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Yes Jason, but why is it a SAAB?

The new Saab PhoeniX concept unveiled at the Geneva auto show is the first product of designer Jason Castriota's leadership at the post-GM Saab styling department. The obvious connotation of the term Phoenix is of a bird "rising from the ashes" but let me just say this is one overcooked bird. What a hot mess Castriota has made from the formerly clean and sober Swedish brand! And I'm not the only one to question Jason's egotrip here. The car clearly has many "trademark" Castriota touches that can be seen on his Bertone Mantide and other prior concepts, but where are the trademark SAAB brand hallmarks?  Let's watch as former BMW design director Chris Bangle asks Castriota that very same question!

So Castriota claims that Saab is trying to "re-capture" its Aero heritage. But isn't that what GM-owned SAAB was up to in 2006 when they made the "Aero-X" concept car?  Didn't this car also have jet turbine-inspired wheels as well? And the rear end treatment has some similar elements too. Only this car was hyper-clean, very nordic, and basically sex on wheels. Castriota's bizarre C-pillar "flying buttress" appendages, on the other hand, make me so mad I want to rip them off and snap them over my knee.

Of course Castriota wouldn't dream of referencing one of GM's star-crossed concepts though, nor carry on with the brand continuity they carefully built into all their show cars of the last 10 years. (Let's leave the production cars out of this!)  Instead, he attempts to parry Bangle's professorial assault on his cover story by claiming to reference the original UrSAAB, from way back in the old days. Well, I'll leave it to my fairminded readers.  Is there anything about this PhoeniX concept that in any way resembles the car below? I can see the vestiges of a teardrop shaped greenhouse in the PhoeniX but that is about it.

I do think I have an idea where the tail light treatment on the Phoenix came from though. And although it isnt from a previous GM Saab concept, it is from another GM car we can all remember with fondness:

I think that Castriota has believed his own hype for a little too long, and now that he is actually a design director at a real automaker rather than a struggling carrozzeria, he is going to have to really buckle down and learn to put the brand story ahead of his own signature flourishes, otherwise he could be on his own once again in the not too distant future. Welcome to the big time, Jason!


PhoeniX images via Autoblog

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Reader Comments (10)

it's not often that i say this, but that car is unequivocally ugly. what a monstrosity.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermotoringconbrio

seeing the Aero X photo next to the Phoenix is simply a "WTF ARE THEY DOING!?!?!" comparison. Jason Castration is a horrendous designer. Even though i thought his Bertone Mantide was a little bit interesting----i simply cannot forgive what he has done here. Even the Firebird you have pictured is far more mature of a design than this monstrosity!

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

I was going to say - those taillights looked Pontiac to me!! Obviously Brad's keen eye caught it, too.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob S

Well this looks better than the Alfa 4C, although the Alfa's concept is good. Whoever designed the details on both car should be fired!

Tom Tanner/Scale Designs/Ferrari Expo 2011-Chicago March 19th 2011- Carrera Panamericana special theme

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterF1 Tommy

F1 Tommy,
The 4C got me so upset I can't even bear to write about it...

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

This looks like one of hundreds of concepts that get made that ultimately, nobody cares about. I like Bangle's questions - they were fair and about this time 8-9 years ago he was having to address far angrier, direct questions about his styling choices. It seems that this guy can't justify much beyond the obvious - hence the uninteresting concept car - as far as I can tell his method seems to be parts of cars operating in different planes and then merge them together.

As for the tail - it looks like Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMurph

I think that Jason should work for Mitsubishi. The Phoenix concept car looks like the 3000 (Dodge Stealth) of the '90.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFan of Saab...

Well put, your final statement echoes my sentiments exactly. He definitely has a narcissistic approach to design as evidenced by his regurgitated styling cues,... which he seems to be in love with. Stylistically, not much to show since leaving Italy where he was under supervision of a design director... and only now are we being exposed to his actual skill.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYour Mother's Toenail


March 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermotoringconbrio

Thank you.. its nice to see there are like minded folk out there, who cannot believe this drivel..
Pontiac rear lights.. spot on.. ! was just making that comment as I scrolled down to find the image..
nice images on you're blog.. Jolly good show.. Added to Favourites..

March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHope

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