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Remembrance Day 2010

Recently, Swade, the best known SAAB blogger in the world at http://www.saabsunited.com/ ran an item that suggested that although SAAB are going from strength to strength, a disturbing number of people are convinced that the company went the way of Pontiac and perished. Concerned by this, a little lateral thinking using Google's popular search suggestions uncovered a raft of questions like 'Do SAAB make good cars?', 'Is SAAB a good make?' and so on.

Google search suggestions for SAAB produce alaming results that suggest a serious lack of knowledgeStop the bus! To a fanatic like SeriousSAAB, who was once described as 'the slightly eccentric bloke who lives and breathes SAABs' this revelation was quite shocking but the reality is that enthusiasts (and fanatics) are prone to something akin to tunnel vision.

When SAAB was rescued by Spyker earlier this year, the GM team had been on site at the factory in Trollhattan all set and ready to dismantle the assembly lines, so salvation at the eleventh hour was redolent of that device of Greek tragedy - the 'deus ex machina'. Articles had been penned lamenting the decline of the innovative maker and fans dreaded a new demonstration of journalistic prowess like a the headline that accompanied the cessation of car making at Longbridge - the headline simply read 'Over'. Obituaries had been prepared and the last rites were just minutes away from being uttered in hushed tones. What the general public didn't know was that fleets of lorries had arrived at dealerships all over Europe to collect equipment that was owned by SAAB. We really did come that close to losing SAAB.

Answers: setting the record straight
Is SAAB a good car? Yes!
Is SAAB still in business? Definitely.
Is SAAB going out of business? No.
Is SAAB a reliable car? Yes.
Is SAAB still making cars? Yes - they are making more models than ever.
Is SAAB part of GM? No - not any more. GM sold SAAB to Spyker Cars in 2010.

and one question that the author is forever being asked:
We all know of Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche, Charles Rolls & Henry Royce but was there ever a Mr SAAB? No. SAAB is an acronym for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget

Why people don't know that SAAB survived
The global economic crisis that proved so devastating to SAAB's parent company General Motors meant that the scale of operations had to be scaled down and a short-list of subsidiaries for the axe that ultimately included SAAB together with Pontiac, saturn and Hummer appeared. GM management stated a willingness to sell SAAB that attracted interest but few serious bidders and while the drama played out, SAAB soldiered on under a state of bankruptcy protection. Unsurprisingly, few new car buyers went out and bought new SAABs. Wild speculation about the probable effect on the values of used SAAB cars was instantly reflected in the market place and this was picked up by financial institutions who suddenly became unwilling to offer loans to finance the purchase of SAAB cars.

Ultimately, the sense of gloom and publicity surrounding the proposed demise of a relatively small car maker only made a few ripples and the utterings of some motoring correspondents propounding views that the cars lagged some way behind rival products because they were out of date didn't help. More than anything else, though, the length of the inter regnum between GM announcing that SAAB would have to close or be sold and the successful takeover bid by Spyker meant people had got it into their heads that the end was inevitable. Worse still, apart from a number of convoys organised by SAAB enthusiasts around the globe, nobody could do anything to stop it. The failure of the Koenigsegg bid also became imbued in the general conscious awareness and perhaps unsurprisingly mixed up the bids made by two little known makers of very expensive, desirable and rare supercars.

SAAB-Spyker's baptism of fire
The adage 'Rome wasn't built in a day' was never more apt than for SAAB-Spyker. Launching a new car is always a difficult time for any maker but resuming production with a new model represents a major challenge. At such a critical watershed, the new car had to be right, pitched at the right price and advertised properly but if product management was essential, training, maintenance and the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers -some of whom will have been owed money- and most importantly reestablishing and instilling confidence in the brand was equally crucial.

Against a background of economic uncertainty and not helped by the likelihood of government spending cuts and rises in taxation and fuel costs, sales of the new 9-5 have been slower in the UK than analysts had predicted but if many people were unaware that the company had survived, they were hardly likely to think about buying a new SAAB. Even one of the author's neighbours commented "I suppose without factory or dealer support, there will be a greater demand than ever for people just like you" but this was before the advertising campaign gathered momentum.

