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Liberated Saab forges ahead with retro mini

Back then: The original Saab 92 is the inspiration for a new mini being developed by Saab, which exited GM control this week.

New ‘cool’ Saab entry model inspired by pioneering aero Saab 92, says new owner

24 Feb 2010

BORN-AGAIN Swedish car-maker Saab Automobile AB is wasting no time pressing on with life after General Motors following the final transfer of ownership control from the American giant to Dutch niche sportscar-maker Spyker Cars NV this week.

With essential loans secured to fund the revitalisation of the bankrupt brand and production of the new Saab 9-5 ramping up at Saab’s Trollhattan factory in readiness for an imminent global launch, the new owners have revealed that design work is well advanced on a new retro-styled baby model to be built on a donor platform supplied by a major car-maker.

Although Saab has previously referred to the prospective entry-level model as ‘9-1’, Spyker CEO and 30 per cent owner of Saab Victor Muller this week described the Saab’s fourth model range as ‘92’ – a nod to the aero-styled 1950s Saab 92 that apparently is the inspiration behind many of new model’s style cues.

Britain’s Autocar quotes Dutch-born Mr Muller as describing the new light car as “the coolest thing since the Mini”, adding that “everyone will want one”, but predicts production is at least three years away.

Mr Muller said he was personally driving the 92 design project, carrying the latest renderings with him on his travels and talking constantly with the Saab design team.

“I want it to be influenced by the first Saab – in fact, my codename for it is 92, like the first one,” he is quoted as saying.

38 center imageFrom top: Saab 9-5, Spyker CEO Victor Muller and Spyker Aileron.

Autocar says the new 92 is likely to be built on the Opel Corsa light-car platform – complete with GM drivetrain – in a deal done with GM as part of the Saab sale settlement.

The original tear-drop-shaped Saab 92 was an extremely aerodynamic (0.30Cd) two-door coupe, reflecting Saab’s aeronautical origins. It was powered by a two-stroke 764cc 19kW engine mated with a three-speed gearbox, and rode on torsion-bar suspension. It went into production in 1949 and lasted in service until 1956 when it was replaced by the 93.

The new 92 would bring Saab’s model range to four – the fresh 9-5 flagship, the mid-range 9-3 (which Saab says will be renewed in 2012), the GM-made 9-4X SUV and the 92 in about 2013.

Saab says it needs to produce 100,000 cars a year – most of them at its own Trollhattan plant. Production of 9-5, 9-3 and 92 models are all expected to be concentrated at the Swedish base to maximise economies of scale and return on plant investment.

Mr Muller told Autocar that Saab just needed to woo previous Saab owners back to the brand to make a go of the new era.

“I don’t actually need any new customers to do this – I just need my old customers back,” he said, adding that 1.5 millions Saabs were on the road.

The Spyker deal to acquire Saab from GM was wrapped up on Monday night after the bidder first secured a $US25 million ($A28m) loan from an investment company to pay the second instalment of its payment to GM for the company. A third instalment of $US25 million is due in July.

GM will retain a minority shareholding in the company with lucrative dividends in exchange for on-going access to GM technologies such as the platform under the new 9-5.

As well, the new Saab owners secured a €400 million ($A606m) loan from the European Investment Bank, thanks to EC-approved Swedish government guarantees.

With all the jigsaw pieces in place after months of negotiation and several near-death experiences, Saab exited liquidation and slipped from the GM stable into the hands of the new shareholders who prompted re-instated the Saab management team led by Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson.

In a statement announcing the deal on Monday night, Mr Muller said: “We are delighted – Saab’s future is now secure.”

Mr Muller said Saab had a well-funded business plan in place and he was looking forward to working with Saab’s management on the realisation of its plan to bring “exciting new products to our customers – real Saabs, Saab Saabs”.

The new company says Saab and Spyker will operate as sister companies under a Spyker Cars NV parent company.

Earlier this month, Spyker announced that production of its Aileron supercar had been switched from Zeewolde in Holland to a new plant operated by contract builder CPP Manufacturing in Coventry, UK.

The boutique plant will turn out up to five cars a week on one shift.

“This move makes sense on many different levels,” Mr Muller said. “CPP has been producing our body panels for 10 years and we have an extremely close working relationship with the company.

“More than half our components are sourced from the UK, so moving here will bring us considerable efficiency savings which is vital for a car company of our size.”

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