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#1 2005-06-21 20:43:46

From: Detroit, MI
Registered: 2005-06-08
User Number: 179
Posts: 309

History of Saab 9-2x Project

A good article on Saab involvement in the development of the 9-2x from an automotive industry trade magazine. … asp?id=514



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#2 2017-08-16 22:45:14

From: Boston
Registered: 2015-02-18
User Number: 28345
Posts: 253

Re: History of Saab 9-2x Project

Original link is long gone, but wayback machine has it. … asp?id=514

Quotation of entire article for posterity:

Issue: July 2004

Saab-aru Sport Wagon

The Saab 9-2X is a significant new product born of an emerging global partnership.

by Gary Witzenburg

When Saab felt a need to expand its product line, it looked to General Motors’ global alliance office for help. GM was interested in leveraging relationships among its partners, and Saab’s desire to add a premium sport compact appeared to mesh nicely with available additional capacity for Subaru’s compact Impreza and turbocharged WRX component set. GM owns Saab and a 20 percent stake in Subaru parent company FHI (Fuji Heavy Industries).

“We saw this emerging segment already occupied by Acura RSX and Volvo S40,” says Saab Brand Manager, Future Vehicles, Chip Wilkerson, “plus the coming Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. We felt the need to be there quickly. Looking across the GM corporate landscape for where we could fill this gap, FHI was a natural partner.”

The proposal was approved by GM’s Global Strategy Board, which includes CEO Rick Wagoner, Product Development Chairman Bob Lutz and North American President Gary Cowger as well as top GM Europe and Saab management. “Our role at GM is to help enable Saab to grow its product range,” Lutz said. “When Saab requested to work with FHI, we were very supportive as the Saab and Subaru working relationship is a very natural one.”

Both companies have backgrounds in aircraft manufacturing and success in European-style rally competition as well as reputations for technical innovation and unconventional automotive thinking. Both also share extensive experience with turbocharged gasoline engines, for which Saab is GM’s global center of expertise. As a result of the deal, Saab broadens its line with a pair of premium all-wheel-drive 5-door 9-2Xs (standard Linear and turbocharged Aero) to appeal to new, younger customers and grow in North America while gaining knowledge and experience with FHI’s wellrespected awd technology. FHI, currently working to move the Subaru brand upscale, gains global visibility and credibility plus insight into Saab’s design and marketing methods while maximizing its architecture and manufacturing capacity utilization.

Lead Designer Ola Granlund made sure the interior looked and felt like a Saab.
“We had other alternatives, other platforms we could have looked at,” Wilkerson points out. “But this one aligned the best for the type of vehicle we wanted to put into the marketplace. The fact that it was all-wheel drive was a huge plus because we hadn’t had an all-wheel drive vehicle and were getting hammered in the U.S. for not having one.”

Wilkerson was part of the vehicle team that traveled to Japan roughly once a month for a week or more at a time to work with their FHI counterparts. Led by Vehicle Executive Director Kjell-Ake Eriksson, its primary responsibilities were the areas that would successfully “Saabify” the 9-2X to give it strong Saab character and separate it from its Subaru siblings: exterior and interior design, chassis development (ride/handling) and quality. Other members included Platform Manager Peter Dorrich, Chassis Integration Engineer Per Jansson, Advanced Design Chief Anthony Lo, Lead Designer Ola Granlund and Chief of Quality Bengt Persson. “Peter, Per, Bengt and Ola spent several months living over there,” Wilkerson adds. “In fact, when we did the [March, 2004] contract sign off — reviewed the vehicle and said, okay, it’s ready to go into production — Peter did his presentation in Japanese. So we really got to know the people over there. It’s a good bunch.”

