Now the new 9-5 is launched, attention is turning to the next generation of Saabs. Speaking at the 9-5 launch in Trollhättan, Saab bosses told CAR that the new 9-3 would be the first model to bear the true hallmarks of the new independent Saab since the Detroit divorce.
GM sold Saab to Dutch entrepreneur Victor Muller’s Spyker group in February 2010 for $78 million and an equity swap – meaning that the 9-5 was done and dusted by the time Saab had become independent. Next year’s new 9-4X crossover, paired with and built alongside GM’s Cadillac SRX and due in April 2011, is also largely finished. But Spyker CEO and Saab chairman Victor Muller said there was still scope to crank up the ‘Saabishness’ of 2012’s new 9-3.
What can we expect of the 2012 Saab 9-3?
Although many of the hard points of the 9-3 carryover architecture are already set in stone, Muller said his design team – freed from the shackles of GM’s processes – were already working to change the sheet metal.
‘We can still change the outer surfaces of the new 9-3,’ said Muller. ‘It will be bolder, more typically Saabish.’
It’s believed the 30-strong design team led by Brit Simon Padian has until late summer 2010 to set the new 9-3’s design freeze. Padian hinted that the replacement would have ‘much stronger form language’ with a grille more like that on the new 9-5.
A Saab concept car for the road then?
Hang on! Tight budgets, the carryover chassis and the amount of time already spent on the 9-3 project means it’s unlikely to rip up the rulebook. That job will fall to the potential 9-1 Mini rival, that could arrive in 2014 or beyond if given the green light. Click here for our scoop on that car.
Saab president and CEO Jan Åke Jonsson, a Trollhättan lifer who’s been at the company since 1972, said the 9-3’s GM Epsilon 1 underpinnings would be heavily upgraded for the 2012 replacement. ‘It is the existing 9-3 base, but we are enhancing so many systems that it’s almost a new architecture. It will be the first Saab to get start-stop, for instance.’
In the new Saab business plan, the 9-3 will remain the volume model. Trollhättan is counting on 70,000 9-3 sales annually once the new range is complete; the 9-5 is forecast to sell 40-45,000 units a year with some 10,000 crossovers making up the total.