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Saab future hopes


The baby 9-2 will have separate parentage and could easily be fostered by BMW Group, but everything else will be Phoenix under the skin. The news comes as the Swedish maker gets serious about an Australian comeback with its flagship 9-5, a classy looking prestige sedan that's priced from $71,900 and only let down by shonky suspension.

"Phoenix is the future of Saab. It's the mechanical platform for everything we do, except for the small car. It's demonstrating our independence and capability to survive by ourselves," Steve Nicholls, managing director of Saab Cars Australia, tells Carsguide. Saab has already previewed Phoenix with a concept car of the same name at this year's Geneva Motor Show.

It was cartoonish in some ways, but strip away the outrageous body bits and you reveal the 9-3 underneath. "The big news comes in 2012, probably quarter three, with the launch of the all-new Saab 9-3. That will be based very much on the Phoenix car that was shown in Geneva. The underpinnings we showed in Geneva are pretty much the car," Nicholls says.

Saab will soldier through until then with a lineup of current 9-3 models and the 9-5, as the 9-4X SUV is twinned with a Cadillac for the USA and is not available in left-hand drive. Nicholls says Saab has limited sales aspirations at present as it rebuilds support in Australia and expands a dealer network that has shrunk to just eight outlets.

"Our job is to tick over and then gradually grow. We've got our first few batches of 9-3 on the ground and the 9-5 launch stock is here." He admits he is also fighting perceptions of problems following a factory shutdown in Sweden last week and overseas reports of financial trouble for a company that is not long out of General Motors' ownership.

"Would I have chosen to have this happen? Of course not," Nicholls admits. "The funding is there, but the cash flow isn't. We've had a couple of unfortunate hiccups. "We've had losses, but they were within the parameters of the business plan. Hopefully we'll be in a profit making situation in 2012. Once we have the new 9-3 we should be making money.

"We're here to stay. Saab has invested to be in Australia, it's a significant market for us and we were always one of the top 10 markets in the world. The fact that we've set up as a factory distributor, and not gone with an importer, shows we're taking this seriously."