Given the existing platform and structure, Jansson’s responsibility was to make it ride and handle like a Saab, while Granlund’s was to make it look like one. “He was working with their designers to make sure it had a good strong Saab face and both interior and exterior came across as a Saab,” Wilkerson explains. “Peter was working with FHI engineers to make sure that our requirements were built into it. Bengt was making sure that the quality targets were met. I was working with the specification, the pricing and the business case, finding out how we could make this thing fly, while Kjell-Ake was overseeing the project.” Were Saab’s quality standards different from FHI’s? “No, but there are a lot of new components, so we needed to ensure that it met our level of quality. We put in more sound insulation, for example, and did some things to make sure it felt and sounded like a Saab.”

Wilkerson adds that the relationship has been outstanding. “Given the language and cultural barriers,” he says, “I was expecting it to be more difficult. But there was a very strong understanding between our engineers and theirs in the way they approach vehicle development and what the end goal was. I think it’s gone very well. Just the fact that we’ve been able to get this vehicle out as quickly as we have [two years] has been great.” The base Linear model’s 2.5L flat four (“boxer”) engine delivers 165 hp through its standard 5-speed manual transaxle. Besides full-time awd, its standard features include keyless entry and security, air conditioning, power windows/locks, cruise, dual power mirrors, AM/FM/CD, active front head restraints, cargo area lighting and cover, rear wiper and roof spoiler, 16” alloy wheels and no-charge scheduled maintenance.

The uplevel Aero boasts a 227-hp turbocharged 2.0L four plus fog lamps, automatic climate control, leather-covered steering wheel and shifter, aluminum sport pedals, aluminumrimmed dials, upgraded audio with 6-CD indash changer 16” twin-spoke alloy wheels, sport seats, suspension and exhaust.

Why did Saab feel a need for such a vehicle? For starters, it enables the brand to quickly enter the emerging U.S. premium compact segment (sub-$25K) with a competitive entry positioned below the 9-3, which is expected to grow to 125,000-150,000 units by 2006. It arrived in June, ahead of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

“The 9-2X is a milestone in expanding our model range and our customer base,” said Saab Automobile President Peter Augustsson, “especially in the very important North American market. We see a rapidly emerging segment for a premium small car below the 9-3 Sport Sedan. And being one of the first entries, we intend to shape that segment.” “It will help us continue our strong momentum,” added Saab Cars USA President Debra Kelly-Ennis.”

Saab is targeting younger (than its current) buyers — 75 percent college grad, median age 28, income $75K — stepping up from mainstream brands. Unlike traditional Saab owners, the majority are expected to be single apartment dwellers in urban environments. Since they will own only one vehicle, it will have to be versatile enough to combine image, fun and utility. The 9-2X is unlikely to be offered outside North America, at least for now. Swedish-built Saabs are shipped to the U.S. by sea, so the process and ports are already in place to accept Japan-built Saabs. By contrast, European-market Saabs are shipped by rail and truck, so developing an infrastructure to import Japanbuilt vehicles by sea would be expensive.

We asked whether the next-generation 9- 2X might logically be co-developed with FHI’s next-gen Impreza/WRX or derived from some other GM global platform. That decision is still a ways off; but whatever it might be, it will have to have strong Saab character, Wilkerson said. “As we dive into this world of alliances, we have to make sure that a Saab remains a Saab.”

And what of the criticism from some Saabophiles that the brand’s image is being diluted by this “Saabaru” 9-2X and the soonto- come Chevy TrailBlazer-based 9-7X SUV.

“We’ve got to be pragmatic,” he responds. “Our business isn’t long-term viable if we don’t grow, but we can’t grow at the expense of what our brand stands for. That’s why it’s so important that we find partners and build real Saabs off of [other suitable platforms]. At the end of the day, I’d much rather be explaining an FHI-based 9-2X than why Saab went out of business.”

