Swedish Automaker's Competitiveness Based on Foresight
Any other automaker with sales up forty-four percent world- wide would be happy to rest on its laurels. But Saab, the Swedish automaker, can't. It's success is built on technical leadership, a commodity that quickly melts away if the competition catches up.
"To be on the leading edge of technology means continuous planning for the future, even when you're ahead," said Robert J. Sinclair, Saab-Scania of America president. This is made espe- cially important by Saab's small size: a small automaker has to concentrate on quality, not quantity
At the same time, smallness enables the Saab engineering organization to be flexible and implement new ideas quickly. So instead of saying "if it works, don't fix it," Saab engineers have incorporated over 30 specification changes into the 1984 Saab 900.
Alternator With Two Belts
The changes range from the new alternator driven by two belts for increased reliability, to the interior lighting's new time-delay switch that keeps the lights on fifteen seconds after the last door is closed.
The 1984 Saab 900 is the result of a steady flow of innova- tions like asbestos-free brakes in 1983 and the APC (Automatic Performance Control) system, introduced in 1982, that electron- ically monitors fuel quality to optimize performance in the Saab Turbo engine. Car and Driver magazine called Saab's APC system one of the ten most important innovations in automotive engineerins in recent years. The APC system technology is now being bought by other automakers, such as Maserati.
Of course, as evolution continues to perfect the front-wheel- drive Saab 900, changes as important as the Turbo's APC system can- not appear every year. The changes for 1984 are smaller. But they continue to improve the Saab 900 and keep it ahead of the pack.
Most of the changes for 1984 are invisible to the casual observer: things like a revised Lambda emissions control system to improve driveability after cold starts, and a cut-out switch for the air conditioner during wide-open acceleration.
The 1984 Saab Turbo gets a completely new exhaust system for increased durability and engine performance. The engine breathes better, and the characteristic turbo note is more distinctive, with a deeper tone. The new system is identified by an oval tailpipe.
The 1984 Saabs are recognizable by a redesigned grille with smooth lines more in harmony with the rounded shape of the car. Other visible changes are the new bumper extensions that help protect the fenders.
Saab offers three four-cylinder models in the United States for 1984: The naturally-aspirated 900 and 900S, with fuel- injected engines developing 110 bhp (SAE net); and the high- performance Saab APC Turbo, with a turbocharged 135-horsepower engine that propels the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in some 9.6 seconds. A11 three are available in two body styles: three- door hatchback or four-door sedan.
The upscale Saab 900S and the top-of-the-line Turbo come equipped with air conditioning, sunroof, alloy wheels, power windows, a central locking system, and many other "options" as standard. In addition, the 1984 Turbo features a new audio system with electronic tuning, four speakers and a seven-band graphic equalizer.
A limited number of 1984 Turbos are available with a special luxury package. Called the Exclusive Appointments Group, it adds leather upholstery, power sunroof, quartz halogen fog lights, and electronic cruise control to the already well-equipped Saab Turbo. The leather upholstery is made for Saab by Scotland's Bridge of Weir Leather Company, Ltd.
The 1984 Saabs have a few color and trim changes, including deep-contour seats and a three-spoke steering wheel for the Turbo, and new metallic colors. But in general, Saab refuses to give in to short-sighted fashion trends. According to Saab's head of design, Bjorn Envall, the Swedish firm believes it is important to develop a good product from a well-founded basic concept rather than jump all the time from one project to another.
"Our competitiveness is not based on the number of cars we turn out," Envall said. "It's based on technical foresight. We are able to come up with advanced technical features that put our cars in a class of their own."
Another reason for Saab's engineering leadership is the transfer of experience and know-how between the divisions that make up the Saab-Scania group. "Ideas breed ideas in closer cooperation," Envall said.
Cockpit Ergonomics From Saab Aerospace
High-technology robotics and advanced aerodynamics are obvious examples of technology transfer from Saab Aerospace to the Saab Passenger Car Division. But there are many other instances of cross-pollination, such as ergonomics, the science that puts man in harmony with technology.
In the supersonic Saab Viggen let fighter, great demands are made of the pilot. His life depends on quick reactions and an absence of errors. A11 instruments must be easy to read and all controls responsive to the pilot's demands. This is ergonomics at the highest level.
But the demands of highway traffic are equally important. The designers of Saab cars are in constant contact with the engineers at Saab Aerospace. "Visibility, reach, and seating position are safety factors no matter whether the trip is in the air or on the ground," Envall said.
In addition to cars and supersonic fighters, Saab-Scania AB also manufactures trucks and buses, tactical missiles, regional airliners, satellites, and electronic systems.
The 1984 Saab cars are imported to the United States by Saab-Scania of America and will be available at over 320 Saab dealerships nationwide from October 1.