How I’d Launch Saab’s EV

I’ve had this plan in my head for a while. In fact, when NEVS first took over Saab I had some contact with one of their officers and I shared the bare bones of this idea with her. Despite the idea having crossed NEVS’s desk some time ago, I don’t think it’ll ever happen, which is why I’ll share it here.

I think that if NEVS want to capitalise on Saab’s traditional markets, they’ll need to tie the company’s future to its past. There will have to be some continuity there, otherwise it’s just another car company. Why negotiate use of the Saab name if you don’t want to build on it? Why build in a relatively expensive country like Sweden if the origin means nothing to you?

Therefore, I think it’s logical to link Saab’s future technology with cars from its past. I’d use two cars to do this – the Saab 96 and the classic Saab 900.

The setting – Paris 2014 or Geneva 2015. Wherever they’re likely to show the EV for the first time.

Saab Stand Paris 2010Right: Paris 2010.

Personally, I’d pick Geneva. It’s the best motor show in the world and everyone is there. It’s the best stage to engage the west and link the old company and the new company together. Doing the same presentation in Beijing or Shanghai would also be worthwhile, but in that setting you’d be introducing the Saab narrative rather than extending it.

The ‘garage’ would be to the right of the presentation area and the presentation area itself would include three turntables, one for each vehicle. There would be a screen behind the presentation area to show video that would complement the launch. The garage would be there only for the day of the presentation. It would be removed that night (re-setting displays overnight after the main presentation is common at auto shows).

The video would start with footage/photos from Saab’s past, focusing quite a bit on Saab’s early competition success. Video of Carlsson in Monte Carlo and other successes featuring the Saab 96, which is then driven from the garage onto one of the turntables.

A short history lesson would follow and lead to the Saab 900, which is then driven from the garage onto another turntable.

Fast forward to the present and the debut of Saab’s new electric vehicle. Talk about the technology, the range of the vehicle, other new features that are introduced in this new vehicle etc etc.

Sounds pretty vanilla so far, right?

The key to making this work is that both historic cars would have to be specially built to drive onto the stage under electric power. NEVS would have to buy a few old cars from Blocket and fire up Saab’s skunkworks gurus to gut them and install NEVS’s EV technology into the cars.

The Saab 900 could have the huge rear hatch open on stage, revealing the battery pack neatly fitting inside. Open the clamshell hood to show the electric motors in the front.

Electric Saab 96I have other ideas for the 96, but a man’s got to keep a few secrets to himself, ya know? 😉

Right: Yes, an electric 96, but probably not this electric 96.

This demonstration manages to kill a few birds with one stone:

  • You get to show how compact and flexible the electric drivetrain can be.
  • You get to link Saab’s past with its future and make an immediate association between the innovations Saab was famous for and the innovation the company is currently involved in.

The risk, I guess, is that the historic cars might overshadow the new vehicle. That could be overcome by having a number of variants of the new vehicle present on the exhibition site. It would also be overcome by the new vehicle being really, really good.

In its last few years, Saab was complemented by a number of manufacturers for getting a big exhibition impact on a relatively small budget. A lot of this was down to Goran Anderson, Saab’s display marketing expert, who had unparalleled vision and a heart well and truly anchored to the Spirit of Saab. Another part of it was choosing the right things to display.

In previous years they had the Aero-X, PhoeniX and other new concept cars to get the press crowd humming. They’ll have a new car coming when they do this, too, but it’s going to be a consumer oriented vehicle and therefore, it’ll most likely be conservative in design. I think incorporating some Saab history into the display will give them the zing that’s normally provided by a flashy new concept.

That’s the bare bones. Do you think it’d have an impact?

Saab at New York


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  1. Great idea. I still cannot figure out why there is such an obvious disconnect with NEVS and their loyal SAAB fan base. This would be an excellent way to start to bring the two together.

    Every time I see that Aero X, I can only wish it would have made it to production.

    Is that battery powered SAAB 96 the one that the gentleman from West Virginia made several years ago?

