GOTHENBURG – Saab’s new-model program, which was put on hold three years ago, has been revived.
That means the General Motors subsidiary will introduce eight new models over the next eight years.
But a diesel for the 9-6, the first new Saab to reach the market, isn’t planned for the time being.
Saab officials do not want to comment on the new-model program. But there is obvious excitement about the brand’s new opportunities among employees and dealers. “We finally get what we need to compete with Audi or BMW,” one Saab dealer said.
In the short term, Saab will present a face-lift of its 9-5 flagship model at the Frankfurt IAA in September. That move was necessary, one dealer said, because a successor model has been delayed by uncertainty over the brand’s future. The current 9-5 was launched in 1997.
Saab’s 9-3 sports wagon, which will be launched this autumn, is expected to boost 9-3 sales. The sedan version introduced in 2002 has not met expectations in a declining European market for sedans.
Saab’s next all-new model, the 9-6, is based on Subaru’s B9 SUV, which will be produced in the US. It will make its public debut in the US early next year, but likely won’t come to Europe until early 2007.
Because a diesel version of the Subaru flat-six engine is too expensive and using another maker’s diesel complicates packaging, the 9-6 will not have a diesel in 2007 and maybe never, sources say.
Saab’s core models will be the 9-3 and 9-5. Successors of both models, based on GM’s second-generation Epsilon architecture, will be produced at Opel’s plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany, after 2008.
“The two together should generate 150,000 annual sales volume,” a Saab source said. “But niche models should bring Saab’s future sales volume up to 250,000.”
Saab plans a successor to the current Subaru-derived 9-2X, plus a Saab crossover vehicle.
Last year, Saab built 128,646 cars, including 89,636 9-3 sedans and convertibles. Saab boosted production before the 9-3 sports wagon launch, making 8,665 units in April alone.
“All future Saabs will be true Saab designs, not hybrids such as the Subaru-derived 9-2X or the Chevrolet TrailBlazer-derived 9-7X,” said a Saab dealer source. “The model strategy will be based on crossover vehicles and all-wheel drive.”