Oh, what could have been….
Designed by Jason Castriota in 2011, SaabsUnited unveiled images of the 9-3 Phoenix this week. These photos have not surfaced until February of this year, and are now being released out of respect for Castriota. The 9-3 Phoenix was designed to with the intent of being produced, however, with the demise of Saab, that’s no longer the case. A number of images of varying quality have been received, and although the car will not be built, the story does not end here.
In 2007, General Motors made a design study in Russelsheim, Germany for the Saab 9-3 replacement, with Simon Padian supervising the design language. A clay model and a number of computer models were the result, as designing a car is a large undertaking. However, Saab decided that in order to create more distance from GM, a new design language was needed.
Jason Castriota was charged with creating a car that captured the historical roots of the company, while adding something new, all of it based off the PhoeniX platform that was developed years before this. Another piece that Castriota had to incorporate was that the car was recognizable as a Saab, without someone reading the logo.
What Castriota came up with had the engineers pushing the wheelbase out, tweaking the aerodynamics, and make the car more composed. With the deadline set for the end of 2011, time and money were huge constraints on Castriota and his team. Although it was almost complete by the end of 2011 in preparation for the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the interior was the hardest part for the team to complete, and it wouldn’t be ready until the end of 2012, with the time frame and budget they had to work with.
In October 2010, the first prototypes of the 9-3 Phoenix were completed. Pitted against a number of other vehicles, Castriota’s design was selected for production for a five-door hatchback and convertible. Without enough money due to all other projects that were currently in the works, finances were pulled to focus on the 9-3 Phoenix, as it was supposed to be the most important product. It was a calculated risk made under pressure, but there was confidence the design would be successful.
The 9-3 Phoenix was supposed to have a 1.6-liter turbo engine, manufactured by BMW, and it was decided that the vehicle would be launched in two different versions, the Vector and Aero. Many compromises were made in the design process, making it more financially efficient by using parts from the Saab 9-5, instead of new headlights and wing mirrors, for example. However there was an eventual facelift planned for the vehicle within two to three year into production.
Castriota and his team worked until the day that Saab was no longer in business, even with the reality that they might not get paid for their work. Within their remaining time, they created a more cost and time efficient design process that was 40 percent cheaper than what Saab was currently doing, delivered a brand new concept car, and almost completed the 9-3 replacement and variants.