GERMANY: Next Saab 9-5 model to be built at Rüsselsheim, not Trollhattan

By just-auto.com editorial team | 24 May 2005

GM's Opel plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany, appears to have won the battle with GM's Swedish Saab unit to build the next generation Saab 9-5 model from 2008, according to a Reuters report. Industry analysts also believe that the report is true.

The anonymous Reuters source said Trollhattan would continue to make the current versions of the 9-3 and 9-5 until 2009.

The successors to the Vectra and 9-3 will use GM's next generation Epsilon architecture, also understood to be earmarked for Rüsselsheim.

Mark Fulthorpe, an analyst with CSM Worldwide told just-auto that he believes GM is consolidating the bulk of next generation European Epsilon vehicle programmes at Russelsheim and that this now includes the next 9-5.

"There was a plan to use GM's global Zeta platform, engineered by Holden in Australia, for eventual rollout to vehicle programmes in North America and Europe, including Saab's 9-5. But the platform was over-engineered so that became too expensive, GM preferring instead to look at cheaper solutions," Fulthorpe said.

"Fortunately for GM, the next generation Epsilon architecture is flexible enough to include a wide platform option and that has been allocated for the Saab 9-5.

"With the Epsilon consolidation at Rüsselsheim from 2008, there is clearly an issue for GM in terms of what to do about Trollhattan. As things stand, it looks like it is heading for much lower volume production towards the end of the decade, perhaps becoming reliant upon niche variants only.

"Last year Saab made 128,000 units at Trollhttan. That could be heading down to an annual production level of around 40,000 units," Fulthorpe said. 

"But if it becomes a niche variant plant it could become vulnerable on cost grounds as GM may eventually decide to simply consolidate all next generation Epsilon Saab niche variants at Rüsselsheim also when the current Epsilon variants and the Cadillac BLS (also current Epsilon and due to start production at Trollhattan early in 2006) runout.

"There again, the downside there is losing the perceived 'Swedishness' of the Saab brand if no Saabs at all are made in Sweden - so GM may be willing to bear the extra manufacturing costs of keeping Trollhattan going, even at much lower volume, anyway.

"One possibility that could throw Trollhattan a major lifeline is that it could be offered a future small Saab - dubbed '9-1' - based on GM's Delta architecture [used for the Opel/Vauxhall Astra]. Such a vehicle would be mainly aimed at Europe, so Trollhattan's exposure on the weak dollar would perhaps be considerably reduced in such a scenario," Fulthorpe added.