Geneva Auto ShowGENEVA – Saab Automobile will be "very profitable" within three years, says Bob Lutz, General Motors Corp. vice chairman-global product development on the eve of the auto show here.

GM’s Swedish subsidiary that is struggling to find profitability and a cohesive design language, uses Geneva for the worldwide debut of the Aero X concept, a 400-hp 2-seater.

Calls for selling Saab have been quieted since Jerry York joined GM's board earlier this month and became "educated" about the auto maker's brand strategy, Lutz tells Ward's.

York, who helped reverse the fortunes of the former Chrysler Corp. in the 1980s, arrived with a mandate to watch over the sizable stake in GM held by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and a distaste for cash-poor Saab.

Saab Aero X Concept

"We educated him that there is no Saab to sell," Lutz says of the Sweden-based brand that is fully integrated into GM's engineering and product development organizations.

Selling Saab would be "like trying to take eggs out of an omelete again," adds Lutz, whose remarks come as GM pulls the sheet off its latest concept.

The ethanol-powered supercar, equipped with all-wheel drive, represents an important evolution of the brand's character, says Anthony Lo, director of advanced design-GM of Europe.

Inspired by Saab's 70-year jet aviation history, the graceful lines of the coupe culminate in the design of its cockpit with a wraparound canopy that eliminates the need for A-pillars or conventional doors.

The glass and carbon fiber greenhouse creates 180-degree visibility and the roof opens by raising up in three balletic stages for access to the low-slung cabin.

"I call it, 'Scandanavian cool,'" Lo says.

Inside, the aircraft theme continues, as the Aero X relies on glass-like acrylic “clear zones” and three-dimensional graphics rather than conventional dials and buttons to display instruments and controls.

Equally impressive is the concept’s construction, which utilizes lightweight carbon fiber bodywork, AWD and an electronically controlled suspension system.

Powering this technology is a 400-hp, twin-turbocharged, V-6 engine. Dubbed BioPower, the engine runs entirely on ethanol and gives new meaning to the phrase “performance with responsibility,” the auto maker says. (See related story: Saab Unveils E85-Powered 9-5 Sport Wagon )

Additional Aero X highlights include light-emitting-diode lighting, inside and out, and a tail-mounted twin storage facility that utilizes a conventional hatch and a sliding drawer underneath.

“This (design) study shows how the strength of the Saab brand heritage can inspire bold, innovative design,” says Bryan Nesbitt, executive director-GM Design Europe.

“As we move forward with new Saab products, we will remain focused on carefully cultivating this brand equity in the context of Scandinavian design values.”

Lutz considers the Saab 9-7x to be the turning point in Saab's identity. Based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, it offers considerably more refinement.

The next-generation 9-7x will feature more common components with the TrailBlazer, but fewer common characteristics, especially with regard to driving dynamics, Lutz says.

Going forward, Saabs will be defined by advanced "piloting" controls, functionality and safety, says Jan Ake Jonsson, Saab's managing director.

GM says the Aero X will make its North American debut in April at the New York auto show.

with Mike Sutton in Detroit

emayne@wardsauto.com

msutton@wardsauto.com