Getting it right at precisely the wrong time.
At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to take. Given the multitude of factors massed against it, its non-adoption was perhaps inevitable, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts howling in frustration and thwarted desire. Derived from earlier 9X concepts, the C-sector 9X BioHybrid concept not only looked fantastic, but also successfully imagined Saab’s entry into a sector that should have proven both lucrative and sustainable – hybrid technology or no.
By the later 00’s, Saab had been paired with GM’s Opel subsidiary in an effort to reinvent the marque following years of neglect by its US parent. Hence 9X rode on a modified Astra platform, engines and suspensions, but given a more Trollhattan flavour. Designed under the leadership of GM Europe’s director of advanced design, Anthony Lo, the 9X combined traditional Saab styling elements with an up to date, rakish silhouette combining practicality with élan. As an upmarket alternative to the default 1-Series or A3, it is tempting to imagine something akin to this selling in considerable volume. As a five-door, and with modern Astra underpinnings, its success appears almost certain.
Sadly however, its appearance also coincided with the great financial crash of the same year, swiftly followed by GM’s bankruptcy and Saab’s slow motion demise. Today, Opel produces a notably similar vehicle in the Astra coupé – a chic, well-proportioned car that sells largely on price. As a Saab, it is possible GM could have given themselves far better margins and with a decent personalisation programme and a following wind, a Mini-sized success story. Yes, I know the automotive world is littered with similar tales of what might have been, but there is an essential rightness (and even six years on, modernity) to this concept that makes its relegation to the realms of ‘if only’ especially tragic.
Photos via car body design/tuningnews.net