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PhoeniX fulfilled its mission for Saab

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

It's remarkable how one vehicle can have an impact on the public's perception of a company.

Take Saab, for example.

Before the Geneva motor show, Saab and its dealers admitted there still was a public perception -- albeit among a shrinking group of believers -- that the automaker had gone out of business more than a year ago as General Motors was rising from the ashes of bankruptcy.

Others, aware that Saab Automobile did indeed exist as an independent automaker, raised doubts that this "new" quirky little Swedish company would achieve any relevance.

But Saab's image greatly improved last week in Geneva, as Victor Muller, Jan Ake Jonsson and Jason Castriota pulled the cover off the PhoeniX, a 2+2 concept with wild, over-the-top styling. Muller is Saab chairman, and Jonsson is CEO. The concept was penned by Castriota, Saab's new design chief.

Some Saab purists called the design shocking. A few styling cues -- greatly toned down -- will appear in future Saabs such as the redesigned 9-3 arriving in the fall of 2012.

Jan Ake Jonsson, Victor Muller, and Jason Castriota in Geneva with the PhoeniX, a 2+2 concept with wild, over-the-top styling. Photo credit: Rick Kranz

Within minutes of the close of the press conference, photos and brief stories were posted on Web sites. Readers across the globe viewed the PhoeniX and quickly typed comments. The power of the Internet is amazing.

Some viewers asked whether the concept would be built. When will it go on sale? How much will it cost?

And, within minutes, the Saab concept was getting a "thumb's up" or a "thumb's down."

The PhoeniX design is polarizing. But that's OK.

After all, the PhoeniX's mission is not about gauging response for a production model. Its purpose is to tell the world that Saab is very much alive.

And it succeeded.

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