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Saab could have taken the easy way out and upgraded the vehicle architecture of the current 9-3. But instead, they have started work on an entirely new and versatile platform to underpin their 9-3, 9-5 and even larger future models, a move that is far more costly and time-consuming.
Then again, the current 9-3 chassis dates back to 2002, when the Epsilon platform was just a twinkle in GM’s eye. And now that Saab has divulged themselves of that messy period, they are seeking to venture forth on their own with “Phoenix,” the code name for their new architecture and named after their stunning Geneva concept.
The new Phoenix will be available with unique McPherson struts and “race-car style” five-link rear axle, made by Swedish supplier ZF. It will be flexible enough for the new 9-3 and the larger 9-5 when it’s replaced in a few years (even though the current 9-5 was just introduced, it gives an indication to how far ahead Saab’s planning this). It can also be stretched up to 18 feet for a range-topping “9-7″ if need be.
The inspiration for this one-chassis approach comes from truck company Scania, which has used a modular platform open to upgrading over generations of vehicles without reengineering the entire thing. Scania, which used to own Saab back in the 1960s, is providing technical assistance to the new platform project.
They still build the 9-3? You betcha, bucko, and they still like the 9-3 enough to give it a few more last hurrahs. But as fans of the original 900 know, all good things must come to an end – and when the replacement for the 9-3 is launched, it will draw much of its development from Saab’s PhoeniX concept.
The next-generation 9-3 is expected to drop soon, in 2012, riding on a newly re-engineered platform that will be flexible enough to be shared with future models. Saab is already planning to use it for the second-generation 9-4X crossover, even while the current 9-4X is just going into production, as well as the next 9-5. And just as likely, the PhoeniX concept will indicate the direction of technology and styling for these future Saabs.
“I think this is an excellent solution for us as a small manufacturer,” said Jan Ake Jonsson, CEO of Saab. “We will be able to get as much as we can get out of one architecture. It will give us the ability to build all of our cars in one plant so you can reduce your investment in the plant.”
Like the concept car, the platform is internally dubbed “Phoenix,” after the mythical car company that escaped near death in the clutches of a multi-brand conglomerate and arose from the ashes of bankruptcy restructuring through a last-minute buyout from the Dutch.
[Source: Automotive News]