Saab Reveals New 9-5 Sedan
But Will Canadian Saabers Have Any Place To Buy It?
By Kevin Miller
Saab has officially revealed their new 9-5 sedan ahead of its debut on September 15th in Frankfurt. Described as employing a modern expression of classic Saab design cues, the exterior new 9-5 looks amazing from some angles and a bit odd from others, but the interior looks great. The car will be built in Saab’s Trollhättan factory, and will replace the current 9-5 which has been around for more than a decade.
Globally, the car will be available with a 160 HP, 2.0 liter turbodiesel 4; turbocharged 1.6 and 2.0 liter petrol fours (good for 180 and 220 HP, respectively); and a 300 HP, 2.8 liter V6 turbo. The 220 HP four has optional XWD all-wheel drive, which is standard with the turbocharged 6. While the most powerful motor is available only with an automatic transmission, and the least powerful petrol version is available only with a manual, the remaining powerplants offer a choice between either of the six-speed gearboxes.
Great news for Saab dealers then, right? Well, not if you are a Saab dealer in Canada. Earlier this week, our friends over at Saabs United were the first to report that GM is ending operations at all of their Saab (and Saturn) dealerships on December 31st. You will remember that as being the date on which GM officially divests its interest in Saab.
While there are many aspects of the deal between Koenigsegg and GM for the purchase of Saab that are not known, this announcement demonstrates that the existing distribution network is not necessarily included in the purchase agreement. We’ve known for a while that GM is getting out of the Saab business. Presumably, Koenigsegg will need to negotiate agreements with retailers to sell and service Saab vehicles in Canada, as they will in other countries. On the record, GM has stated they have no plans to shutter operations or terminate franchises in markets other than Canada.
With the future of the Saab brand having been uncertain for several months, sales of Saab vehicles have slowed to a glacial pace. According to data from Autotrader.com, Saab sales are off 72% from last year, and in July the average US Saab dealer sold just two cars (the Autotrader.com information points out that in the same month, the average Ferrari dealer sold three new Ferraris). Other interesting data from Autotrader.com is that they found that the Saab 9-3 is being researched on their site about as much as the Acura TSX, Audi A4, and BMW 3-series. If that is true, why isn’t Saab selling more cars?
There are a few likely reasons for this. First, Saab’s cars are aging- the 9-3 is six years old and the outgoing 9-5 is eleven years old. Each of the above-named competitors has had an all-new version in that timeframe. Second, Saab doesn’t have very many dealerships in the US- for example, only one remains in western Washington State- there were four just half a decade ago. That means that even if consumers are interested in buying a Saab, they might find it to be too much of a hassle to drive an hour or more to even test drive a car, let alone to get it serviced.
Of course, both of these problems can be addressed. The launch of the new 9-5 sedan is the beginning of Saab’s product renewal; the 9-4x should follow in the next year, as should the 9-5 wagon. Too, Koenigsegg’s purchase of Saab is likely to result in a review and revitalization of Saab retailers in markets around the world, making the reinvented brand more accessible to potential owners.
The new 9-5 is a big car, both in its significance to Saab and in the shadow it casts. Compared to its predecessor, which itself is a very spacious car, legroom and shoulder width are increased both front and rear. With available features including a head-up information display (Pilot HUD); adaptive lighting (Bi-Xenon Smart Beam); adaptive cruise control; Saab DriveSense adaptive chassis with real-time damping control; keyless entry and starting; tri-zone air conditioning; dynamic parking assistance and Saab XWD with a rear eLSD, the new 9-5 looks to be full of potential to retain existing Saab drivers as well as conquest new ones- as long as those potential buyers have Saab retailers around to buy the cars from.
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