Saab Humbug

December 23rd, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Once again we find ourselves at Christmas. A time of peace to the world, joy to all mankind and general festive overindulgences for the purpose of gaining suitably flabby midriffs around which we can base our hopelessly overoptimistic January resolutions. But amongst all this good will and gastronomic excess, it is also a time where we should spare a thought for those not as fortunate as ourselves.

The advent period is never a good time to be the recipient of bad news, so we can only imagine the pain of those at Saab who have just found out that after 64 years of car production, it is very likely that they will be taking a one-way trip down the gurgler of history.

Where did it all go wrong?

On the surface of it, it seems that the evil behemoth General Motors is to blame. Firstly, they sold Saab to Spyker – a small Dutch concern that was not particularly adept at making money from its low-volume efforts at sports car production and had a business plan for the Swedish motoring giant that, with hindsight, was probably dreamed up following a particularly intense session in one of Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” – and then when it was blatantly obvious everything was turning to custard, barred the obligatory rescue package from the Orient.

But like the heinous and evil mother who decided it was the fault of government agencies that she had beaten her children inside out and then locked them in a wardrobe, the people at Saab would do rather better to engage in a little more navel-gazing than finger pointing.

Firstly it must be noted that the bosses at GM were in a pretty difficult position. In the week when it was revealed the USA misses out on US$250 billion of revenue a year due to industrial espionage, it was never going to be a good look to gift wrap the Chinese a Saab-load of your technology. Potential suitors could certainly have been chosen with a lesser degree of desperation.

But even if an agreeable knight in shining armour had been found, Saab really didn’t deserve to continue.

For the last few years, Saab has survived by wheeling out a succession of very slightly improved vehicles cobbled together from whatever could be found in the GM parts bid and some inadvisably offensive chrome trim. While this may be enough to put you on the same playing field as the Fords and Toyotas of this world, Saab has long been pitched against far more rarefied opposition. And when lined up against the equivalent models from German and high-end Japanese manufacturers, it has been apparent for some time that the Swedes don’t even come close to being competitive.

Ah. That'll be it.

And that only left them with their last line of defence to fall back on – “quirkiness”.

As far as I can tell, Saab’s reputation for embracing the wacky is based entirely on one car – the 99 Turbo. Others may point to their earlier, aircraft inspired vehicles, but I prefer to view these as inspirational and visionary in their use of aerodynamics rather than downright crazy. The 99 Turbo was different; it was a front wheel drive car with a turbocharger manufactured at a time when chassis engineers had absolutely no idea how to make them work properly and as a result the driving experience was rather lairy. And despite being around in one shape or form since the late 1960s, the styling still appeared to have been dropped from space.

Saab had a car that was genuinely exciting, interesting and desirable, but rather than move on they favoured evolution over revolution and refined the looks and performance to the point when they became rather too mainstream. And with that unique selling point watered down beyond the point of all recognition, hope was gone.

Maybe at some point down the line, the Saab name will find its way back onto the roads – even if only as a branding exercise for an emerging manufacturer – but for now at least it seems destined to become a ghost of not only Christmas present, but the foreseeable future too.

Saab 9-4X confirmed for debut at LA Auto Show

August 20th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The long-awaited world premiere of the Saab 9-4X compact crossover has been confirmed for this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The LA automotive show is set to be a big one with more than 20 world debuts and will run from November 9 to 28.

The production version of the Saab crossover is expected to keep close to the 9-4X BioPower concept that was revealed at the 2008 Detroit Show (pictured). The compact SUV was designed and developed when Saab was still under the ownership of GM and makes use of the same Theta platform and major drive components as some Cadillac vehicles. The 9-4X will be built at GM’s factory in Mexico and global deliveries should begin mid 2011.

There’s no word on what powertrains will be offered on the Saab 9-4X but a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as well as a more potent V6 engine will be likely when details are announced.

