Saab shifts up a gear
The Saab comeback plan for Australia is finally kicking into gear. The 9-3 range is already heading back to local showrooms, the 9-5 sedan is set for April, the 9-5 SportCombi will arrive late this year and the 9-4X SUV will be in early 2012.
The Swedish brand only delivered 16 cars during 2010 but is targeting more than 500 deliveries through 2011.
‘‘We’re looking somewhere north of about 500 cars as a gentle easing back into the market. We’re not talking about a relaunch, we’re talking about a reinvigoration,’’ says Stephen Nicholls, managing director of Saab Cars Australia.
The company is now operating as an independent distributor after General Motors sold the parent company to Victor Muller through his Spyker supercar business and GM Holden ended its time as importer.
‘‘The board approval to reform Saab Cars Australia was taken in late October,’’ Nicholls says.
‘‘We had a few plans ready at that stage.
‘‘What you see now is the result of us working since early November to get things in place.
‘‘We’d been keeping in touch with our core dealers. It was a fairly quick process to get cars ordered and on the boat.’’
Nicholls is a 30-year Saab veteran who was the company’s AsiaPacific regional director before taking on responsibility for Australia.
He says he has been surprised by the groundswell of interest in Saab and is happy with the response to the showroom return.
‘‘We’ve got cars on the ground now. We’ve had them for about 10 days,’’ he says.
‘‘We have all 9-3s, Sports Sedan, convertible and SportCombi including the new 9-3X.’’
The new-model rollout begins with the 9-5 sedan, which has had a lukewarm reception in Europe, followed by the station wagon and the SUV.
‘‘We’re targeting the middle of April for the 9-5 sedan,’’ says Nicholls. ‘‘We’re going to call the wagon the 9-5 Estate in Australia.
‘‘That probably won’t be with us until October-November.
‘‘The 9-4X is starting left-hand drive production now.
‘‘We won’t start right-hand drive production until SeptemberOctober, which means a launch date very late this year or early next year. The 9-4X is definitely in the plan and is going to be an important car.’’
Nicholls is not specific about prices for the whole range but confirms a sub-$50,000 starting price for the return of the 9-3.
‘‘With the carryover products, if I can call it that, we’re pretty much line-ball with where we were before. ‘‘Against Audi and BMW we have a pretty good story to tell.
‘‘It’s $46,900 for the 9-3 Sports Sedan Linear with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. That’s 147kW.’’
Saab’s new-model rollout begins with the 9-5 sedan