2011 Saab 9-4x

Sweden’s Saab Automobile AB just rolled its first 9-4X crossover off the assembly line in Mexico with the chassis number 00001. The Ice Pearl metallic Aero model crossover will be off to a media test drive event before being shipped to Sweden for the Saab Car Museum.

The crossover is a big moment for Saab as it will expand the niche brand’s lineup to three model lines. It comes as Saab announced plans for its Independence Day party Feb. 23 in Sweden to celebrate the first anniversary of its rebirth as an independent carmaker.

Saab will temporarily halt operations at its plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, and for all 3,800 of its workers, for the celebration next week marking the one year to the day that GM sold the automaker to Spyker Cars N.V. of the Netherlands. When the deal was signed last year, Saab’s new Chairman Victor Muller, also CEO of Spyker, promised his jubilant workforce that the day would be commemorated.

Ironically, the new 9-4X is built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico and shares much of the same architecture as GM’s Cadillac SRX, also built there. Both crossovers come with the same 3.0-liter V-6 standard engine or 2.8-liter, turbo-charged V-6.

But the 9-4X is the last model jointly developed with former parent GM.

GM first acquired half of Saab in 1990 and the other half in 2000. As financial woes mounted for GM in January 2009, it announced it would seek a buyer for Saab. By fall of 2009, Saab seemed doomed for oblivion after GM’s deal to sell it to Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Group AB fell apart. But Spyker rode in at the eleventh hour and saved the company.

“This is our Independence Day,” said Saab President-CEO Jan Ake Jonsson. “We will be celebrating becoming masters of our own destiny again, being free to make our own decisions and back our own judgments.”

Saab has started the biggest new product offensive in its history, he said, with the launch of the 9-5 sedan, 9-4X, the 9-5 SportCombi later this year and the new generation 9-3 line in 2012

Jonsson said the new 9-4X will give Saab access to the growing crossover market in the United States. “This is a great day for Saab,” he said at the Mexican plant. He predicted last fall that 75 percent of all 9-4X sales globally would be in the United States.

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Jean Halliday is a seasoned journalist with the nation's longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean's blog at AutoAdOpolis.wordpress.com.

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