Spyker Cars pays off GM for Saab early

July 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Spyker has just proudly announced that the Dutch supercar maker has already completely paid General Motors for the purchase of Saab. The purchase was agreed to be split into two payments, the second of which was due on July 15, but Spyker chose to send the full $24 million to Detroit ahead of time. The builder of the C8 Aileron (pictured) said that the funds came from internal sources, and that the company didn’t have to take on any additional debt because of the early payment. So there was no need to wait.

The bold move is the latest in Spyker’s plan to breathe life back into the troubled Saab. Recently, the company announced ambitious plans to broaden Saab dealer networks across the globe and especially in North America. At the same time, production of the C8 Aileron will increase as well, this is consistent with the company’s plan to sell its supercar alongside standard Saab production models.

Saab restarts production with new 9-5

March 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Saab is officially back in business. The production lines cranked back into life at the automaker’s plant in Trollhattan, Sweden yesterday and to mark the occasion the CEOs of Saab and new owner Spyker, Jan Ake Jonsson and Victor Muller, were there to watch the first batch of new cars being built.

Production at the plant had ceased for seven weeks. Now, after the purchase of Saab by Spyker, it’s all go again. The first cars to be built by Saab as an independent company will be delivered to customers shortly.

The first car off the line was the all-new 2010 Saab 9-5 sedan, set to join a test fleet prior to the model’s official launch later this year. A new 9-5 SportCombi is expected to be introduced next year, and a total of five model lines will be produced at the plant in the future.

Saab 9-5 production run ends after 13 years

February 5th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The Saab 9-5 is one of the oldest vehicles still in production, having first rolled off the line in 1997 and has only experienced one major update since then. Now, with Saab sold to Spyker and a brand new 2010 model due by the middle of the year, production of the current model has just ceased, with the last car being bolted together at its Trollhattan plant in Sweden this week.

The very last model was a 2009 Saab 9-5 SportKombi wagon that was donated to the Saab Museum, also in Trollhattan. Production of the 2009 Saab 9-5 sedan ended last July.

Since production began in 1997, a total of 483,593 sedans and wagons have been built. Just because production is stopping in Trollhattan doesn’t mean it’s the end of this particular 9-5 model. The rights and tools for the car, along with those for the 9-3, have been sold on to China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. (BAIC), which means the cars will likely resume production at a new plant in China.

The replacement 2010 Saab 9-5, is scheduled to begin production in just a few weeks, with sales to start by the middle of the year.

Saab finally saved by sale to Spyker Cars

January 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s been a long long struggle but it now finally seems that the unlikely match between Saab and Spyker will come to fruition. Last night, General Motors finally agreed to sell Saab to Spyker Cars.

The small Dutch supercar manufacturer and its backers have outlasted other challengers, including Koenigsegg, an investment consortium Merbanco and even a joint bid by Genii Capital and Formula One mastermind Bernie Ecclestone. Spyker has also endured GM and its negotiators, submitting and re-submitting a series of bids to finally put together the winning package.

Complete details of the transaction have yet to be fully disclosed, but it’s understood to include Spyker paying GM $74 million USD up front, along with allowing GMl to have a further $326 million in preferred shares from the new Spyker-owned company. The deal also requires that the Swedish government agree to guarantee a 400 million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

As part of the agreement, Spyker chairman Vladimir Antonov has agreed to resign, a move reportedly required by GM in keeping its intellectual property away from Russian hands.

With Saab’s operations already significantly slowed down after GM’s liquidation movements following the collapse of the earlier Koenigsegg deal, Spyker will be desperate to get Saab’s production back up to speed, including delivery of the 2011 9-5 sedan (pictured), a promising vehicle range that was a sweetener for the entire deal.

Saab 9-x BioHybrid Commercial

December 22nd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Here’s another glimpse of the 9-x Hybrid Car driving around. Cool looking.

Saab 9-3 Convertible – Commercial

December 22nd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

A Saab runs in the desert while accompanied by 4 jets

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