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 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.

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

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.

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

  • 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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  • 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 off the computers at Saab, and claimed them for themselves, as can be seen when some started work for Volvo, with many Saab ideas used there ……

    • 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 it possibly gets, are serious accusations ...
      Maybe the truth is between you and the self-image some ex saab employees carry in mind?

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

      Further more, I wonder wich damage has been done and to whom? Please don't get this wrong. As I said, I don't know better. Just wondering and curious ...

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

    • Your question is legitimate. The answer could be someone who in 2030 will still have an old Ericsson but will have enough change 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 wish for something hypothetically and in the subjunctive, the connection to a certain cell phone (obsolete in a very short time) would certainly not have been one of them. I prefer cars (including washing machines and houses) that can do without a cell phone at all. And who knows, maybe autonomous driving or will autonomous houses and washing machines 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 value - there is 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.

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

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

  • Well written. Great pictures ...

    Only the supposed contradiction between Kai Johan Jiang's whining and the fact that the patents were unfortunately all with GM, I can't quite understand. It actually goes together quite well, doesn't it?
    Nonetheless, it was of course up to Kai Johan Jiang to find out what he would get and what not in advance of a takeover. Whining does not apply ...

    For me, a bio-hybrid concept is the perfect embodiment of the statement that SAAB has actually left a gap within an affluent society - of all things. You'd think that wouldn't work, but the small, fine brand has done just that. They and their visions are missing today - despite all abundance ...

    On the other hand, SAAB could not create a political framework, at most stimulate, but ultimately and above all only bow. We all know what the German government thinks about biofuels (e.g. 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.

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    • 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've always thought that GM has registered all the “usable” and more recent patents.
        And that at Saab itself no current or only uu-ancient and rather "unimportant" would have remained.

      • 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).

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

        To speak to the trolls: “Why is she (he) doing this? Why is she (he) doing this? "
        (Troll quote from Ronja robber daughter)

        Especially in 2019 and with close reference to full-bodied announcements. How do so much self-pity and the supposedly excellent perspective of NEVS go under one roof? Somebody should get smart out of this man ...

  • 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 correctly states, the new cars are missing a perfectly shaped four-seater convertible. That would certainly have come from Trollhättan. Would have ... What a shame !! 🙁

    (Sawed-up SUVs - creepy idea! L Please let's avoid this trend, the whole ugly SUV wave of the last 20 years is enough for me.)

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    • 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 created a dilemma and won ...
        If a 9-4X convertible were the price for current SAABs, nobody would and could object here. Nevertheless, SUV coupés or even SUV convertibles shouldn't be approved by any means ...

        And that writes someone who is not fundamentally against SUVs. No, I like it when form follows function. An SUV can be 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 do …… 😉
        Hey, you don't do that! 😉
        And besides, such a 9-4 with its panorama roof is almost a convertible….

        In my opinion, convertible “SUVs” were only ok as (very, very old) Land Rovers, Jeeps, Toyotas… .. 😉

      • 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.

        Such cars are only used by those who want to demonstrate to those around them that they live in luxury and abundance. Often weirdos and show-offs. I've seen many SUV coupés at the parking lot barriers of cooperative or social high-rise estates. It's not even funny anymore, it's just sad ...

      • “… Cars like this are only used by those who want to demonstrate to those around them that they live in luxury and abundance. Often weirdos and show-offs. … ”

        How good that, according to the statement, this only seems to apply to SUV coupe / convertible drivers ... 😉
        For example, I would actually like to distance myself VERY FAR! 🙂

        Demonstrating, luxury and excess meet with me def. not to….
        (For example, I just want to have the technically “newest” / last Swedish wagon if possible so that I can drive it lengthways and I don't like limos so much for myself)
        Hopefully I'm not a weirdo and a show-off… .. 😉

      • mac9-5 = mac9-4X? ? ?

        A large trunk, comfortable loading 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.
        Whenever advantages and function are thwarted ...

        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 - in addition to my job of course - unfortunately “massive” in the stress of renovation (the house is being rebuilt here) ... but maybe at some point there will be a little report about the car, but I can't “promise” it at the moment.
        (I bought the car mainly for a completely different reason than I suspected ... I'm also more of an "opponent" of super fat SUVs)

      • Thanks mac,

        now I've already read three (!) SAAB articles today ...

  • .. I thought Saab was on the right (and modern) way back then…. both with ideas, studies, but also especially with the last 2-3 presentations!

    Well, unfortunately GM has kept its hand on it and decided differently….

    Just about 1-2 weeks ago someone was very enthusiastic about my 2011'er afterwards on a “shopping appointment” and wanted to take a closer look, because he has seen my ship several times in the city, but could not assign me to it.
    He drives a Q7, Mini Cooper Cabrio, etc. himself and was thrilled (“typically Saab inside - cool”) and also amazed that the Drömbil is already from 2011 (well, interior / technology is actually a bit older).

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  • 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

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  • Thanks for the nice review. I've always liked this car a lot 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

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  • What could have been so ... Really, that makes you think. Actually, the course of the last few years was right, the only thing missing was the necessary time.

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