Diesel paying its way quicker than hybrids?

Trollhattan Saab – May, 2005

Jay Spenchian should really be pushing for GM to test the diesel-waters in the US for the 9-3 Sport Sedan, Sport Combi and Convertible. We’re right at the beginning of a new dawn for diesel and Saab is well positioned to take advantage.

Trollhattan Saab – Sept 2005:

I mentioned here the other day that Bob Lutz doesn’t think diesels are a certainty for the US, though I’m pretty certain that Saab’s competition will be introducing them when the legislation makes the commercial environment better suited. A failure on GM’s part to get this right will lead to a huge loss of marketshare. There’s been enough comments here and elsewhere to make this decision an apparent no-brainer. The old adage that American customers wouldn’t accept them because they’re scarred by bad memories of diesels is rightly squished by The AutoProphet when he says that “the myth would be dispelled the moment that modern diesel engine cars from Europe [were] demonstrated here.”

Edmunds – January 2006:

While diesel clearly isn’t the answer to everyone’s prayers, the U.S. market is unquestionably missing out on the modern diesel phenomenon. Bountiful torque, excellent refinement and a huge range are qualities well suited to the American highway. It is surely time to put away the prejudices of the 1970s and embrace the modern diesel engine.

SaabUSA – May 2006:

Before we make a strong – and expensive – push to make Saab diesels compliant with US regulations and bring it over here, we have to make sure that it is worth the effort for the relatively small brand that we are.
Currently, we are not convinced that such is the case.

Trollhattan Saab – April 2007:

I kept writing about this ad infinitum until I got a chance to discuss it with Saab USA. At that time I was told that the 1.9 diesel used in Europe wasn’t compliant with US emissions laws, and it’d be too expensive to undergo the compliance tests for Saab anyway. They didn’t see a big market for diesel at the time due to the higher cost of the fuel there and the added cost of manufacture. They were, however, open to reassessment in all of this.
Fast forward to today’s story, and we learn that this very same 1.9 litre diesel engine might be making a US debut in the Astra for Saturn. The only obstacle that’s mentioned in the article is the additional $1,000 or so that the oilburner would add to the price of the Astra. No mention is made of compliance.

Autoblog – May 2006:

Autoblog reported yesterday that diesel’s accounted for 22% of Volkswagen’s US sales in the first four months of 2006.

Trollhattan Saab – May 2006:

if Saab don’t prepare for the new US regulations on diesel and get these highly successful and well regarded cars to the US market – then they’ve got rocks in their heads.

Bob Lutz – September 2007

We have the gravest of doubts that diesels are the solution.

Autoweek – January 2008:

BMW will begin selling two new performance-oriented diesel models in North America in 2008–the 335d sedan and X5 3.0sd SUV.
Both vehicles run a specially adapted version of BMW’s existing 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder common rail diesel engine. The diesel is fitted with an oxidation catalyst, particulate filter and a system to reduce nitric oxide outpt, which allows the powertrain to be sold in all 50 states.

Trollhattan Saab – January 2008

The Saab TTiD is a brilliant engine and should be sold in the US. I’d defy any US driver to have a crack at it and not enjoy it.

Thos quotes were all from a post back in January 2008 and I haven’t covered the “Diesel for the US” campaign much since then.
Perhaps it’s time to get back on the train. With a new owner coming on board, maybe they’ll see the sense in getting Saab into the US diesel market.
The latest quote to add to the pile is this one:
Edmunds Auto Observer – July 2009

With gasoline and diesel fuel prices staying low — and uncharacteristically consistent — as the summer progresses, data analysts at Edmunds.com, parent of AutoObserver, did a recent crunch of the often-discussed payback times for the nation’s two competing fuel-saving drivetrains: hybrid-electric and diesel-engine vehicles.
The latest round goes to diesel.
There are two factors currently working in diesel’s favor. First, diesel fuel prices have dropped precipitously since last summer’s explosion to $4 per gallon (and beyond) and normalized to pricing quite near regular unleaded gasoline.
Second, the price “premium” for diesel technologies is low — and in a few cases, combines with federal tax credits to make the diesel-powered vehicle actually cheaper than a comparable gasoline-engine variant of the same model. For those vehicles, diesel engine payback time is immediate.

