May 16, 2002
Sedans replace hatchbacks at Saab
Norcross, Georgia – The all-new 2003 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan, announced May 13th, replaces the current range of three and five-door hatchbacks and is the first step in a carefully phased five-year growth plan targeted at raising annual sales and production figures to over 200,000 cars, up from current levels of approximately 130,000 cars, says a Saab corporate news release.
Saab was almost alone among the world’s premium manufacturers with its traditional hatchback formula. However, the premium car segment is dominated by sales of sedans, which account for almost 60 percent of total sales. The remaining 40 percent are wagons, convertibles and coupes.
Saab has had success with its 9-5 sedan, which replaced the 9000 hatchback in 1998. Annual U.S. sales of the 9-5 have been nearly 70 percent higher than the 9000’s best sales of 11,858 units in 1988. Now with a new 9-3 Sport Sedan model, instead of a hatchback, Saab is positioned to compete head-to-head with the other sedans in this large and growing marketplace.
Customers in this part of the segment are younger on average, aged 35 to 45 years old, and place a higher priority on a sporty, performance-oriented experience. Research also shows that if versatility is an important requirement, customers often prefer a wagon to a hatchback. Hence, the significance of the 9-3 Sports Sedan as the first, core product in the roll-out of a number of distinct variants.
While the arrival of the new Saab 9-3 initiates the first phase of a product-led growth plan, Saab has already laid the foundation to deliver higher production volumes and quality levels with a $450 million investment in new facilities and machinery at its Trollhattan, Sweden plant. Saab has, in effect, built the equivalent of a new factory.
Production of the new 9-3 will utilize a 226,000-square-foot expansion to the assembly shop — the biggest investment in this area for more than 40 years. Last year, a 135,000-square-foot addition to the body shop was completed, allowing different body parts for various models to be produced simultaneously. And a new, fifth press line has also been added to the press shop, as well as new efficiencies that allow a 30 percent increase in productivity. Include the addition of an entirely new paint shop, among the most modern and cleanest in the world, and all the main production processes at Trollhattan have been enlarged and modernized.
“We have the tools to do the job,” said Saab Automobile’s president and CEO, Peter Augustsson. “We have the products we need under development and we have the capacity we need to meet our goals, including the highest levels of quality assurance.
“It is fair to say that Saab is raising its game. For the first time, we have what we need to consistently build our market share year on year.” The investment in new products and production facilities is the largest in Saab’s history and has been planned and resourced with the full cooperation of owner General Motors. It is a clear statement of GM’s commitment to the expansion of Saab as the leading European premium brand in its portfolio of auto manufacturers.