Evolutionary! The Saab 9-X Air Concept

2008 was an exciting year. Saab presented the 9-X Bio Hybrid, And the 9-X Air Concept. The evolution of the Saab convertible, which should have been more than just a study. Because in retrospect shows how much the lateral thinker from Trollhättan the car industry is missing.

Tradition: Saab 900 cabriolet in the background
Tradition: Saab 900 cabriolet in the background

A bold concept against the trend

There was no survival without convertibles, and there were model years where Saab sold more vehicles with fabric than tin roof. So what was more natural than to initiate another evolution? With the Air Concept, the brand sailed against the mainstream. In the neighboring Uddevalla the Volvo C70 ran off the line. A tin roof convertible, as well as the 3er convertible of the E90 series from BMW. What was trend then and now mercifully almost forgotten, would have been unimaginable for Saab.

Instead, the Stallbacka relied on a light, evolutionary solution. The so-called "Canopy Top" fabric roof had something of a classic Targa. It was easy to stow and the trunk volume would be fully preserved. If you open it, then the rear window moves fully automatically under a cover. If the top is stowed, then 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 close Saab and the Spyker era. The Chinese following on Victor Muller did not see the brilliant idea, instead, NEVS founder Kai Johan Jiang 2019 complained that they had found too little technology in the company. Meanwhile, in one of the many secret halls on the site, the trial vehicle stood by the summer 2017.

Prototype Saab 9-3 with "Canopy-Top" in summer 2017 on the factory premises
Prototype Saab 9-3 with "Canopy-Top" in summer 2017 on the factory premises

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 patents for the concept are still GM today. A product has not become from the innovative idea. Classic convertibles are on the decline worldwide, once again. You try it instead with open SUV `s - a very strange idea to strain the taste buds. A sawn SUV ... the world did not wait for that. But Land Rover does it, VW soon too. And if the idea succeeds, then imitators will find themselves.

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.

28 thoughts too "Evolutionary! The Saab 9-X Air Concept"

  • What could have been so ... Really, that makes you think. Actually, the course of recent years was right, it just lacked the necessary time.

  • Thanks for the nice review. I always loved this car and I always hoped that there would be a production version of it ...
    A little bit later, the Renault Wind (how come the name?) Reminds me of the 9-XAir Concept. As a shrink version. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Wind

  • thanks also for this report and this detailed information. If Saab had more options, they would certainly have had an idea to design a tin roof convertible beautiful

  • .. I thought Saab was on the right (and modern) way .... with ideas, studies, but especially with the last 2-3 performances!

    Well, GM has unfortunately kept a hand on it and decided otherwise ....

    Just before about 1-2 weeks, someone at a "shopping appointment" my 2011'er then very enthusiastic and want to look closely, because he has seen my ship more often in the city, but I could not assign.
    He himself drives a Q7, Mini Cooper Cabrio, etc. and was thrilled ("typical Saab inside - cool") and also surprised that the Drömbil is already made of 2011 (well, interior / technology actually a bit older).

  • Thanks for this very interesting report! Great photos, even if the last, as already stated above, just hurts infinitely! 🙁 How can you scrape off these brilliant bodies ???

    And yes, I do not know a single appealing four-seater fabric roof convertible, currently. is offered as a new car. The Audi 5er is totally injured by the proportions, the small of Audi and the small of BMW are anyway too short and not consistent, not comparable anyway. That's it! The most beautiful convertibles on our streets are still from Saab. The last row looks like a still highly topical new car.

    As Tom realizes very correctly, the new cars lack a perfectly shaped four-seater convertible. That would have come with safety and only from Trollhättan. Had to ... What a pity! 🙁

    (Sawed SUV - scary idea! 🙁 Please let us avoid this trend, the whole ugly SUV wave of the last 20 years is enough for me.)

    • If I had the 9-4X as a convertible, I would not mind

      • Board game

        If we were to play one here, it would be called Mill, and you would have just built a quandary and won ...
        If an 9-4X convertible was the price for current SAABs, nobody would and could not argue here. Nevertheless, one would not approve of SUV coupes or even SUV convertibles so far ...

