After the last eight days, I’m feeling more than a little over-Sweeded. A week last Monday I flew to Portugal for the launch the of the new Volvo S60. After a day back in the UK, it was 5.30 wake-up call on Thursday for the 07.10 to Gothenburg and an early drive of the new Saab 9-5.
On Tuesday this week it was another early start for another flight to Gothenburg for the 9-5 launch proper.
I have to admit that I even spent last Saturday evening watching the latest episode of cult Swedish cop drama Wallander. The proper home-grown version, with English sub-titles. (I thought I might pick up a few Swedish words, but the only thing I learnt was that alibi is the same word in both languages.)
It’s an amusing coincidence that these two Swedish mid-liners were launched within days of each other.
And there are some remarkable parallels between the two cars. Both replace ageing forebears and both have been launched in the weeks after the respective companies were sold by their American owners.
The S60 is not, though, anywhere as vital to Volvo’s short-term health as the 9-5 is to Saab’s. And the ambitions for the two vehicles are quite different. Volvo thinks it can shift 100,000 of the snappy S60 and the sleek V60 annually.
Saab thinks that the substantial 9-5 saloon and the upcoming (and dramatically-styled) 9-5 estate will settle down at a modest 45,000 units or so.
Volvo has not been in great shape for the last fews years, but it does have a wide-range of vehicles (including the strong-selling XC60 and 90) and a solvent new owner in the shape of Chinese carmaker Geely.
Saab, by stark contrast, is tentatively coming back to life after going into liquidation at the very end of the last year. The Trollhattan factory is now building a couple of hundred cars each day, a mix of 9-5s, 9-3s and 9-3 cabrios on one production line.
Volvo has some hurdles ahead - like finding a way of updating its big estate car format and coming up with much sexier models to replace the S40 and V50.
Saab’s task is rather more onerous. Although it thinks it can get its break-even point down to just 85,000 vehicles by 2012, company engineers and designers are racing to come up with a new 9-3 that will sell in substantial numbers.
It’s an over-used cliche to say that new cars are ‘vital’ to the future of a carmaker, but in the case of the 9-3 replacement it’s literally true. If it doesn’t get that right first time, Saab will fall back to earth pretty quickly.