GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Saab Automobile AB's new-model program, which was put on hold three years ago, has been revived.
That means the General Motors subsidiary will introduce eight models over the next eight years.
Saab officials do not want to comment on the program. But there is excitement about the brand's opportunities among employees and dealers.
"We finally get what we need to compete with Audi or BMW," one Saab dealer in Europe said.
In the short term, Saab will present a face-lift of its 9-5 flagship model at the Frankfurt auto show in September. That move was necessary, the dealer said, because a successor model has been delayed by uncertainty over the brand's future. The current 9-5 debuted in 1997.
The 9-3 sport wagon, which will debut this autumn, is expected to boost 9-3 sales. The sedan introduced in 2002 has not met expectations in a declining European market for sedans.
Saab's next new model, the 9-6X, is based on Subaru's B9 Tribeca sport wagon. The 9-6X will be built starting next year at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. in Lafayette, Ind.
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 Ruesselsheim, 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 Subaru-derived 9-2X, plus a Saab crossover vehicle.
Last year, Saab built 122,805 cars, including 84,591 9-3 sedans and convertibles. Saab boosted production before the 9-3 sport 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," the European dealer said. "The model strategy will be based on crossover vehicles and all-wheel drive."