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  #1  
Old 11th March 2004
braisim braisim is offline
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Default Financial Times feature on Saab cars

Saab tries to escape a cul-de-sac
By Nicholas George and James Mackintosh
Published: March 10 2004 18:08 | Last Updated: March 10 2004 18:08

Cakes are being handed out on the factory floor at Saab Automobile's Trollhättan plant in western Sweden to celebrate hitting production targets on the new assembly line.

The process of designing and setting up a single line that can handle both Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 models has been complex but now the first goal of 39 cars an hour has been reached.

The cakes - a mixture of raspberry mouse and custard cream - are gobbled up, but no one is quite sure what they are called. "They are special and from around here," explains Arne Degermosse, production manager.

He could just as well have been describing the gleaming new cars that are rolling off the line outside his office. Distinctive and Swedish, but difficult to classify. Without the mass appeal of an Audi, yet lacking the exclusivity and price tag of a Porsche.

Although it has spent more than a decade under the control of General Motors, Saab has battled to maintain its individuality. The price of that strategy has been high - Saab has missed all the big product trends of the 1990s and has unsustainable production costs.

Now GM has run out of patience and the next Saab is being built in Japan by Fuji Industries.

Late in the day, Saab is at last having to adapt to the customs of a global industry. The question it faces is whether by doing so it will lose its reason to exist. After all, the sometimes idiosyncratic image is a crucial part of the brand's appeal, from the VW Beetle-like designs of the first cars in the 1940s to the hulking, blunt lines of the 900 series in the 1970s and 1980s. Saabs have their ignition switches beside the gear stick and cup-holders that unfold.

According to Peter Augustsson, chief executive, customers value this. "They appreciate buying something that is not mainstream. They dare to stay on the side of the main route in the premium segment."

The problem for Mr Augustsson is that such customers are few and far between. Sales stubbornly refuse to grow and, while last year's total of 132,000 is up from a trough in the mid-1990s, it is still below the level of 1987.

Saab has been successful in discovering its own niches, from turbo engines to convertibles, but it rarely translates these into significant sales. Moreover, in the past decade it has spectacularly misjudged market trends and these failures have been felt on the bottom line. Since 1989, when General Motors bought a 50 per cent stake and gained management control, the company has recorded an annual profit on only two occasions.

In the past few years the losses have ballooned to record levels, SKr4.5bn (£330m) in 2002 and another SKr1.5bn in the first six months of 2003. Mr Augustsson will not yet give last year's full figures but talks of a "big loss". GM, which acquired the rest of the company in 2000, has run up cumulative losses from its involvement nearing SKr20bn.

Mr Augustsson is wary about predicting when the company will start making money. "Will we do it this year? I honestly don't know," he says, pointing to the difficulty in forecasting market conditions and the strength of the dollar.

His caution is understandable. Saab is a serial offender when it comes to missing targets. Back in 1989 GM was predicting profitability in 1991 and since then a series of chief executives have promised turnrounds that have failed to arrive.

Low sales have left the Trollhättan factory hopelessly underused and uncompetitive.

GM's patience ran out at the end of 2002, when two US executives were sent to Saab to shake it up. A restructuring programme - dubbed Viggen, Swedish for "thunderbolt" - was introduced and last year Saab cut 1,390 jobs, 18 per cent of its workforce. It also pushed material costs down by about 5 per cent and engineering costs by 35-40 per cent. In the past three years the number of hours of work per car produced has been reduced from more than 50 to about 30.

In distribution and marketing, parts of the Saab operations in Europe have been integrated with sister brands Opel and Vauxhall.

Even so, GM executives remain frustrated with the unwillingness of Saab managers to accept change.

"It doesn't come naturally to them," says one. "It needs intensive management to keep [Saab] in line."

However, Mr Augustsson has accepted that Saab is one name among many for GM, and looks beyond the Trollhättan factory for its place in the group.

"It's important to see Saab as a brand," he says. "You have Saab's Swedish activities, and then you have GM's Saab business. In the past these have been very much the same but of course in the future GM will have a Saab business that will look very different from what it did in the past."

The 9-2X, a sporty 4x4 slightly smaller than the 9-3, is the first fruit of the new thinking. Poised to go on sale in North America in June, it is manufactured by Fuji Industries in Japan, which owns Subaru, and in which GM holds a 20 per cent stake. The 9-2x will be followed early next year by the 9-7X, a sports utility vehicle to be built in a GM plant in the US.

