Saab comeback in Germany?

On the penultimate Sunday, our contribution to the Saab comeback at Vox went on the air. However, we had to swallow a bitter pill for all the joy. Saab will not return to Germany, according to Press Secretary Mikael Östlund, 2014. Reason for frustration?

SAAB assembly at NEVS © 2014
SAAB assembly at NEVS © 2014

Perhaps Östlund spoke of the model year, maybe he meant the calendar year. What sense does a comeback make under the current circumstances and how likely is it that we will see new cars in Germany in the foreseeable future? Some thoughts on this difficult topic, the pros and cons, by the blogger.

The current (exception) situation

For model year 2014 vehicles, there is a special permit in Sweden that allows for the sale of a maximum of 1.000 vehicles. Because the 2014 model year does not comply with the current EU guidelines, it lacks the mandatory pedestrian protection in the form of an active hood. After the announced update that should change, the current regulations should be respected. The 9-3 could then come without exception on the road.

The Saab EV is scheduled to go into production this fall, with NEVS shareholder Quingdao already ordering 200 vehicles. The EV is eagerly awaited. The Swedish press speaks of a range of 280 kilometers, which is not officially confirmed. The only certainty is that it should be more than 200 kilometers.


How intelligent is it to get onto the market with a conventionally powered vehicle if the company name contains the term “electric” and the company is not called National Turbo Vehicle Sweden? In Sweden, there was discreet evidence of this fact between the lines. The national press likes NEVS, sees the background and the new jobs. This puppy protection does not exist in Germany and starting alone with the 9-3 Aero would be extremely risky.

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Among other things, it is about the brand image, it is about credibility. NEVS speaks of green mobility, sees Tesla as a benchmark. Saab stands and has always stood for advanced technology and unconventional ideas.

Let's ask ourselves how we came to the brand, and there are a lot of personal stories, then our view becomes clearer.

A Saab must always be state of the art.

My Saab passion started 1992. With a Saab 900 S new car for which a large bundle of D Mark wandered over the dealer's counter. In direct comparison with the competitor of the Saab was then petite, narrow. In many ways, the 900 was marked by years, based on the Saab 99. The description also applies to the 9-3 today, but there is a huge difference.

Saab 900 S 1992, then state of the art. @ 2014
Saab 900 S 1992, then state of the art. @ 2014

Because, even if the design and body were out of date, there was never any doubt about other things. The 900 had ABS, a driver airbag and side impact protection, which was not a matter of course at the time. The brake lights were home to two instead of just one light bulb. Quite a special Saab story that would be called a “redundant security system” today. If one bulb fails, the second continues to glow. Safety philosophy, adopted from aircraft construction. A Saab 900 was - no question - up to date even in old age.

The situation has changed. I'm not talking about things like a computer that can turn the light on and off the car. These are supposedly luxury features, and there is no need to discuss the meaning and nonsense of these systems.

It's about active safety systems that the 9-3 lacks and can save lives. Systems such as an active emergency braking system or a collision warning system, for example. Can Saab, one of the safest brands in the world, come back to the market without these systems? Not really. The 9-3 is a good car, but unfortunately clear, no longer “state of the art”.

Comeback risky or sensible?

We are now entering the fourth year without a new car, and the situation for the brand is becoming increasingly difficult. Many Saab drivers now also have an Audi or BMW in the garage. The Saab is in the driveway and has become a cheaper second car. Or - in the better case - a hobby object that is cared for and is only allowed on the street when the sun is shining. There are families who only drive Saab, but the perpetrators of conviction are becoming fewer. Some Saab partners are now running out of air; you close or unscrew the brand logo and change the manufacturer. Everything is now concentrated on a shrinking number of committed partners, where the Saab flag is blowing in the wind every day, and a shrinking vehicle population. A circumstance that - without the new car business - will accelerate more and more.

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The structures are still working, a lot is still intact. The emphasis is on "still". A comeback of the brand would not be a cold start. Not now, but in two or three years time. And that's the question that should be asked at NEVS and has probably already been asked. Will we come to the German market with the new products in a few years, or do we dare with the 9-3?

SAAB EV = image carrier.

