During a recent press event in Trollhattan, Spyker Cars NV CEO Victor Muller said the design of Saab’s new entry-level premium car, and successor to the legendary 9-2 will represent a departure for the company. Muller said the process of creating the new vehicle will be driven by three rules: Firstly, he said, the design will not be retro. Secondly, it won’t be the product of a design clinic and, thirdly, it won’t be called a 9-2X as it was by the automaker under General Motors Company’s control.
The 9-2X was simply a rebadged Subaru Impreza which Saab sold in 2005 and 2006, and Muller said he has decided to do away with the name because “It reminds me of the Saab-aru.”
Muller said of the 9-2X, “It wasn’t an overpriced Impreza or underpriced Saab. It was neither here nor there. That is the type of badge engineering that you will never, ever see at Saab.” He even avoids using the 9-2 moniker when referring to the model. “I deliberately call it the 92 [ninety-two] because I don’t like the [name] 9-2,” he said.
Saab is currently involved in discussions with other automakers about the possibility of co-developing or platform sharing for the 92. An announcement concerning funding for the project is expected within the next two months.
Last year, under GM ownership, Saab sales plummeted to a mere 40,000 units, down from approximately 130,000 annual sales just five years ago.
Muller wants to revitalize the Saab brand; if built, the 92 will be aimed at the rapidly growing premium small car segment. Other competitors in the segment include the new Audi A1, which is scheduled to launch in Europe this summer, and BMW’s Mini brand.
Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson said, “This is a segment that is growing in importance and very important to the Saab brand.” The Swedish automaker has set an annual production goal of between 30,000 and 50,000 92s which has been conceptualized as having a teardrop silhouette similar to the 1590s model. Muller is adamant, however, that the design is not “retro”. “Retro,” he said, “is an expression of a lack of imagination, and definitely that is not where we are going.”
Muller also bristles at the idea of submitting the 92 to a design clinic as was done by GM. The process involved crating four distinct design studies and then merging components of each into a single model or, as Muller puts it, “clinic it to death.” Muller is confident in his own skills and said, “I am capable of determining what is a proper design.”
General manager of Herb Chambers Saab in Boston Curt O’Donnell thinks the 92 is “a great idea.” Assuming the model is priced below the 9-3, he said, “You will get entry-level customers who will step up and get exposure to Saab.”
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