What’s going on with the Saab 9-3?

The Saab 9-4x and the Saab 9-5 will be the next production vehicles we’ll see from Saab. The 9-4x will be built in Mexico and the 9-5 in Russelsheim, Germany.

It’s been thought that the Saab 9-3 would follow the 9-5 to Germany due to the belief that they will both reside on the Epsilon II platform.

This story from the Trollhattan newspaper, TTELA, seems to be casting some doubts over the 9-3′s move, and even whether the 9-3 will be built on Epsilon in the future.

Thanks to Tobias for the translation.


The next generation 9-3 production site is still not determined. GM is thinking of building the next 9-3 on a smaller architecture, in which case Trollhattan has suddenly high potential for production.

Head of information Eric Geers confesses that the next gen 9-3 is no longer decided. Its not obvious to build on the mid-size architecture. Bob Lutz thinks that the 9-3 can be built on a different architecture. The decision to build the 9-3 in Rüsselsheim was based on the fact that the car was to be built on the mid-size architecture. If this was to change then Rüsselsheim is no longer a possibility.

If we choose to build the car on the compact structure it is a theoretical possibility to build the car in Trollhattan, says Geers. The compact structure, known as Delta, is possible to build in four EU countries from around 2010. It is the same structure that the small 9-1 will be built on.

Paul Åkerlund, chairman from the Union, says that the discussion regarding the 9-3 was ended, but new discussions has started as a result of the debate about our climate. A small structure means a smaller car and vice versa.

Paul doesn’t want to make any premature conclusions, but he claims that the factory will be ready if the opportunity comes along.

Eric points out that a decision on a smaller 9-3 doesn’t automatically means that they will be built in Trollhattan. There are four more plants to take in consideration. – It is good for us that the discussion is ongoing.


Just me thinking out loud here……

This is a rather stunning development and obviously poses somewhat of a threat to the 9-1 being an additional car in the Saab lineup. If the Saab 9-3 is to go smaller then it may even be possible that the 9-X Biohybrid is a basis for it, partially explaining the lack of a “1″ in the name.

The guys at Motor Trend might have a point here….

Mike Floyd writes that it looks good for U.S. import, while I remain dubious, as in a previous post. There’s just not room under the 9-3 pricing for a premium hatchback with a Saab badge in North America.

I’ll be emailing Saab about this shortly to see if we can clear the air a little.

32 thoughts on “What’s going on with the Saab 9-3?

  1. I thought the 9-5 was getting bigger, but if it’s not getting bigger, then this could make sense and keep more Saabs built in Sweden. Sounds good to me.

  2. Very interesting!! Leaves room for a 9-1 supermini built in Korea alongside the Barina/Aveo ; )

  3. This makes sense. The 9-3 and 9-5 are so close in size that I can see the 9-5 getting bigger along with the 9-3 getting smaller, and there would still be room for a 9-1. “Bigger” and “smaller” might mean measurements of centimeters or a mere inch.. not massive size changes, who knows.

    There is an interesting comment that there is no room on the bottom of the market for a competitively priced 9-1 in relation to the 9-3, but I have a feeling that the 9-3 might become more expensive. something like $26k for a 9-1, $28-32k for a 9-3, and $36-40k for a 9-5. There is room, and still to be slightly under BMW and Audi, if that is what they are aiming for. I don’t know the exact pricing strategy for the 9-3 and 9-5 now.. im too lazy to look it up, but the bottom line is that I can see Saab increasing its pricing slightly to make room for a 9-1.

  4. This makes me worry.. The 9-3 isn’t exactly a big car, and seeing as the new A4 has grown slightly, and the new C-class isn’t too cramped either, I think it would be a step in the wrong direction if they made the 9-3 any smaller. Previously, the 900/9-3 was considered to be in the same size category as the Vectra, Mondeo and Passat, but now each of these cars has gotten big, with outside lengths like that of the 9-5.

    If you have a look at the (not very pretty) A6, it’s 492cm long if I remember correctly. The 9-5 is 482, and although boot space is sufficient in Estate/SportWagon, rear legroom isn’t all that great..

