Thursday, March 23, 2006

Born From Jets

Saab has rolled out a new ad campaign playing on the company's aircraft manufacturing heritage. On paper, "Born From Jets" sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, the cars currently rolling off Saab assembly lines do little to make the connection.

While no one expects radar-guided missiles or afterburners, Saab could use many existing technologies to reinforce their jet heritage: The ubiquitous turbo engine is an obvious starting point, and may be the only actual link between the cars and aircraft. Heads-up displays have been available in GM cars for a decade, and Cadillac's night vision could find a home here as well. Radar- or laser-guided cruise control would mesh with the theme, and external cues such as a large rear wing or prominent front air intakes would add a visual tie-in. A markedly driver-centric dashboard could produce a cockpit feel, complete with a plethora of analog gauges reporting all manner of information. Up-level models could even feature five-point-harness-friendly seats. Redundant buttons on the gear shift lever for radio (or perhaps turn-signal) controls would add to the image.

The production of warplanes is considerably more exciting than the production of farm equipment, for example, and Saab has an excellent opportunity to develop a powerful connection to their past. However, simply mentioning that past is not enough, and neither is the one-off Aero-X Concept, canopy and all. The cars they produce must carry their image to the consumer in tangible ways, or it will simply be lost in the fog of other mindless marketing drivel.

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