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SAAB related news: Spring 2011

Independence Day is an important occasion celebrated on July 4th each year in the USA and there is also a film with the same name but in the context of SAAB, Independence Day maps to February 23rd. On that day this year, SAAB celebrated their first year of independence from GM by halting production for the afternoon and throwing a party for almost 4,000 people. The SAAB news room reports that festivities were led by chairman Victor Muller and CEO Jan Åke Jonsson but as well as taking the opportunity to thank the loyal workforce, those present were treated to special previews of the 9-5 SC and 9-3 Griffin range ahead of their public unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show.

Independence day (SAAB style) To commemorate the first anniversary of the sale to Spyker, the company has manufactured a special edition of the 9-3 convertible based on the 9-3 Aero Griffin (more of which later) but don't expect to see an example any time soon, for the total production run will be limited to just 366 examples - 1 for each day of the first year plus one car for the first day of the second year. Only 80 of the total production are destined for the UK market.

The Independence Edition will be available in just one colour: Amber Orange metallic. The interior is embellished with some fittings from the Hirsch Tuning catalogue, whilst upholstery is to be in parchment (beige) with narrow orange inserts and the orange theme even extends to the turbo boost gauge needle. SAAB enthusiasts are likely to approve of the striking styling and should love the special 18" alloy wheels (see below)

A quick look at the SAAB Independence Edition

If Independence Day celebrations featured large in the SAAB agenda for February, the Geneva Motor Show was equally, if not more important still. We hear that the company mounted an effective advertising campaign in anticipation of unveiling several new models and an exciting concept car, appropriately dubbed the Phoenix.

For model year 2012, SAAB have released information about revisions to the 9-3 (9440) range, henceforth to be known as the 9-3 Griffin. In the longer term, an entirely new 9-3 model is expected in little more than a year's time but for now, a mild makeover keeps the model up to date but ongoing improvements and refinements are true to the company's mantra 'evolution, not revolution'.

The 9440 range has now been on sale for some 9 years, during which time, its external appearance has been sharpened and in its latest incarnation, alterations have been made to the front end styling in line with the NG 9-5. The front bumper has been revised along with what SAAB refers to as 'ice block' headlamps. Subtle changes and improvements to the cabin continue a makeover that consists rather more than mere cosmetic and name changes, for there are companion changes beneath the bonnet. New 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrol engines are equipped with direct injection, variable valve timing and twin scroll turbo chargers, which increases available power and torque while simultaneously lowering fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Geneva also saw the first official appearance of the SAAB 9-5 SportCombi 5 door estate (wagon). This variant has been missing from the line up since the launch of the NG9-5 last year: the last original model 9-5 estate rolled off the Trollhattan assembly line as long ago as February 2010. The 5 door version of the NG 9-5 is expected to be a big seller in Europe, where there is considerable demand for large estate cars: a new SAAB will make an interesting alternative choice to the usual Volvo, BMW, Audi or Mercedes options.

SAAB 9-5SportCombi 5 doorThe design team have excelled themselves with this model, which, if anything looks even better than the saloon upon which it is based. Some estate cars simply don't look quite right -even unbalanced- but this looks positively handsome. The sweeping, uninterrupted lines of the rear glass area conceals the 'D' posts (roof supports) and together with the integrated rear light clusters which flow across the tailgate, endows the car with a clean, uncluttered appearance.

As well as being good-looking, the new 9-5 SportCombi is functional. Access to the rear load deck is good - ideal for awkwardly shaped cargo. For convenience, a power tailgate is fitted and this may be operated either in the conventional way (from a button in the door card) or from the remote control. The tailgate has a useful user defined programming function, whereby owners can set a pre-determined height beyond which the tailgate will not rise - useful in a garage or confined space where there is a risk of the tailgate hitting the ceiling.

Sooner, rather than later, it was inevitable that born-again SAAB would find the lure of the Phoenix name tag irresistible. It was no real suprise then to see a concept car dubbed Phoenix unveiled at Geneva. Phoenix is more a statement of intent than mere stylistic licence: last year chairman Victor Muller stated that a return to SAAB SAABs was essential. This was not tautology: a SAAB-SAAB is a SAAB with clearly identifiable SAAB DNA, embodying core characteristics of the brand and the chairman was suggesting that in recent years this criterion had not been satisfied. Many owners and enthusiasts will endorse this view.

The SAAB Phoenix Concept car - shown at the Geneva Motor Show 2011

While many concept cars embrace 'bleeding edge' technology and designers claim they are using a bit of initiative or artistic licence, there is more to the Phoenix than stealing the show with its singular looks for inside the cabin resides something that will see the light of day in future production SAABs. Dubbed IQon, the new 'infotainment package' developed with TeliaSonera is rather more than a smart looking touchscreen interface. Based on Google's Android platform, the new system connects to the Internet for the duration of each trip the cars makes and can retrieve software/firmware updates and traffic updates as well as 'bread and butter' tasks like navigation or handling media playback. The exciting thing here is that the system can be customised with a growing range of applications in much the same way as can the current generation of mobile telephones and this will not just be restricted to SAAB based offerings - it will support 3rd party apps too because SAAB intend to make the API (application developnet interface) available to developers too. Applications developed by third party developers will be subject to testing and evaluation by SAAB prior to being made available via the official IQon store, which, to the author, at least, sounds very similar to all the add-ins available for popular Internet browser Firefox.

SAAB blogger signs off his blog... and is hired by SAAB!
Steven Wade, SAAB blogger extraordinaire, credited with empowering and inspiring enthusiasts around the globe with the Save SAAB campaign last year, told his loyal followers recently that he was going to have to take a step back from working on the SAABS United web log because the sheer scale of the operation was taking over his life. Events took an unexpected twist, however, on March 15th 2011, when it was disclosed that Steven had been recruited by SAAB to join the company's global interactive marketing division.

Anyone who has had contact with Swade, as he is known, would be very aware not only of his passion and committment to the breed but also the prodigious workrate required to keep up with dozens of news feeds, reports and e-mails from around the globe. Making sense of all the news, writing it up and managing to maintain interest (and visitor numbers) is a tough call on a monthly basis but Swade kept up this punishing pace day in, day out. Now that IS devotion.

The appointment can only be good for SAAB. In hiring such a popular, high-profile figure the company has been far more adventurous than bigger manufacturers but SAAB is a small manufacturer with big aspirations and Steven Wade needs no introduction, has excellent product knowledge and above all else a global network of contacts who are as obsessed with the brand as he is. The transition from blogger to marketing man will be an easy one - Swade has been doing the job unofficially for years!






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