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Saab woos BMW for technology swap deal

Classic: Saab's six-decades-old 92 is said to be the inspiration for the new 9-2, which might be built on BMW's Mini platform.

Baby Saab 9-2 might be based on Mini, with BMW engines for other Saabs too

14 Jun 2010

NEW Saab chairman Victor Muller’s dream to reincarnate the tear-drop-shaped Saab 92 as a modern entry-level Saab 9-2 might come to pass, courtesy of BMW.

Reports from Sweden suggest the two companies are well advanced with talks to share a BMW front-wheel drive platform – presumably from the Mini – as well as powertrains.

The latter might also include engines for its next-generation 9-3 and a diesel engine to power the forthcoming 9-4X SUV, which is based on the same General Motors platform as the Captiva and about to go into production in Mexico alongside the similar Cadillac SRX.

The talks between the companies were revealed by Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri and confirmed in a report by Bloomberg news agency quoting “two people familiar with the matter”.

Mr Muller, who is also CEO of Dutch sportscar-maker Spyker (that acquired Saab from GM early this year), told Bloomberg that Saab was talking to various parties about technology sharing as a way to lower costs.

He declined to say if he was in discussions with BMW, Bloomberg reported.

A BMW spokesman did not specifically rule out a Saab deal, saying: "We are in talks with several interested parties who have interest in our technology. There are no contracts with Saab at the moment."

38 center imageFrom top: Saab 9-4X, Saab chairman Victor Muller.

Britain’s Autocar reports that its sources say BMW and Saab have already signed an agreement for the Swedish company to buy the new BMW-derived diesel and petrol engines that are set to make their debut in the forthcoming Mini Countryman.

“These engines are likely to be mated to the Countryman's new six-speed manual gearbox, which has the ability to accommodate a four-wheel drive system,” Autocar said.

“Saab, however, would retain its own Haldex-based XWD system no matter who supplies the engines.”

Interestingly, when the retro-styled Saab 9-2 small car was mooted in February, Mr Muller was quoted as saying the design was “the coolest thing since the Mini” and added: “Everyone will want one.”

He said he carried the designs with him on his travels and was constantly talking with Saab’s design team about the new model line.

He predicted that production was three years away, suggesting a 2013 arrival.

The original, super-aerodynamic Saab 92 was launched in 1949 with a two-stroke 764 19kW engine mated with a three-speed gearbox. It lasted in production until 1956 when it was replaced by the first 93.

The new baby of the Saab range originally was previously referred to as the 9-1, with media speculating that it might be built on an Opel Corsa platform with GM engines as part of the sale settlement in February.

While BMW engines might power the next Saab 9-3 in 2012, Saab has already announced it will recycle the current 9-3’s GM-sourced Epsilon platform for the body, albeit with heavy modifications.

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