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.

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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 US sales data – July 2009

Most of you probably already saw this while I was sleeping, but out of tradition and for the benefit of those who haven’t, here’s the July sales report for US Saab sales.
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Saab 9-3: There were 421 units of the Saab 9-3 sold in July 2009. This is down 69.8% from the 1,394 vehicles sold in the same month in 2008.
Saab 9-5: There were 62 units of the Saab 9-5 sold in July 2009. This is down 72.7% from the 227 vehicles sold in the same month in 2008.
Saab 9-7x: There were 91 units of the Saab 9-7x sold in July 2009. This is down 77.5% from the 405 vehicles sold in the same month in 2008.
Total Saab sales: Total Saab sales in the US were just 574 vehicles, a fall of 71% from the 2,026 sales recorded in July last year.
Total year-to-date sales are 5,960 vehicles, which is down almost 58% from the 14,094 sold from Jan-July last year. There appears to be a very real chance that Saab’s US sales will not reach 10,000 vehicles this year.
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Again, as with the Swedish market, Saab are coming to a point of almost total irrelevance in the US due to lack of exposure and uncertainty about the brand’s fate.
The bigget killer is the lack of a proper leasing program and it’s more than a little ironic that GM’s marketing maven, Mark LaNeve, announced a new national leasing program for selected higher-end GM vehicles today. One of those vehicles will be the Saab 9-4x’s sister vehicle, the new Cadillac SRX.
In the next day or so, I’ll be publishing an open letter from a US-based Saab dealer, looking at the myriad issues they’re facing, and what they need to survive and grow in the future.

CARS program in US to be glassed* by midnight?!

UPDATE below
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News out of the US states that the CARS program (known as “Cash for clunkers) might be suspended by midnight tonight.
Dealers are having a hard time tracking all the trade-ins and the lack of surety means that they may – or may not – have gone through the 220,000+ transactions needed to exhaust the billion dollar fund already.
Within 4 days of it starting.
——
* The headline refers to the process dealers have to go through with the ‘clunker’ after it’s traded.
The engines are topped up with liquid glass!

The official process for killing the condemned engine sounds as simple to perform as it is deadly. A deadly cocktail of Sodium silicate, or liquid glass, is used to render the engine inoperable. Dealers are instructed to replace the car’s oil with the solution, then run the engine at 2,000 rpm until the engine stops working. The process supposedly takes three to seven minutes, after which, the dealer is supposed to start up the vehicle again. If the clunker starts up, the process must be repeated until it’s confirmed dead.

Once the engine takes a dirt nap, the dealer must add a sticker that reads: “This engine is from a vehicle that is part of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). It has significant internal damage caused by operating the engine with a sodium silicate solution (liquid glass) instead of oil.” The vehicle is then sent to a disposal facility that crushes or shreds the vehicle.

I hope that few, if any, Saabs had to go through this process. They should at least be recycled.
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UPDATE
The Auto Prophet has some videos of ‘clunkers’ getting their glass treatment.
Among them is a Volvo S80, which really looks like it should have had years and years left to go. As AP says in his post, maybe it had some mechanical issue that made it uneconomical to keep.
Whatever the problem was, it sure wasn’t the engine. That motor kept going long after it started complaining.
Poor thing. I feel like I’ve just watched a pet get put to sleep.

Who’s going to SOC 2009 at Copper Mountain?

The 2009 Saab Owner’s Convention is almost upon us. Once again, despite a high desireability factor, I won’t be able to make the overseas trip to go, though I do hope to get to a SOC one of these years.
This year’s event is at Copper Mountain in Colorado from August 13-16 and the pictures at the Rocky Mountain Saab Club website make the surrounds look very appealing indeed.
CopperMtn5.jpg
CopperMtn12.jpg
I note that ‘Vilfred’ has just dropped the following in comments:

Saab USA, Saab Sweden, or possibly Koenigsegg will be present at Copper Mountain for this year’s 2009 North American Saab Owners Convention. A remarkable announcement will be made at the Saturday night Awards Banquet. Saab, or possibly Koenigsegg, will address the year’s biggest gathering of Saab enthusiasts to announce the Koenigsegg philosophy and the new direction of the “Road to Indpendence”, explaining future plans for Saab in the US.

It appears to be a cut and paste from an email message signed off by the SOC09 Chairman.
The fact that representatives from SaabUSA would be attending is not that unusual from my observers experience of recent SOC’s. Even some form of attendance from Sweden is not an unusual event.
The representation from Koenigsegg, if it materialises, would be a true bonus. The message doesn’t confirm that this will be the case, but I sure hope it happens for the benefit of attendees and the rest of us in the Saab community as well. It’d be great to hear them speaking directly to their clientele.
So…..who’s going?
And if you’re interested in going and haven’t checked it out or registered yet, the Rocky Mountain Saab Club website has all the info you need. There’s a great list of varied events going on this year and being a rare occasion where the SOC is held outside the N.E.U.S I’m sure the lineup of cars will be unique.

Saab US sales data – May 2009

US sales data is out for May 2009 and whilst it’s still more of the same for Saab there with sales down by massive amounts, it’s customary to cover these numbers in good times and in bad. So here we go.
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Saab total – Saab sold 783 vehicles in total in the US. It wasn’t that long ago that they sold more 9-3s than that in a month. Saab car sales were down by 70% compared with May 2008, though sales of the 9-7x were actually up slightly on last year.
Saab 9-3 – sales of the Saab 9-3 totalled just 467 vehicles for the month, down by 72.8% from the 1,720 sold in May last year.
Saab 9-5 – sales of the Saab 9-5 totalled just 134 vehicles for the month, down by 47.2% from the 254 sold in May last year.
Saab 9-7x – as mentioned above, sales of the 9-7x were actually up from last year, with 182 sold in May 09 vs the 174 sold in the same month last year. That’s a small 4.6% rise.
2008 was a ‘down’ year and yet Saab sales are down by a massive 54.8% in total compared to last year in the United States. Saab have sold 4,607 vehicles this year, compared with 10,196 for the same period last year.
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I think the consistent sales of the 9-7x point to the fact that this is still a very popular segment in the United States. The pending arrival of the 9-4x is going to be very important for Saab. I think it’s going to be a pretty good drive, too. We’ve tended to forget about the 9-4x with everything that’s going with the 9-5 and Saab’s sale process, but it’s not going to be far behind the 9-5 and may provide a bigger sales spike than the 9-5 in the US, at least.
If you’re a dealer in the US, what do you think Saab needs the most right at the minute?
The boost from separating from GM and the certainty and marketing message that will bring?
The new 9-5?
The 9-4x?

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