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By MATT DAVIS


WITH THE PRODUCT-starved Saab part of General Motors reporting year-end losses upward of $200 million, both Scandinavian survivalists and Detroit management have put the newly planned high-volume 9-2 compact on a fast track. Tentatively scheduled as a 2006 model—but maybe as a 2005 entry—the 9-2 lineup will include a sportwagon plus three- and five-door hatchbacks similar in size to the Ford Focus and VW Golf.

Rumors had the 9-2 sharing the 2004 Opel Astra architecture and looking a lot like the 9-3X concept shown at Detroit in 2001, but that plan has been scrapped in favor of a new direction. Sources say Saab will sign a deal in March with Subaru holding company Fuji Heavy Industries to build a Subaru Impreza-like car with a boxer-four engine and tag it as the 9-2.

The move away from the traditional Saab turbocharged inline-four scheme has taken years to get the go-ahead, but is now considered crucial to the company’s recovery plan. As Saab boss Peter Augustsson said while at the Detroit auto show, “It’s time for Saab to quickly and effectively expand its range.”

Meanwhile, pressure from Saab North America and new boss Debra Kelly-Ennis is resuscitating shelved plans for the 9-7, a full-size Saab sport/activity vehicle based on the Cadillac SRX’s Sigma architecture. The 9-7 is expected to launch by 2006 and will add to the changing public perception of what a Saab is with the introduction of GM V6 and V8 powerplants.

One ramification for Saab of more than doubling sales volume by 2006 to more than 250,000 units worldwide is the need to find production capacity outside of Sweden. The 9-7 is the most likely candidate to be built alongside its Cadillac sister sport/utility vehicle in Lansing, Michigan. Another ramification is the long-awaited chance for Saab to return to the world rallying scene it abandoned in 1980—with a four-wheel-drive 9-2.

Gabriel,
2001 CL Type S
2001 Lexus RX300 Silversport
 
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