RICK KRANZ

Could GM resurrect the Saab 9-4X under a different badge?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- General Motors has a perfectly good crossover that's waiting to be produced.

Actually it was produced -- several hundred were assembled before production was halted. I'm talking about the Saab 9-4X.

I wonder if there's a market for this crossover?

The 9-4X was developed by GM when it owned the Swedish company. The car debuted last spring under Saab's new owners, Saab Automobile AB. Production started last summer at GM's assembly plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

Under the skin, the car shares a platform and mechanicals with the 2011 Cadillac SRX. Exterior and interior styling plus suspension tuning differentiate the Saab from a Caddy. Something like 500 or so cars were assembled before the Swedish automaker and vehicle production was shut down last year.

Last spring I was invited to drive the car at a press event in the Washington, D.C., area. The 9-4X was attractive, the ride and handling were pretty good, and the interior was well insolated from road and engine noise.

GM created a competitive product.

My question: Is there a market for the 9-4X if it was rebadged?

Here's two options. It could be a revived as a Chevrolet that is sold outside North America or as an Opel model for Europe. After all, the 9-4X was engineered for sales in Europe and the Middle East.

Of course, some changes would be necessary. The "Saab" badging would need to be replaced. The 9-4X nameplate would be abandoned. GM's new V-6 would be dropped in. The grille would have to be redesigned to give it a Chevrolet or Opel flavor.

One drawback: A diesel engine is not available.

It's such a waste to destroy the tooling. Think of GM's engineering and styling investments. Here's an opportunity for suppliers and GM to cut their losses. Plus, the Mexican exchange rate works to everyone's advantage. Saab's annual production target was only 15,000 to 20,000 units.

Can anyone at GM make a business case to revive the crossover under a different brand? GM officially isn't giving much optimism for such a scenario.

"Our plant in Mexico has already adjusted to the end of 9-4X production," GM spokesman Jim Cain said today.

Still, on the surface, there appears to be an opportunity for this orphan to bounce back to life.

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