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Saab strikes deal with BMW for 9-3, 9-1 engines

Wed, 29 Sep 2010 00:00:00 -0700

The new 2012 Saab 9-3 is set to be the first Saab powered by BMW

By Tim Pollard

Motor Industry

29 September 2010 07:43

Minnow Saab has struck a deal with BMW, one of the world's largest premium car makers, to supply powertrains for future models, including the next 9-3 and proposed 9-1 supermini.

Munich will provide Saab with four-cylinder petrol 1.6 turbo engines from 2012 and the full suite of Efficient Dynamics tech will be included. The deal is being signed today by Ian Robertson, marketing board member of BMW AG, and the CEO of Saab Automobile, Jan Åke Jonsson, in Trollhättan.

How can Saab afford to buy BMW engines?

No financial or volume details have been announced yet. In the year since Saab went independent, the Swedes have always maintained they would seek a technological partner to provide engines and other expensive tech that they will struggle to develop solo.

Robertson said: 'We are continuing to expand our powertrain system sales business worldwide as planned as part of our strategy. Today’s agreement marks another important milestone along this route. We are delighted to support Saab with our engine expertise. Our engines have a clear lead over the competition when it comes to fuel consumption, emissions and performance.'

Saab chief Jonsson added: 'It gives me great pleasure to confirm this exciting new relationship. BMW Group’s engines and their fuel savings innovations are widely regarded as a benchmark in the premium segment. We look forward to integrating this technology into our next-generation vehicles in a true Saab way.'

So which engine is BMW supplying to Saab?

It's the BMW-PSA four-cylinder 1.6 petrol turbo with start-stop, assembled at the Hams Hall engine plant in the UK. However, analysts expect the deal to lead to a wider technical cooperation with BMW, and diesel engines and other modules could be shared in future.

There's a certain irony at play here; Saab is gunning straight for BMW's Mini – the donor car – with its proposed 9-1. However, the baby Saab is some way off a reality as Saab has yet to commit to a business plan that makes the numbers stack up.

Why is BMW sharing tech with Saab?

The name of the game these days is volume; Saab is small enough not to threaten BMW, yet it can provide useful scale to Munich's ledgerboard. Saab aims to pass 100,000 sales within the next couple of years – and this provides incremental growth for BMW. In return, Saab can offer potential partners expertise in turbocharging and biofuels, to name two of its core competencies.

>> We're sitting down with Saab top brass at the Paris motor show; come back in the next 48 hours for more on this deal


By Tim Pollard