Sales target are modest: about 5,000 units of the 9-2X this year and 10,000-15,000 for the 9-7. In many ways they are defensive moves to prevent the loyalty of Saab customers being sapped by its failure to provide models in these growth segments.

As yet there are no plans to bring them across the Atlantic, "but our wish is of course in the future to have a presence in the SUV and 9-2 segments in Europe", Mr Augustsson says.

There are industrial and financial savings in such ventures but there is also a clear risk of diluting the Saab brand. How special is a Saab SUV built in Ohio on the same underlying platform as GM's Buick light truck? The 9-2x has already been called the "Saabaru", a reference to its shared heritage with the Subaru. The ignition sits on the steering column and GM designers admit that the changes from the Subaru Impreza WRX are relatively small.

When its cars are no longer built in Sweden, can Saab remain a real brand and not just a badge? Among Saab employees in Trollhättan there is an irritation when the issue is raised. "Everyone is sharing platforms and collaborating, so why pick on us?" grumbles one manager.

Mr Augustsson stresses the Saab input into the models, their look and the way they drive. But an important reason for GM's unhappiness with Saab comes precisely from its insistence on having its own input: Saab is blamed for defeating efforts to reap the benefits of having common platforms between different GM marques by making costly modifications to them. For example, the Saab 9-3 is built on the same basic platform as the distinctly downmarket Opel and Vauxhall Vectra but cannot be built in the same factories because of changes Saab made to some of the fundamentals of the wheelbase.

Even with these changes, the car looks more like a staid Vectra than a traditional, offbeat Saab.

Simon Padian, head of project design, is aware of the delicate nature of broadening Saab's appeal while maintaining its heritage. Mr Padian, an Englishman, talks of "moving away from quirkiness to strong individuality".

The 9-3 may never gain the cult status of some older models but "more people will find it acceptable than the old 900", he says.

It is a transition Saab has fumbled in the past, notably with the introduction of the technically advanced but anonymous-looking 9000 series in the 1980s that failed to build on the success of its predecessors.

The next big test at Trollhättan is the 9-3 estate that will come to the market next summer. Mr Augustsson is hoping to sell 30,000 a year, helping the factory towards a production total of 160,000-170,000 units a year, a level where "we absolutely have to be".

In the longer term the company is also under pressure to move some of its production to the US, to reduce exchange rate risk. At present it has about 40 per cent of sales but few costs there.

It is also considering bringing non-Saab branded cars to Trollhättan for the first time, with a study under way to see whether it makes sense to build a small Cadillac - another GM brand - in Sweden using a stretched version of the Saab 9-5's platform.

Mr Augustsson believes Saab can double its market share in Europe from 0.5 to about 1 per cent, or 10 per cent of the premium segment. In five years sales in the US should be 80,000-100,000 and the company may even have a presence in China.

If there are to be cakes in Trollhättan in future, Saab cars will have to be a bit less specialised and a bit less Swedish.
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  #2  
Old 18th March 2004
stew stew is offline
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I believe it was Eric Van Spelde who stated that GM should have taken Saab down the same route as Porsche. I think it was along the lines of low volume production with a limited number of high quality models, focusing on the segment of the market who wanted such vehicles - and building from there. A niche brand which would have probably lost money at first, and then flourished - like Porsche. Time machine anyone?
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Old 23rd March 2004
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Originally Posted by stew
I believe it was Eric Van Spelde who stated that GM should have taken Saab down the same route as Porsche. I think it was along the lines of low volume production with a limited number of high quality models, focusing on the segment of the market who wanted such vehicles - and building from there. A niche brand which would have probably lost money at first, and then flourished - like Porsche. Time machine anyone?

Or they could have done what Ford did with Volvo. Volvo went from basically a 2 car lineup to 4, with a class-leading SUV. Saab is just getting the entry level car and a hand me down SUV.
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Old 23rd March 2004
CosmicSaab CosmicSaab is offline
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Originally Posted by fabric
Quote:
Originally Posted by stew
I believe it was Eric Van Spelde who stated that GM should have taken Saab down the same route as Porsche. I think it was along the lines of low volume production with a limited number of high quality models, focusing on the segment of the market who wanted such vehicles - and building from there. A niche brand which would have probably lost money at first, and then flourished - like Porsche. Time machine anyone?

