab movers and shakers.
Jeff’s put together a great little website especially for the event, with some fantastic technology built right in.
Check out Saabs United NY
SUNY.jpg
Basically, the whole site is arranged through Jeff’s MobileMe account so when he takes a photo and uploads it via his phone, the image will appear on the website straight away. Same with Youtube movies he shoots of press conferences, etc.
As soon as he’s done processing it, you’ll be able to see it on Saabs United NY.
Jeff’s just taken this game up a few notches and I’m completely blown away by what he’s put together here. Heck, I’m basically running the same software I was using back in February 2005, which is why it’s somewhat embarrassing. I gotta get me some geek lotion or something, as this is just awesome.
Bookmark it. The press day for the New York Auto Show is March 31st (tomorrow) so make sure you check in. I’ll be doing regular updates here as well as material comes to hand.

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