We'll be giving you the what's what on SEMA later in this issue. But, we thought we'd give you a peek at some of the custom concepts the automakers are showing off at the event.

Saab 9-4x (Mule)
W ith all the buzz this week regarding the 9-4X making its debut at the 2008 NAIAS in Detroit this coming January, we were pleased to find it testing on public roads yesterday-even if it was only a "test mule." The 9-4X is a joint project between the engineering team in Russelsheim, Germany, and the Trollhattan (Sweden) designers. Loosely based on the Saab Aero X Concept, this "mule" is wearing a Chevrolet Trailblazer body with a Saab 9-7X front end, making it almost as attractive as the Forester mule. To add to the international mix of this modified Theta/Epsilon 2 architecture, General Motors has confirmed that a Cadillac will also be built on this platform. Both the Saab and Cadillac versions will be built in Mexico for markets worldwide. Although the 9-4X "introduction" is expected to take place just four months from now, we're anticipating this to arrive at dealerships in the fall of 2009, as a 2010 model. - Words and photo by Brenda Priddy & Co.

2009 Subaru Forester (Mule)
As embarrassing as it is, I must admit we saw these test mules a year ago, but we never realized what it was. But, when we saw it again this week, everything clicked, and we realized that we were looking at a test mule for the all-new 2009 Subaru Forester.

Don't let this Outback shell fool you as it did us. The sheetmetal has been chopped, extended, widened, and welded. And, best of all, our sources confirmed that underneath is the all-new and larger Forester. The current Forester has a 99.4-inch wheelbase, but we measured this mule-give or take a tenth-at a whopping 108.5-inches. That's within a half of an inch of the Tribeca's wheelbase, and more than 3-inches longer than the Outback! Track-wise, the Forester has always measured in narrower than the Outback and Tribeca, however it appears the new Forester will be wider than the Outback, but not nearly as wide as the Tribeca. Our quick measuring session indicated this mule was about two inches wider than the current Outback, which shows the Forester is growing in both length and width. Subaru has been mum on the specifics, but the new Forester is expected to arrive next fall for the 2009 model year. - Words and photo by Brenda Priddy & Co.

Ouch! Chrysler Cuts Four Models, 11,000 Workers

It may be no surprise, Chrysler is trimming its overhead by eliminating as many as 10,000 hourly jobs and 1,000 salaried positions. Some contract workers might go, too. In addition, the company is ousting the Dodge Magnum, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, Chrysler Pacifica crossover, and the Chrysler Crossfire convertible. All of this is happening because Chrysler is trying to turn a profit after losing $1.5 billion in 2006 while it was a part of DaimlerChrysler. Chrysler is now a separate, private company.

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