    1. Allan,
      I am getting to my mid 60’s next year & have not had any desire to buy a sports car to dilute my age [status] like some do at about this time…..

      Been quite happy with my 3 Saab’s [9k 1998 + 9K anni Auto + 1997 anni Manual {still in pieces} + 9.5 Aero Estate 2006].
      BUT, I could definitely go for an AeroX, yummy, yummy, but not to be [Are you reading VM]

  2. 3 car three turntables/display =

    1 x 900 ICE [History]
    1 x 96 electric [shown above]
    1* x NEV’s new EV [Future],

    *Assuming only 1 body model?

    SAAB was early to this game 96 electric [above] & now……….we give you…Da da, Da da da, Da & and let’s dance

  3. Swade,
    I have little time here as the boys are close to bedtime. However I wanted to share a “clip” of one of the on stage scenes in my show. Before I do that, I want to say I would also choose the Saab 96 however I would exchange the 900T for the 99T. I hope to offer why and where it fits in the on stage reviel in Geneva.

    Amist a prelude of scenes involving much of your view, there would be a large car size block of ice mid center stage, representing many things such as Sweden. During the intro scenes involving the 96, 99, and perhaps even the 900T this block of ice would be lit a cool glowing blue and dry ice fog would linger around the block. The “show” may pass a spotlight of sorts by the block occationally as we progress from Saabs past to their future on flanking stages. The more modern we become on the story line the faster the block of ice continues to melt and once it melts to a certain point during the story line the lit blue glowing ice begins to fade and the fog increases so as to allow your mind to see something is happening but cant quite make out exactly whats happening (after all when did you ever see a huge block of ice melt on center stage before your very eyes?).
    As the story line has nearly climbed to the modern day, the glow of the block intensifies and the fog deminishes to the moment the story line and final scene come together…..

    Center stage comes alive and what we reveal is the new NEVS fully electric 9-3….. 7/8 now melted out of the ice block…..The 9-3 systems come alive and the new lighting systems in and on the car come on, a screen behind the 9-3 shows the interior come alive,the dash and foot lighting, human link, control panels illuminate their soft glow and the Screen behind the 9-3 shows “The NEVS Saab 9-3 – Our past has been found in the future.”

    Or something to that effect…..


    1. Darryl

      ✓ ✓

      Our past has been found in the future
      Our future has been found in the past

      Would need quite a few Ice, ICE’s

  4. Well for the life of me I don’t know why they have not taken this track already. instead NEVS. has been way under the radar. Seems no PR in this company.

  5. I would agree 100% with your choice of the 96 and the 900. The 96 was so ahead of its time when I bought my first 1966 model. And when Jan Willem Vester contacted me to have the million mile SPG transported to the 2007 Detroit Auto Show to debut with the Aero X, I not only agreed but suggested that the car be dropped off at the Milwaukee Auto Show on its way back to the museum, in Hartford, Wisconsin.

    The SPG was such a boost to Saab that it was part of their best year ever. This would bind the future with the robustness of the past. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Volvo just milked this gift all over again when Irv Gordon just drove his 3 millionth mile in his P1800.

  6. Swade,

    An interesting strategy, but I worry that it’s 2/3 old stuff and 1/3 new stuff. I know you address that, but it’s still going to be the first impression. Apple doesn’t intro their new phone by talking about the old one. As they say “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.”

  7. Peter,
    How have you been?
    I don’t disagree with you regarding the 900T and its iconic heritage which is why I thought it may be included. However, the onset of the 78′ 99T started the turbo charged passenger vehicle revolution. It is because of Saab, in my opinion or should I say it was Saab who first brought that technology to the market.
    The parody from this is using technology to get much more efficiency from smaller displacement engines offering big motor power yet emitting lower emissions.
    There’s no doubt best selling years were that of the 96′ through 1972 then the resurgence of sales from 1978 through 1988 here in the States. The 900T carried the turbo technology forward with new systems to control boost pressure via APC, but the 99T is where it started. Albeit the 99T model was short lived as the new 900 was offered in 1981 only three short years after the 99T introduction.
    Interestingly after writing that I can see how the 99T could be a lost memory as the 900T ultimately went on to become one of the strongest memories of Saab. And from that view, the 90oT carried more advancements through its model run then the 99T.

