If you want to know what’s been ailing Saab all these years, today’s unveiling of the 9-3X wagon is a good place to start. Saab actually invented this car seven years ago. But GM bungling means it hasn’t been released until now.
I mean, the 9-3X is hardly a difficult car. It’s just the 4WD version of the estate, raised an inch-and-a-half and given a plastic nappy around the lower body. It was planned from the start in 2002 as part of the 9-3 range along with the saloon, cabrio and regular wagon. Back then I snuck into the studios in Trollhattan and was shown a prototype.
Remember, the 9-3 used the Vectra platform. Then GM decided there wouldn’t be any 4WD models of that platform worldwide so Saab was told to kill the X model. Here’s a smuggled picture of the that old prototype
Fast forward five years, and it’s decided that the new generation of mid-size GM cars, including the Insignia VXR, will get an 4WD option. So Saab is told to engineer the system, and gets first dibs of it on the Aero XWD.
Bingo! Seven years late, the door is open for the 9-3X.
But it’s a very different world now. Saab is up for sale because GM has had to promise it won’t use US taxpayers’ loans to prop up a Swedish subsidiary.
And why does Saab need propping up? Because GM has mucked about and failed to get new Saabs out the door. The 9-5 wasn’t really a class leader when it was new. And that was a shocking 12 years ago.
Anyway, gradually it dawned on GM that starving Saab wasn’t going to rescue it, so three years ago they started to develop some new cars. The 9-4 crossover (pictured) will launch later this year. (Ironically, just in time to cannibalise the 9-3X I guess.) And a new slinky-looking 9-5 isn’t far behind.
But now GM is in the cack and Saab is up for sale. GM says it will continuue to sell platforms, engines and so on to Sweden so Saab can launch the new cars.
But I’m baffled. Who on earth would buy Saab when even BMW, Audi and Benz are in trouble?