GRAZ, Austria - Saab has begun preliminary development of a four-wheel-drive sport-utility and is considering hiring Steyr-Daimler-Puch to produce it here, according to sources at Adam Opel AG.
This summer, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the Austrian contract manufacturer owned by Magna Interna-tional Inc., won a contract to produce two new Saab models.
Those vehicles are believed to be the next generation of the Saab 9-3 coupe and convertible.
The Saab business is a major win for Steyr, which has been heavily dependent on DaimlerChrysler.
Steyr also is getting more business from DaimlerChrysler, which is planning 4-matic all-wheel-drive versions of the current Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan and the coming C class, according to sources in Stuttgart.
Because volumes do not warrant Mercedes-Benz product development staff and production facilities, DaimlerChrysler is handing the work over to Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik, the company's main assembly operation in Graz. That plant already has developed the E-class 4-matic and is assembling about 18,000 of them a year.
Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik officials declined to confirm or deny the report.
Steyr's E-class 4-matic is powered by a 4.3-liter, eight-cylinder engine. The 4-matic system had to be redesigned for the V-8 to accommodate the huge increase in torque and the different layout of the engine and transmission.
Assembly of the two new 4-matic versions will be done in the present plant area in Graz. One big hall that housed components production has been vacated. The components now are manufactured in a newly built plant at Lannach near Graz.