Or they could have done what Ford did with Volvo. Volvo went from basically a 2 car lineup to 4, with a class-leading SUV. Saab is just getting the entry level car and a hand me down SUV.
Volvo introduced more cars in the U.S. but they have had more than 2 cars for a while, they had the S40 long before Ford bought them in 2000, but it was sold in Europe. The XC90, wile very good, is not class leading. That honor would go to either the VW Touareg or one of the Lexus SUVs. And the XC70 is not a seperate vehicle IMO, just like the Audi AllRoad is not a seperate vehicle, it is a trim variation of the V70, and the AllRoad the A6 wagon.

It is also worth noting that Saab is bleeding cash where as Volvo was and still is not. They don't have the money to be designing all new cars right now.Once they get a little closer to the black then they will get unique cars, until then...
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Old 23rd March 2004
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Originally Posted by E715
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Originally Posted by fabric

Or they could have done what Ford did with Volvo. Volvo went from basically a 2 car lineup to 4, with a class-leading SUV. Saab is just getting the entry level car and a hand me down SUV.
Volvo introduced more cars in the U.S. but they have had more than 2 cars for a while, they had the S40 long before Ford bought them in 2000, but it was sold in Europe. The XC90, wile very good, is not class leading. That honor would go to either the VW Touareg or one of the Lexus SUVs. And the XC70 is not a seperate vehicle IMO, just like the Audi AllRoad is not a seperate vehicle, it is a trim variation of the V70, and the AllRoad the A6 wagon.
You're right. I should have said they are among the best of the available SUV's. And it's just the Lexus RX330 that it competes against.

I counted the 4 as including the XC90. You are right about the little Volve, I forgot the were making it for a bit before bringing it to the US.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
It is also worth noting that Saab is bleeding cash where as Volvo was and still is not. They don't have the money to be designing all new cars right now.Once they get a little closer to the black then they will get unique cars, until then...
There's a typo there that I don't know what exactly you meant. The bottom line is that Ford and GM both had to put money into Volvo and Saab. Ford has really added to Volvo and allowed them to do their thing, while GM just pumped money in without a lot of vision. The results are obvious. Putting in a stopgap means that you'll just be playing catchup the next go round. Look at all the latecomers to the SUV parties. BMW, VW, Volvo. They are all making excellent SUVs. Can you put a Trailblazer or Explorer in the same category as the Toureg or XC90?

And Ford is planning to use the XC90 platform for one of it's upcoming smaller SUVs. Ford will be using the S90 platform for the upcoming 500. Those 2 things speak volume about what Ford has done with Volvo.
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Old 23rd March 2004
CosmicSaab CosmicSaab is offline
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I can't find any typo, but basically Saab has no money. Really, they don't. They are burning cash. And GM didn't own all of Saab until 2000 so they didn't have total control, though there was a lot. If they had total control do you think we would have had the odd shape for so long? And Volvo didn't need a lot of money, and to the best of my knowledge they were profitable, something that Saab has only been twice since 1990.

And the fact the Ford is using Volvo platforms says nothing about how good Volvo is, but rather than Ford is still in the red and Volvo already had good platforms available, Ford also have Volvo do a lot of the design works because it was cheaper and, well, go look at a Taurus and you'll see the other reason why they used Volvo. They also use a lot of Mazda's platforms and mechanicals as well. The Futura will be based on the Mazda Mazda6.

You also have not read the posts in the other threads, The 9-7x will be different. And the Envoy is competitive against some of the higher end SUVs. It is not as good as the Touareg but the thing is, it's not supposed to be. Neither is the TrailBlazer. The Aviator and Navigator compete well in that segment, but they are just based on simple Ford models so why can't Saab base their SUV on the simple GMT360 and have it be competitve?
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Old 24th March 2004
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Originally Posted by E715
I can't find any typo, but basically Saab has no money. Really, they don't. They are burning cash. And GM didn't own all of Saab until 2000 so they didn't have total control, though there was a lot. If they had total control do you think we would have had the odd shape for so long? And Volvo didn't need a lot of money, and to the best of my knowledge they were profitable, something that Saab has only been twice since 1990.

And the fact the Ford is using Volvo platforms says nothing about how good Volvo is, but rather than Ford is still in the red and Volvo already had good platforms available, Ford also have Volvo do a lot of the design works because it was cheaper and, well, go look at a Taurus and you'll see the other reason why they used Volvo. They also use a lot of Mazda's platforms and mechanicals as well. The Futura will be based on the Mazda Mazda6.

