Saab's plan to become a successful indy car maker

Published: 14 July 2009

Saab has spelled out to CAR its vision of being an independent car maker double the size of Jaguar. Saab is in the process of separating from GM, as part of the seismic restructuring underway at the car maker previously known as the world's biggest. The final details of Saab's future ownership should be announced in the next few weeks.

Saab plans to build around 130,000 cars a year as part of the Koenigsegg group. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Swedish company, which does everything from industrial design to supercars. Koenigsegg is way, way bigger than just the sports car division with well financed backers.

Initial production targets of around 130,000 cars a year are close to today's levels, but in the longer run the new owners hope to take Saab sales closer to the 180,000 capacity of the Trollhattan factory in Sweden – the single factory in the new Saab universe now that the new 9-5 will be home-grown rather than assembled in Germany alongside the Insignia whose underpinnings the new Saab shares.

'Above 100,000 units, we are very efficient,' a senior Saab source told CAR. 'Our record year was 134,000 in 2006 – and we're not far off that now.'

Saab has suffered with an ageing product line-up in recent years. The 9-5 is now 12 years old and the 9-3 has passed its sixth birthday. But the range is about to be refreshed with the new 9-5 waiting in the wings, as well as a 9-4X and – in 2012 – the new 9-1 Golf range. All are signed off, bar the smaller Saab which requires further research under the new owners.

How can Saab survive as an independent?

Although a third the size of local rival Volvo (also being spun off by Ford), Saab is confident it can go it alone. Cooperation deals will see the current generation of cars share GM technology, but Saab is now able to broaden its horizons.

'We are either going to buy architectures in as with GM, or we will cooperate with new partners,' said our source. 'We've done this before with the 9000, when we worked with Fiat and GM, remember.'

The insider said that all future Saabs will remain front- or four-wheel drive, ruling out a deal with BMW whose entire saloon and estate range bar the Mini is rear-wheel drive. And Trollhattan is planning an electrification strategy, mating batteries to turbocharged engines and possibly including an E85 biofuel hybrid.

'We will break even by 2011,' claimed our source. 'Then the next 9-3 and others will be deployed – and we hope to move to beyond 150,000 units a year.'

>> Can Saab go it alone? Click 'Add your comment' and rate their chances

>> Stay tuned for the first pictures of the new 9-5 in the run-up to Frankfurt

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