Thursday, January 22, 2004

There is a new Saab which will arrive in showrooms in the spring--the 9-2X. This car has fueled much controversy because it largely a very nice Subaru Impreza/WRX with a Saab snout and a few detail modifications. Subaru engine, drive train,'s even built in Japan by Fuji, just like a Subaru. GM is a stakeholder in Fuji, and it appears to me that the pressure to have both a lower market car and an all-wheel drive car IMMEDIATELY fueled the decision to bring the Saab-aru to market. No one argues that this will be a really great car. The WRX is one of the best performance values on the road, but quirky in its appearance. The 9-2X, by contrast, is very good looking. That, coupled with a modest price tag and great performance, will position the 9-2X to do well in the marketplace. The only question is...who will want this car?
The good news, I think, is that it will attract new customers to the Saab brand. Hard-core Saab enthusiasts will hate this car. But then, the hard core loyalists have hated virtually every new car Saab has put on the road....for a time. I acknowledge that this is different, though. This is not Saab working on a shared platform, or buying its engines from Ford (Saab has a history of dependence on other manufacturers). This is starting with complete vehicle and injecting it with very little Saab DNA. I see the reason for loyalists'concern. If there is a bright spot, it is, as I have learned from "inside sources," that the 9-2X will receive more and more Saab systems every model year. At the end of the model run, a decision will be made to replace the car with either another built-by-Fuji 9-2 which at that point may be significantly genuine Saab (including the engine), or the project may be lifted from Fuji and rekindled in Europe using an Opel platform.
No matter the outcome, this will all be interesting to watch. I also have no doubt that the 9-2X, no matter what you think of its heritage, will be lots of fun.

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