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Saab rules out V6 power for revised 9-5 lineup

Turbo power: All local 9-5s come with four-cylinder engines.

No Holden V6 for new 9-5 but Saab maintains the brand is ‘back on the agenda’

12 Apr 2006

SAAB Australia has no plans to introduce the Holden-sourced 2.8-litre V6 turbo into its revised 9-5 when it goes on sale next month, despite the engine being available in other models from the struggling Swedish marque.

Saab Australia director Ralph Stevenson said it did not make sense to shoehorn the engine into the car when "there is no real customer benefit".

"The business case doesn’t work – the torque and power is the same as or slightly better in the Aero model," he said.

Producing 191kW at 5200rpm and 350Nm from 1800-5200rpm, the 9-5 Aero’s revised "2.3 HOT" engine has more power and a wider spread of torque over the rev-range than the new Holden-sourced 184kW/350Nm 2.8-litre V6 available in the 9-3.

The new 9-5’s nose borrows its styling cues from the 9X concept car and shows a clear path towards Saab’s future design.

While the Swedish car-maker must labour on with just two model lines, the company is believed to be working on an all-wheel drive crossover wagon and smaller sedan/hatch that will fit under the 9-3 and provide much-needed volume.

Mr Stevenson would not be drawn on future product but maintained that the Australian operation’s sales were "back on the agenda".

"The mood here is extremely positive within our own team internally and within our dealer network," he said.

He also commented that revised marketing plans and the new 9-3 SportCombi were producing the results the company intended.

"We are reaching younger customers, and we’re competing with new premium customers as well as our traditional rivals. We’re driving new traffic into the dealerships too," he said.

Internationally, the brand has achieved sales records in the UK, Spain and Canada, and in its home market it is back above a 10 per cent market share for the first quarter of this year.

Although Saab’s overall performance globally is improving, its Australian sales are in a virtual holding-pattern, awaiting some of the fresh new product due over the next four years, including a new-generation 9-5.

Sales in Australia have fallen from a high in 1997 of 3294 vehicles down to 1510 last year. The revised 9-5 is expected to lift sales only marginally this year.

However, Mr Stevenson said the brand had a committed and loyal customer base. He maintained that Saab had among the highest retention rates in the car industry, indicated by the fact that three-quarters of current 9-5 owners had previously owned a 9-5.

As a result Mr Stevenson said there would be no "shot-gun approach" to marketing the new 9-5.

38 center imageLeft: 9-3 SportCombi

"We believe that we now know enough about 9-5 buyers that we can very accurately target customers using below-the-line and direct mail advertising rather than looking for mainstream media," he said. "And we know that we have an extremely high conversion rates from test drives.

"With all of that around our products, and our marketing and the momentum that the Saab brand has, we’re confident the new 9-5 is going to continue to hit the mark with our traditional buyer group and conquest new people."Apart from Saab’s international commitment to bio-fuels, Mr Stevenson said the Australian operation was also keeping an eye on the rising popularity of turbo-diesels.

A 1.9-litre turbo-diesel – shared within the GM group – is available for both the 9-5 and 9-3 but is still some way off for Australia.

"We are still looking at it," he said. "It’s not an easy decision."Any diesel decision would also have to "hit the mark with our buyer group" but Mr Stevenson said the nature of the Saab buyer was a good fit with the latest-generation turbo-diesels.

In Europe, the Saab 1.9-litre TiD is available in two states of tune, with 90kW/280Nm or 112kW/315Nm Euro IV-compliant outputs, mated to either six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. The same 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine will appear in the Holden Astra from June.

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