You also have not read the posts in the other threads, The 9-7x will be different. And the Envoy is competitive against some of the higher end SUVs. It is not as good as the Touareg but the thing is, it's not supposed to be. Neither is the TrailBlazer. The Aviator and Navigator compete well in that segment, but they are just based on simple Ford models so why can't Saab base their SUV on the simple GMT360 and have it be competitve?
This is the part that I didn't get. I'm still not sure what you were trying to say.

"It is also worth noting that Saab is bleeding cash where as Volvo was and still is not."

I've read the other threads. have you seen my comments there? There are some good things they are doing there.

Just be competitive? A Trailblazer is competitive with an Explorer, not a Touareg. Of course, the Touareg costs more, as will the Saab. So the Saab is competing with the Touareg. It will not be competitive with it, at the same price. If the price is lower, it will be competing against the Trailblazer and Explorer, where it is comparable, but I don't think that is GM's goal.

All your arguments for Ford and Volvo make sense, but they don't contradict my points. If Volvo can design things better and cheaper, they should. From reading info on the 9-7, Saab had an excellent design all set. It's now called the SRX.

Saab could have had a class leading SUV. They now have, as you admit, a class following SUV, no matter what the enhancements are. I don't see how this is going to bring in enough profits to break out of what could easily became a cycle.
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Old 24th March 2004
CosmicSaab CosmicSaab is offline
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Originally Posted by fabric
This is the part that I didn't get. I'm still not sure what you were trying to say.

"It is also worth noting that Saab is bleeding cash where as Volvo was and still is not."

I've read the other threads. have you seen my comments there? There are some good things they are doing there.

Just be competitive? A Trailblazer is competitive with an Explorer, not a Touareg. Of course, the Touareg costs more, as will the Saab. So the Saab is competing with the Touareg. It will not be competitive with it, at the same price. If the price is lower, it will be competing against the Trailblazer and Explorer, where it is comparable, but I don't think that is GM's goal.

All your arguments for Ford and Volvo make sense, but they don't contradict my points. If Volvo can design things better and cheaper, they should. From reading info on the 9-7, Saab had an excellent design all set. It's now called the SRX.

Saab could have had a class leading SUV. They now have, as you admit, a class following SUV, no matter what the enhancements are. I don't see how this is going to bring in enough profits to break out of what could easily became a cycle.
Saab does not make any money. They loose money, as in they put out more money than they are taking in. Example 20-30 = -10. That's a negative number and that is what Saab has had on the balance sheets for over a decade now. Volvo does make money. Example 20+30 = 50. Notice no negative. They [Saab] don't have money to build an all new SUV. They are flat broke, ***-out, in the red, loosing money.

As for my arguements about Ford and Volvo, you seemed to imply that Ford bought Volvo and that made Volvo better when it in fact did not. When Ford bought Volvo it made Ford better.

And Saab did not develop the SRX. They had a concept that was based on the SRX, but they never did the actual development work on the SRX. GM scratched it because of cost and fear that it would hurt Caddy, who at the time was not doing so hot either.

And Saab will not have a class following SUV. It will be exactly in class, no better, no worse.
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Old 25th March 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E715

Saab does not make any money. They loose money, as in they put out more money than they are taking in. Example 20-30 = -10. That's a negative number and that is what Saab has had on the balance sheets for over a decade now. Volvo does make money. Example 20+30 = 50. Notice no negative. They [Saab] don't have money to build an all new SUV. They are flat broke, ***-out, in the red, loosing money.
There's no need to be a jerk.

The overall picture is that Saab is part of GM. Saab is a net drain on GM's profits. GM is not doing a good job with Saab. Volvo and Ford don't seem to be having this problem. There are clearly 2 different strategies going on here, and I think it's obvious which one is having better results, car wise.


Quote:
Originally Posted by E715

As for my arguements about Ford and Volvo, you seemed to imply that Ford bought Volvo and that made Volvo better when it in fact did not. When Ford bought Volvo it made Ford better.
When Ford bought Volvo they both got better.

Has Saab made GM better? Has GM made Saab better?

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
And Saab did not develop the SRX. They had a concept that was based on the SRX, but they never did the actual development work on the SRX. GM scratched it because of cost and fear that it would hurt Caddy, who at the time was not doing so hot either.
Wait, Caddy wasn't doing so hot, so they got the all-new SRX? Saab isn't doing so hot, they get a hand-me-down SUV. Explain the logic.

