Mismanaging the Saab Turbo X

There’s been a number of comments on the Saab Turbo X in recent days, so I felt like this layover in San Francisco might give me a good opportunity to write down a few thoughts on the car and maybe tie some of those thoughts together.
The power
Given the current confusion over the Turbo X vs the XWD Aero, it seems plainer than ever to me that Saab should have boosted the power to around the 300hp mark as a prime differentiator between the Turbo X and the XWD version of the Saab 9-3 Aero that will follow it.
This always seemed like an absolute no-brainer to me anyway, but the lack of explanation from Saab mekes the situation stand out even more. So let’s deal with that….
The difference
The primary difference between the Saab Turbo X and the 9-3 Aero equipped with XWD for MY2008 is that the Saab Turbo X will feature the full XWD system – including eLSD – as standard. The XWD-equipped Saab 9-3 Aero won’t have access to the eLSD in the 2008 model year. That will come in 2009.
In addition, it’ll have some mechanical enhancements such as a strengthened gearbox and torque limits removed in low gears, it’ll have special trim and styling, and it’ll have the cachet of being a launch model for a revolutionary new system that’s produced in limited numbers.
When the XWD system was launched, Saab said that the eLSD unit would be an option for Aero XWD models but they didn’t say anything about that not coming in 2008. What they meant was that the Turbo X would be an optional model for purchase in 2008, but they couldn’t say that outright because the Turbo X hadn’t been unveiled at that time.
Now, if that last paragraph seems confusing, you’re getting an idea of how poorly explained and managed this rollout has been.
The real difference
So what we end up with is a car that’s meant to emphasise the XWD system and little-to-no publicity explaining this fact. The confusion about the Turbo X and the XWD equipment levels is a testimony to this – and this is amongst Saab enthusiasts, the people who should have a fast grasp on the situation.
Slow Sales
The good news is that despite all of this, Saab have managed to take pre-orders on a car that hardly anyone’s seen, relatively few people have driven, and one that hasn’t been advertised yet. Actual production of the cars to be sold hasn’t even started yet.
Publicity about the car has been limited to the news stories from the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, Saab’s own Turbo X microsite and the grass roots coverage of the vehicle on sites such as TS and others.
Despite this meagre coverage, they’ve managed to take some deposits on the car, which I think is actually pretty encouraging. SaabUSA have offered paces in the Aero Academy for the first 100 buyers up until January 31st. That’s one-sixth of their allocation for the entire country. If you can sell one-sixth of your volume sight-unseen and without any meaningful publicity then you’ll be feeling encouraged.
We’d all have liked to see the Turbo X sell out within a month of being announced, but the fact is that most of the market doesn’t know about it.
incentives
In my mind – and this is why Saab HAVE to do a better job of marketing this car in the next few months – financial incentives on the Turbo X cannot be an option.
The full XWD system is brilliant and it deserves a special launch model like the Saab Turbo X. This car deserves all the exclusivity it’s getting. It just needs to be spelled out better than what it has been so far.
But that takes us back to the power output. 300hp definitely would have helped in selling this car as it’s bottom line numbers like that that people look for when they’re doing their initial shopping. 300hp is definitely possible – Hirsch will likely make it so soon after the car launches, I’m sure. But it should have been there from the get-go.
the car itself
I’m very confident that the people who do put money down on this car aren’t going to be disappointed in any way whatsoever. The system is that good and enthusiasts do like the notion of having something that’s a limited edition. Viggen owners will know what I mean.
The Saab Turbo X will be one heck of a great car to drive and the limited edition trim and styling looks awesome. I’d have liked it if it went even further (carbon leather dash trim, anyone?) but overall, it still looks menacing. The wheels have caused some conjecture with one or two people, but I’m sure the incas on the 99Turbo did as well and they’re considered classics now. Personally, I absolutely love the new wheels. They’re probably my favourite styling feature of the car.
If you want to know what the Turbo X will look like with other 18 inch wheels, visit the NAIAS. There were some issues with the wheel caps at the Boston Auto Show, so Saab sent a new set of wheels for fitting prior to the Detroit show, only someone forgot to actually fit them:
Saab Turbo X
I like these double-blade wheels, but that vehicle above pales just a little in comparison to this:
Saab Turbo X
Now THAT is a limited edition performance car.
Summary
I think the Saab Turbo X will be one heck of a car. I’ve driven a car with the full XWD spec and it was absolutely brilliant.
I just think Saab haven’t done too well in spelling out what’s special about this car. The market expectation is that this will be a distinctive, high performing vehicle and Saab are going to try and sell its performance credentials on the XWD system alone. so far, in very limited publicity, they haven’t performed in that area. A power bump would definitely help the Saab Turbo X’s credentials as a limited edition performance vehicle.
It’ll be interesting to see, once the marketing does ramp up, what it will look like.
I believe that Saab will sell all of their Turbo X’s reasonably quickly once the campaign starts and I really hope they don’t slash the price to do so. They can’t do that on a limited edition anyway, especially when they’ve already sold some at the full price.
I’d have one if I could, and I heard from Steve Shannon that he’ll be interesting in picking up a SportCombi version with a stickshift. That’d be my choice, too.

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.

——
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 moreSaab are Swedish

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