Insincere Imitation

Today was the first media day in Detroit, and three new Asian car manufacturers released their concept cars showing the direction of future styling. Is it just me, or is the wraparound glass, blacked out A-pillar and roof graphic a bit Saab? Sure there have been a few cars with notable blacked out A-pillars like the Range Rover and the Nissan GTR has been doing it for a little while (though well after the Aero X hit the scene). These new concepts just came across as blatant xerox copies in my eyes.

It kills me to see them harvesting the ideas of Saab designers from a decade ago, while the brand languished and is only now getting back to a crawl.

wraparoundThat Kia even took the hockey stick and proportions of the C-pillar from the NG 9-5 really sticks out to me. Classy.

Ex. Saab designers to Geely/Volvo – Who designs Saab?

Designer Simon Padian who was with Saab Automobile from 1998 to 2012 has moved to Geely Design in Göteborg/Gothenburg where he will be the Interior Design Director. At the same time Simon Lamarre takes the helm at Geely as the Exterior Design Director. Lamarre has according to his LinkedIn account been with Saab Automobile as well. My sources in the automobile design world where hoping that NEVS would hire Simon Padian but since he is now with Geely that is not possible. But there are some other guys near Trollhättan who are more then qualified to run the future design department at NEVS.

My personal short-list  of names to run the NEVS/SAAB design department would be: (in no ranking order)

– Eduard Gray at GrayDesign in Vargön who has proven his talent to design not only cars but super-yachts and motorcycles. Now also with LeanNova as a consultant. We have seen some of Eduards stunning 9-5 generation III designs here at SaabsUnited last year.

– Victor Holmquist at Volvo Construction Equipment is a hard core gear-head with the right mindset and radical ideas on car design. I have seen the designs he sent to Saab when he applied for a job some years ago. His design of an  upgraded 9-3 and fighterjet inspired racer Sonett where mindblowing. Victor had his AlfaRomeo GTV “Modifcatizione” in my carage in Stockholm for some years before moving to Göteborg. That car has so much carbonfiber stuff made by Viktor.

– Ola Granlund, he runs his own design studio in Göteborg. Long time with Saab and according to ex. design chief at Saab Björn Envall, one of the most talented “young” designers he has seen at Saab. His name Granlund is of the Saab family in Trollhättan, his dad Olle was product manager. I met Ola in the military way back in the 1985.

Design is I would say and stick out my chin, is the most important asset for a smaller or boutique car manufacturer. Design must take the lead in front of the mechanical engineering (sorry boys and girls in that engineering field). The competition is so hard today so why not make a design that stands out. Give You a fresh exampel. Mercedes is about to launch new vehicles with “older” design chassis components. The mechanical engineers grinds their teeth, but carry on the new order. Most cars are good on the road and the average buyer does not crawl around on the showroom marbelfloor to inspect if the car has a 3-4-5-6 link rear axle. But the design of the car body, lines and curves is crucial. And just not to mention how the buyers are greeted and taken care of by the sales staff, but that is another write-up here at SU.

Grey Designs 9-3 MARK III

SAAB93MarkIIIAngle7Our Swedish-English design friend from Vargön outside Trollhättan has updated his take on the 9-3. A design with cues from Saabs history combined with a modern design language.

Among the owners of Saab 9-5 NG at Facebook his design is very much liked.

Guess that is a good peer group to ask since they actually bought the very last Saab model made the 9-5 NG. They should be asked.

The have great taste and are just like people here at SaabsUnited truly an international crowd.

Read moreGrey Designs 9-3 MARK III

Not so Grey designer near Trollhättan….


Through my network of car designers I have been recommended to get in touch with a British born guy living in Vargön (Wolf’s Island). Vargön is just a couple of kilometers north of Trollhättan.

Since design in the recent years have grown to become the number on assett when selling cars I feel it is very important to keep the discussion on this dear topic. What is underneath the curved sheets of metal is today not of such big importance since most modern cars are adequate in terms of driving behavior and safety. Very few has he capacity or the knowledge to press a car to its limits. Many manufacturers work hard on putting well designed cars on the roads. Just take a look at the Range Rover Evoqe and the MB CLA class or the brand new Alfa Romeo C4 or the coming Alfa Romeo Gloria that came out of a design student competition at IED in Italy.

Eduard Gray is a talented 36 year old (very Swedish to tell a persons age), he designs not just cars but also yacths. His company is called Grey Design Some years ago he did a new take on the Ursaab.

He told me that he is working on both a new 9-3 as well as a 9-5

Read moreNot so Grey designer near Trollhättan….

Design Study: The view from behind

Last week, we embarked on an in-depth look at a key visual element of Saab: The Saab Grill.  Now it is time for us to go for a short jog and get ourselves a good look at the view from behind.  Most of us like to think that this is a view that other drivers (excepting other lucky Saab owners of course) will be intimately acquainted with.  And just as we all want to sneak up on them with class, we want to zoom past them with style.  My limited artistic abilities and non-existent photo-shopping skills prevents me from providing a general diagram of the Saab back-side, as I did with the Saab grill.  But, it turns out that there is enough “going on”, visually speaking, that I believe the best way to proceed with our study, is to look at examples and point the various interesting facets of the design.  So without further ado, we have our first example: The Saab 900 SE

Read moreDesign Study: The view from behind

CAR Magazine on the Saab PhoeniX concept

CAR Magazine are generally pretty reasonable when it comes to Saab. They, like the rest of us, tend to think that the automotive world is a much more interesting place with companies like Saab in it. That’s why one of their roving reporters was busy getting a good spot at the Saab stand while Opel, next door, were running overtime with their Geneva press conference.

