31 March 2004

General Motors is putting plans into action that will double Saab’s size in the next decade. GM boss Rick Wagoner said Saab’s vehicle output would double to 250,000-300,000 units, with ‘four core models and six or seven differentiated models’.

Core models, influenced by the 9x concept (right), are the 9-3 and the 9-5, the replacements for today’s 9-2X and the new 9-7X (above), while the niche cars may include 9X coupé and roadster crossovers and Saab’s traditional cabriolet.

‘We need better distribution and more models to get to the dealers we need,’ Wagoner said, referring to the expedient creation of new models such as the 9-2X as ‘fast cuts’. Among the fast cuts currently under consideration is a replacement for the ageing 9-5 saloon, based on the rear-wheel-drive Holden VE.

Some GM Europe insiders believe that the VE platform will be used to provide Vauxhall-Opel with a production version of the Insignia crossover concept, using rear-drive, while an all-wheel-drive version of the platform, currently under development, could serve Saab’s requirements.

Another possibility could be provided by GM’s rear-drive Kappa platform, about to go into production in the Pontiac Solstice. The four-cylinder rear-wheel-drive platform might yield a sports car or a compact sports coupé. Compact roadsters and coupés are nothing new to Saab, the company which made the Sonnett in the 1960s.

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Saab is also developing a replacement for its Impreza-based 9-2X with Subaru, which is three to four years away. And, in another project, Saab may also manufacture a new, small Cadillac saloon based on the 9-3’s Epsilon platform.

The Swedes had a record year for sales in 2003, but still sold fewer than 140,000 cars – a tiny number in global terms.

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