Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA – Victor Muller’s hair has turned more silver in the year since his exotic sports car company Spyker bought Saab, but hard work during the last 12 months has resulted in the presentation of the new Saab 9-3 platform and future design in the form of the Phoenix concept car.

While the Phoenix, unveiled at the auto show here, is a low-slung sports car in the tradition of Spyker, the Saab 9-3 will be a sedan aimed at seducing Saab fans, but it also will be a “driver’s car,” Muller assures.

The Phoenix is a design bookend at the other end of the Aero 9-X cross/utility vehicle that guided Saab design during the final years of ownership by General Motors.

“We needed new design magic,” says Muller in introducing Jason Castriota, whom he hired as design director when he bought Saab. “The Phoenix is not a flight of fancy. It is the future of Saab today.”

The silver Phoenix has gull wing doors, orange seat fabric, carbon-fiber construction and unusual exterior grab handles.

The 200-hp turbocharged 1.6L engine drives the front wheels, and the rear axle is moved by a 25 kW (34-hp) electric motor, a feature developed in a joint venture with American Axle. Saab says the all-wheel-drive hybrid would have carbon-dioxide emissions of 119 g/km.

Muller tells Ward’s he would prefer to unveil the new 9-3 at Geneva next spring, but with Job One aimed at October 2012, it might make more sense to wait for the 2012 Paris show.

However, by then, there probably will be photos of the car “all over the place.”

Saab sales plummeted in 2009 and 2010 as GM pulled away from the brand and then closed it down. Production was 98,000 vehicles in 2008, 38,756 in 2009 and 31,696 in 2010, Saab says.

These days, workers in Trollhattan are busy building the new 9-5 sedan and wagon, also introduced here. In April, production begins at a GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico of the 9-4X. Meanwhile, a special series of cars has been sold out.

Muller sold the Spyker exotic car business to his Russian investor partner, Vladimir Antonov, in what he calls a capital move, meaning Muller will remain involved with the company and day-to-day operations will not change.

Muller says he expects Saab to sell 80,000 cars this year. They will include 30,000 9-5s made in Trollhattan, 9,000 9-4X CUV from Mexico and the remaining 9-3s in their run-out year.