The Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept North American Premiere

Posted on 27. Mar, 2008 by in 2000-2009, 9-X BioHybrid, Company, New York, NY

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Photo Credit: Saab History (Caption: L-to-R Saab Sweden & USA Presidents, Jan-Ã…ke Jonsson & Steve Shannon)

As a guest invited by Saab Automobile USA & General Motors, it was another great opportunity to be present for this North American premiere of the second introduction of this compact product segment for the Saab brand. I also realized that much like I did previously with the 9-4x BioPower Concept launch and Turbo-X Launch, it was important to once again provide good video coverage in addition to photography. With that in mind, I took the initiative to solicit sponsors and in that process, site sponsor Saab of Hunterdon in New Jersey. came in at the nick of time to sign up as a film sponsor. This support ultimately faciliated the ability to cover costs to rent a professional camcorder to film the event.

The Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept North American Premiere took place this past Tuesday in New York City, March 19th, 2008 almost three weeks following its global launch in Geneva on March 3rd, 2008.

I began this event by flying out early from National Airport in Washington, D.C. en-route to New York City on Tuesday morning. Shortly after my arrival, I made it a point to head directly to the former location of SAAB’s first office in New York City at 405 Park Avenue. With the rise and fall of buildings throughout the world, in particular on Manhattan island, I was incredibly surprised that this building still stands. Immediately after some photography taken here, I continued to pick up my camcorder equipment and then began preparing for the Saab Reflective event that evening that began on 9pm and concluded at 1am.

reflective_small.jpgThe Saab Reflective event that night began promptly and initially reminded me of the “GM Style Event” that took place back in January the night before the North American International Auto Show began. The GM Style Event was communicated as “an evening celebrating artistic convergence of vehicle design, fashion and music”, and in a similiar fashion, the Saab reflective event was an event that also focused on clothing and vehicles, but under “eco-friendly” auspises. dscn8094_300.jpgDuring this event, both the aforementioned Saab 9-4x BioPower Concept as well as the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concepts were displayed as backdrops to this launch of an eco-clothing collection for Saab Automobile in partnership with a Swedish clothing design firm called Reflective Circle.

It was during this event that there was a number of media mingling amongst a number of select local New Yorkers who got to get their first glimpse of these concept cars and clothing. The concept cars themself, were re-revealed at this venue by a number of models all dressed in while carrying umbrellas in a carefully choreographed sequence that seemed to be a cross between something you would see at the rocketts at radio city music hall and a runway platform in Paris. During and after this introduction, there were some notable Saab executives present, but surprisingly, there were not any Saab designers on hand to speak or discuss the design intent, direction and future of the Saab Automobile brand and product development. 2_300.jpgThis particular omission was surprising, given that this venue was purposely planned in order to promote the Saab concept vehicles in a more unique and intimate way that Saab could only do in another one of their “key” North East markets in the United States. It was clear that while this event was certainly geared towards a certain New York audience, it was partially at the expense of the rest of the media and other individuals who were present, because it did not represent their specific demographic and psychographic or at least partially. What was not clear for me was the entertainment value of the event for the press and media, other than what I believe to be, in my opinion, a notable event that not only complimented the Geneva Motor Show, but the New York Auto Show the following day as well.

With the night coming to an end, Saab Automobile, the media, guests and other individuals managed to wrap it up after nearly four full hours of socializing, mingling and networking at this first ever eco-event that took place at the IAC Building in New York City.
3_300.jpgThe event showcasing an eco-friendly clothing line, subtly indicating the Saab concept cars while toasting to “BioPower Martinis” served on none other than an ice bar, harkened back to Saab’s scandinavian roots and ever-continuing “ice-block” design element theming most notably in the interiors of both concept cars present inside and out.

As I began to make my way out of the building with other colleagues and various other members of the press, we began discussing and were eventually all in agreement that while this event was fun at an individual level, we were left with less of a complete understanding as to the entire objective of the event, combined with the fact that the concept cars that were present, were out promoted by an eco-friendly clothing line.

logo1.jpg On Wednesday, March 20th, the New York International Auto Show opened their doors early to the media and press. I was looking forward to seeing the Saab stand as I had previously in Detroit, Michigan, and this time I noticed that the venue was certainly different in scale and design. 11.jpgWhile the Saab stand and display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit being large, adequately lit and more open, I found that the Saab stand in New York was challenging from a photographic, and video production perspective. I clearly had my work cut out for me.

As I began to make my way through the Saab stand, I was surprised to see that the Saab 9-X BioHybrid was not presented as prominent as I would have thought in the display, where the Saab 9-4x BioPower Concept appeared to be more front and center as you will see in the photograph. I also got to see on the stand, the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X that was suited with the proper three-spoke wheels that made its North American launch at the Boston Auto Show this past November. What was most surprising about the Saab stand was that outside the smaller scale, and 9-X BioHybrid set in the background, there was no single Saab 9-5 in either sedan or wagon (combi) configuration. This refined model for the Saab brand, now in its 10-year anniversary is still a great model, so I see no reason to exclude it as it is part of the lineup.

2.jpgNear the end of my experience at the Saab stand during the show, I did get the opportunity to have an interview with both Steve Shannon and Jan-Ã…ke Jonsson, the president of Saab Automobile USA & Global operations respectively. This experienced helped me formulate my in person opinions on my previous thoughts on the Saab 9-X BioHybrid as well as the the future of Saab Automobile.

The final program for the day involved a nice informal group meeting with Bryan Nesbitt, GM Vice President of GM North America Design located at the GM Design Center in Warren, Michigan. I really enjoyed his information, on the Saab 9-X BioHybrid design, as well as the driving as well as associated lifestyle differences in North America versus Western Europe. I am glad that this chance to talk about the 9-X BioHybrid with a designer, took place in addition to the GM Next chat some days later with Anthony Lo, online.

The take aways I had from my experience seeing the 9-X BioHybrid in person was that while I like the idea of this vehicle, I was not entirely convinced that every bit of theory that this vehicle was communicated to have, will see be one hundred percent applied to a production vehicle. I also think it is critical that this concept car, once it goes to market as a production model, includes everything indicated in this premiere as well as cross-wheel drive as an option. I believe that everything including the solar-powered roof as outlined in the specifications of this concept car, will need to see production, because Saab is always about innovative industry firsts, so it is about time that they maintain that position once again here in this vehicle segment for the brand.

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This North American launch for the Saab 9-X BioHybrid was an important venue for Saab Automobile. I believe that the aforementioned reflection event combined with the New York Auto show complimented the Geneva Motor Show. As a member of the press invited to this event, I was fortunate to to get the chance to see the Saab 9-X BioHybrid in person and my thoughts on this concept car have remained unchanged, following this experience.

I appreciated this experience thanks Saab Automobile USA, General Motors as well as Saab of Hunterdon & JMK for making it all possible.

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