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Saab back for 2011

Working 9-5: The big Saab will make it into Australian showrooms from early next year.

New Saabs back in Aussie showrooms in three months, with 9-4X to follow

4 Oct 2010

A NEW Saab model line-up including the redesigned 9-5 flagship, all-new 9-4X crossover and next-generation 9-3 volume-seller will begin rolling back into Australian Saab dealerships from as early as January 1, the resuscitated Swedish brand told GoAuto at last week’s Paris motor show.

“We are coming and if it doesn’t happen by January 1 then it will happen by February 1 at the latest,” said Saab’s global sales chief Adrian Hallmark at the French automotive show, where new Saab chairman Victor Muller promised to renew the brand’s complete model line-up within two years.

Mr Hallmark said Saab would distribute its vehicles directly through a national retail network comprising at least 12 multi-franchise dealerships, including a minimum of two dealers in each major metropolitan centre.

 center imageFrom top: Saab 9-4X, Saab executive director of sales chief Adrian Hallmark, Saab chairman Victor Muller.

“We will direct-distribute,” he said. “We will invest, we will run it and we will go for it instead of operating through an independent distributor and allowing them to make all the profit. It’s the most logical, sensible thing to do for Australia.”

Mr Hallmark said eight product-starved Australian Saab dealers had been in direct contact with the company’s Trollhattan headquarters to secure supplies of the existing 9-3 and all-new 9-5.

He said those dealers would be the first to receive Saab vehicles from Sweden and others were currently undergoing an evaluation process as Saab reviews their business plans.

The 2010 model 9-5 went on sale in Europe earlier this year as the first all-new Saab large-car for more than 13 years, and Saab will commence production of the new Cadillac SRX-based 9-4X in Mexico later this year, following its global debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November and ahead of its European launch in 2011.

Mr Hallmark said the 9-4X would also be part of an Australian Saab model range that in 2012 will be joined by the redesigned 9-3, which will be powered by British-built turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engines from the Mini Cooper following a supply deal announced last week with BMW.

Sales of new Saabs trickled to halt in Australia this year following the 2009 sale by General Motors of the historic Scandinavian car-maker to low-volume Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker for “the cost of a wind tunnel”.

Saab sold just over 10,500 cars globally in the first half of this year and has lowered its full-year forecast to 45,000 vehicles.

However, the Spyker CEO and Saab chairman reiterated in Paris his intention for Saab to become profitable by 2012, when he hoped a renewed model range would attract global sales of 120,000 vehicles – up from 80,000 in 2011.

Mr Muller said the $US74 million ($A76 million) Spyker paid for Saab was a “no-brainer”, despite the fact that Saab never returned a profit under a decade of full GM ownership. Nor has Spyker been profitable since it was rescued in 2000.

However, Mr Muller pointed out that Saab sold 125,000 vehicles as recently as 2007 and plans to reduce the company’s break-even point from 100,000 to 80,000 vehicles by 2012.

Saab hopes cost savings generated by alliances such the BMW engine deal will also help fund the development of new models, including the new 9-3 and a born-again version of Saab’s classic teardrop-shaped 92 compact car of the 1950s.

The company, which also has a 400 million Euro ($A567 million) loan from the European Investment Bank on which to draw, is expected to reveal a wagon version of the new 9-5 at the Geneva motor show in March.

“Spyker could not have bought Saab at a better time,” said Mr Muller in Paris as Saab unveiled a battery-powered 9-3 EV Estate and a new, more efficient diesel engine that will return CO2 emissions of 119g/km in the 9-3.

“In two years the 9-5 will be the oldest model in the Saab range. Never before have we had a crossover and never before has Saab’s model line-up been so young.”

Saab says it will commence trials of a 9-3 EV test fleet in early 2011 in selected global markets, but has yet to reveal if it plans customer sales.

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