Saab 9-3 hybrid and the Aero-X vs the Chevy Volt - there was no conspiracy

The unveiling this week of the new Chevy Volt concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit has generated a huge amount of interest and traffic here at AutoblogGreen. With interest comes comments and around these parts, that usually means some controversy. The topic of green transportation technology seems to really bring out the conspiracy theorist in our readers, sometimes even with justification.

From perusing the comments on the series of Volt Posts, I've noticed several interesting threads, some of which I'll be following up on with GM to get proper answers for you. One particular idea I'd like to address here and now though is the "SAAB conspiracy". Several people seem to think that GM has deliberately suppressed a couple of recent SAAB concepts in the interest of promoting a domestic brand in the form of Chevrolet. The first is a the Saab 9-3 hybrid that was first shown at the Stockholm Motor show last March.

(Continued after the jump)

There has been discussion that the car was in fact a plug-in hybrid that was suppressed by GM. This may or may not be true. I'm not able to confirm it, but I'll try to find out. However, part of this discussion also concerns the idea that the Volt copies the Saab drive-train. This is absolutely wrong. The Saab was configured as a parallel hybrid like all other current-production hybrids. The internal combustion engine and motor are both able to drive the wheels directly. The engine did run on E100 and there was also a second motor in the back that could drive the rear wheels for extra power and traction. The Volt ICE has no mechanical connection to the wheels and only drives the generator. So except for the possible inclusion of plug-in capability on the Saab, there isn't much in common between the two cars' architectures.

The other Saab concept that is popping up in the comments is the Aero-X. Some people are claiming that the Aero-X is being suppressed in favor of the Volt. The reality is that makers always put the emphasis on the cars that are debuting, hence the big story here being the Volt. The Aero-X is in Detroit, and in fact is on a stand right at the entry to the GM section of the hall. The first thing you see as you approach GM's area is the shining white Saab! This isn't even the North American debut of the Aero-X, as it appeared at the Los Angeles Auto show a few weeks ago, after debuting at the 2006 Geneva Show. The Volt is back in the middle of the GM area. The question of the display technology is really a non-issue. Even if the Volt is using the same tech as the Saab (which I'm not sure of one way or the other), this is done all the time.

The reality is that Saab has never been a huge seller in North America and it makes perfect sense from a marketing stand point to promote a Chevrolet concept. At European shows General Motors emphasizes the local brands from Opel, Saab and Vauxhall. The bottom line is that regardless of what platform a company uses to showcase a technology, we need to judge the technology on its own merits. The same goes for the company's commitment too the technology. In the case of the E-Flex platform, General Motors should be getting a round of applause for what they have done. As for commitment, what's past is past. Let's judge them over the coming years based on what they do now with E-Flex. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a GM fanboy, but I'm seeing a level of excitement and commitment from the people involved that I have never seen before.

Share This Photo X