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2011 Saab 9-5. (Michael Bettencourt for the Globe and Mail)
2011 Saab 9-5. (Michael Bettencourt for the Globe and Mail)

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New Saab to arrive in Canada in September Add to ...

Starting next week, Saab Cars North America will officially take over the warranty claims and service responsibility for late-model Saabs from GM dealers in Canada.

The first new Saab model, the 2011 9-5 mid-size sedan, is scheduled to arrive by the end of September.

Saab officially left the Canadian market at the end of 2009, when all its dealer and government importation agreements expired, even though Saab officials in Sweden and Detroit were trying to work out a deal with boutique Dutch car maker Spyker to save the brand, but that was not finalized until Feb. 23.

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"So you're really starting from scratch," said SCNA president and COO Mike Colleran. "So for Canada, we figured we needed an independent importer."

Enter International Fleet Sales, the distributor that helped deliver Saab 9-7Xs to Europe and the Middle East. The company will work with 20 Saab dealers now planned for Canada, most of which sold Saab previously as well.

The first new Saabs arriving at these dealers will be the all- new 9-5, which moves up in size and luxury to better compete with its Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series rivals, among others, and will be one of the few cars in this class to offer a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The 9-5 is scheduled to arrive in dealers by the end of September, said Colleran, while the revised 9-3 is planned to arrive soon after in October.

The 2011 9-3 will include the sedan, two-door convertible and SportCombi hatchback versions previously available, as well as eventually a new higher-riding 9-3X crossover in the raised wagon mould of the Volvo XC70 or BMW 5 GTs. Next spring, a 9-4X crossover is set to arrive in dealers, one that's mechanically related to the Cadillac SRX, and the first Saab to be built in Mexico.

"Canadian Saab consumers are fiercely loyal," said Colleran. "I get letters on a daily basis from Canadians asking 'when's Saab coming back?"

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle).

MITSU EVS TO START CROSS-CANADA TREK

In a brave bit of new millennium voyaging, Mitsubishi Canada is set to launch an electric i-MiEV on a cross-Canada tour, starting in St. John's, Newfoundland on Tuesday, and scheduled to finish in Vancouver almost a month later, at the EV 2010 conference and trade show in mid-September.

While a cross-Canada drive is no big deal in most cars, this emissions-free trek would likely test the patience of Mother Theresa.

Considering that Mitsu estimates the entire drive will take the i-MiEV about 7,500 km, that means it'll have to average 268 kilometres a day. The i- MiEV is equipped with a small 16 kWh lithium-ion battery that can only take the tiny four-seater about 120 km on a full charge.

After that, the i-MiEV will have to plug in for a complete recharge for seven hours, if they can find a 220 volt outlet close enough to where it's parked overnight. Or use a "quick" charger that takes a half hour to get the batteries to 80 per cent full.

If only a regular North American 110V plug is available, a full recharge will take a journey-stretching 14 hours to refill the "tank."

And remember, the i-MiEV's official range is listed by Mitsubishi Canada as up to 120 km, so it's a best-case scenario number. Whether this means that the A/C is off, defrost and wipers permanently off, and your windows are closed to keep up your most aerodynamic shape the entire trip we won't know, as Mitsu hasn't announced video, journalists or even bloggers available to chronicle the test.

To be fair, the car won't be on sale in Canada until the end of 2011, so this is really an extensive testing session for Mitsubishi and its various utility partners along the way, including Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Quebec, Bullfrog Power , and BC Hydro, as well as a PR builder. But like Mercedes-Benz sending a bunch of Smart fortwo city cars on a long adventure north of the Arctic Circle this winter, or early car drivers tackling muddy mountain paths 100 years ago, the point is not to prove that it should be done, but that it could be done.

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

GM TO REVIVE MILD HYBRID

GM plans to bring back a revised mild hybrid system by the fall of 2011 as part of a renewed fuel efficiency push that goes beyond the much-hyped Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

GM hybrid and EV head honcho Larry Nitz said that a more advanced version of the mild hybrid system would arrive on at least one mid- size model in North America and in China, trade journal Automotive News reports, but he wouldn't specify which one. The system would cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent, versus the official 10 to 15 per cent reduction in the previous system, which was last seen on the 2009 Malibu Hybrid.

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan and Volt will be the big news this year, both of which promise to place a shiny green halo above GM with both of their focuses on lower fuel use. Next year, that corporate halo will be buffed by a more competitive subcompact in the form of the Chevy Aveo as a 2012 model, as well as the compact Buick Verano sedan, which will share Cruze underpinnings. The following year, an even smaller city car called the Chevy Spark will arrive as a 2013 model, along with a compact crossover for Buick called the Encore, furthering shrinking its products away from traditionally large, staid sedans.

Even Cadillac and truck purveyor GMC are set to receive smaller models, with a compact sedan called the ATS scheduled to arrive by 2014, a year or two after the debut of the XTS for 2012, Automotive News said.

Large Pickup: Ford F-Series

FREE POWER UPGRADE ON 2011 F-SERIES DIESELS

Here's a type of voluntary recall letter that owners will be happy to receive: Ford is offering its early 2011 F-Series heavy-duty pickup owners a more powerful and fuel-efficient engine, courtesy of a reprogrammed ECU upgrade to be made available at dealers.

The move trumpets the new diesel's newly pumped-up output, which Ford's vice-president of powertrain engineering Barb Samardzich says is the most powerful diesel engine fitted in any heavy-duty pickup.

The 6.7-litre turbo-diesel now pumps out 400 hp and a monstrous 800 lb-ft of torque, up 10 hp and 65 lb-ft. Ford also says this newly tuned engine is 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than the outgoing one.

The 2011 Ford Super Duties have been available since April, while dealers are expected to make the software upgrade available to customers by the end of August.

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