I'd like to see somebody definitely answer the origin of the SRX. Some people say saab was involved, others not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
And Saab will not have a class following SUV. It will be exactly in class, no better, no worse.
Look at the competition. How many are body on frame? How many have a live rear axle? How many have push-rod engines? These aren't automatically negatives, but they do tend to be limiters in many areas. These are also the kinds of things that lead to less than stellar reviews in the popular magazines, regardless of the merits of the overall car.

The Saab is a premium brand, competing against other premium brands. And they are introducing an SUV developed from a mainstream product. Yeah, they'll sell some, but if Saab is going to do well, it needs to move to the head of the class. Even the 9-3SS just finished 6th of 7 in a sporty 4 door compary.

The part to take note of is that the car it beat was the ******* of a Jaguar, the X-Type, one that Ford got horribly wrong.
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Old 25th March 2004
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Originally Posted by fabric
Quote:
Originally Posted by E715

Saab does not make any money. They loose money, as in they put out more money than they are taking in. Example 20-30 = -10. That's a negative number and that is what Saab has had on the balance sheets for over a decade now. Volvo does make money. Example 20+30 = 50. Notice no negative. They [Saab] don't have money to build an all new SUV. They are flat broke, ***-out, in the red, loosing money.
There's no need to be a jerk.

The overall picture is that Saab is part of GM. Saab is a net drain on GM's profits. GM is not doing a good job with Saab. Volvo and Ford don't seem to be having this problem. There are clearly 2 different strategies going on here, and I think it's obvious which one is having better results, car wise.
I wasn't trying to be a jerk. You kept saying you didn't know what I meant, and so I explained it with numbers

And the thing is, is that Volvo was profitable before, Ford did not make them profitable. GM is trying to get Saab profitable, but the process is slow, and profit is why the 9-2x and 9-7x are being introduced. It is not that GM is doing anything wrong, in reality the problem is more on Saab's end because they are so resistant to change. Saab hates change and they hate taking orders. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but in this case it is not because if Saab doesn't get profitable in a few years GM will have no reason to keep them around and will Oldsmobile them.
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Old 25th March 2004
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Originally Posted by fabric
When Ford bought Volvo they both got better.

Has Saab made GM better? Has GM made Saab better?
Volvo really did not get any better because of Ford though. And Saab has gotten better since GM took complete control of them.

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Originally Posted by fabric
Wait, Caddy wasn't doing so hot, so they got the all-new SRX? Saab isn't doing so hot, they get a hand-me-down SUV. Explain the logic.

I'd like to see somebody definitely answer the origin of the SRX. Some people say saab was involved, others not.
It is not a hand me down SUV. They are using the GMT360 platform. It is no more a hand me down than the Navigator. And everyone knows GM loves Caddy more, thats why they got the SRX.

The SRX was Cadillac developed, just as the Sigma platform was. Saab had an idea that was basically ready to got that was based on the SRX but GM shot it down as too costly and risky (mostly to Caddy)

Quote:
Originally Posted by fabric
Look at the competition. How many are body on frame? How many have a live rear axle? How many have push-rod engines? These aren't automatically negatives, but they do tend to be limiters in many areas. These are also the kinds of things that lead to less than stellar reviews in the popular magazines, regardless of the merits of the overall car.

The Saab is a premium brand, competing against other premium brands. And they are introducing an SUV developed from a mainstream product. Yeah, they'll sell some, but if Saab is going to do well, it needs to move to the head of the class. Even the 9-3SS just finished 6th of 7 in a sporty 4 door compary.

The part to take note of is that the car it beat was the *** of a Jaguar, the X-Type, one that Ford got horribly wrong.
Well first many are body on frame and live axel. The Mercedes M class is body on frame, the Discovery is BOF with live axels front and rear. The Disco also has a pushrod engine. Lexus sales 2 body on fram SUVs and they can't keep 'em in stock. And from what I understand the 9-7x should have an all independent suspension. It is also worth noting that even the Mustang still has a solid rear axel.