Saab 9-3 TTiD Road Test – Australia

Following are a few enlargeable scans from RoyalAuto, the magazine of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.
They’ve just published this review of the Saab 9-3 TTiD. Turbin spotted it, scanned it and sent it in.
It’s a good positive writeup and well worth a read for those interested in the TTiD. I’ve chopped it up a little for the sake of bandwidth economy.
Thanks Turbin!

Saab TTiD opportunity in the US?

Co2 is harmful to the environment and its output needs to be regulated.
That statement wouldn’t surprise a single European reader but it might come as a surprise to US readers. Up until now the US market was mainly concerned with fuel economy and NOx output.
It seems that’s about to change as the EPA has finally come out and announced – actually, it’s more than announced, they’ve declared – that Co2 output is harmful and is going to come under the microscope.

In a letter to the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared CO2 a danger to public welfare. This represents the next step in the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions that come from motor vehicles, power plants, factories, as well as certain appliances. The so-called “endangerment finding” that CO2 is harmful is currently under review in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). If it approves the finding, CO2 could be regulated under the Clean Air Act as stipulated by the Supreme Court in 2007.

Of course, Co2 output is a key indicator in Europe already, where in many countries, the taxes associated with a vehicle are based on Co2 output.
Saab have recently modified their superb TTiD engine to get it under the magic 140g/km emissions mark and thereby make it more attractive to corporate and private buyers alike.
I’ve been trumpeting the introduction of Saab’s diesels into the US market since way back in 2005 and GM have consistently said that they couldn’t justify the investment. This announcement from the EPA is just another brick along the road of progress and yet another indicator as to how far off the mark GM have been with Saab.
I hope a new owner can reconsider and bring these superb engines into the US market. The only companies to invest in diesel for the US were the German manufacturers and they’ve been getting plenty of kudos for doing so (also as predicted).
There’s going to be plenty of acceptance as US consumers get more and more comfortable with modern diesel technology. Saab would be crazy to miss out on a slice of that pie.

2.9 V6 diesel on hold – and some thoughts on those 9-5 spyshots

GM announced yesterday that they were placing their big stonking Duramax diesel on hold. That engine was destined for their big SUV’s.
I’ve just received some info suggesting that the 2.9l V6 diesel that GM were developing through VM Motori has also been placed on hold. Apparently there are problems in Italy where the engine is being developed. Saab’s focus on emissions and efficiency are probably part of the issue as well.
This engine was due to appear in the Saab 9-5 and Saab 9-4x for the European and (quite likely) Australian markets and it’s loss will be a blow for these models.
I have to assume that both these new models should have access to the superb four cylinder TTiD engine in the Saab 9-3, but the bigger version in the newer vehicles would have been a bonus.
In other news, I heard from a Saab insider in the last few hours. He wanted to pass some comments along about the Auto Motor and Sport images of the Saab 9-5 that I showed here yesterday.
I’ve got his OK to pass this along….

One image was “close-ish, but no cigar”
The other was “not even close”

I’ll let you figure out which was which.
Big images are available directly at Auto Motor and Sport

