The challenge of bringing Saab's face to a Subaru body suits Ola Granlund's design approach, which melds Scandinavian style with his own flair.
Granlund, 37, has emerged as a primary force in Saab design with his rendering of the 9-2X sports compact based on the Subaru Impreza WRX.
When the 9-2X was introduced in North America in May, Saab CEO Peter Augustsson said the company will have a "9-2 in Europe, but not this one -- the next generation."
Granlund is updating the design of the Saab 9-5 medium-premium sedan.
Granlund, formerly Saab's chief exterior designer, is a designer for General Motors Europe who works on Saab projects.
What Granlund calls his "Scandinavian approach" combines functionalism, artistry and the outdoors.
"It's quite organic, but not cold," he says. "No gimmicks. Very clean surfacing, but not geometric design."
Granlund's work on the Saab 9X concept car earned him a 2002 RedDot Award for Product Design. Michael Mauer, then Saab's executive director of design, chose Granlund's initial sketch of the 9X, which combined sleek lines with such traditional Saab characteristics as a curvaceous windshield and an upright body.
Mauer brought Granlund, then a consultant, to Saab.
Granlund's grasp of Saab's essence may be instinctive. He grew up in Trollhättan, Sweden, where Saabs are built.
"My father worked for Saab," he says. "I said to myself, I will never work with cars. I ended up at Saab."
He attended HDK, the industrial design school in Gothenburg, Sweden, where most Swedish car designers hone their craft.
Granlund still lives in Gothenburg, an artistic community that fuels his many outside interests. They include furniture design, playing the bongos and windsurfing.
Granlund spent months working on the 9-2X in Japan, where Fuji Heavy Industries builds the car. He recently returned to Japan to help shape the look of the seven-passenger SUV that Saab and Subaru will share.
GM recently restructured its European manufacturing operations for Saab, Opel and Vauxhall. Granlund says he doesn't know what his role will be but he hopes to design vehicles for different brands.