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Having just signed a deal with two Chinese partners, Saab chief Victor Muller has immediately shown he knows how to work the media. Rather than sit quietly, Muller has already announced plans to build three new models, while a new joint-venture arrangement secures medium-term funding for the production of Saabs current lineup.
Two of the three new models will be larger, perhaps designed specifically for the Chinese market where luxury automakers like BMW and Mercedes currently sell stretched versions of their 5 Series and E-Class platforms. Their names: the 9-6 and 9-7
The final car is the much talked-about 9-1, a smaller vehicle (rendered above). “We will now be able to develop a small entry-level Saab, a car that has long been on the top of our wish list,” said Muller in a statement.
Funding for the projects will come from both Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile and distributor Pang Da Automobile which recently purchased a $356 million 51% stake in Saab.
With an eye on emerging markets, as well as the growing small premium segment, Saab execs have made it clear that an entry level model designed to take on the Aud A1 and BMW 1 Series is on their radar. Now comes word that a small premium Saab, likely named the 9-1, could arrive sooner than expected thanks to platform sharing with another automaker.
In a recent interview, Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson commented that while a subcompact isn’t in the brand’s current production plans, there’s a possibility that the underlying platform could be donated by or shared with another automaker. Jonsson even went so far as to say that several other automakers have already come forward looking to partner with Saab on different technology aspects.
Platform sharing is becoming increasingly popular in a post-recession auto industry, where automakers are forced to work together to reduce costs and share emissions technology. The tie-up between Fiat and Chrysler is set to include considerable product sharing, while recently Mercedes parent company Daimler announced a partnership with Renault and just yesterday we heard the first rumors of the love-child between Volkswagen and Suzuki.
Jonsson didn’t go so far as to name any potential partners in the auto industry, but several smaller automakers, including Mitsubishi and Mazda, are in need of world-wide partners as well.
New Saab Spyker company expects to be profitable in same year
With Saab having just been saved by Dutch automaker Spyker, the new Saab Spyker Automobiles company has confirmed that it will deliver a new 9-3 model to market in 2012. The current 9-3 has been in production since 2002, meaning that by the time the third-generation of Saab’s volume seller arrives, the current model will be 10 years old.
Saab has said the new 9-5 model will arrive in dealerships this Spring, replacing a model that has been on the market for over a decade. The 9-5 will be offered as both a sedan and wagon, and a 9-5X model is also coming. The 9-4X is due out in 2011.
Most surprising is the news that the automaker is looking at delivering a 9-1 model, as past reports have suggested Spyker didn’t want to take the Saab brand down-market. But with automakers like BMW and Audi already competing in the premium compact segment, Saab is reconsidering. Saab Spyker has said in an official press release that it intends to be an, ““independent, performance-orientated niche car company with an industry-leading environmental strategy,” that will compete directly with BMW and Audi.
Saab Spyker expects to return to profitability by 2012, an incredibly short time considering it hasn’t turned a profit in almost two decades.