This is the story of a car that started out to save a brand. A vehicle whose genesis is unique and dramatic. It's 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. Saab originally wanted to stick to the one-model policy, and the 9000 should replace the 900. But as the 9000 progressed, it turned out that the new Saab would be too prestigious and expensive to appeal to buyers of the 900.
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 grow. The 900 can no longer be produced to cover costs, demand is steadily declining, and it is clear that the question of the successor must be resolved with increasing urgency. Trollhättan is daring to restart with the X68 project. The successors of the 68 and 68 are to be developed in parallel under the development codes X900a and X9000b. Different wheelbases, different gauges, but as many identical parts as possible should guarantee economic efficiency.
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 getting more serious. Quite a few problems are homemade. The new plant in Malmö can be seen as the best example. Opened in 1989, it becomes the biggest loss maker in the brand's history. Saab is said to have lost US $ 18.100 per vehicle produced. The madness of these years is illustrated by the decision to also manufacture the Saab 9000 in small numbers in Malmö. The vehicles are then moved by the directors of the Malmö plant, who do not want to put up with a Trollhättan 9000 series.
After the failed X67 and X68 projects, Saab is looking for a suitable platform. A difficult undertaking. In Italy, partner Lancia has merged into the Fiat group, and the Italians don't feel like shopping in Sweden. In Japan, Saab is holding talks with Mazda, which come to a standstill with Ford's entry. Allegedly they knocked in Munich at the time, but there is no evidence. Ford, that's Saab's real dream partner. The hope from the other side of the Atlantic that is dashed 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 at that time up to 900 DM flowed into every 5.000,00 for guarantee and rework. The dealers have full workshops, and often the work is done in such a way that the customer does not notice. An inspection is often the reason to replace additional components. Out of precaution and because you have a reputation to lose. Recalls are beyond imagination at the time. Saab is not alone in philosophy. Mercedes drives a similar course. But at Daimler you can afford it. But not with 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.