GENEVA -- The new Saab is all about low cost and versatility.
The redesigned Saab 9-3 is being developed on a re-engineered, flexible platform that also may be used for the next-generation 9-5 sedan and wagon and the second-generation 9-4X crossover, which is expected later this decade.
The next-generation 9-3 is expected to go on sale in fall of 2012.
"I think this is an excellent solution for us as a small manufacturer," Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson said. "We will be able to get as much as we can get out of one architecture. It will give us the ability to build all of our cars in one plant so you can reduce your investment in the plant."
Saab also will be able to share components among different models, "which is a big benefit," Jonsson said during a group interview at the Geneva auto show.
The new platform is referred to internally as Phoenix.
The current 9-3 was developed on a front-wheel-drive platform engineered by General Motors, which owned Saab at that time. GM sold Saab in February 2010 to Spyker Cars NV.
The current-generation Saab 9-5 went on sale last summer and the first-generation 9-4X will go on sale in May. Both share GM platforms. It will be five or six years until the 9-5 and 9-4X would move to the Phoenix platform, if Saab eventually makes that decision.
Jonsson said Saab started with the existing 9-3 platform. The wheelbase was stretched, the car was widened and lowered, a new rear axle was selected, and new technology was added.
"And then at the same time we said, 'why don't we make it flexible so it could be a little bit longer for bigger cars and also make a raised version' '' for a crossover, he said.
However, the Phoenix platform is too expensive to support a smaller vehicle, such as the proposed compact 9-2.
"The 9-2 as a smaller Saab is not in our business plan," Jonsson said. "We believe we need to find somebody to cooperate with, and then in due course, we will make a decision which way to go."
Jonsson said the automaker expects the redesigned 9-3 will continue to be Saab's top-selling model. It will compete with the Audi A4, the BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C class.
Said Jonsson: "The 9-3 will make a statement of what the future of Saab is going to look like in terms of vehicle characteristics, design and performance."