Saab Story: Famous Swedish auto could handle the worst snow but not the bull— in Detroit.

November 30, 2009

“Hey Sven, your car needs a jump!”

After 80 years, Saab Auto is likely to shut down forever. Bought by GM a decade ago, the legendary Swedish automaker quickly turned into a liability for them. Or was it the other way around? Either way, General Motors was too big, too provincial and too screwed up to affect a suitable business plan. Car models were not updated. Dealerships were left to languor. And then the recession hit. Saab never had a chance. Unless a white knight appears pronto the car “born from jets” is crashing into oblivion.

I’ve owned Saabs for almost 20 years. I like the way they look. I like the way they handle in Chicago’s cold, snowy weather. I even like the cool, Swedish logo. I am a brand loyalist. For me, Saab is like a Mac on wheels. In 2008 I fought back skepticism about the brand’s decline under GM and bought a 9-5 Aero. As you might expect, I’m not as happy with it as I was with the one before and the one before that. The product is simply not as good. And clearly neither is the company. I suppose I acted in denial, buying the 2008, such was my affinity for the brand. And now my beloved Saab is going extinct.

Saab is not the first automobile in my life to pass away. As some of you know, in the 1990’s, while at Leo Burnett, I co-created the infamous “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign. The slogan fared better than the car. Other than running on gas, Saab has little in common with Olds. Yet, it will suffer the same exact fate.

Doesn’t seem fair. It’s almost as if American thugs kidnapped the sexy Swede, dragged her to Detroit and then murdered her. Scarily, this assessment is all too accurate.

Perhaps another brand loyalist (with a few hundred million dollars) will bail out Saab before it runs out of gas. Surely there’s an outraged Swede out there. Come on Sven, your car needs a jump!

Steff on Twitter

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7 Responses to “Saab Story: Famous Swedish auto could handle the worst snow but not the bull— in Detroit.”

  1. Emdad said

    You, sir, are kindred spirit. Often use the Mac/Saab comparison, myself. Driving Saabs for 15+ years, and I am lost as to what car manufacturer to which I can turn after my ’06 9-3 needs a replacement (really liked the look of that 9-1). To make it worse, my wife has a Volvo, which we need to replace, and we were waiting on the Saab 9-4x (seriously, a Chevy Equinox or Cadillac SRX just will not suffice… especially when my mechanic only works on Swedish cars).

    Please someone save Saab… I promise to keep buying them not only for me, but now also for my wife and kids, as long as you promise to show the brand more love than GM did over the last 20 years.

    And hey, that could even be you, GM, if you have leaned your lesson.

    But hey, if GM does go ahead and simply abandons Saab, and I find myself unable to swallow the bile needed to join my colleagues in their ubiquitous BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexus, then do not expect me to all-of-sudden “Buy American”… Maybe I’ll just join the Korean bandwagon?

  2. SRP said

    How about the Porsche Panamera?
    It’s only 125K more…

  3. Andy Webb said

    Hey Steffan,

    I hear ya. I had a couple of 60s Saabs — three-cylinder jobs that featured free-wheeling, which meant you were coasting each time you took your foot off the gas pedal. My wife had an ’89 9000 turbo. So my affection for these cars, too, comes from past ownership. The quirky designs somehow always worked, and the cars handled nicely.

    It would be great if the brand could return to Swedish owners, but I’ve heard that the Chinese may buy it. If they do, watch out for lead paint and interiors containing 40% various industrial waste products.

  4. CynDAles said

    Enjoy the shade and rejoice that you can afford a forty thousand dollar car.

  5. Mark said

    I have loved and worked on Saabs for 33 years. Other than the quality issues, they are far above most cars out there when all things are considered. And yes, I’ve had Macs since 1984.

    SAAB needs to return to it’s “funky” roots. Owners need to return to the reality they own an expensive but well worth it luxury sports car, and big companies need to return to the fact they have responsibilities beyond profits

  6. SRP said

    A return to Swedish owners would be best scenario. There are plenty of smart, rich people in Sweden. Hopefully, one of them can step up.

  7. Sven said

    “Doesn’t seem fair. It’s almost as if American thugs kidnapped the sexy Swede, dragged her to Detroit and then murdered her.”

    Not completely unlike Tiger Woods, one can only hope the the few sexy swedes left have learned the lesson…

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