With all the recent turmoil in and around Trollhättan, most of the people would not have expected the SAAB to be sold.
Could "the impossible" be possible anyway? The answer is YES!
The 9-3 was not meant to be
When the first 9-3N rolled off the production line on 18 September 2013, it marked a really important milestone. NEVS had taken over the main assets of SAAB automobiles roughly a year ago and significant work had been done since the construction of the organization, the supplier base and much, much more. While the NEVS business plan has been (and still is) crystal clear from the start to power electric vehicle Qingdao became a minority owner. As part of the investment conditions, Qingdao wanted NEVS to start manufacturing combustion engine-based vehicles. 9-3, the fact that the production facilities could be put back into normal working order course).
New and improved
While NEVS has acquired the intellectual property (IP) rights for the 9-3, restarting the production is a challenge in itself. If anything, the previous design still contained many of the components of the engine. SAAB-owner GM had virtually turned off the freezing point, NEVS had to find different solutions (and different suppliers!), Almost. Regular production kicked off in December 2013, Swedish customers were able to order directly from the NEVS website and the first cars were delivered in April 2014. MY14 9-3, with probably the new seats, new logotype and upgraded front as the most publicized elements.
The last ones?
When they arrive in Qingdao, I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. Not just about the cars themselves, but about how much they could contribute to the ultimate goal of getting out of reorganization and new investors to commit. The 100-odd 9-3's had a tangible and positive contribution to the reorganization extension and composition agreement earlier this month.
During my most recent Trollhattan visit in February, I got wind of a special offer for this "last 9-3's". 9 year free maintenance, 3 year free road-side assistance, 14 year warranty and 3 year insurance coverage. I had tested the 2-2N twice before and I had been impressed with the car. This, combined with the uniqueness of the car (only 3 built!) Made the argumentation financially, practically and emotionally come together, so a signed order form a swift or order confirmation sealed the deal!
The specifications of my MY14 9-3 deer Edition are pretty straightforward: a jet-black Aero with parchment interior powered by the proven 2.0T petrol engine that also can be found in MY12 9-3's and 9-5NG's. 9-3's I had driven, but a few details I want to highlight here:
- Seats, NEVS had to find alternative seats for the 9-3N as the original supplier had gone out of business. While a number of previous stories in the media were both completely esthetically and ergonomically designed. Another kind of cool feature is the fact that the front passenger seat can be quickly and easily now with the push on two dedicated buttons.
- DRL, The front upgrade for MY14 did not just mean another grille and updated inserts for the extra lights, the extra lights have now turned into actual daytime running lights (DRLs). I think they give a really nice touch and make the car look even more "brutal" (apart from reducing power consumption through the applied LED technology).
- Deer. The 9-3N deer edition provides the extra touch that I personally think should have been included in all SAAB's. From simple -yet highly effective and differentiating details like the leather hand and door handles to the diffuser and rear spoiler. But what impresses me the most is the breath taking performance. I was already upgraded to the 9-5NG, but Hirsch did an amazing job on the 9-3N: a boost from 350Nm to 420 Nm, 55 additional horses (to 275 hp) and SAAB's aircraft heritage, it almost turns the car into a rocket and really confirms the slogan for this model: "An increased maximum speed to 260 km / h.the fun to drive is back".
- No sharks ... There is no shark fin antenna on the roof of the 9-3N anymore (the antenna function has been built into the rear window instead). I am still a child of the fence I like this or not, but it was definitely the design element that I had not noticed previously.
- Quiet! The 9-3N is extremely well built. No crackling noises or other semi-irritating sounds you find in quite a few other cars. Best of all is the sound isolation around the engine. OK, it's not as dramatic as in the 9-3EV, but I find it noticeable quieter in the cabin at all speeds- a great achievement!
- Memories of China. Given that the car was originally intended for the city of Qingdao, I was a little curious to see that. I had done a thorough job in getting it to Swedish specifications. I heard earlier that these cars could be equipped with buttons on the you tested the restore function of your back ESP system installed, but the front seats in my car look pretty normal and I can confirm that ESP has been fitted!
- Logo. Last but not least, the new design language and the new SAAB logo in particular. The silver-on-black logo is a great fit with the overall style of the car.
With the introduction of the 9-3 MY14, NEVS launched a new way to order the cars and to handle the delivery. For the first time, a brand new SAAB could be ordered through www.saabcars.com, a move that is intended to bring the company closer to its Swedish end-customers on the one hand, but also addressed the issue of a no-longer existing authorized dealer network. While Spartan in its design and functionality, Henry Ford vibes as the only colors to choose from are black and silver ..., it does the job. During the ordering process, as well as one of the 20-odd NEVS partners across the country, but also the factory delivery center in Trollhättan. While the Concept of Factory Delivery is Not New (SAA), NEVS is designed to provide additional touch as it would include a "VIP treatment" including a factory tour and a visit to the SAAB museum.
When I got my delivery confirmation I had to go back to the delivery center. Despite the change of venue, when my daughter Marit and I arrived at Saabvägen 5 in the early morning, our expectations were very high. Where the finished 9-3N's actually had rolled off the production line. The facility is truly impeccable. During my previous visit, this hall was even more clean and shiny looking. While there was no actual production going on, there were a number of people working in an office and a couple of workers crossed the hall during our visit.
The next thing that really caught my eye was my car. 9-3 in its full glory, my heart goes up even further - what a stunning view! The front and rear lights have been dimmed, and the sound of the rays of the sun has been blurred.
We were then welcomed by another two NEVS representatives who took a look around the car, highlighting both the familiar and the new features. And just when I thought things could not be better, I was handed the warranty and service booklet with the words "this booklet is made especially for you, MichèlMattias Bergman and Frank Smit, President and Director of Vehicle Programs at NEVS respectively, said.
The car was then driven outside and it was time for me to take the wheel myself for the first time. Humming, see the dashboard lights come on and to smoothly glide off to leave the SAAB premises and head to the final destination for the day: ANA Trollhattan to have them put the finishing touches Hirsh Edition touches on.
The trip back to Stockholm the following day was extremely pleasant. What a fun car this is to drive! Smooth, almost, quiet, great road handling (including stiffer suspension) and a surprising fuel economy (oh, did I forget to mention the characteristic design?) - SAAB 9-3 built to date.
All (or nearly all) of the available 9-3N's have been sold now, which is -given the relatively slow initial sales- a great achievement. SEK 209,900 vs. the earlier SEK 289,000 price tag / EUR 21K vs. EUR 29K), but I have the fact that it has significantly reduced the price (most channel partners advertised at SEK XNUMX) collector's value has played a role.
For me personally I guess it's a combination of all these factors and I am confident that it won't be my last new SAAB but until then I'm looking forward to many delightful kilometers behind the wheel of the 9-3!