GM Needs to Ask, Who in North America Would Buy a Saab Trailblazer?

The assimilation process has begun. Quirky Swedish automaker Saab, 50% owned by General Motors, will now lose its legendary identity in the name of sustainability.

GM vice chairman Bob Lutz stated, “We could keep on treating Saab like a protected species that builds very cute and very Swedish cars, but, unfortunately they dont build enough of them.” He continued, “In the short term, it makes a lot more sense to assist Saab in putting out two or three new models.”

The first car to get the badge engineering treatment, the Saab 9-2, will be a reworked Subaru Impreza wagon, built by Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) in Japan. FHI will be responsible for manufacturing the new Swabian, but details of its sheetmetal differentiation or specific mechanicals arent yet known.

It is expected, for cost savings, Subarus well respected horizontally opposed 4-cylinder power unit will be part of the package, with the Impreza WRXs 227-hp turbocharged version reserved for the 9-2 Aero designation. This will be the first time an H-4 configured engine will be used in a Saab product.

While Subaru fans might get in a flurry at their pride and joy sharing its very soul, this news will be taken even more harshly by Saab purists. Yet the reality is there arent many of them left to cause much of a stir – hence the problem.

Due to neglect on the part of GM Europe, only three new models have been launched since the worlds largest automaker purchased Saab in 1990. While impressive cars within their highly competitive categories, the new Saabs dont stand out enough in what has become a very image conscious upper crust of society, and their product range is extremely small and not targeted at top consumer demand vehicles, namely small cars and SUVs.

The 9-2 will take care of the former, while possibly a 9-7, based on the current Chevy Trailblazer/GMC Envoy/Buick Rainier/Isuzu Ascender (did I miss any) platform. Many market analysts see this truck based SUV to be exactly what Saab doesnt need, diametrically opposed to all things that have made the Swedish brand popular since its inception.

GM needs to ask itself, who in North America would buy a Saab Trailblazer? Saabs brand image is nowhere near as well known as Chevrolet, GMC or Buicks, and consumers can currently buy what will be more or less the same vehicle from these brands already. On the other side of the coin traditional Saab customers will be put off by the vehicles less than premium interior quality and truck-like driving dynamics, not to mention the fact that the key will slot into the steering column instead of the lower console as in all Saab products to date.