STOCKHOLM (Bloomberg) --Saab is challenging BMW AG and Audi AG with its first crossover. Saab, which will display the 9-4X today (Nov. 17) at the Los Angeles auto show, aims for the model to reach annual global sales of 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles starting in 2012, about half of which would be in the United States, Spyker CEO Victor Muller said Monday in an interview.
Supercar maker Spyker Cars NV bought the Swedish auto manufacturer earlier this year.
“It's a very important car because this is the extender of our product portfolio,” Muller said by phone from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as he was about to fly to Los Angeles. “This means we can capture and keep clients in our brand much more easily than ever before. That's very, very important for us.”
The 9-4X, Saab's biggest model, will compete with Audi's Q5 and Q7 and BMW's X3 and X5, Muller said. The crossover, which combines features of a car and an SUV, expands Trollhattan-based Saab's product line beyond the 9-5 sedan that went on sale this year and the 8-year-old 9-3 lower-premium model line. Saab is planning to have the 9-4X available in showrooms by May.
Spyker climbed 3.1 percent to close at 3.196 euros in Amsterdam trading. The stock has advanced 50 percent this year
Saab, which General Motors Co. sold in February, lowered its full-year sales target last month, saying it aims to build 30,000 to 35,000 cars in 2010 instead of a projected 45,000 vehicles. The company has a target of becoming profitable by 2012, when it plans to sell 120,000 vehicles yearly.
Marketing of the 9-4X will focus on North America and growth economies including China, Brazil and, “in due course, India,” Muller said. While the 9-4X will be offered in some European countries, including the UK, its sales in the region will be held back by the vehicle's size and the lack of a diesel engine, the 51-year-old Dutchman said.
“It's too bad there's no diesel in it for Europe” after a GM-provided engine didn't meet its needs for the region, Muller said. The Swedish carmaker may seek another diesel-engine supplier for the 9-4X's future versions, he said.
Saab hasn't set prices for the crossover yet. The Audi Q5 and Q7 start at $35,200 and $45,700 in the United States respectively, according to the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer's Web site. BMW's X3 starts at $36,750 and the X5 costs $46,300.
“We have definitely looked very carefully at where Audi sits with the pricing of the Q5 and Q7,” Muller said. “We're a little bit between the Q5 and Q7, and we have to make sure we are competitive with them.”
BMW will start selling a revamped version of the compact SUV X3 in the United States in January as the Munich-based luxury-car manufacturer takes on Audi's better-selling Q5.
Muller also reiterated that he's optimistic about finding a partnership with another carmaker to make a smaller Saab-brand model inspired by the tear-drop shaped Saab 92 car built from 1949 to 1956.
“There are so many fruitful discussions ongoing, so I feel that one of them will bear fruit,” he said, declining to identify potential partners.