Crucial for NEVS and for the credibility of the brand will be the Saab EV. A comeback with the Saab 9-3 EV will make sense in Germany. The image as an innovative brand, with a range of environmentally friendly mobility, would secure a convincing 9-3 Cabriolet, purely on the move. Tesla has started similarly. The Roadster came in principle of Lotus and was a purist story without power steering. But a respectable success with electric drive instead of engine under the hood. A four-seat, electric cabriolet from Sweden could be the prelude to a similar success story. For who else offers an open, electric four-seater? Saab would have found her again, the niche in the niche.

Vehicles with the well-known turbo engines could be imported into the Saab EV fairway. As a limited classic edition for fans. Honestly marketed, only a few 100 pieces, and not, as in Sweden, with the unfortunate designation “nya 9-3” on the price tag. In addition, there is a suitable financing and leasing offer that allows you to easily switch to future new models. A situation that would be beneficial for both the retailer and the brand. New cars that hit the road are the annual cars and leasing returns of tomorrow. Today's leasing customers are tomorrow's leasing customers. The vital economic cycle would finally get going.

Act or wait?

One commercial rule that remains unchanged is that it is more costly to win new customers than to keep existing ones. NEVS could “conserve” the German market with the 2015 model year and the electric car. That costs money, but is much cheaper than a complete restart in two or three years. How will one decide in Sweden?

There is the difficult to calculate risk of a comeback with a body that has been known in the basic structure for 12 years and new, innovative battery technology in the most difficult car market in Europe. That's one side. Ambitious, but not an impossible task with sensitive preparation.

On the other hand, one could wait until new models are brought to series. With the calculated risk that the brand will disappear more and more in Germany, the dealer structures will shrink. A rather expensive cold start and patience for a new introduction would be necessary. Saab would then have the problem that other brands also have. Cadillac tries a European start every year, the noble Toyota subsidiary Lexus has been striving for market share and image for decades. Neither of these works despite a lot of money. That alone should be thought provoking.

How will you decide in Trollhättan? There are no official statements. If one comes to speak on the subject, then the discussion has come quite fast at the end. NEVS does not look at the cards.

From Blogger's point of view, the decision would be easier. A comeback, yes, first and foremost with the image bearer Saab EV. And with a limited edition of the turbo models. For another two or three years, the brand will not survive without replenishment. The customers are not, the workshops are not, the blog is not.

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16 thoughts on "Saab comeback in Germany?"

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    Great article, thanks! Unfortunately, I do not see the future as gray, but the current Saab 9-3, which I enjoy every day in the form of a MY 2011 XWD, is still a top vehicle, which is still very much in the combination of a relatively small car with powerful turbo and XWD interesting is. Differently I see the planned EV models, which seem to make sense for China with all its regulations, but are rather moderately interesting for Europe. Is there any manufacturer who makes a profit with electric cars? Tesla can not do it either and recently needed a lot of money. Not even the great hybrids of Toyota are selling well in Europe. Simply equipping a conventional, heavy bodywork with an electric motor will not work in Europe.

    Sweden (and Saab) was a pioneer in bioethanol technology (ethanol from wood waste and biological waste) and I am convinced that this will be the future because we can use existing infrastructures (gas stations, engines) and act biologically sensible and not create huge legacy (what do we do with the batteries).

    So I wish Saab / NEVS would upgrade the 9-3 and provide it with a slightly more powerful engine and great diesel (which it had) plus XWD and a 9-2 with an economical engine (e.g. the Eco-boost from Ford) based on an existing one Offer vehicles in Europe as a placeholder for new (bioethanol) 9-2, 9-3 & 9-5. EV will always remain a NIsch because, in my humble opinion, this concept has no future.

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      Car batteries can be almost completely recycled today and that is amazingly even made in D. While you had to pay for the disposal in the old days, today you pay 15 € deposit.
      Under normal circumstances, this should not lead to legacy issues.
      Otherwise, I agree with you, still e-cars have difficulties with us, because it is still in its infancy and must first take a rethink.

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    A new 9-5 will probably only see the light of day with the completion of the so-called PHOENIX model series - possibly an SUV too.

