Saab: back to Swedish basics

* Concentrate on Scandinavian design * Return to profit in 2012 * No premium small hatch...

Saab: back to Swedish basics

Newly privatised Saab will focus on its unique characteristics and Swedish heritage as it seeks to re-establish itself following the divorce from General Motors, which almost saw it go out of business altogether.

'We are in the European premium segment, but we have a uniqueness which makes us a little bit different to the volume brands,' says Jan Ake Jonsson, the company's CEO. The company will concentrate on Scandinavian design and its roots in the aircraft industry to produce cars that are stylish and fun to drive, he says.

Saab is now owned by the Dutch Spyker group and its priorities are to launch new 9-5 and 9-3 ranges plus a crossover SUV, the 9-4X, within the next two years, says Jonsson. He also wants to build up the distribution network, start to move away from GM and return to profit by 2012.

No future for Saab 9-1 or 9-2
However, there appears to be no longer a place in the product plan for a compact hatch a Saab 9-1 or 9-2 to rival the Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series. 'The next generation 9-3 will be reduced in size from what we originally planned, and this has caused us not to be as anxious as before,' says Jonsson.

'But a smaller segment is emerging and we will continue to look at it to see if there are opportunities.' Saab retains the option to use the new Vauxhall Astra platform as the basis for a smaller hatch, but is also free to talk to other manufacturers about collaboration. 'It is the benefit of being independent, and we have seen a tremendous interest in working with us,' says Jonsson.

Clean technology
Saab will continue to reduce the CO2 of its small-capacity turbocharged petrol and diesel engines by 'utilising the electrical technology available, including stop-start systems,' he says. There will continue to be a strong focus on biofuel engines, particularly for the domestic market. The UK will remain one of Saab's three key sales outlets, along with America and Sweden.

Return to profit
On the company's plans to return to the profitability it needs to survive, Jonsson says all production will return to Sweden, except for the 9-4X which will be made at a GM factory in Mexico, and annual output will be scaled down to around 100,000 cars a year to bring down the break-even point.

Future models will be funded by 'making the most of our long-term relationship with GM as a safety net', but also by increasing the commonality between models and making strategic alliances where they do not devalue the 'critical aspects of the brand'.