    I would like the 9-3 to be of similar size as of today, perhaps a few cm longer to improve on rear legroom (or just a longer wheelbase), and the 9-5 to grow a little as well to match the german trio competitors in size. Then the 9-1 can sit comfortably below the 9-3 and compete with A3 and the 1-series.

    I can already imagine auto journos writing about the next 9-3 “Based on the Opel Astra..”

  5. Edonis, spot on!
    9-3 needs to grow to compete.
    9-5 REALLY needs to grow.
    9-1 looks perfect.

  6. An example of this move is the Volvo S40, and all we know the bad move it was. Now Volvo it will recover the S60 project as a successor of the current model and joint the S40 and S60 in the same segment with the new S60.

    Also you have the “technical” features in terms of roadholding, space and so… isn’t the same an architecture developed with the idea of a compact car, than another one developed to be used in a sedan. In terms of roadquality, safety, performance and so there is a lot of difference.

    The VW Passat uses the Golf platform as a reference, is longer but in the design of the platform they take in consideration that is going to be used in a upper model.


  7. Who’s to say that the next Astra won’t be about the size of the current 9-3 anyway? Our 9-3SC is a really good fit for a young, small family. I expect that the 9-5 will be larger enough that it makes sense as a step-up for a growing family or individuals that like their space. The 9-4x will be a further step up.

  8. I don’t think the 9-3 should get smaller. It needs to stay the current size, or just a grow barely to provide a little more legroom.

    But the idea of it not being on Epsilon, makes the only other choice Alpha. Alpha is RWD though. Which could make sense maybe, keep the BLS and 9-3 being built next to each other…

    I also figured the 9-5 would ride on LWB (long wheel base) EpII and the 9-3 would ride on SWB EpII.

    Interesting rumblings.

  9. Well, given that it is already 08 now, i doubt that the successor will arrive in 2010. It takes longer than that to develop a new car. What worries me a bit is that there are no spy photos of the 9-5. They need to have at least 1 winter worth of testing before starting to sell it and we have not seen any of it this year…

    The same goes for the 9-4 but at least that one is not scheduled until next summer or so.

    Re the 9-3. Everything gets bigger. The current 9-3 is acceptable size. Longer wheelbase with more legroom is what is needed. The 9-5 need to grow some 20cm then there is room below the 9-3.

  10. 9-3 & 9-5 should stay their current sizes.If Saab wants to build bigger or smaller develop new models like 9-1 or 9-6/8.

  11. I really would prefer a bigger 9-3. They already made the leg room smaller in the more recent (07 and 08) models of the 9-3. I am still able to drive my wifes 9-3 (2001) just fine, but at 6’4” the newer models of the 9-3 is not an comfortable option (only the 9-5, which is a great car btw….although I still would prefer a 9-3).

  12. Isn’t the soon to be produced chevy volt on the delta II platform? – Looks to be about the same dimensions as a 9-3, give or take

  13. I don´t think it will be a big diffrent in size. At least that is not how I interpert it when I read the swedish article. I personally don’t think it is a big problem if the 9-3 shrinks just a little but i must do it in the right places. For exampel rear legroom neds to be a little bigger…

    What worries me is if the aren’t sure wich platform to use, that means that development hasn’t started! Will the 9-3 get as old as the current 9-5?

    On the positiv side another Swedishmade Saab sound nice!

  14. Get the 9-1 into production and stretch the platform for a new 9-3 built in the same plant.
    Makes sense doesn’t it? Trollhattan could only make Saabs then. It wouldn’t have the capacity to really do anything else except a few Astra convertibles perhaps?

  15. Fully agree with Edonis # 5.
    Seems that most people complains over the 9-3 size.That’s understandable for the SS models: first they drop the hatch, and then make the cabin smaller compared to the OG 9-3.
    My self, I swapped my 2x 9-3 BSR2 Aero’s 2001 to 9-5 AUT BSR2 Aero’s in 2003 /4, and what a difference ! No more torque steering, and sufficient head room and legspace. I will never go back to a 9-3, unless it gets the size of today’s 9-5.
    Please Saab: make the new 9-5 significantly bigger, (wheelbase) and -BRING BACK THE HATCH !

