What can we expect from Saab in the future?
Here’s the best guesses based on news reports and a little insider information.
LAST UPDATE: May 22nd, 2008
Saab showed the 9-X BioHybrid Concept in Geneva in March 2008. The GM Executives gathered there used some very cautious language when speaking about a production version of the car. Bob Lutz said that if it’s produced, it wil be called a 9-1, so that’s the name we’ll go with here.
The thing to remember is that as of that showing in Geneva, the hadn’t been signed off for production to the best of our knowledge. The word, post-Geneva, is that the car was so well received that it’s likely to be signed off soon.
If so, it can be built in Trollhattan as the plant there will be gearing up to produce vehicle on the next generation Delta platform once the 9-5 ships out to Russelsheim in 2009. Importantly, though, there’s three other GM plants around the world that can produce on this platform, so there’s some flexibility in terms of managing manufacturing to produce cars in markets that’ll take best avantage of currency fluctuations.
A production version of the 9-X BioHybrid Concept will most likely feature more market-friendly and cost-effective items like mirrors (instead of reversing cameras), 16 or 17 inch wheels, a C-pillar that allows for rearward vision, some extra height and a producable interior. The new Delta platform is also being built with a hybrid drivetrain in mind right from the outset.
The most important thing is that Saab will have to envision what this market will be producing in around three years from now – and nail it!
As yet, there’s no reliable word on when this car could make it to market. Various publications have opined anywhere between 2010 and 2012. My best guess is to take an average and say 2011, though everyone knows they need it before then.
The Saab 9-3 received a major refresh for the 2008 model year, with more than 2,100 changes to the vehicle, the addition of the TTiD engine and the XWD drivetrain.
Later in 2008, Saab are expected to release a XWD SportCombi that’s raised several inches and features some more rugged cladding. Think Audi Allroad style. This will be the Anti-SUV offering all the space most people need, but is likely to be largely ignored by many markets as markets are like that.
The US market can also expect to see XWD become available in the 2.0T model in the third quarter of 2008. The trickle down of XWD in other markets is as yet unknown, but there’s already been interest in the TTiD model in Europe.
UPDATE, MAY 2008.
The next generation of the Saab 9-3 is reported to be built on the upcoming Delta architecture. This is a smaller architecture than the Epsilon II architecture that the car was originally planned for, but should still allow for adequate space.
It’s believed that this decision has been taken to better differentiate between the Saab 9-3 and the Saab 9-5, as well as to have Saab’s volume seller retain a good efficiency rating.
This decision also means that the 9-3 can be built in the Trollhattan plan, in Sweden, though it’s production there is not confirmed.
If 2008 is the year for Saab concept cars, 2009 will be the year for new Saab production cars. One of these will be the Saab 9-4x.
First shown in Detroit in January 2008 as a four-cylinder BioPower model, the Saab 9-4x will be a five-seater SUV featuring a range of engines. The interior on the concept car was quite new and looked very close to production ready. If so, it may give us the first glimpse into a real life adaptation of the Aero-X interior for Saab and a preview of what the interior in the next Saab 9-5 might look like.
Early thoughts had the Saab 9-4x appearing before the 9-5, however recent chatter seems to indicate a release for the 9-4x late in 2009 as a 2010 model.
A production version of the Saab 9-4x was caught in testing in April 2008. Accompanying reports suggested that the Cadillac BRX would commence production in May 2009 with the Saab 9-4x to commence shortly thereafter, in the Fall of 2009.
UPDATE: May 2008
Models of the 9-5 sedan and estate weree shown to a GM gathering in Europe this week. the car was stated to be shown at the Geneva Motor Show, early in 2009.
UPDATE (Mar 08) – Jan Ake Jonsson stated in an interview at the New York Auto Show that the Saab 9-5 would be replaced with a new model in 2009. This is the first confirmation by someone inside Saab.
The current Saab 9-5 was propped up by Biopower sales in Sweden and is selling very few units elsewhere. Saab must have read the writing on the wall some time ago, knowing that a Biopower 9-3 was coming, and the indications to me have been that this new 9-5 has been full-steam-ahead ever since.
Dealers were shown lifesize models of this car in Sweden back from around July 2007 and all were drooling over it. It’s now expected to show in early 2009.
The outgoing model will get a special edition package later in 2008 to see out its time as yet another long-serving Saab model.