    So I may have to concede on the 99T… But I think we all know the 99T is the unbridled Saab turbo that moved a world market and birthed the Iconic 900T. No?


  8. Here is what I would suggest to do. I would start off with the brand values of SAAB. SAAB is not so much a car it is also a lifestyle, a brand you feel attached to Hence the strong communities worldwide of SAAB. SAAB is a very strong brand with values like safety, design, innovative, doing things differently, taking care of you, your family and the environment, sustainability (EV, Hydrogen, Biopower etc.)

    I would start NOW with the story telling about the brand SAAB, it’s resurection, it’s heritage, it’s innovations, why SAAB is doing things differently, it’s vision on the future etc etc. NEVS doensn’t have to reveal all of it’s plans, models etc. Just talk about the brand they have bought. Keep your followers, fans, potential customers and current SAAB drivers involved.

    Before lauch of the SAAB 9-3 EV I would have established experience centres in some core markets for SAAB.In these centres customers can experience the past, present and future of SAAB, it’s cars, it’s innovations, etc etc. live.

    Launching the SAAB 9-3 EV. Create an occasion. I agree to use Geneva 2015. But you only show the present and future of SAAB. The 96 and 900 are history, it looks to others as nostalgia. I would first launch the new SAAB 9-3EV LIVE on the internet out of the factory in Trollhattan. Create so much buzz around this occasion that people, press want to be one one of the first to see the new SAAB 9-3 EV. Let some inspirational speaker tell about the vision of SAAB, it’s future etc which have let to the SAAB 9-3 EV. A podium with one man/woman and one car. Not something we have seen last week, which was to my opinion rather traditional. Announce on this occasion that the SAAB can be seen in Geneva the following day. And more important people can experience the SAAB 9-3EV at the SAAB experience centres, where they can also test drive it and order one directly at the factory on the internet.

    Use the former dealers SAAB specilists as certificed SAAB centres for local maintenance and ORIO for parts.

  9. Heck, if NEVS could build a new car that really captured the essence of the c900 – the form, directness, safety, functionality, uniqueness, etc… well I really couldn’t care less how it was presented at an auto show. I really hope they can go back to building cars with the spirit of the c900/9000 era. Not that the newer ones are bad (they are very good cars), but GM’s influence took something out of them when compared to a c900.

    Can you tell I’m in engineering, not marketing?

  10. Swade, again I have followed your commentary on the latest developmentrs of the past week or so with great interest. You really ought to drop the ‘ex’ from the Saab blogger strapline since you remain the premier voice globally on this subject (besides being pretty top-drawer on a few other topics besides).

    As to your idea for an EV Saab motorshow presentation… It’s easy: the new car has to be an effing marvel and it has to look like a Saab, and it has to please everyone. Simple, really. 🙂 That aside, I like your vision Swade. But I don’t really like the idea of re-engineering of the earlier cars as EVs. The narrative that would work better for me would not tamper with history in terms of the powerplants or anything else, and instead just say it like it is: we made these awesome ICE cars that rocked the world in the past, and now we’re about to do it again with another revolution. The older cars could be made to move using tiny hidden motors or other trickery, surely. I think the choices of the first two cars you have made are excellent, especially since you link it to footage of Carlsson for instance, bringing the displays to life. But if it were down to me, the first two cars would be 1) the UrSaab borrowed from the museum or earliest 92 and 2) the 1977/8 99 Turbo again borrowed from the museum. (Or else replicas.) Bearing in mind the momentous nature of this presentation, the first one in my line-up is chosen because it embodies the beginning of the story (no reason why 96 Carlsson footage can’t be shown as it is the whole 2-stroke era with a recognisable continuity ot design), the second one heralded the second big chapter; ie, everything Saab became from the late 70s onwards (turbocharged, upmarket, wedge-shaped, super safe), and now, in the third chapter that opens before us, the new EV is where Saab is going in the 21st century…

  11. “General Motors will pull most of its Chevrolet brands from the European market” – not the GM your grandfather knew. After they pull Cadillac from Europe then GM will realize the mistakes they made with Saab.

