A plan to share Subaru's new premium-priced, seven-passenger SUV with Saab has angered Subaru dealers in the US.
The joint vehicle project is the second between the two General Motors affiliates. The high-end SUV will be the third vehicle that Saab shares with other automakers, adding to fears for the future of Saab's unprofitable plant at Trollhattan, Sweden, which assembles the Saab 9-3 and 9-5.
Saab recently added in the US its 9-2X sports compact, the first Saab to be built outside Sweden. The 9-2X is based on the Subaru Impreza WRX and is built by Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan.
Saab's new 9-7X SUV, based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, will be built at GM's plant in Moraine, Ohio, USA.
Fuji Heavy plans to build the Saab version of Subaru's new SUV at its Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
The SUV was styled by Fuji Heavy's new chief designer, Andreas Zapatinas, who has worked at Alfa Romeo, BMW, Fiat and Pininfarina.
Fuji Heavy officials say the Saab and Subaru SUVs will be designed separately but will share Subaru's all-wheel-drive platform.
About 16,000 units a year of the Saab version are expected to be built in Lafayette.
"This collaboration provides many benefits such as economies of scale and higher joint volume for Fuji Heavy's US manufacturing facility," Fuji Heavy President Kyoji Takenaka says.
Fuji Heavy expects the SUV to compete with such models as the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC90.
Subaru's dealers in the US fear the collaboration will be a disaster.
"How many of these product-sharing ventures have worked long-term? There is no benefit to the Subaru dealers," says Dale Walker, vice chairman of the US Subaru dealer council.
A Fuji Heavy company official in Japan says Subaru and Saab generally do not compete for the same customers.
Yuzo Yamaguchi contributed