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Saab, Still Hanging In There, Readies The 9-5 For Launch

1.6 Litre Engine Produces 180 Hp

Saab of Sweden is still alive, and about to kick-off a series of new car launches starting with the 9-5.

Saab is hanging on after being cast adrift by GM, albeit reportedly with a nice legacy of $500 million in assets and cash, engineering facilities for new cars, and $150 million in its bank account.

Exotic Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Group AB has been negotiating to take on Saab, and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp of China has taken a minority stake in Koenigsegg to help the process forward. Saab also has arranged a €400 million ($600 million) loan from the European Investment Bank.

Saab’s future may be cloudy, but it is nevertheless determined to pursue its new car launches. The top-of-the-range 9-5 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Car Show in October, and should go on sale across the world next year. The timetable hasn’t been nailed down yet.

At a press briefing in Farnborough, England, Knut Simonsson, Director of Global Brand and Sales, said Saab production has been concentrated on the Swedish plant to cut costs, and the breakeven point lowered.

“We can make good money now at 120,000, (cars a year)” Simonsson said.

Dribbled down in 2009
Breakeven for Saab was around 130,000 cars a year, but sales slipped to 93,000 in 2008, and are likely to have dribbled down to between 50,000 and 60,000 in 2009.

In August, Koenigsegg said under its new business plan, Saab would break even at 100,000, which it hoped to reach by 2012.

Sales in the U.S. this year will have dived to between 8,000 and 9,000 but should be back to about 25,000 in a couple of years, Simonsson said. The U.S. was Saab’s biggest market, and should be again, recalling that as recently as 2005/2006, sales were close to 50,000 in America.

1.6 litre engine
The new 9-5 features an all-turbo charged group of engines, harking back to a Saab specialty. The most remarkable sounding engine in the new range is a tiny 1.6 litre which produces 180 hp, and propels this very large machine from rest to 62 mph in 9.5 seconds, while producing about 7.6 l/km-37 miles per gallon. Mainly for the American market, there is a 2.8 litre 300 hp twin-turbo V6 with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. There are diesels for Europe, and an E85 compliant motor too.

No word yet on prices, or when a hybrid version will be available.

All things being equal, Saab will launch 3 more cars in 18 months – the next one being the new 9-3. The 9-5 shares much engineering with the Opel Insignia, Europe’s Car of the Year 2009, and the new Buick LaCrosse.

Neil Winton – November 1, 2009

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