    Until then, however, a few more years will pass, and during this time an environmentally friendly filler would be of great importance. A new diesel is unlikely to be compatible with the environmentally friendly business philosophy - but an electric convertible can. This would also be a real alternative for car buyers.

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      To translate use Google translate or chrome

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    Unfortunately, the current situation does not make me very positive either. If you want to have long-term success in a market like Germany, you also have to have a model like the 9-5NG, preferably a diesel & station wagon variant and an SUV.
    Both would be lucrative for NEVS, as here the company fleets are addressed, which change regularly and by the höhren KM mileage also the workshops are very useful.
    But how do you get into the fleets?
    Maybe an example from KIA, even though this brand is not unconditionally comparable to our Saab. These are currently very successful, not only because of good looking cars - customers are demanding more - the 7 years warranty and maintenance free are a good selling point.
    Currently I'm looking for a replacement for my V70. After 2 years and 150.000km replacement is due-just what?
    With the exception of Jaguar, all manufacturers only offer a 2 year guarantee / goodwill, this is a little bit for me and would be an incentive to buy ...

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      Moment Mazda also offers a 7 year warranty and 10 against rust perforation and not to mention Toyota… ..

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    Convertible with electric drive makes a lot of sense anyway - in the nice and warm season there is no loss of range as in winter.

    It would actually (currently) be a gap in the market that SAAB should close - we would be there as buyers!

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    The whole story really has several sides. With the currently built 9-3 you certainly can't win a flower pot in Germany and the press will tear it up for reasons that Tom has described above - it backfires! But a convertible EV is 100% an eye-catcher.

    For the real fans, an 9-3 sport-combi-turbo would be interesting in this country after the upgrade. These fans can also live with less electronics, so you might be able to keep one or the other leasing customer on the line. So you can bridge the time to really new models and the dealers would also have something fresh to show again.

    The NEVS is looking for contact with fans is already very positive. The bankruptcy also caused a break and loss of “know-how”, some of which can be dug up again in clubs.

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      PS .: Tom, the 900S looks great, does it still exist?

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        There is still that. However, he no longer belongs to me, he drives in northern Germany with an elderly gentleman through the area. Is in good hands. Was my third 900er and the conclusion of my Saab 900 trilogy.

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    But here it looks bad. You do not notice anything from a new beginning. Even the dealers do not know anything. I drive my relaxed 3 years, but then something fundamental should have happened. Not that I have to switch back to the South German brand.
    That would be a pity.

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    There are enough rumors that NEVS will launch MJ15 in one or the other European country. As I understand it, it is more the dealers than the NEVS. Therefore, I can imagine that we will see new Saabs in Germany where the Junngs of Orio Germany can show a convincing economic plan in Trollhättan.

    NEVS has your ideas, but if you can rationalize the CabrioEV topic, then I can well imagine that NEVS would respond.

    But let's not forget that NEVS wants to keep production down for the moment, ie only the cars that you can sell from a realistic point of view will be sold, which will increase the production rate because you might be able to sell a few cars here and there , Could be a shot at the end in the end.

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      If you have to explain the EV-Cab to NEVS, they will not see the obvious. Here is a gap in the market that calls loudly. You do not have to explain that.

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    Thanks for your thoughts on topic SAAB! The article has made me very thoughtful, whether the long way before the Fa. NEVS lies. And I continue to wonder, wants to score NEVS with SAAB only in China ?????
    Does the owner “don't care” about the fans and old customers because the market in China is so promising ????
    If the base of dealers and their customer addresses has become obsolete in the next few years, then a successful comeback is difficult to imagine….
    The young people borrow mobility ..., the older ones are being courted by the big established brands ..., the older ones are still fans and hope for more ..., the retirees think about whether a new acquisition is still "worthwhile" ...
    With every year that goes into the country without new SAABs, the situation for SAAB becomes more difficult ...
    Nevertheless, there is (almost) nothing better than to start the week with a great SAAB article!
    Thank you, Tom !!!

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      The situation also makes me think ... I don't assume that NEVS doesn't care about previous customers. In Sweden, people actively seek contact with the grassroots and are present at local club meetings. That actually speaks a lot for NEVS.

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