General Motors European Saab - Saab's Opel-Esence

Cozying Up To Opel Brings Saab Some Much-Needed New Products.
Briefs
Maybe the '70s really are over
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo has died, the victim of a sales skid that even years on the NASCAR scene couldn't stanch. Longtime Monte Carlo shill the Tasmanian Devil was there to the end but could do nothing. Friends remembered happier days, when Chevrolet's "personal coupe" regularly topped 300,000 annual sales as a favorite ride of Me Decade swingers.

Does anyone remember when Saab was truly a Swedish car company? Does anybody care? Absorbed by General Motors years ago, Saab is only now really being folded into the GM Europe family-which means lots of closeness with Opel. The move will bring Saab a wholly revamped lineup, and General Motors' more flexible platforms means no more badge-engineered Saabs like the 9-2X (a barely disguised Subaru) and the 9-7X (a mildly tarted-up Chevrolet TrailBlazer). Instead, we'll see the following:

9-3. The 9-3 undergoes a face-lift later this year. An all-new follow-up comes in 2010, again as a sedan, a wagon, and a convertible. The 9-3 is part of a global mid-size car program that also includes the Opel Vectra and the Saturn Aura. To provide greater variety, GM is developing two separate body widths as well as variations in suspension layout, wheelbase, and electronics. For instance, while the volume brands use a strut-type front suspension and a four-link rear suspension, Saab gets control arms all around. The 9-3 also will offer all-wheel drive, with two electronically controlled differentials.

9-5. A new 9-5 arrives at long last in 2009. It's a longer, wider relative of the 9-3/Vectra/Aura. Notchback and wagon versions have been confirmed. Air suspension will be a new option, as will all-wheel drive.

9-4x. In 2010, Saab gets its first crossover, the 9-4X, a car that will be paired with Opel's new flagship. The Opel Insignia concept previewed the shape, but the production cars will have conventional doors and an available third-row seat. There also will be a new range of turbocharged gasoline engines with an auxiliary 30-hp electric motor that compensates for turbo lag, provides short-distance zero-emissions mobility, and could even act as a part-time four-wheel-drive system to propel the rear wheels. A small V-8 engine will be offered only in North America.

9-1. The 9-1 is a new entry-level offering. It's due in 2011, one year after the new Opel Astra on which it will be based. Two body styles are believed to be under development: a sporty two-door hatchback and a wagonlike four-door.

Picture This
Forget Cell-Phone companies, liquor brands, and cigarettes. For the 2007 Formula 1 season, Honda's racing cars will advertise something a little more wholesome: the earth. The world map livery-only FIA-mandated logos will otherwise appear on the cars-is actually composed of the names and countries of people who have pledged to help the planet at a special Web site, www.myearthdream.com. And in case those green-leaning F1 fans can't spot their microscopic message when it whips by at 200 mph, there's a virtual car online where they can check it out.

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