        And that writes one who is not fundamentally against SUVs. No, I like it when the form follows the function. An SUV can be quite justified for some users. Can ...

        But a coupe or even a convertible with the greatest possible weight and use of resources without additional benefits? At least since I'm finally out.

      • I already ...... 😉
        I mean, you do not do that! 😉
        And besides, such a 9-4 with its panoramic roof is also almost a convertible ....

        Convertible "SUVs" were in my opinion only as (very very old) Land Rover, Jeeps, Toyota's ok ... .. 😉

        • I think so too.
          The history of off-road vehicles is predominantly military as well as agricultural and forestry. A simple tarpaulin was cheaper, the vehicles lighter. Luxury was not an issue and the drivers and occupants of these commercial vehicles are literally real users.

          The SUV coupes and convertibles of today (the drivers too) are the exact opposite. Already the nomenclature (for example, X5 and X6) of the manufacturer shows how it and which car is intended for which target group. The smaller interior and trunk, the lower utility value is more expensive than the closed full size SUV.

          To such cars only intervenes, who wants to demonstrate to his environment, one would live in luxury and abundance. Often spinner and showman. Already some SUV coupe I have seen at the parking barriers of cooperative or social high-rise settlements. This is not even funny anymore, just sad ...

          • "... To such cars only intervenes, who wants to demonstrate to his environment, one would live in luxury and abundance. Often spinner and showman. ... "

            How good that the statement lt seems to apply only to SUV coupe / convertible driver ... 😉
            But I would like to distance myself from that, for example, VERY FAR! 🙂

            Demonstrate, luxury and Überfuss meet with me def. not too ....
            (eg I just want to have the technically "newest" / last swedish cart, if possible, to be able to drive it as long as possible and I do not like limousines so much for me)
            Hopefully I am not spinner and show-offer either ... .. 😉

          • mac9-5 = mac9-4X? ? ?

            A large trunk, comfortable sill, high trailer load, four-wheel drive and, and, and ...
            I know the advantages and have already used them myself.
            I'm certainly not an SUV hater.

            I just miss any understanding for so many flowering around the topic.
            Always when benefits and function are counteracted ...

            For example, when SUVs and SUVs from AMG are lowered and optimized for the freeway.
            Or just for a SUV coupe, which is already a mere caricature but still expensive from the factory.

            Quite basically against SUVs in general or a 9-4X in particular, I want to have said nothing
            Not against real SUVs either. And against drivers who value and use benefits, certainly nothing. Simplified thinking in black-and-white and binary opinions are fundamentally contrary to me.

          • PS

            mac, an 9-4X would be a great reader contribution that only very few SAAB drivers could write.
            Property obliges. I would be pleased to read and see pictures.

          • @@ Herbert Hürsch

            There are already two nice reports about exactly the car.
            https://saabblog.net/2014/11/10/saab-9-4x/ (before purchase)
            https://saabblog.net/2014/12/17/droembil/ (shortly after purchase)

            At the moment I am - besides job of course - unfortunately "massive" in the conversion stress (house is being rebuilt here) ... maybe someday but still a small report on the car, but can not "promise" at the moment.
            (I've bought the car mainly because of a very different reason than expected ... I'm also actually more of an "enemy" of super-fat SUVs)

          • Thanks mac,

            Now I have already read three (!) SAAB articles today ...

  • Great written. Class pictures ...

    Only the alleged contradiction between Kai Johan Jiang's whining and the fact that the patents were unfortunately all at GM, I can not quite understand. That fits quite well together, right?
    Of course, it was of course Kai Johan Jiang, before a takeover comprehensively informed, what he gets and what not. Whining is not there ...

    A bio-hybrid concept is for me the perfect embodiment of the statement that SAAB has indeed left a gap in an affluent society - of all things. You'd think that would not work, but the little fine brand did just that. She and her visions are missing today - despite all the abundance ...

    On the other hand, SAAB was not able to create any political framework conditions, at the most to stimulate them, but in the end, and above all, only bow. We all know how the German federal government stands on biofuels (for example the abolished E85) ...

