For Saab, it's a good way to make a living Saab Cars, USA Inc. should reach the 40,000 sales mark by the end of the year, says its president and CEO, Dan Chasins. This number represents a 4%-5% growth over 1999.

Mr. Chasins gives credit for the growth to the newly developed 9-5 platform. The 9-5's vehicles - the convertible, the wagon and the sedans - account for a little less than 50% of Saab's sales in the U.S. The other 51-52% of sales are from the 9-3 platform, which has a hatchback, convertible and the sporty Viggen.

Saab Cars USA, a Swedish importer owned by General Motors Corp., is preparing for significant growth over the next two to five years with the development of several new products.

The Global Epsilon Development, a next-generation 9-3 platform, is being developed and will hit the market in mid-2002. Along with replacements for the hatchback and convertible, the new platform will allow Saab to branch into other niche markets. Mr. Chasins declines to mention specific markets Saab will target, but says the future 9-3 will "offer Saab a greater breadth of variance."

Saab is also developing an all-wheel drive vehicle. It will most likely be a car/SUV crossover, rather than a true Sport Utility Vehicle.

Says Mr. Chasins, "You can be sure the AWD will remain true to the Saab nameplate. It will have all of the safety and technological advances that are identified with the Saab product." He says that it will be available in three to five years.

To make sure they are ready to grow, Saab is launching some new initiatives with its dealers in 2001. Early in the first quarter of 2001, Saab management will present the upcoming product plans to the dealer principals and general managers. "We want to make sure they understand the vision and the objectives Saab is trying to accomplish with these new products," Mr. Chasins says.

Saab is also rewarding its dealers who upgrade their facilities with the Retail Environment Design (RED) program. Saab provides various levels of financial backing to dealers, depending on the level of improvement needed. The company wants dealers to show its cars in separate showrooms, taking architectural cues from an airplane hanger. That reflects Saabs air industry roots in Sweden.

Mr. Chasins says, "We want to make sure our dealers have the facilities that can handle our growth."