Saab 9-5: Uphill Road to a New Market
Many people seem to dislike Saabs and could care less what happens to the company. Indeed, the abrupt risings and fallings of the company’s fortunes are like a bad soap opera. We have reported on some of these, but Saab is still breathing and seems to have produced a very nice car in the 2011 9-5.
A more positive version of the story, with comments by Victor Muller (Saab’s new owner) and a review of the 9-5 first driven last year and now suitably upgraded, is here. And yet, production still seems to be a stop-and-start affair, at least as of two days ago. Even though Saab has gotten some Chinese financing, it still has problems with suppliers.
Though things aren’t looking too rosy for the company, the car is winning plaudits and awards. The 9-5 earned the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) top award for crashworthiness. No comment.
The 2011 9-5 Aero has also gotten good reviews, too. It has a different look, feel, character and driving performance than its competition (e.g., BMW, Infiniti and Audi), two decent engine choices including a zippy 4-cylinder and Saab’s unique Haldex all-wheel drive (with the V6).
It’s a big car, with plenty of backseat room inside, great seats, and good riding qualities, and it’s still “nimble-feeling.” The downside of the car is really its price, which is probably $5-10,000 too high. The base car is $39,350, but the fully loaded Aero that MotorAuthority drove came in at about $57,000, which of course is 535i territory.
A few reviewers commented that it was a shame that such a good car, finally coming to market after some 13 years of stop-and-go development, will now have to struggle with a still-sick company, a “very shaky dealer network” and a dumb pricing strategy.
For Saab to become viable again, it will need a core group of committed owners, as existed before. The only way to market this car now—assuming Saab’s labor, financing, production and dealer problems get solved—is by making an exceptional lease offer (and a special cash incentive), appealing to those luxury buyers who really want something different.
I’m guessing that there are sufficient numbers out there who are tired of the Lexus-Audi-BMW choices and would be happy to try a different style of luxury sport sedan.
Saab cars are not as quirky as they once were, yet they’re still “different.” Do you agree?