Saab 9-3SC TTiD owner’s review

We haven’t heard from Kaz in a little while here at the TS/SU collective so before you read this review, I’d better give you a little backstory.
Kaz is a regular here at the site and we’ve covered a good number of his cars over the years. Yes, that’s cars – plural. Kaz is on some sort of sweet deal where he gets a new Saab every five months or so. Well, a new GM car. He just happens to choose a Saab.
All that is going to change, of course, when Saab move away from the GM fold, so Kaz is quite upset by recent events. He’s managed to fight back the tears, though, and mail through this owner’s review of the Saab 9-3 TTiD SportCombi that’s currently gracing his driveway.
Take it away, Kaz……
There are no pictures here. Just words. But I think words are enough. When I first ordered the 9-3SW TTid Aero, I knew I was going to get a special car. Yes, I’m mainly a convertible guy, and I adore the V6 engine. But even I freely admit that the Aero TTid in Wagon form is probably the best all round vehicle in the Saab stable at the moment.
I write this review with a hint of sadness. With everything going on at GM and the move towards independance for SAAB, it means that they are now no longer available on the list of vehicles I can choose :(. I must say that I have certainly been spoilt, and am grateful to have been so lucky to savour so many different Saab configurations. In doing so, I have learnt one incredible thing from my experiences. Most cars have lost their character.
Thankfully, the 9-3 still has some. It has flaws, as do all cars, but the faults I’ve had during my Saab journey so far have endeared me more to the brand. There is a bond that develops between man and car which is often forgotten in the modern era. Can you really love an Audi or a BMW? I don’t think so. you can certainly admire them, but do they smile at you? No.
The 9-3’s I’ve had the pleasure of driving over the past 4 years or so have all been unique in their personality. I’ve had 2.0T’s, 2.8V6’s I’ve even sampled a 120bhp 1.9 Tid Arc. All have been fabulous. But you know what, the real gem is this TTid engine. There is a mutual respect when driving the 9-3. It’s almost as if the car is reassuring you that you can have fun, but it will still look after you. After many country road journeys’, I have learnt that this car is not just a car, it’s a friend.
The functionality and practicality of the Wagon is well known. What isn’t so well known is how easily that practicality is forgotten. You get used to it. So much so that I often forget how much you can actually pack into the car. Our house has a set of steep steps to the porch, and I have often cursed my over enthusiasm of loading the boot to the brim when the need comes to unload everything back into the house. The 9-3 wagon takes it all, and no matter how heavy the load, the amazing torque from the TTid engine just keeps driving forward.
Unladen the Aero TTid is more agile than the 2.8V6. There is a very tight country road close to my place and it consists of a long tight right hander, followed quickly by two tight left handers and a medium right hander. I’ve got through it much quicker in the TTid than I ever did in the 2.8V6. The 2.8V6 in comparison feels a little lumpen when changing direction, understeering a little more before the Re-Axis system kicks in properly and helps you round the corner.
The wave of torque the 9-3 Aero TTid offers is truly astonishing. Mid range, it will keep up with much more exotic material. All of which have barely a fraction of that thing called character. I could have sworn my Aero TTid winked at me the other day, some may call it a defective indicator bulb, but it has been fine ever since, and it happened after we had some immense fun on a road known as the A6 between Luton and Bedford.
The tip tronic system works well, and the sports mode is very effective. In normal mode, the gearbox can be a little slow to react at times, so if you are ever at a roundabout that requires a quick get-away, make sure you use the sport button in tip-tronic mode.
This will be my last Saab for a while. At least until we move out of the UK (that is another story). And I write this with a little tear in my eye. Saab needs to survive.
Like I said earlier, there are no pictures here, just words. SAAB may well get bullied by some corners of the press. It may be called nasty things by the Audi and BMW crowd, heck even some saabisti have lambasted my little friend. But you know what, I don’t care. I love my 9-3, it loves me. The world has lost many characters in the car world. Where are the modern Alfa Suds? Where are the modern 900 Turbos? They are dying. But at least there is a hint of that character still left in SAAB.
You get better handling in a BMW, you get better materials inside your Audis’, you get more horsepower in your Mercs. But you know, I really don’t care. You want to know why?
Because my car smiles at me.
Peace, and good luck to Saab. I always save a smile for you.

Expect to hear a lot more about weight-saving design

I’ve read several press releases in the last few days talking about Saab’s “weight-saving design.” The article about the new reduced-emissions TTiD being promoted in Europe this week mentioned it. And today, the new BioPower/TTiD press release from Australia mentioned it too.
I’m pretty sure they actually weigh around the same as they did last year, so why all the dietary talk?
It seems to be part of Saab’s new emphasis on a word that’s been around for years in Saab circles – EcoPower.
From the Aussie press release:

Saab BioPower is part of the broader Saab environmental strategy EcoPower, which combines the enjoyment of a dynamic driving experience with the efficient use of resources to achieve responsible performance.

I’m pretty sure our 1994 Saab 9000 has EcoPower written right there on the engine.
This seems to be a new bit of promotional activity to tie-in with the Saab 9-3x release, which will happen in Geneva in a week from now. I’d suggest they’re going to promote the Saab 9-3x as a genuine SUV alternative, with the weight saving line being used in comparison to your normal large SUV’s.
Get used to hearing it. You’ll be hearing it a lot more this year.
A good thing, too. It’s a Saab-smart way to do things, even if it’s a little more marketing speak than intended design.

