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.
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.
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.