  16. Just when GM had us believing that they are 100 per cent behind Saab this turns up? This is exactly the same indecisiveness that has delayed the new 9-5 for years. And we all know how poor the old one is selling at the moment. Soon the journos will start writing that the 9-3 is hopelessly outdated, the sales will drop considerably and then Saab better have the new 9-3 ready!

  17. The article doesn’t mention that a future 9-3 with be smaller. The question is raised as to whether a smaller architecture could be a viable solution.
    A few articles that I have read about the next Generation Delta platform is that it will grow noticeably in size. This will make it larger than the current VW Jetta which is on par with the current 9-3 in size, although is placed in the c-segment.
    Although many have been positive of the room in the new Audi A4, some are a little critical as they feel the A4 has now out grown the compact executive class it should be in.
    If Saab were to build the next Gen. 9-3 using an extended version of the Delta II architecture it is quite likely that the new 9-3 will be larger than the current one. Come the anticipated arrival of the new 9-3, which could be calculated at 2012 as a ’13MY the added advantage to using Delta is that it will only be 2 or 3 years into it’s life cycle. Epsilon on the other hand will be coming on 5 years. To build a future 9-3 using epsilon II so far in the architecture’s life cycle would put the vehicle in a worse state than the 9-5 currently.

    Personally what this shows is that GM realise that Saab’s products are totally out of sync with their global platform cycle and that they are looking at a solutions to harmonise the portfolio. I can see more positives for moving on to a Delta II based vehicle then sticking with Epsilon. That doesn’t mean Epsilon should be ruled out forever, and as a nice speculation point. What about a Sports Coupe on Epsilon III for 2015?

  18. Build the 9-1. And build it on shortened Epsilon II. That’s the premium way to go.

  19. I don´t think there is a problem not selling a Golf sized car in the US. The market is strong for such a vehicle here in Europe and maybe Asia and Oz. It will sell in numbers that justifies it´s production without the US market.

  20. If anyone at GM thinks I am going to buy a smaller 9-3 and above that, a 9-3 based on the Astra parts bin, well think again. I will not buy it.
    I consider the current 9-3 as about right in size, although the next one should have some 4 extra cm’s of kneeroom in the back.

  21. If you think you’re buying a smaller 9-3 then you’ve missed the point, plus it’s not Astra it’s Delta. Even if the NG9-3 moves onto an extended Delta platform it will still be larger than the Current 9-3. As in a previous comment about Future Saab’s using more GM parts. Saab is GM and all parts belong to GM. With Toyota, Citroen, Peugeot and Mitsubishi developing new products together to create the right synergies, Saab will never be in a position to develop a model with all components unique to the brand alone.
    Moving a product onto a new and ultimately technologically advanced architecture is a far better use of resources, and credit should go to the person who was thinking ‘out of the box’ instead of blindingly going down the route; of what will be an outdated Epsilon platform when it’s time to change.

  22. Today, 9-3 is 4,65m long and wheelbase 267,5cm
    9-5 is almost 4,85 and wb 270,3 cm. The c-segment is growing so here is my opinion: 9-1: 4,3-40m/wb2,60; 9-3: 4,6-7/wb2,70; 9-5: 4,9-5,0/wb2,80 or even longer. It doesn’t matter which platform the car will be built on, the main thing is what components it will consists of. Light-weight materials such as magnesium/aluminium, double whishbone suspension in front and perhaps in the rear too. Haldex 4 as option and here we go!