The Navigator and Escalade were both developed from mainstream products and both sell exceptionally well, so that arguement is just pointless. As for the 6th place finish, they tested an Arc, they should have tested the Aero which was in the price range and would have been a much better match to what C&D looks for. Just as you can get the 3 series and C class is soft riding version, you can in the 9-3SS as well, and it's called the Arc (which I have and love). If they had tested an Aero it would have placed much higher.
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Old 26th March 2004
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Originally Posted by E715

I wasn't trying to be a jerk. You kept saying you didn't know what I meant, and so I explained it with numbers

And the thing is, is that Volvo was profitable before, Ford did not make them profitable. GM is trying to get Saab profitable, but the process is slow, and profit is why the 9-2x and 9-7x are being introduced. It is not that GM is doing anything wrong, in reality the problem is more on Saab's end because they are so resistant to change. Saab hates change and they hate taking orders. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but in this case it is not because if Saab doesn't get profitable in a few years GM will have no reason to keep them around and will Oldsmobile them.

You may not have been trying to be a jerk, but that's how it came across. i wasn't arguing that Saab wasn't losing money, nor am I so dumb as to not understand what losing money means. Your example was amazingly condescending.

My disagreement is with how GM is going about this. You see giving them two badge engineered cars as a good stopgap. I think stopgaps in general are bad. If you want to fix something right, you take the time to do it right. Caddy is a perfect example. GM took a bold risk, and it is paying off. I'd rather see GM take a similar bold risk with Saab.
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Old 26th March 2004
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Volvo really did not get any better because of Ford though. And Saab has gotten better since GM took complete control of them.
Perhaps Ford had nothing to do with the fact that Volvo has a fleet of stellar looking cars, when just a few years ago they were still selling boxes. I don't think th is is the case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
It is not a hand me down SUV. They are using the GMT360 platform. It is no more a hand me down than the Navigator. And everyone knows GM loves Caddy more, thats why they got the SRX.
If the 9-7 came out at the same time as the other models based on the GMT360, I would agree. But this strikes me as just finding something that could be plugged in that would suffice. You see that as good, I see it as bad. We're both right and wrong. You'd really they rather gave Saab something better, and I should be happy they're filling a hole in the model line-up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
The SRX was Cadillac developed, just as the Sigma platform was. Saab had an idea that was basically ready to got that was based on the SRX but GM shot it down as too costly and risky (mostly to Caddy)
I thought Saab had an actual SUV developed, which Caddy supposedly took a lot of parts for. Which is good if they did, that's the point of merging companies. But not if Saab shared none of the spoils.

I'm divided on whether Saab having an SRX based SUV would affect Caddy. I would say the demographics of potential owners are very different, but I know GM is making an effort to target a more youthful client base for Caddy, so I can see the potentical conflict. However, there are 4 (soon to be 3 and then 4 again) versions of the GMT360. They are pretty much in direct competition with each other, more so than Saab/Caddy, since there is still definitely a factor of import vs. domestic for a lot of buyers.

I guess the 9-7 was in the works before they saw how the SRX was doing. It's reviews have been stellar. How awesome would it have been to have a 9-7 that could actually beat the competition in a Car and Driver comparo. I don't see the proposed 9-7 topping that same kind of test.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
Well first many are body on frame and live axel. The Mercedes M class is body on frame, the Discovery is BOF with live axels front and rear. The Disco also has a pushrod engine. Lexus sales 2 body on fram SUVs and they can't keep 'em in stock. And from what I understand the 9-7x should have an all independent suspension. It is also worth noting that even the Mustang still has a solid rear axel.
The Lexuses (Lexii?) you refer to are the behemoth sized ones. That's not the 9-7's competition. The RX330 is close to it's competition. The Benz has an IRS. The 9-7 will not. The new Benz ML will be out shortly, and it is unit body. The ML is also a 6 or 7 year old platform, and it still does relatively well against it's competition. The Disco generally does very poorly in comparo's, because it's on road performance is severely hampered by the 2 live axles, and it's off road performance is really no greater than several of it's competitors.

Again, my point wasn't that these aspects mean it will be bad. Many buyers just look at the complete picture, it it performs well, looks good, and the price is right, they don't care how it's built. But these features the 9-7 will have tend to be limiters. So they are starting with a handicap if all it's main competitors are unit body, fully independent suspensions with advanced OHC engines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E715
The Navigator and Escalade were both developed from mainstream products and both sell exceptionally well, so that arguement is just pointless. As for the 6th place finish, they tested an Arc, they should have tested the Aero which was in the price range and would have been a much better match to what C&D looks for. Just as you can get the 3 series and C class is soft riding version, you can in the 9-3SS as well, and it's called the Arc (which I have and love). If they had tested an Aero it would have placed much higher.
The Navigotor's and Escalades are essentially similar to their competition. Large, body on frame SUVs. So they aren't at a disadvantage. You need to look at thing in terms of their competition, not every SUV. The 9-7 is smaller, and will (better) be priced lower than the Navigator and Escalade.

