I’ve bumped this back to the top as a) it’s big news, b) it was posted on the weekend so there may be a bunch who missed it, and c) there’ll be a follow up piece later.
It takes a big story to interrupt a wedding anniversary, ja?
First, the news:
I’ve received notice from a member of the Djup Strupe collective inside Sweden – and this comes straight from the horse’s mouth – that the next generation of the Saab 9-3 will be built on GM’s global premium compact architecture, presumptively called Delta II.
This architecture will be used for a number of GM vehicles, the highest volume-seller most likely to be the Opel Astra, and the Trollhattan plant in Sweden is one of four European plants recently chosen to build vehicles on this architecture. The other plants are in the UK, Germany and Poland and the production of vehicles on this new architecture is scheduled to commence no earlier than 2010.
There’s been no word on the timing of this new 9-3, but given that this decision could only have been taken quite recently it’d be safe to assume 2011 at the very earliest, more likely 2012.
Second, the opinion:
The biggest concept vehicle reportedly based on the Delta II architecture so far is the Opel Flextreme which measured 4550mm. The current Saab 9-3 is 4647mm in length. With the current Saab 9-3 already having compact rear seat legroom, it’s going to pose a challenge for designers to preserve cabin space in the smaller package.
The one thing this will definitely do, however, is separate the 9-3 and the 9-5. With a new Saab 9-5 coming on board late in 2009, it will be positioned as the definite flagship model with this more compact Saab 9-3 beside it in the model range. Importantly, the new smaller 9-3 will also be easier to “rightsize” – Saab’s terminology for getting a smaller engine into the car with more power but reduced emissions.
I think this is a great decision. I feel quite confident that the Saab 9-3′s designers can pull off a great interior layout, which is going to be the only major concern with this architecture. It means the car can be smaller and lighter, more sporty, and leaves the new 9-5 plenty of space to play to the larger-car crowd with a bigger range of models than what we might have previously thought.
The other truly fantastic news in this is that there’s a very good chance that the cars will be built in the Trollhattan plant in Sweden. I can’t stress enough how important it is for Saab to retain a significant manufacturing presence in their home market. It’s not definite, with three other European plants capable of working with Delta II, but it’s quite possible.
And a chronology of the reporting, just for the record….
May 6, 2008 – More talk on the next Saab 9-3 was posted here at Trollhattan Saab. It was the first report in English on the subject of the new 9-3 being built on Delta and possibly at Trollhattan.
May 7, 2008 – Next-gen Saab 9-3 to be produced in Sweden was published at Motor Authority and contains basically the same info as I had in mine.
May 8, 2008 – Saab 9-3 Shrinking was reported at Autocar and contained essentially the same central piece of news with some extra fodder for filling.
These reports all cover the story out of Germany in the last week that the production of the Saab 9-3 had NOT been confirmed for Russelsheim as was previously assumed. That added fuel to the growing story that the 9-3 was being considered for something other than the Epsilon II platform.
What we have here in this story is the first confirmation from inside Saab that this is indeed going to happen – that the next generation 9-3 is going to be built on the compact architecture.