Saab: Not Dead Yet

In the latest issue of Bloomberg Business Week, there is an interesting and comprehensive article regarding Saab and its new owner, Spyker of The Netherlands.

Among the interesting bits of info:

Spyker’s CEO himself has designed a new compact Saab 92, but it exists only on paper at this point. In order to produce it, his company needs to source both the chassis and the engine from other companies, with Mini being a possibile supplier. The new 92 might see the light of day by 2013.

Very soon, the following vehicles will be introduced:

A new 9-5 that was engineered by Opel (sound familiar?). It has already been well-received by the European motoring press, and is slated to sell for $40k to $55k. It has been called “the best Saab that GM ever designed”.

The 9-4X SUV. This is actually a badge-engineered Cadillac SRX. Hmmmm

A newly redesigned 9-3. While the article has few details regarding the new 9-3, based on the development cycle, it is almost surely also a GM/Opel design.

Clearly it will be some time before Saab/Spyker has the resources to manufacture cars that are of their own design, so it was probably inevitable that they would have to take what was in the development pipeline before GM sold the company. However, after the market failures of the 9-7X (a badge-engineered Chevy Trailblazer, nicknamed the “Trollblazer”), and the 9-2X (a rebadged Subaru WRX, nicknamed the “Saabaru”), it makes me wonder how successful they will be with the new GM designs that they inherited.

Only time will tell, but I suspect that it will not take very long to see how viable the “new” Saab entity actually is. In my area, the two largest Saab dealers closed their doors a few months ago, so I am not sure where someone in this area would even go to buy one of these cars!

What WERE they thinking!

Top Gear, the british car show known for its candor, tested a Spykey a while back. It compared poorly to other high performance sports cars.

Time will tell.

Car and Driver had a similar article recently, with computer generated images of the 92 concept. Talk about a blast from the past! I wonder how many recent Saab buyers know what a 92 is? Or even a 96. Saab Sonnet, anyone?

There was a time when Saab produced quirky, interesting vehicles, many of which possessed near bullet-proof reliability. Sadly, things have changed.

I wish Spyker the best of luck with Saab. I don’t want to see the brand go away, but I can’t say I’m inclined to consider buying one.

It will be fun to watch and see how they try to work out all the problems of producing and selling a line of Saab vehicles. Who knows, five years from now they might be the “not new brand” that everyone wants. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

The best move Spyker could make is to dig out the old tooling for Saab’s old 4 cylinder turbo and non turbo engine, the one from the '80’s. The motor could generate plenty of hp and torque, meet pollution specs, and was always reliable. It even had a good sound from the exhaust. Get rid of all the GM V6’s and never look back.

If they took an old '84 900 Turbo as the base car. Updated it with some frame strengthening, suspension updates, new brakes, and the good old Saab motor they’d have a car vastly superior to any GM design they have to work with. If people want a GM car they can buy a GM car from GM. Saab needs to get back to building Saab’s.

I doubt they have the tooling; probably no foundry, either. Starting the operation would be way too expensive. Opel is quite popular in Europe; Saab could do far worse in choosing a local supplier.

Syker/SAAB would be wise to follow the Honda model and make reliability an important consideration in a limited model line. Get out of SUVs and make nothing but quality sport/sedans-wagons in 2 and awd for a premium Acura price if need be.
Saab needs to get back to building Saab’s. That will be tough as they had an identity problem from the get-go with their parts. That limited use 2 stroke on my first and Triumph motor in my SAAB 99 soured me for all times.