    Ironically, the so-called Land of Poets and (Vor-) Thinker is degenerating into the question of how the future could be shaped, to a land of no alternatives and no thought. Whether the German market, its politically set conditions and SAAB still fit well today or tomorrow, I do not know.

    No alternative, no thought and SAAB sounds to me but the maximum contradiction.

    • It's not that NEVS did not know what to buy. Even from Saab's own patents, only about 10% has been acquired. The rest is still with the bankruptcy lawyers. There were no surprises about what you find.

      • Oh, and I always thought that all "usable" and more recent patents have registered GM.
        And that at Saab itself would not have been current or just uuuralte and rather "unimportant".

        • The patents started quite late, as of 2005. And apparently was not enforced in the final consequence. Because after 2011 the managers could sell exciting Saab development to third companies (not to NEVS).

      • It is all the more puzzling that and why Kai Johan Jiang expresses himself in this way (he has found too little technology in the company) ...

        To talk to the trolls, "Why is she (he) doing that? Why does she (he) do that? "
        (Troll quote from Ronja robber daughter)

        Especially 2019 and close in time to full-bodied announcements. How do so much self-pity and the supposedly excellent perspective of NEVS come together? For this man should be smart ...

  • Thanks also for this exciting informative article! 🙂
    In appetizers is always clear: would have bicycle chain.
    A drama, what happened in Sweden / Trollhättan! By now we all know it. 🙁
    Fantastic design ideas for a modern future with the necessary drive models ..., yes, if the shortage of money had not been and instead the belief in a strong future ...
    A shame!
    Also dealing with produced prototypes, unbelievable!
    It turns out that the Nevs owners did not understand SAAB (until today!) ...
    What remains: use and enjoy what is available. Fulfill dreams.
    Have a good trip and enjoyable 1.Mai!

  • Madness how stable the roof construction was obviously already, although only a test construction. Safety was obviously always high on the list of priorities.

  • All right and good, or not good of course. The question remains; who would have bought it and at what price?

    • Your question is justified. The answer could be someone who still has an old Ericsson in 2030 but still has enough cash for a new car. You do not know exactly …

      But do not take concepts too seriously. A concept is not a prototype, a prototype is not a pre-production model and the pre-production is still not quite the production vehicle. The way is far, very far. Let us simply and benevolently assume that certain details and ideas might have had a future.

      If I could hypothetically and in the conjunctive wish something, the connection to a particular cell phone (obsolete in no time) would certainly not have included. My favorite cars are cars (also washing machines and houses), which do not need a mobile phone. And who knows, maybe autonomous driving or autonomous houses and washing machines will be defined exactly in this sense? Autonomous is what is independent of the network ...

      But monochrome green displays, a BioHybrid, an intelligently built convertible with utility - there is also a lot of potential and a lot of SAAB in these concepts ...

      New will probably not exist anymore.
      Let's enjoy the good ideas that are in there and overlook the rest.

  • When Saabunited was a powerhouse of activity, I always wondered how many ex saab employees were opening up in and around Trollhättan, selling their ideas to any and all who came.

    Clearly now, it is clear they had taken, much of the design ideas at the Saab computers, and claimed them for themselves,

    • At the very end it does not matter which Chinese got all that brilliant ideas: Sweden has left the enlightened circle of car nations for ever.

    • Interesting. Very interesting and maybe valid thoughts and observations. Thank you.

      On the other hand, your suggestions are as close to theft as they possibly are, are serious accusations ...
      Maybe the truth is between you and the self-image some ex saab employees carry in mind?

      Just a thought. I do not know better. All I know is (from own experience), it's damn hard to let good ideas slide. Especially if you have worked on them yourself, if you have originated them ...

      Further more, I wonder what damage has been done and to whom? Please do not get this wrong. As I said, I do not know better. Just wondering and curious ...

  • SUV Convertible? Why not. 9-4 X Air? But yes! And if the idea and the execution is good, there are also enough prospects who do not want the everyday mush.


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