Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shuttle Shuffle
Charles River Saab has long run a shuttle service for its customers. Back in the days before the notion of loaner cars existed, we had many customers taking the shuttle each day to Harvard Square where they either worked or picked up the “T” to get to other points in Cambridge or Boston. Because so many were in the shuttle at once, mini-vans were the vehicle of choice. As loaner cars started to proliferate, we needed fewer seats in our shuttle.

Last time we put a new shuttle into service was 2005 when we inducted the then-new 97X to the position. It was reasonably roomy and comfortable, and though the cognoscenti aren’t fooled by the placement of the ignition switch any style of the dash vents, it wasn’t a bad vehicle for our needs. I did have the opportunity to spend some time in a 9-7X. Those that know me understand that I would never own any SUV, Saab or otherwise. I found myself surprised in many ways, though, by the 9-7X. The tuning of the steering and suspension worked reasonably well, and in fact better than in some SUVs that weren’t built on truck chassis. Still, you’d find that the well mannered 9-7X would lose its composure unexpectedly with just the right combination of steering input, speed and certain irregular road surfaces. I’m sure the engineers at Saab who did the tuning were aware of the limitations, and if this had been a clean-slate build, they would have made more fundamental alterations to the chassis when faced with these abrupt changes in attitude. That said, the vehicle does have its fans and we have seen clients come back and buy a second one.Now, it’s time has come. The 9-7X is history, and so is our shuttle.

The new recruit, more befitting of our time and the Saab brand, is a 9-3X. Customers will be a bit more cramped, but they will be comfortable and safe as we bring them to and fro. We’ve enjoyed images of other Combis from around the world with bold graphics telling all passers-by what they are. While our 9-7X, in lingonberry red, was subdued and innocuous, we will be having graphics added to our carbon black 9-3X. We want everyone in Harvard Square to know what this great car is. And of course, where they can get theirs! Pictures to follow when the project is complete.

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