As for the 4 door sedan test, the Saab was one of the most expensive as tested. It cost more than the Audi A4 and BMW, the 1st and 2nd placed finishers. And the BMW was a 325, not a 330.

The reviewers did like the 9-3. And the reviewers definitely have a bias towards rwd and awd, so the Saab started at a disadvantage. It's a great car, but it doesn't have something to really make it stand out in a field of great cars.

You can't just equal the competition, you need to out perform it, or be a tremendous value. Saab is not doing either. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone's purchase of a Saab, because a lot of getting a car is personal preference, and looks and feel are far more important than ultimate performance.

If you exlude the raw performance numbers, the 7 cars in the comparison were essentially the same, and the choice comes down to personal preference. That one car does 0-60 in 6.9 seconds and another does it in 7.3 is immaterial in the real world. But that is one area that car reviewers place a lot of weight, since it is an objective measure. And how a car does in these magazines has a lot of influence. If the 9-3 displaced the 3 series or A4 in the 10 best list, you'd be getting a lot more people in Saab show rooms.
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  #14  
Old 26th March 2004
CosmicSaab CosmicSaab is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fabric
You may not have been trying to be a jerk, but that's how it came across. i wasn't arguing that Saab wasn't losing money, nor am I so dumb as to not understand what losing money means. Your example was amazingly condescending.

My disagreement is with how GM is going about this. You see giving them two badge engineered cars as a good stopgap. I think stopgaps in general are bad. If you want to fix something right, you take the time to do it right. Caddy is a perfect example. GM took a bold risk, and it is paying off. I'd rather see GM take a similar bold risk with Saab.
I didn't know what you didn't understand and so I had to resort to making it as simple as possible at the risk of is sounding rude. I don't try to be condescending, but I take that risk sometimes and mean no disrespect.

I do not think that the 9-2x is a good idea. So I totally agree with you on that. The 9-7x, while no the best way of doing it, is a good idea. It is a solution that will get a product to market quickly that has large profit margins and lots of people will buy. The 9-7x is not about trying to be unique, it is about trying to keep Saab alive. So is the 9-2x, but with it they changed virtually nothing, with the 9-7x they have made major changes, and moth everything you will see without opening the hood will be new and different.

Caddy was not in as bad of shape as Saab was/is in. And like I said, GM loves Cadillac more, so they get what they want. Not even the Corvette team can stop Cadillac from getting what they want (notible the LS6 for the CTS-V which most in the vette team though should be in nothing but a Corvette). GM took a bold risk by buying Saab in the first place and they got burnt. They are not willing to take anymore huge risks like that until they see more results.
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  #15  
Old 26th March 2004
CosmicSaab CosmicSaab is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fabric

Perhaps Ford had nothing to do with the fact that Volvo has a fleet of stellar looking cars, when just a few years ago they were still selling boxes. I don't think th is is the case.


If the 9-7 came out at the same time as the other models based on the GMT360, I would agree. But this strikes me as just finding something that could be plugged in that would suffice. You see that as good, I see it as bad. We're both right and wrong. You'd really they rather gave Saab something better, and I should be happy they're filling a hole in the model line-up.


I thought Saab had an actual SUV developed, which Caddy supposedly took a lot of parts for. Which is good if they did, that's the point of merging companies. But not if Saab shared none of the spoils.

I'm divided on whether Saab having an SRX based SUV would affect Caddy. I would say the demographics of potential owners are very different, but I know GM is making an effort to target a more youthful client base for Caddy, so I can see the potentical conflict. However, there are 4 (soon to be 3 and then 4 again) versions of the GMT360. They are pretty much in direct competition with each other, more so than Saab/Caddy, since there is still definitely a factor of import vs. domestic for a lot of buyers.

I guess the 9-7 was in the works before they saw how the SRX was doing. It's reviews have been stellar. How awesome would it have been to have a 9-7 that could actually beat the competition in a Car and Driver comparo. I don't see the proposed 9-7 topping that same kind of test.