2005 Saab 9-2X
What is it:    Premium compact sport 5-Door
Who’s it for:    Youthful buyers desiring Saab image and driving fun with 5-door ultility
Where’s it built:    Ota Gunma, Japan
Parent Company:    General Motors
Competitors:    Acura RSX, Volvo S40, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Engine:    2.5L SOHC alum. flat four; 2.0L DOHC intercooled turbocharged alum. flat four
Horsepower:    165 at 5,500 rpm; 227 at 6,000 rpm
Torque:    166 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm; 217 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm
Transmission:    5-speed manual; optional four-speed automatic
Layout:    Front-engine, full-time all-wheel drive
Wheelbase:    99.4 in. (2525 mm)
Curb Weight:    3,070 lb. Linear 5M; 3,179 lb. Aero 5M
EPA Economy:    22/29 mpg Linear 5M, 23/29 4A; 20/26 5M, 19/25 4A
Base Price:    $22,990 Linear; $26,950 Aero
What we think:    Looks good, goes well, handles great; a real Saab from a fun Subaru.

The 9-2X will go down historically as another harbinger of the slow but steady demise of Saab, failing in its attempt to rejuvenate itself by teaming with the ascendant Subaru. Perhaps the "insight into Saab’s design and marketing methods" served as a cautionary tale for remaining quirky. After 2004 Subaru's sales figures began their exponential growth (the global downturn in 07-08 notwithstanding), whereas Saab's did the opposite.

As an aside, the older threads in this section of the site are fun...doubting whether the 06's would be made/sold given it being such a sales flop, apparently there was going to be a Tribeca based 9-6X until GM got rid of its FHI stake, and speculating about future values and parts availability, to name some interesting topics.

me and my aero



#3 2017-08-17 08:51:40

Worst ninja editor, ever.
From: South of North Carolina
Registered: 2007-04-06
User Number: 1944
Posts: 8724

Re: History of Saab 9-2x Project

This is an interesting article, and I (like you) share a joy in reading this sort of 'historical' documentation.

In the end, the 9-2x Aero was a good fit for Saab, I think. Not only did it bring fresh blood into the Saab showrooms (that likely never had considered Saab as a brand before), it did it with very little conversion from it's Subaru platform. The Saab purists cried foul, but really, there has not been a Saab since the 1994 900 Convertible that was NOT built on a platform that wasn't their own. You cannot say with a straight face that GM was intentionally trying to 'destroy' Saab with the 9-2x.

So, here's my breakdown:

92x is a  saab:
Use of turbocharging on top models
Rally history
Unusual engine (flat 4)
Everyday usability (5th door, folding seats, etc.)
general design language of the Impreza is quite 'Saab-like', the 9-2x much more so

92x is NOT a  saab:
It's a Subaru
No ignition in the center console
No 'night panel'

Platform sharing is a fact of life for the automotive world, and we will continue to see cars like this from every manufacturer. I was glad that I was able to have a piece of it with my Aero - I still miss that car.  hmm

2005 Aero 5MT
2014 Ford Mustang GT Premium 6MT - Sterling Gray Metallic - 475hp of crowd munching fun



#4 2017-08-18 23:16:24

From: Boston MA
Registered: 2012-04-30
User Number: 7218
Posts: 849

Re: History of Saab 9-2x Project

I didn't know Bob Lutz was still involved with GM when they made the 92x. His book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters is super informative, tells a great insider's perspective of how GM was operating and how they tried to make cars cheap, but only ended up with cheap cars during the late 80's- early 2000's era. A great read if you're into car "history" / business.

The  92x is a  saab because it looks legit from the outside. Besides the badge and headlights, really, it will always be a Subaru in my eyes. There are just too few differences from the same/ next year wrx's.
Had they only-
-added a night panel button,
-angled the center console/ radio toward the driver like in all  saab's of that generation, maybe add that nifty trip computer like the 9-3's and 9-5's had in place of the clock pod in the dash
-and give it a center console ignition and saab-esque interior vents

would have made for a much more convincing Swedish-ish car.

This is my Saabaru. There are many like it, but this one is Mine!



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