Shiny New Site Snippets: Partnerships Edition

Aaaarrghhhh that was a long trip. Tim has turned off the fasten your reload icon and everyone is free to comment about the site. Hopefully the server enjoys the naturally cooler temperatures and we can proceed as normal from here on out (although I did notice the toilets flush differently on this side of the globe). All kidding aside, as sad as it is to not be able to check a site located on the opposite side of the earth to most of us, it’s great that our community has migrated just as the company it loves has, home to Trollhättan, Sweden. This is going to be a very exciting ride, and we have been talking behind the scenes about some really fantastic upgrades in the future that should make it even easier for all of us to communicate and stay up to date on all the insider news we’ve come to expect from Swade. On to the snippets–

Saab has made some incredible strides these past few months in lowering their breakeven point not only through leaner operations, but by forming partnerships with established leaders in the business.

Unveiling of BMW 1.6L engine for use in new 9-3.

 

We’re familiar with BMW and their 1.6L engine Saab will be using in the next 9-3.

Still from PhoeniX video showing eXWD components.

 

 

We know all about the joint venture with American Axle to build eXWM hybrid rear axles.

 

ZF Sverige AB's new plant in Kardanvägen, about three miles from the Saab factory in Stallbacka. Photo: Stefan Benn Hage

 

Last week, we learned that one of the most respected automotive suppliers in the world who works with the biggest names in the business (think BMW, Audi, Porsche…Bugatti), ZF Friedrichshafen will work with Saab jointly at ZF Sverige AB to produce advanced front sub-frames and complete rear axles for the new 9-3.

(ZF is also used in the 9-5 with the CDC damping system dual-mass flywheel and clutch).

 

 

 

Parts of Vicura designed gearbox from GM days. Photo: Stefan Benn Hage

This week, ttela.se posted an article about Vicura (english translation) the recently formed company made up of former Saab engineers, that we haven’t heard much about lately. They provide a quick glimpse and interview at how competitive this new company will be when it comes to delivering low cost, ultra efficient, and fast paced solutions– they can do in months what takes some companies years because of their experience and computer modeling workflow. An excellent read, and we’ll be working on getting more information if possible directly from Vicura in an interview piece soon. I’ll be eager to hear what their thoughts and ideas are regarding hybrid and electric drivetrains, seeing they’re behind the single-speed transmission being used in the new Saab ePower.

Prototype weather app in IQon.

While we’ve heard a lot about what IQon is and when we’ll be able to use it in our shiny new 9-3s next year, we haven’t discussed the team working on it too much here. For this new system, Saab has partnered with Cybercom, the IT company that makes solutions for a wide variety of uses from online banking solutions to digital music software for the worlds largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile. While their name may make them sound like a front to Dr. Evil’s secret Volcano compound (I forget, maybe it was Robocom or Decepticom), they’re actually a Malmö based company established in designing and maintaining integrated technology solutions. The good news is they’re actively engaged and established in the app world on both iOS and Android platforms (here’s a safety app they’ve been partnering on for example), and while they’re focused on the Mobile Application management side of the equation (software), they also have hardware reference designs ready to go to speed the IQon software into reality. While there’s still plenty of work left to do, Saab’s timeline of 18 months suddenly sounds very doable after learning more about Cybercom. This is another company we’re eagerly interested in talking with in addition to Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. While I’m very excited about the prospects of IQon, I’m also very concerned about interoperability issues, driver distraction, the app ecosystem, and carrier/network plans just to name a few. Maybe (hopefully) by listening to our community’s concerns we might be able to help Saab engineers and Cybercom programmers streamline and enhance this piece of technology we all will probably encounter on our next cars.

All in all, it’s clear that Saab’s new model of joint development and partnerships is a clear example of how to run a modern corporation. This is exciting stuff, folks.

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In other news, Saabs United friend Ray Wert who edits Jalopnik chimed in on a list of 11 cars that can make you cool. A Spyker C8 Aileron got the cover shot:

“The Spyker C8 Aileron is pretty flashy, but its authentic aviation-inspired engineering and design elements keep it in the cool column.”

If that’s the case, I hope Saab really plays up its own aviation-inspired elements in models to come.

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There was a short blog post on the values of bankruptcy on restoring a company’s value and its effect on the economy on Forbes this weekend too. It’s mostly an opinion piece, and while I agree with much of it (Saab is much leaner now due to the restructuring process), I disagree that certain elements of its liquidation helped. I’m not sure how much the author knew or cared about the details of the process though, as he refers to Victor Muller’s company as Stryker.

