This is the story of a car that had come to save a brand. A vehicle whose history is unique and dramatic. It is the story of the Saab 900 II.
Trollhättan in the year 1983. The newly developed Saab 9000 is still not on the road, it is already starting Geoff Wardle with the preliminary work on the design of the Saab 900 II. The small Swedish manufacturer is plagued by a problem. Originally Saab wanted to stick to the single-model policy, and the 9000 should replace the 900. But as the 9000 evolved, it turned out that the new Saab would be too prestigious and too expensive to appeal to 900 buyers.
The plan: On the basis of the 9000, a smaller Saab than 67 II is to be created under the code X900. What would be feasible today with flexible platforms is difficult over 30 years ago. Or rather, the 9000 is the cause of the problem. That from Giugiaro Designed exterior design is compact, the space economy exemplary. His concept is innovative and yet exhausted. Any change in proportions produces a strange appearance. No study can convince. The project X67 will be discontinued.
Meanwhile, the problems are growing. The 900 is no longer cost-effective to produce, the demand is steadily declining, and it is clear that the successor question must be regulated more and more urgent. The project X68 dares to reboot in Trollhättan. Under the development codes X68a and X68b, the successors of the 900 and 9000 will be developed in parallel. Different wheelbases, different gauges, but as many as possible equal parts to guarantee the economy.
Two vehicles with different characters on the same platform. Today, the car companies dominate this game. At that time, however, this ingenious idea of its time is far ahead and beyond the possibilities. The X68 project will be discontinued as a further erroneous 1988. What remains is a study by the English studio Abtech, which will pave the way for the second Saab 9000 generation.
The situation at Saab in the late 80 years.
The economic situation of the Saab automobile department is becoming more serious. Several problems are homemade. The best example is the new plant in Malmö. 1989 opened it becomes the biggest loss-maker in the history of the brand. Saab 18.100 lost US dollars per vehicle produced. The madness of these years is illustrated by the decision to also produce the Saab 9000 in the smallest amount in Malmö. The vehicles are then moved by the directors of the Malmö factory, who do not want to expect 9000er from Trollhättan production.
After the failed X67 and X68 projects, Saab is looking for a suitable platform. A difficult task. In Italy, partner Lancia has merged with the Fiat Group, and the Italians do not feel like shopping in Sweden. In Japan, Saab talks with Mazda, but come with the entry of Ford to a standstill. Allegedly, they also knocked on the door in Munich, but that is not the case. Ford, that's the real dream partner of Saab. The hope from the other side of the Atlantic that breaks down when the Americans take over Volvo. The situation is dramatically desperate. And Saab dares to try again in this situation.
During that, beyond Sweden.
At some point in the 80 years, a Saab dealer opens its doors in my hometown. And Saab is establishing itself in the local market. He uses clichés, but it's the truth: the 900 goes to architects, lawyers, IT specialists and artists. For the business people there is the 9000. Saab gains visibility in the street scene and is soon accepted as an expensive, Swedish alternative
But not everything is perfect. Saab loses a lot of money, because in each 900 flowing at that time up to 5.000,00 DM for warranty and repair. The dealers have full workshops with them, and often the work is carried out in a way that the customer does not notice. An inspection is often the occasion to exchange additional components. Foresight, and because you have a reputation to lose. Callbacks are then beyond imagination. Saab is not alone with philosophy. Mercedes drives a similar course. Only, at Daimler you can afford that. But not at Saab.
The project 102 is to save Saab
1988 starts work on project 102 in Trollhättan. It should be compact but use as many components of the 9000 as possible. The urgency is obvious, the project has to save Saab. The design should continue the traits of the 900. On the 21. August 1989 is the first model ready. The above vehicle shows half of the project 102, the other side of the vehicle is the EV2 project by Björn Envall, which was launched independently of the project 102 as an idea generator.
At the same time, all departments started developing components in parallel without waiting for the completion of the previous department as usual.
Behind the scenes since 1989 talks with GM. Under the strictest secrecy, Saab is all about survival. An entry by the Americans could give Trollhättan access to the much needed bottom group. A failure, however, would be the end of Saab's automobile production.
The requirements are not good. For Saab, Ford would have been the dream partner. But he took over Volvo. And GM would also like to have Volvo swallowed. But not Saab. Two companies, twice only the second choice. A marriage of the leftover. That should be good under certain circumstances. Or end in disaster.
Next week. In 2. Part of the Saab 900 II trilogy enters the stage by Gunnar Björck. He plays an important role in the survival of Saab. And the marketing department sends a notchback on tour.