UK: GM now has grip on Saab - GM MD
It seems to have taken GM forever to get to grips with Saab, the Swedish car company it has owned for some 10 years.
Lots of talk, the occasional, and not entirely successful, foray into badge-engineered new product, but nothing concrete - until now.
Jonathan Nash, managing director of Saab GB said: "It has taken longer than expected to get to grips with the brand, but to be fair GM finally started moving the company in the right direction about five years ago."
That's how long it takes to get the strategy and new models to market.
Speaking at the UK launch of the latest 9-3, Nash said: "People want to buy a Saab because it is Saab. It always has been a distinctive, high performance brand."
In an early attempt to spread the Saab gospel GM played with some joint product development which did not really work, notably the 9-2X in conjunction with Subaru in the United States.
Nash added: "GM has come to terms with what it now knows is a unique, individual brand with a lot of loyal customers. It was not just a question of making the brand more widely available, it was about investing in innovative technology such as cross-wheel-drive.
"If you are going to be late into the game with a technology you need something unique and as a centre for excellence in cross-wheel-drive, engine management systems and turbo-charging I think you will start to see some of Saab's technologies cascading out into other GM products."
There is still some cross-brand development going on, notably between Saab and Cadillac, but Nash added that design and driving characteristics would remain "individual" to each marque.
He sees turbo charging as an important environmental tool in the future - a far cry from the hot performance image of a few years ago.
He added: "I see a strong future for turbocharging in terms of 'right-sizing' engines. You do not need large engines with huge cubic capacities and all the emissions involved in that.
"Turbo charging, matched to smaller engines can be more efficient and produce as much power. Engine capacity will become less important in future. Consumers will be more interested in the type of fuel, consumption and emissions."
But he still believes Saab should retain its high performance image.
"We should not have to apologise for enjoying driving. You pay a lot of money, hopefully to Saab for your car, then you pay a not insignificant amount in taxes to the government - I think you are entitled to enjoy the car that you drive."