GENEVA -- Saab, stretching its development dollars, is creating the redesigned 9-3 on a re-engineered flexible platform that also may be used for the next generations of the 9-5 sedan and wagon and 9-4X crossover.
The redesigned 9-3 is expected to go on sale late 2012.
"I think this is an excellent solution for us as a small manufacturer," Jan Ake Jonsson, CEO of Saab Automobile, said at the Geneva auto show. "We will be able to get as much as we can get out of one architecture. It will give us the ability to build all of our cars in one plant so you can reduce your investment in the plant."
Saab also will be able to share components among different models, "which is a big benefit," Jonsson said.
The new platform is referred to internally as the Phoenix.
The current 9-3 was developed on a front-wheel-drive platform engineered by General Motors, which owned Saab at the time. GM sold Saab in February 2010 to Spyker Cars NV.
The current-generation Saab 9-5 went on sale last summer, and the new 9-4X will go on sale in May. Both share GM platforms. It will be five or six years until the 9-5 and 9-4X would move to the Phoenix platform, if Saab eventually makes that decision.
Jonsson said Saab started with the existing 9-3 platform. The wheelbase was stretched, the car was widened and lowered, a new rear axle was selected, and technology was added.
"And then at the same time we said, why don't we make it flexible so it could be a little bit longer for bigger cars and also make a raised version" for a crossover, he said.
But the Phoenix platform is too expensive to support a smaller vehicle, such as the proposed compact 9-2.
"The 9-2 as a smaller Saab is not in our business plan," Jonsson said. "We believe we need to find somebody to cooperate with, and then in due course we will make a decision which way to go."
Jonsson said Saab expects the redesigned 9-3 will continue to be Saab's top-selling model. It will compete with the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C class.
Said Jonsson: "The 9-3 will make a statement of what the future of Saab is going to look like in terms of vehicle characteristics, design and performance."