December 2010: SAAB is alive and well and still making cars
In late 2010, SAAB continue to manufacture cars under the SAAB-Spyker banner after former owner General Motors sold the company. A new, ground breaking car dubbed the best SAAB for decades by some, in the form of the new SAAB 9-5 is here and can be bought now. It is bigger and better than the previous car and there are strong grounds for claiming it to be the safest car on the road. More than that, the current 9-3 is as good as it looks with class leading low emissions (9-3 TTiD) and there is also an exciting 9-3x crossover, which has higher ground clearance and may be purchased with cross-wheel drive. Only this month, SAAB have shown their new 9-4x too at the LA show and while this model and a replacement for the 9-3 all in the pipeline it is safe to say that not only are SAAB making cars but they look set to continue making cars for some time to come.

SAAB make good, safe cars
Although fellow Swedish maker Volvo have a name synonymous with safety, SAAB can stake a good claim to making cars that are equally safety oriented. The author has broken more SAABs than most readers have had hot dinners and 90% of the re-usable parts recovered have been reused. A lot of the cars that were broken had been accident damaged and one thing stands out because of that. In many cases, personal belongings had been left in cars and the author has returned these to previous owners. All or nearly all claimed their survival was due to the car's strength and they had all gone on to purchase... another SAAB. Smaller cars may save you money on fuel, maintenance and insurance but when it really matters the unimpeachable strength of a SAAB means there is simply no safer place to put your loved ones.

SAAB is a good make
You need to read a book about SAABs and to drive a SAAB to see the care that goes into their design and manufactureSAAB is a good make of car with a proud tradition of notable firsts. In a world where all cars exhibit a tendency to look increasingly similar, SAABs manage to achieve a look and feel that is different. The cars are different for a purpose - things don't happen on SAAB cars for anything less than sound reasons. Parking valets and non-savvy technicians not used to the brand are often baffled by fact that SAABs (well, most of them) have the ignition key positioned between the seats rather than on the steering column and the gearlever (on manual transmission cars) is locked in reverse gear with the key out. Why? The ignition key, when mounted on a steering column presents a safety hazard -in the event of a crash- and putting the lock in the centre of the car not only removes this risk but also makes the keys far less easy to remove by car jackers or opportunist thieves. This is but one example but there are plenty of others to be found in books like "SAAB 9-5 - a personal story" (Tunberg, A, 1997, Norden, St Galen, 3-907150-81-3)

Message: the bottom line about SAAB
SAAB was taken over and saved by Spyker cars in 2010. You could say that Spkyer was in effect SAAB's 'Get out of jail free' card, for the company has recovered from a seemingly hopeless position.

Not only is SAAB alive and well but making a range of cars that are exciting and well-thought out with more new models set to follow. SAAB-Spyker continue to benefit from GM technology but are no longer part of General Motors and for the current SAAB 9-3 replacement, a deal has been forged with BMW to supply diesel engines. It really is the start of a new era for SAAB.

SAAB make innovative, safe and strong cars that appeal to buyers seeking something different from the norm. The strong link with aviation is reflected in the design of things like the fascia and the name of exciting models like the Viggen but the author has discovered that a number of readers really do work in the aviation industry.

The Scandinavian character of the SAAB is endearing and there is something about those no nonsense, purposeful lines that somehow just isn't there in a Volvo but to see and know what lies at the heart of the fascination (or even obsessional) devotion owners have with the brand, you really need to drive one of the seminal SAABs, say a 9-3 Viggen or a CS Carlsson but the author recalls an exciting ride as a passenger in a 99 Turbo in the late 1980s. Just as many Saabisti would make an equally good case for driving the legendary 2 stroke cars, a Classic 900 Ruby or the Sonnets. The point is that these are cars capable of stirring the soul and it is hard to imagine followers of any other make getting so steamed up about the possible loss of their favourite brand of car that worldwide protest convoys were mounted when GM announced their plans to close SAAB.

Now, just in case anyone missed any of that, let's run through it again. SAAB are alive (and well) making a wider range of cars than ever before but the company is owned by Spyker cars not GM these days. Despite adverse trading conditions, SAAB are not going out of business and are slowly recovering their market position and rebuilding dealer networks in overseas territories. SAAB have always made good cars and continue to do so. Under Spyker, SAAB have a good range of products, whether its is the 9-3 x crossover, the new 9-5 or the 9-4 and although the 9-3 is due for replacement within a couple of years, the current 9-3TTiD pulls off the clever trick of combining low exhaust emissions and strong performance. SAAB's product range has seldom been stronger - now isn't a bad time to check it out!


 

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