2008 was an exciting year. Saab presented the 9-X Bio Hybrid. And the 9-X Air Concept. The evolution of the Saab convertible that should have been more than just a study. Because looking back shows how much the lateral thinkers from Trollhättan are missing in the auto industry.
A bold concept against the trend
Without a convertible, there was no survival, and there were model years when Saab sold more vehicles with a fabric roof than with a tin roof. So what was more natural than to initiate another evolution? With the Air Concept, the brand sailed against the mainstream. The Volvo C70 rolled off the assembly line in neighboring Uddevalla. A tin roof convertible, like the 3 series convertible of the E90 series from BMW. What was a trend back then and is graciously almost forgotten today would have been inconceivable for Saab.
Instead, the Stallbacka opted for a light, evolutionary solution. The “Canopy Top” fabric roof had something of a classic Targa. It was easy to stow away and the trunk volume would have been preserved in full. If you open it, the rear window moves automatically under a cover. If the convertible top is stowed, the rear window moves back to its original position. It also serves as a wind deflector and makes the Concept a convertible for the whole year.
The design, like that 9-X Bio Hybrid Concept It comes from Antony Lo, plays with classic and new Saab design elements. The windshield looks like an airplane cockpit, we know it since the 900 days. The LED Lightbar at the rear and the headlights take details from the Aero X Concept. The cockpit is driver-oriented, and as with the 9-X deliberately slightly overdrawn. It is fully digital, kept in brand-typical green. In cooperation with partner Sony Ericsson, an app was developed to control important comfort functions. This was visionary, the scope of the functions was dependent on the performance of the mobile phone, as noted in the press release.
More than just a design concept?
Most studies are just finger exercises for designers. They are positive for the image, bring media attention, and disappear in the best case after some time in a depot. Not so in this case. The evolutionary Saab 9-X Air Concept shares many components with the 9-X Bio Hybrid, which was a template for a new, smaller Saab. A vehicle that would have needed the brand more than needed. And that was to be found during product planning until the early summer of 2011 in presentations.
As an evolution of the convertible idea, it could have accompanied the small, fine brand of Göta Älv into a new era. The work on the exciting folding roof solution began in Sweden at the latest in the year 2006, with patents, the idea was secured. The patent was, like almost all developments in the years between 2005 and 2009, registered on GM. At least one experimental vehicle, a blue 9-3 cabriolet with a beige top, was built in Trollhättan.
The end in summer 2017
It survived GM's efforts to shut down Saab and the Spyker era. The Chinese who followed Victor Muller did not see the brilliant idea, instead NEVS founder Kai Johan Jiang complained in 2019 that the company did not have enough technology. Meanwhile, the test vehicle stood in one of the many secret halls on the site until summer 2017.
Then comes the end. It will be scrapped by NEVS, presumably at the behest of the insolvency administrators, along with the bodies of the 9-5 NG sportswear.
And today? The concept's patents still belong to GM today. The innovative idea did not turn into a product. Classic convertibles are once again on the retreat worldwide. You try it instead with open SUVs - a very strange idea to strain the taste buds. A sawn-up SUV ... the world wasn't waiting for that. But Land Rover will do it, and VW will soon. And if the idea succeeds, imitators will be found.
The desperate search for niches where there are none shows once again how much the lateral thinkers from Trollhättan lack a sector that sometimes seems very discouraged. Saab dared 1986 with the 900 convertible on the market. A refreshing idea at a time when convertibles did not want to give any future. The courage of the Swedes was rewarded. He ensured survival for many years.