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