Saab at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show

How about some good, car-related news for a change?
The Geneva Motor Show is almost upon us. Yes. Saab will be there, and so will SaabsUnited.com.
We’ve managed to secure media-grade entry for our unofficial Saab ambassador to the UK, Robin M. He’ll be there to see Saab’s offerings at the show as well as ask the hard questions of all the Saab executives there.
Robin won’t be alone, either. He’ll be hanging out with the owner of the most elegant Saab convertible in history, our mate from France – Golfhunter, who’ll be there reporting for Etienne’s Saabhuy blog. It should be a fun time and a great moment for Anglo-Franco relations.
Saab will be showing off the new Saab 9-3x in all its glory and I’ll be quite keen to get Robin’s impressions of it.
I think the subtle changes they’ve made to the 9-3 SportCombi are sensational and add that extra bit of personality the car needs. I’m looking forward to driving one sometime in the near future.
Saab 9-3x
The Saab 9-5 Griffin should also be there. Given that Robin’s a 9-5 owner himself I’m sure he’ll have an interest in the car.
The other news out of the show, news that’s been overtaken by recent events to no small degree, is that Saab have tweaked their TiD and TTiD diesel engines in order to reduce emissions.

Linear and Vector specification Sport Sedans, powered by the 150 hp/110 kW, single turbo or the 180 hp/132 kW, two-stage turbo 1.9-liter engine, now produce just 139 gm/km CO2 and impressive fuel consumption of 5.3 l/100 km over the combined cycle. The SportCombi’s figures are also improved, to 144 gm/km and 5.5 l/100 km.
In terms of CO2 grams per horsepower, the two-stage turbo models (badged 1.9TTiD) are now among the top performers in their class.
The efficiency gains, averaging 7 percent, have been achieved by a series of fine-tuning measures including: the use of wider gear ratios, a longer final drive, idle and low engine speed remapping, and an optimized tire and wheel choice. Zero to 100 km/h acceleration is unchanged, while fifth gear 80-120 km/h times are increased by less than one second.

If there’s a downside to this, it’s that these variants are only available with manual transmissions.
Better fuel economy and reduced emissions provide a double-banger benefit for the driver. As most of the countries in which diesels are sold base their vehicle taxes on emissions outputs, that means reduced overheads for the owner as well as reduced running costs through greater economy.

The Truth about the Saab 9-3, XWD and diesel

Ever since Saab introduced their XWD system, people have been dreaming of a Saab 9-3 SportCombi with XWD and a diesel engine. OK, maybe it’s not everyone who’s been dreaming of this, but many in Europe have.
The first explanation I received about combining XWD and diesel when I enquired some time ago was that the diesel engines used in the Saab 9-3, both the TiD and the TTiD, did not allow enough room for the XWD system.
“The XWD system will not fit” they said.
It seems that they didn’t finish the sentence. It should have been “The XWD system will not fit within the amount people will pay.”
We’ve been talking about this again because of the impending arrival of the Saab 9-3x. It was thought that with a bit of extra clearance, there might finally be room for both diesel and XWD now.
Sadly, it seems this will not be the case, though not because of a lack of accommodation. The Saab 9-3x will be available with the body modifications and a diesel engine, however the diesel version(s) will be front-wheel-drive only.
Our Saab insider has been in touch in order to clarify the situation with regards to diesel and XWD. Some say that he’s actually part herring and if you cut him, he’ll freeze. All we know is….. he’s called Djup Strupe:

It is true that the diesel is only available on FWD versions, the reason is not technical, but is about the cost of the changes necessary to combine the two. There is a new clutch housing required, which is very costly, some new engine brackets and a modified air intake. There is a particle filter available from the upcoming Saab 9-5 that would work, so that would not need to be new even though the FWD particle filter doesn’t fit in together with the propshaft..

So bottom line: the Saab 9-3 is already a vehicle that some class as being overpriced. The combination of XWD and diesel is a very attractive one, but it would have been too expensive to produce and therefore, too expensive to sell.
Remember that the 9-3’s underpinnings were not designed with all-wheel-drive in mind, so the fact that the XWD system was suitable to adapt to the 9-3 is a bonus in itself. It’s just a shame that the diesel version would not be economically viable as I’m sure there’d be a good market for it.
I’m sure future Saab vehicles will be designed in a way that overcomes problems like this one.

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