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Saab’s soar point

On the rebound: Saab managing director Jan-Ake Jonsson and the 9-3.

Global Saab sales are set to rise with a redesigned 9-5, new SUV and a compact

Saab logo8 Nov 2007

By DAVID HASSALL

SAAB Automobile has experienced a dip in sales this year due to the introduction of a facelifted 9-3 range, but expects to be quickly back on track and heading towards profitability.

Global managing director Jan-Ake Jonsson said in Melbourne last week that the General Motors-owned brand had lowered its break-even point by reducing costs, but he would not be drawn on when the Swedish brand would return a profit for its American masters.

Mr Jonsson said that Saab was now making the most of its GM connection, not only in accessing technical developments and new product like the Astra-based 9-1 compact car due in two years, but also with its business operations.

“We have previously not made the most of our link to the world’s biggest car-maker,” said Mr Jonsson at the local launch of the heavily revised 9-3. “We aim to increase productivity by between five and 15 per cent per year, and last year we had our best-ever sales of 133,000 units.

“In 2007 we are down about eight per cent because of the change-over with 9-3 (but) this month we have made good gains with the new 9-3 and (by the end of the year) we will get close to 2006.

 center imageLeft: 9-3 Convertible and 9-5 sedan.



“The bottom line is that we have significantly lowered the threshold for profitability to between 150,000 and 175,000 units.”

Mr Jonsson did not reveal when he thought Saab would reach this threshold, but a massive (for Saab) new model roll-out over the next two years will surely see the company set significant new sales records.

Interestingly, Australia is one of a handful of countries (along with Spain, France, Russia and Norway) to defy the sales decline this year, being 16 per cent up to the end of October.

The priority for Saab now is the replacement for the aging 9-5, which Mr Jonsson conceded was long overdue, having been first presented in 1997.

Expect to see the Vectra-based 9-5 Mark 2 revealed by the end of next year and to be quickly followed by the 9-4X – an SUV that is being jointly developed with Cadillac.

A Saab insider begrudgingly noted that one downside of GM ownership is that the Cadillac version is likely to be launched ahead of the Saab, so it may be that we first see this new SUV appear at the Detroit motor show in early 2009.

Late 2009 should see the arrival of the 9-1, which is being developed off the next-generation Astra platform and will give Saab a car to rival the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

Those three all-new models should provide Saab with considerable extra volume and reduce the company’s reliance on the 9-3 – which Mr Jonsson said accounts for two-thirds of all Saab sales currently.

The all-new 9-3 should arrive by the end of 2010, but the latest midlife facelift should keep it ticking along in the meantime, along with a new all-wheel drive option that will arrive in Australia next June.

Another Saab executive emphatically told GoAuto that the company would never build a rear-wheel drive car like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, saying it is now satisfied with being able to offer all-wheel drive in addition to its previously exclusive front-drive offerings.

Saab will therefore not be utilising GM’s new compact RWD Alpha architecture, which is likely to be used by Cadillac, Pontiac and Holden from 2011.

Read more:

First drive: Saab 9-3 buyers spoilt for choice


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