  23. I think the exchange rate is the issue here. My guess is EP2 is a fairly expensive proposition. If the 9-3 can be built on Delta 2 and made about the same size of the current car that would leave room for the 9-1. The 9-3 would be a sedan, conv, wagon, while the 9-1 is the 2 door hatch. I actually like this idea as it will allow the 9-3 to have a reasonable price. One of the things I like about my 9-3 is the size and weight. The car is fairly light (in 2.0T form) for it’s size. The next 9-3 could use a 1.8T as the entry level engine world wide.

  24. …I still do not understand, why the GM 900 got smaller than the good old 900CC. Still, the current 93SS is bigger than the BMW 300 series. BMW is rather sized like a VW Jetta or Corolla.
    As metioned the 4,30m of the new concept car are confusing, but most of the new small compact cars in size of VW Golf and Toyota Corolla/Auris are in this territory. Just as a remainder, VW Polo, Vauxhall Corsar and Fiat Pinto are around 4m long.

    The new concept car as a three box design would be as long as BMW’s 300s.

    Earlier scetches about the new concept car showed a completly different design. Looking smaller indeed.

    Thus, are we misslead?

    Anyway, you can only buy what Saab is showing in its showrooms. There is no three door hatchback as far as I remember. But Saab needs exactly such a car to catch the attention of younger male dirvers. At least the old 900 could do the job (less the GM 900).

  25. WooDz: I agree with your comments. For a change though, I would like Saab to be first to use the Delta II platform with the 9-1. This would only help other GM brands. If Opel. Vauxhall, Saturn and Holden release their Astras shortly after a Saab 9-1, they can all claim some prestige by saying that their cars are based on a premium Saab platform.

    The next 9-3 can then grow out of the 9-1 on a stretched Delta II platform, hopefully built at Trollhattan? It would be good if the next 9-3 could have a larger range of boydystyles including hatches. I have never been against Saab making notchbacks, but since the release of the 99 Combi Coupe, hatches have proved to be the most popular and abandoning the hatch has proven costly for Saab.

    I think a 9-1 has the potential to become the most popular Saab outside of the US. It may be difficult to market in America initially, but over time it’s importance will grow there also, but currently the climate in the US is not ideal for it. This explains GM’s hesitance, but I say establish it in other markets first and work the US when there’s a proven product. The 9-1 could likely double Saabs sales in Europe, UK, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

  26. Markac, Absolutely right about products running from the top tier down. If that means Saab gets a product after Cadillac then so be it. The problem is still money and OPEL hane the funds to bring products to market quicker. I could get annoyed about that but that’s the facts. Should GM starve it’s other products while it brings Saab for example up to speed?

    I agree with what you have written and it follows a comment i made a few days ago under the heading ‘More Lutz on Saab’.

    What I find most interesting about the above article is why GM/Saab have considered this, what the reason behind it is?

  27. If GM has to ‘slow’ a couple of brands a fraction to let Saab catch up with it’s 9-1, then so be it.
    It hasn’t done anyone any good having Saab trailing in the background. I’m only saying give Saab a 6 month lead with the Delta II platform before cheaper cars are built on it. It would look terrible if Saab got the platform after even Daewoo has started using it!

  28. 9-3 needs to get a little bigger!
    dont change this one to much. its successful the way it is, so dont change it.
    9-5 needs to get bigger, and bring a new one soon.
    9-1 make one.


    do not try downsizing cars and still competing with bmw/audi.


  29. @woodz: I understand that Astra I (or J, anyway 9th generation Kadett/Astra after WWII) will be built on the basis of Delta II.
    I remember a chief development at Opel that said explicitely that he didn’t want Astra H on Delta because of the packaging disadvantages.
    Especially boot space would be far less.

    Of course I do mind what parts bin they use. Do you think GM will make a Delta parts bin with parts strong enough for a blown V6?
    Do you really believe there will be a V6 Delta??
    Remember why the 54°V6 was built? Right, the packaging problem. There is no V6 Delta at this moment and I don’t believe there will be, becaus all the other versions will suffer.

    I still hold on to mr. Forster’s words that the new 9-3 is going to be built on Epsilon II, but with more expensive parts than Insignia c.s.
    I.e. a four link front suspension instead of aMc Pherson.

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