Tuesday, March 29, 2005

At a Northeast Region Aftersales conference last week at Foxwoods we were treated to an introduction to the 9-7x. I am no fan of any vehicle in this segment (except maybe the MB G-Wagon in its early iteration with a diesel engine, rubber floor mat and manual everything--this truck was never imported), but even I had to admit that the 9-7x is handsome. Fortunately, the styling works. Where the 9-2x looks like a Saab only from the front, and a Subaru from every other angle, the 9-7x does not look like its sibling GM360 stable mates at all. The complete absence of moulding and cladding from its flanks contributes to this, making the profile, while not especially Saab, more importantly, not especially Envoy/Trailblazer.
The interior is a different matter. Overall, it's well done. I appreciate, that as opposed to the 9-2x that has no Saab DNA in its interior, that the 9-7x interior designers made an effort here, with mixed results. The ignition in the console, the 9-5 cupholder in the dash, the color of the wood, the design of the dash vents, and even the printing on the dash switches all look very Saab. However, you can't just pull an instrument pod, no matter how good and how complete, out of the parts bin and fool people. This is my biggest complaint in a 9-2x as well. Speedometer in the center, tachometer to the left, other gauges to the right.....in one oval pod. Same goes for the shifter and steering wheel. They're OK, but I've seen them before, and where the driver will have such intimate contact with them, they should have been more Saab as well.
I did not get a chance to drive the 9-7x. I really want to. I want to like this truck. Of all the trucks in its segment (full frame SUV with solid rear axle), it is clearly the best looking and perhaps is the best driving.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Le Roi est mort!
On the heels of the announced failure of Saab's Trollhattan plant to garner future production of mid-size Saab-Opel-Vauxhaul automobiles (which came just after the good news that Trollhattan had been chosen to produce the Cadillac BLS) which means that production at that plant may cease after 2010, Peter Augustsson, President of Saab Cars, has resigned. The reason cited in the Financial Times was his desire to embark on a project to start his own business development company. Sounds suspicious to me. He has been replaced by Carl-Peter Forster (President of GM Europe) as Chairman of the Board.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Russelsheim Defeats Trollhattan
Sounds like a sports headline, no? Unfortunately, the stakes were a bit higher. Saab's factory in Trollhattan was competing with the Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany for the "contract" to build future mid-size GM Europe products (Saab, Opel and Vauxhaul). Word came last Friday that Russelsheim was the winner. This is not totally unexpected, given that this is GM's largest European plant, in the country with the largest population, and Germany is on the euro and Sweden is not. What does this mean? As forecast now, presumably, Trollhattan will continue its current production, plus add the newly released Europe-only Cadillac BLS--which based on a 9-3 platform--until 2010, and then production would be consolidated at Russelsheim. Is Trollhattan doomed? Maybe, but maybe not. While the next 9-3, and maybe 9-5 might be built in Germany, there may be other products on the horizon that might make use of the Trollhattan facility. So many things can change, though, that everything prognosticated here, in the press and even people at GM, is entirely subject to change. What fun!