Speaking at the launch of the car, Augustsson said the company was looking to increase sales from 136,000 units in 2002 to 230,000 cars worldwide in 2005. In the same period, UK sales are planned to leap from 18,000 to 28,000.
He said: 'With the 9-3 we are entering the largest segment in the premium car market. For the first time ever, we have a product that can compete head-to-head with Audi, BMW and Volvo.'
Augustsson defended the firm's decision to move away from the traditional hatchback with the new 9-3. During market research, a fifth of current owners cited they bought the old 9-3 because of its five doors, and were unhappy with the switch to a saloon.
He added: 'More than 60% of compact premium sales are saloons. Among the remaining 40% we find estates, convertibles and coupes. The launch of the saloon is the fastest way of finding new customers and growing our business.'
Saab will eventually unveil three more variants on the 9-3 platform, including a cabriolet and sport/lifestyle models.