The Lexuses (Lexii?) you refer to are the behemoth sized ones. That's not the 9-7's competition. The RX330 is close to it's competition. The Benz has an IRS. The 9-7 will not. The new Benz ML will be out shortly, and it is unit body. The ML is also a 6 or 7 year old platform, and it still does relatively well against it's competition. The Disco generally does very poorly in comparo's, because it's on road performance is severely hampered by the 2 live axles, and it's off road performance is really no greater than several of it's competitors.

Again, my point wasn't that these aspects mean it will be bad. Many buyers just look at the complete picture, it it performs well, looks good, and the price is right, they don't care how it's built. But these features the 9-7 will have tend to be limiters. So they are starting with a handicap if all it's main competitors are unit body, fully independent suspensions with advanced OHC engines.

The Navigotor's and Escalades are essentially similar to their competition. Large, body on frame SUVs. So they aren't at a disadvantage. You need to look at thing in terms of their competition, not every SUV. The 9-7 is smaller, and will (better) be priced lower than the Navigator and Escalade.

As for the 4 door sedan test, the Saab was one of the most expensive as tested. It cost more than the Audi A4 and BMW, the 1st and 2nd placed finishers. And the BMW was a 325, not a 330.

The reviewers did like the 9-3. And the reviewers definitely have a bias towards rwd and awd, so the Saab started at a disadvantage. It's a great car, but it doesn't have something to really make it stand out in a field of great cars.

You can't just equal the competition, you need to out perform it, or be a tremendous value. Saab is not doing either. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone's purchase of a Saab, because a lot of getting a car is personal preference, and looks and feel are far more important than ultimate performance.

If you exlude the raw performance numbers, the 7 cars in the comparison were essentially the same, and the choice comes down to personal preference. That one car does 0-60 in 6.9 seconds and another does it in 7.3 is immaterial in the real world. But that is one area that car reviewers place a lot of weight, since it is an objective measure. And how a car does in these magazines has a lot of influence. If the 9-3 displaced the 3 series or A4 in the 10 best list, you'd be getting a lot more people in Saab show rooms.
Well the 9-3SS is a great value, if you go a price a 3 series, and A4 and the SS with the same features the SS will be a lot less. And the base 325 has a lot fewer features than a base Arc.

You do need to look at all the SUVs anywhere near the price pange. I know someone who was looking at the Touareg, Escalade, MDX, and the GX470. She ended up getting the GX.

In any case, I don't think we are really getting anywhere here and so I will wait to comment further until we get more info on the 9-7x in early April.
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Old 27th March 2004
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Willy Wonka Willy Wonka is offline
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What seems clear as a casual observer is that Saab is the future, but they don't know it. Current manufacturing practices limit model individuality because of new component costs. There are custom vehicles and production vehicles. There are no semi-custom / unique vehicles. Here is a niche for Saab. (exclude gm caddy policy for a minute) Using a broad customer platform Saabaru for it's outreach, a limited production unique vehicle can be sustained. GM has the component production capability for intra division sales ( keep the f-ing actuarians out of this) so components are availible.
The results:
GM gets credit for a semi-custum unique car, saab buys high priced components and looses money ( it disways the competition), a plain plastic Fugi car gets customer recognition, and last but not least the distribution of design phylosophies adds strength to Gm.

So I'm saying that a scenario exists where it's beneficial for saab to loose money for gm to invest it and for saab to distribute its designs. The automotive industry is in a state of transition from cookie sheet manufacturing to customer requirement based. It's happening in pieces, inventory control, design flexibitly, part interoperability, money exchange channels are all tools which have been put into place. And inertia is finally coming into play. However the driving motivation of the inertia may be the total reduction of swedish production.
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  #17  
Old 30th March 2004
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fabric fabric is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E715

Well the 9-3SS is a great value, if you go a price a 3 series, and A4 and the SS with the same features the SS will be a lot less. And the base 325 has a lot fewer features than a base Arc.

You do need to look at all the SUVs anywhere near the price pange. I know someone who was looking at the Touareg, Escalade, MDX, and the GX470. She ended up getting the GX.

In any case, I don't think we are really getting anywhere here and so I will wait to comment further until we get more info on the 9-7x in early April.
I'm interested to see what they do with the 9-7 as well, although I don't agree with the direction they are going. At least it looks good, based on the pictures. If they capture that, that's a definite plus, because it could potentially be one of the nicest looking SUVs out there, something I haven't given it credit for.

We only have to wait about a week.
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