Fleet News

NEW York International Auto Show: Saab attacks SUV market

SAAB unveiled its first sport utility vehicle (SUV) in New York in an attempt to claim a slice of a growing market, and gave clear indications about future model plans for Europe.

The Saab 9-7x will be built in Ohio alongside the Chevrolet Trailblazer on which it is based and is intended to win conquest sales from other large SUVs in North America as well as appeal to the 30% of Saab buyers who also drive an SUV.

The 9-7x has been given Saab front styling with characteristic headlamps and grille as well as detail changes at the rear.

The interior has also been redesigned with a driver-focused dashboard and centre console, instruments lifted from the 9-3, Saab trademark vents and the cup-holder from the Saab 9-5.

The ignition is also mounted on the transmission tunnel behind the gear lever, while Saab engineers have also tuned the suspension to give the vehicle different ride and handling characteristics.

Saab president and chief executive Peter Augustsson said: 'The 9-7x is a great example of how we are utilising a great deal of competitive advantages of being part of the General Motors family.'

The 9-7x will be offered with large capacity V6 and V8 petrol engines, but the lack of an available diesel will make European sales unlikely.

A Saab insider admitted the 9-7x was a stop-gap vehicle to ensure it had a presence in a growing and highly profitable market sector in North America, and the next generation 9-7x – likely to appear within a few years – would be more appealing to European customers.

Likewise the Subaru Impreza-based Saab 9-2x, which goes on sale in North America in July and fits into the burgeoning compact premium sector, will compete with the five-door Audi A3 and BMW 1-series, but will not be sold through the company's European network.

A more Saab-like second generation model is more likely to be offered across European countries.

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