    Just a thought.

  12. Hey!
    It worked…..maybe….The ICE in my vision melts away….the ICE, internal combustion engine!
    Also ” our past has been found in the future was a representation of the past being found in the future. Mankind in the future find the block of ICE….its melts and they see what Saab became through Saabs past.

    Something like that anyway.

  13. Nevs guys are clever ones, consuming cash where needs to consume. I dont know are autoshows right places. I think that saab have been sold as many ng9-5s even without autoshows presense. I think that saab didnt get too much visibility due to expensive autoshows or expensive phoenix consept or expensive jason. When you have limited amoung of cash you need to spend it wise. Spyker saab i would like to see them use cash for production and rd and consentrate local press events wit local importers.

  14. Apparently, the first “old” 9-3 off the line is going to be sent to China to be certified and then shipped back to Sweden to the Saab Museum. Someone suggested that it be driven there and back overland and cover the trip as a big story. Sounds good, but perhaps its the wrong car. Maybe they should do that with the 9-3EV? Or maybe not. It’s not going to be easy to find a place to fill up, errr…plug-in, in Kazakhstan or Mongolia.

  15. Hi Swade,

    I have to agree with Allan B. Saab is on the road ‘back’ to the future. In my humble opinion, the new car(s) have to be technologically so advanced that design comes in second. Now I buy cars on design before technology, superficial as I am, hence my attraction to SAAB ( best designs of the past, by far). But if their new EV could drive 300 miles without a charge, that would be astounding, wouldn’t it. Don’t make another VOLT is all I am saying. What they should or could be using is the Air Hybrid and make it completely EV. It might be to soon for a mainstream daily EV. So build a design that is so attractive that rings in the new era with a blast from the recent past that never was but everybody wanted. No more big 9-…X cars, but rather small versatile XWD incorporated hatchbacks, 3 and 5 door versions. You see all the big players trying to fill that niche as well. NEVS has some ways to go, but an interesting journey it still is.

    I like my Saab designs from Mauer, Lo and Padian. Personally I am not sad that we haven’t gone down the road of Jason to far. Let’s go back to the beginning of this century for future designs. We don’t have to go back to the previous century is all I am saying.

    My 2008 9-3SC might be dated according to some, but when I see the front, it still is one of the better designs on the road. All measurements are perfect. It shows where it came from. Swade showed a Legacy Concept a few weeks ago, the biggest threat for Saab is to go mainstream. To many fish in the bowl. Wouldn’t an Aero-X derived Sonett not be the ultimate Saab. All electrical with normal doors for everyday use?

    Ahh and this would be Saab.

    1. The Volt, being a plug-in hybrid car, is exactly the right concept. There are not enough recharging spots available right now, and providing a supplemental ICE alleviates the infamous “range anxiety”. So, for daily commuting etc., it is actually an EV, but it can stil be used for long range trips. I don’t know why it fails.

      And the Tesla S will, imho, only work in the USA, where the speeds are very low. At higher speeds, as they are typical for Europe, the range will shrink immensely.

  16. Steven, I think the idea is first rate. I believe it’s essential for Saab’s new management to embrace the company’s heritage, and to show they’re “carrying the torch” onward. Otherwise, it is indeed just another car company. Saab has such a compelling story…it would be foolish of NEVS to ignore it.

  17. Assuming NEVS solves all of the technical challenges of a pure EV at a reasonable price, with range and infrastructure to recharge on the road, any new design needs to be a statement that this is a car that while building on past design and engineering excellence is clearly a car that is ready for the future. I would envision some of the most recent SAAB designs that never made it off the drawing board or beyond a few working models, with a return to a cavernous hatchback as the lead item.