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An article on Wards Auto explains the various challenges Saab is facing as it tries to boost its sales in the US. It’s actually a great read and the best summary of what’s going on in the US market I’ve seen since Saab was sold and I think everyone interested in a fair and accurate assessment of what’s going on should read it. Several dealers who are friends of the site are quoted, check it out. My main confidence booster:

Saab spokesman Chris Wiseman tells Ward’s a market-specific plan for promoting the auto maker’s products in the U.S. is taking shape, closely involving dealers and a variety of mediums.

“We’re working on a plan of attack,” Wiseman says.

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In case you missed this viral video on the interwebs, a very bored guy tried to recreate the famous Lexus commercial from 1989 where an LS cruises past 140 mph on a dynamometer without toppling a pyramid of champagne glasses. Lexus’s social media department caught wind of it and created their own video to show exactly how it’s done (you have to level the glasses first, doh!). Either way, as much disdain as I have for Lexus, this kind of quick reaction actually impresses me. It makes me even happier to have Swade as Saab’s new social media guru, knowing he is tasked with making sure all Saab owners and fans worldwide feel like they’re the company’s #1 priority going forward.
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Speaking of Swade, he’s reached celebrity status on thelocal.se’s site:

Not to be outdone, TimR’s getting in on the action too at ttela.se (english version).

We’re lucky that the site is in such safe hands with Tim. I couldn’t be happier to be writing for SaabsUnited, and working with such committed writers. Even though we’ve hit some turbulence with our new server, we’re working on it and I can tell there are smooth skies ahead. Enjoy the flight.

Sunday Night Snippets – Bowler Edition

It’s a long distance relationship that we hinted at a few days ago thanks to a tip from SUHRT’s Jorgen Trued – now confirmed.

CPP has bought Bowler.

I’m not sure if I’ve got all this correct as I’m writing off the top of my head, but here goes……CPP Global Holdings Ltd is the same group owned by Vladimir Antonov (and I believe, also part owned by CPP Managing Director, Brendan O’Toole) that recently agreed to acquire Spyker’s sports car business. They are also the coachbuilding company that now makes Spyker vehicles since their move from Zeewolde.

And if you’re not familiar with Bowler’s vehicles, do yourself a favour and go Google them. Brutal beasts, they are. It’s nice to have them in the extended family.

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The Saab 9-3 Griffin is now being advertised in Sweden…..

…. nice image, that one. The ad also talks about the Saab 9-3 SportCombi now getting under the 120g/km bar.

243,000 crowns is around $38,000 US dollars.

Thanks to JH for the scan.

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People are still buying Saabs……

I’ve had two emails over the weekend relating to people shopping for Saabs. One for a Griffin and one stitching up a deal on a Saab 9-5 Aero.

It’s great to see, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about these purchases as time ticks on.

In the meantime, I’m making a few enquiries of my own. I’m still not in a position to buy new, but am having some thoughts about some vintage Swedish steel. I’ll keep you posted.

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This is the front of the Saab PhoeniX Concept….

And this is a quick photoshop of how the PhoeniX concept front end could be adapted for a future Saab 9-3. The artist wishes to remain nameless…..

Nice work. I’d give that a second look. For sure.

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The Saab IQon video is definitely proving to be the hit of the Geneva Motor Show news releases. It’s been picked up by motoring websites, as well as plenty of technology mags.

I took another look at it today using my Apple TV device to stream to my 40-inch screen and it looked absolutely fantastic. As of that viewing, it had been watched over 110,000 times.

It’s hard to say what was the bigger hit for Saab in Geneva – PhoeniX or IQon. Great to have them both there, however.

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It’s a long weekend here. Woohoo!

I have a lot of writing to do tomorrow, as well as trying to fit in a visit with fellow Saabnut Drew B and a good cleaning of the Monte Carlo. Busy days.

I hope you’re having a great weekend.

IQon wishlist: Weather app

Marco has sent me an email that I think could be the basis for a fantastic series: an IQon wishlist.

If you’re new, or have been asleep for the past week or so, IQon is the Android-based entertainment/communications/everything hub that will be first used in the Saab 9-3 replacement late in 2012. It will run applications, similar to those used on an Android phone, but written specifically according to the Saab API and available exclusively through a Saab app store.

You can get a video introduction to the IQon system here.

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Marco’s been thinking about this, thinking about what he’d want in an app for the IQon system. His first conclusion is for a weather app…….