Back again to Hall 2, where I should be seeing a presentation from the brand that will not die. However, it’s GM Europe, Saab’s old owners, working their way through the presentation of the new Zafira Tourer. I’m keen to see the new car, but try to get a better location to view Saab’s presentation instead.

This traditional affection is why I’ll be very keen to read their April issue and see how they explain this headline about the PhoeniX concept. It’s fair to say that early signs from CAR are not looking promising.

From their online digital preview:

A harsh assessment?

I know I’m biased, but I’d say decidedly so. Alfa Romeo would want the “Right Car” assessment because the 4C is actually slated for production. Nobody wants a “Wrong Car” assessment, so it’ll be interesting to read what the assessment is based on – some controversial flying buttresses, or the use of a real-world new platform, a new hybrid turbocharged drivetrain and a real-world communication and control system that’s made massive waves everywhere. I hope CAR bore point 1, below, in mind.

We’ve covered plenty about the PhoeniX on this site and there are a few things of note that came out of that discussion:

  1. PhoeniX is a design concept (my emphasis) and the one thing you don’t want a design concept to be is boring. You want it to create discussion, which PhoeniX has certainly done, with the vast majority of it in the motoring press being decidedly positive.
  2. Given that it’s a rather radical concept in terms of looks, it’s going to divide opinion, which is fine. The trick is to look deeper than what you see at first glance.
  3. The importance of PhoeniX is not confined to it being Jason Castriota’s first statement as head of Saab design. The looks are deliberately Jason with deliberate Saab cues, and some of that look will carry through to the next 9-3. The importance of PhoeniX, however, is not just how it looks. It’s also concerned with what’s underneath. The PhoeniX platform that it’s based on is real – and when the next 9-3 is only 18 months away, that’s an important thing to know – and the PhoeniX concept showcases some of the vehicle proportions that will be possible with that architecture.

I guess I should hold my tongue until I get a chance to read the article, but I have a feeling that CAR may have only looked at the surface to judge the validity of PhoeniX and made a bold headline out of a subjective assessment.


Yes, it’s OK. Tim’s given me the OK to continue to write here occasionally. This is one piece of subject matter that I couldn’t resist.

Student Saab Design concepts

Last month I shared some student designs from the Umea Institute of Design, which were done with Saab in mind, mixing the Saab brand along with the values of several other noted brands.

The illustration below is from another student designer from Umea, however it wasn’t amongst those covered in the earlier entry and from what I can tell, isn’t part of the ‘mixed brands’ project.

This car was designed by a student named Yungho Jung as a Saab for the year 2025. The aim is to prove that cars can be made safer for pedestrians without being boring to look at (regulations are standardising the proportions of many vehicles in the name of pedestrian safety).

The main theme of the project is safety, as Yungho noticed that most of accidents occur due to carelessness of drivers or speeding. The body of this Saab is made of a flexible composite and can change its shape, absorbing impacts to reduce damage.

Of course, Saab historians will remember that Saab pioneered flexible, impact absorbing bumpers in the early 1970s. This concept combines that idea and modern materials to bring the concept to the whole vehicle.


And whilst we’re talking student designs, this is a short animation from one of the Umea students, Travis Vanietti, who designed a Saab combined with brand values from Swedish retailer, H&M.

Innovating Dreams from TJ Vaninetti on Vimeo.


Design boffins talk to Jason Castriota

Is it OK for me to start this off with a mini-rant? It’s my site – of course it is!

What the heck is a design-focused website doing when it’s got an entire screen width at its disposal, yet chooses to actually publish its articles in a column about 180 pixels wide, and in a teeny tiny font? Design’s supposed to be functional, yes?


Anyway, the so-hip-I-don’t-get-it website called Wallpaper* spoke briefly with Jason Castriota, Saab’s head of design.

Some bits (actually, around half of it)

What’s your design vision for Saab?

I’m after that ‘jet on the road aesthetic’. I want to recuperate Saab’s aeronautical roots including that double teardrop shape from its fantastic history that has been diluted in recent years. But it will be done with a thoroughly modern take. Saab has good rivals so we need to do something very distinctive.


So what can we expect from Saab next?

At the LA show this year you’ll see the production 9-4X based on the 2008 concept, followed by the 9-5 wagon in 2011 plus a new concept from me in the same year before the production 9-3 arrives in 2012. It’s a tight timeline to get that 9-3 right! Afterwards my next homework assignment is a new small Saab.

A word about that schedule, if I may.

There will be a very strong temptation for people to see this concept car early next year and take it as being a conceptual version of the new smaller Saab (referred to often as 92).

My understanding is that this isn’t the case at all.

The concept car that Saab Design is working on (to be shown at Geneva 2011) is pure concept. A design statement. It’ll be the bookend to the Aero X concept from 2006. Elements from this car will be used on Saabs that follow, but there won’t be a Saab that follows that looks just like this concept car.

That’s my understanding.

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