GM Expands Saab Product Line

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Saab 9-3

Saab is planning three future models: A 9-5 replacement, a new crossover and a new compact to slot beneath the 9-3 (pictured). (Photo courtesy of General Motors Corporation)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While its crosstown rival Ford puts its niche European brands on the auction block because it can’t afford to feed them future products, General Motors not only plans to keep Saab but will expand its product line.

At a media event to unveil the 2008 Saab 9-3, Knut Simonsson, executive director of Saab Global Sales and Marketing, confirmed to AutoObserver that a new compact car is a few years away.

And it will not repeat the exercise of the 9-2, a hastily re-engineered Subaru Impreza WRX that bombed in the U.S. market and was dropped in 2006. The new subcompact Saab, says Steve Shannon, Saab Automobile USA’s general manager, will key on three elements: “breakthrough” design, sporty driving characteristics and strong functionality and utility.

The addition of a new compact car is part of GM’s plan to expand Saab’s product portfolio, which currently consists of the 9-3, redesigned for 2008, the 9-5 midsize sedan and the 9-7X SUV, a craftily reskinned Chevrolet TrailBlazer that never has been right for the brand.

Saab’s first priority, before the new small car arrives, is to replace the 9-5 and add a new crossover model. The crossover likely will ride on a GM front-wheel-drive platform, a premium version of the General’s global midsize architecture. Past speculation had been that the Saab crossover would be a variant of Cadillac’s rear-drive, Sigma-based SRX. However, Simonsson asserts Saab “will never skip front-wheel drive” as a base drivetrain layout. Like rival Audi AG, Saab also plans to increase the use of all-wheel drive as an enhancement to front-wheel drive.

Shannon confirms the new 9-5 and the Saab crossover will come to the U.S. at about the same time, probably around 2009-’10.

Following those two crucial models will be a vehicle smaller than the 9-3, currently Saab’s entry-level model. Saab executives will not provide a timeframe for when the new entry-level Saab — a competitor for Audi’s A3, BMW’s Mini Cooper, Volvo’s C30 and the coming BMW 1 Series — will be launched, saying only that it will arrive after the next-generation 9-5 and all-new crossover model.

What this means to you: More models to select from in the Saab showroom of the future.

Posted by admin   @   1 September 2007 0 comments
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