The ‘imagination’ IQon Weather App for Saab:

Features:

  • Downloadable weather prediction and the current weather conditions in the form of observed temp, rain-, snowfall and even fog etc. This info can be obtained from airtraffic weather systems etc. and be updated as the journey progresses.
  • The above mentioned combined with navigation system, where you can input your destination gives you nice predictions of how and when the weather conditions will change during your drive.
  • The driver might also choose, what do do in changed weather conditions of choice like “when thick fog is predicted in my route, please direct me to the nearest gas station where I can have a meal/coffee”.
  • Another choice could be: “if rainfall (showers) can be avoided by choosing an alternative route, please do so”

This is just a quick thought on the issue. This list of features could go on and on…

And a final note. If these apps are percieved as distraction when the driver would need to touch the screen……. My answer would be: speech recognition. This technology has come far since it started. After a push of a button for example on the steering wheel the recognition is activated and you can browse your IQon menu by commanding it… No looking, no touching – just talk and listen …

We can leave the safety issue aside for a moment. Saab have already indicated that they’re looking at the operation of IQon to ensure it’s use will be as safe as possible.

The purpose of this entry is to kick off what I think could be a fun project – the IQon wishlist. Let’s stick with Marco’s idea of a weather app for the moment, which is a fantastic start. What other things could you envisage the app telling you? How else could it help? What else would you want to see in an app of this nature.

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Of course, if you’ve got an app on your IQon wishlist, sketch it out and send it in.

Video: Saab IQon system

Christopher McKinnon was kind enough to give me a walk-through of the Saab IQon system today at the Geneva Motor Show.

There’s no working system in a car here in Geneva (there are some being tested in Trollhattan at the moment, as you’ll hear) but Chris was able to use the video posted yesterday to give a brief explanation as to how the system will work.

It might pay to watch the official IQon video first…..

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BOd9oX1p4s

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And here’s Chris to help explain what all that will mean for Saab owners in the very near future…..

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL5R5YPtvbc

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Press Release: World First from Saab: Saab IQon – Open Innovation in Car Infotainment

  • Ground-breaking car communications platform using Android operating system
  • Enables flexible upgrading and personalization during the car’s lifecycle through downloading applications like a smartphone
  • Based on pioneering ‘open innovation’ with third-party service providers and applications developers
  • Test fleet on the road with beta version of IQon system

Trollhättan, Sweden: Saab Automobile is changing the auto industry infotainment landscape by engaging external partners in ‘open innovation’ for the development of its new IQon infotainment concept, using Google’s Android operating system. Saab IQon delivers a completely new car infotainment user experience, combining all that’s best from the mobile industry with Saab’s automotive knowledge and innovative spirit to create an infotainment system for the next generation of Saab cars. Users will be able to download a wide range of applications, online services and multi-media functions provided through a Saab IQon store.

Saab will issue third-party developers with a vehicle application programming interface (API) providing access to more than 500 signals from different sensors in the vehicle. These measure, for example, vehicle speed, location and direction of travel, driver workload, yaw rate, steering wheel angle, engine speed and torque, inside and outside temperature, barometric pressure and the sun’s position.

“With Saab IQon, there are no limits to the potential for innovation,” says Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. “We will be inviting the global Android developer community to use their imagination and ingenuity.” Saab’s collegiate development strategy – open innovation – is a ’first’ in the automotive industry and provides a faster, more efficient and more flexible alternative to the conventional, in-house development of vehicle infotainment services. “Today’s customers want to be as well connected inside the car as they are at all other times,” adds Formgren. ”IQon will give them the convenient, seamless connectivity they enjoy with smartphones, while adding new car-specific programs and services. IQon provides an embedded computer platform in the car with a modem which automatically connects to the internet when the car’s ignition is switched on.

An 8-inch touchscreen provides access to services, including audio and entertainment streaming, online navigation and on-board music storage. Saab’s ‘open innovation’ strategy offers the global developer community access to the full bandwidth of car communications – infotainment, telematics, systems monitoring and diagnostics. In this way, it opens up new dimensions in customer choice for the personalization of in-car services. Even applications specific to particular countries can be included.

“Our open innovation strategy, using the Android operating system, will keep the provision of in-car infotainment up to date,” adds Formgren. “IQon will allow infotainment services to constantly evolve during the lifetime of a car’s product cycle, unlike current in-car systems which are fixed some years before a car goes on sale and then remain static.” To ensure high driving safety and quality standards are maintained, programs from software developers and application providers will be evaluated and approved by Saab before they are made available to customers through the online Saab IQon store.

IQon also provides a platform for remote communication to and from the car with Saab dealerships, for example, using telemetry to upload vehicle data, carry out diagnostics, provide service appointments or even install some in-car options. The IQon system is shown for the first time in the Saab PhoeniX concept car at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. A beta version of the IQon system is already being trialed with company users in a fleet of test cars.

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