Saab Aero-X: Born From the Corvette
Is it the face
of Saab's future? Don't expect to see the Aero X concept vehicle in your nearby
Saab showroom anytime soon, but it still says a lot about the struggling Swedish
automaker's future, according to company officials. Appropriately surrounded by
55 tons of ice, the Aero-X is a decidedly edgy alternative to Saab's current
lineup. And that's precisely what was in mind, said Anthony Lo, a member of the
Aero-X design team. The extreme proportions underscore the automaker's current
ad campaign, "Born From Jets," with aerospace cues, such as the oversized air
intakes. One of the more distinctive touches is the wraparound windshield, which
eliminates the traditional A-pillar. A trick cantilever system raises and tilts
the roof of the low-slung two-seater for relatively easy access to the interior.
Think of it as "Scandinavian Cool," said Lo, playing off the popular J-Cool, or
Japanese Cool design themes. In general proportions, the Aero-X is similar to
the Chevrolet Corvette, and in production, it would most likely share theU.S.
sports car's platform. But "I
don't think Saab would ever do anything like that," Bob Lutz, car czar at Saab's
parent, General Motors, conceded
during an interview with TheCarConnection.com. Nonetheless, the Aero-X is, he
said, "symbolic of what Saab could do with design." Long short of cash and
product, the automaker recently won approval for a more aggressive business plan
that will begin expanding its model lineup over the next few years. A vehicle
smaller than the current 9-3 is a top priority, according to Lutz, as is a
GM Vice Chairman also noted that the Swedish subsidiary is approaching the point
of profitability, in part because of increased economies of scale. Going
forward, Lutz said, Saab products will be largely the same as GM's under the
skin, though the focus will be on differentiating ride and styling, while add-on
features should allow "you to sell it at a much higher price." The typical Saab,
he stressed, should command "anywhere from $1000 to $2000 over a comparable Opel
or Pontiac" version.
Geneva Show Preview, Part II (2/19/2006)
New VW Concept A, Porsche
911 Turbo, BMW WRC car.
Lutz Calls for "Decoupled Development"
A new approach to developing advanced technology, from powertrains to folding
hardtops, should speed up product development at GM, while also reducing cost,
asserted the automaker's product chief, Bob Lutz. Know as "decoupled
development," the concept means that GM engineers will work on new hardware even
before they know what vehicles it might be used in. "Very often," he noted,
"incorporating something new into a vehicle program is where you have your
problems." However, once a new system is developed, Lutz explained, "engineers
can pull it off the shelf and put it on their vehicles" without delay. Decoupled
development would have been particularly helpful with the Pontiac G6
convertible, the GM car czar suggested. The mid-size model was initially delayed
because of problems with its folding hardtop. If GM had developed the hardware
separately, the problems would have been fixed already, Lutz insisted, noting
that Toyota uses
a similar approach to developing future technologies.