BARCELONA - Saab will consolidate its future mainstream models on one platform to improve manufacturing flexibility and efficiency, according to President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Hendry.
But the General Motors subsidiary is also considering new models that could be derived from other GM platforms.
General Motors' coming 'Epsilon' platform will be the basis for the next-generation Saab 9-3 and 9-5, said development engineers at the launch of the 9-5 station wagon here.
The current 9-3 and 9-5 models are based on separate platforms. The 9-3 is derived from the previous generation GM Vectra/Cavalier platform. The new 9-5 is based on the current model Vectra platform. An all-new 9-3 is due in 2002.
Both the 9-3 and 9-5 are built at Saab's main plant in Trollhattan, Sweden. But production flexibility is limited because the cars use different platforms.
By moving to one platform, Hendry said capacity at Trollhattan will rise from 180,000 to 200,000. Saab plans to build 150,000 units next year, rising to 250,000 in 2005.
Sweden's other carmaker, Volvo Car Corp., has consolidated its platforms in recent years. The Swedish-built S70 and S80 models are no longer built on separate platforms.
The Epsilon platform will be the basis of General Motors' next-generation Opel Vectra and Omega, and the Cadillac Catera. It could also be the basis of a minivan that Saab may build.
Hendry said Saab is considering three new niche models: A minivan, a four-wheel-drive version of the 9-5 wagon, and a roadster.
A prototype roadster based on GM's future 'Delta' platform will debut at the Geneva auto show in March, according to Saab Germany Chief Executive Officer Jens Becker. He said the prototype will be used to test the market.
The Delta platform will also be used for the next-generation Opel Astra.
Hendry said the minivan would 'not be a normal minivan, but rather a specific Saab solution.' But he said no decision has been made on whether to build any of the proposed niche cars. Other Saab sources say a decision on at least the roadster and the four-wheeldrive wagon will be made in 1999.
They also said production of niche Saabs may be built in countries where demand is expected to be highest. Currently the only Saab built outside Sweden is the 9-3 cabriolet, which is produced at Valmet Automotive in Finland.
The strategy could see the roadster being built at GM plants in North or South America, sources said. The four-wheel-drive station wagon is also being considered for plants in the USA, they said.