While General Motors executives work to consolidate the number of models offered in the United States, product planners for its Saab brand are plowing ahead with another crossover vehicle based on borrowed architecture.
In addition to the traditional coupes and sedans that are supposed to be the brand's bread and butter, Saab has a growing portfolio of niche vehicles.
Saab already sells the 9-2X wagon based on the Subaru Impreza. Going on sale soon is the 9-7X SUV that's based on the Chevy TrailBlazer, and coming this fall will be a sport wagon derived from the 9-3 sedan.
Up next will be the 9-6, a version of Subaru's slick new B9 Tribeca sport wagon, according to Automotive News' sister publication, Automotive News Europe. You can bet that will make a lot of Subaru dealers unhappy.
Still, niche-ism could be all the rage in Sweden.
Niche vehicles built on someone else's architecture and assembled elsewhere will figure prominently in the dream of selling 250,000 Saabs a year. Eventually, Saabs will be built in Indiana, Ohio, Japan, Germany and, just maybe, Sweden.
That's because in about five years output of the traditional Saab models will be switched to Ruesselsheim, Germany, as part of GM Europe's manufacturing rationalization. The one hope for the Trollhattan, Sweden, factory is that it can stay open by building GM niche vehicles such as the Europe-only Cadillac BLS model and the next generation 9-3 convertible.
In a way, Saab's niche-ism makes sense. After all, more automotive niches sprout up every day, and tomorrow's winners will be the automakers that anticipate the new niches and fill them with enticing product.
Still, it's an interesting way to expand a brand that has struggled to find and keep its identity in the GM family.
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