Goteborgs Posten: Saab could have gone so far

Mats K has translated an article that appeared in the Goteborgs Posten today.
It almost sounds like a eulogy, but I ain’t buying that. What it is, however, is a good quick examination of the injustice that’s been served up to Saab, both in terms of past practice and future potential.
Here’s to that potential being realised.
Thanks to Mats for the translation.
Saab could have gone so far…
General Motors involvement with Saab has – at best – been favorably uninterested. It could have been much better.
Right now a model lineup previously unparalleled by Saab is sitting in the GM garage waiting to roll out. This is when GM pulls the plug. This has been typical of GM’s behaviour during the time period they have owned the company.
it is no coincidence that there are so many outspoken Saab enthusiasts around the world. People who love the brand unconditionally. After all, only an enthusiast could love the sputtering and smoking front wheel drive two cycle engines, the odd shapes, and the innovatively unique solutions. Out of this, and the cluster of safety-minded thinking where even Autoliv (Airbag, etc. supplier), Volvo and Chalmers University were involved cars with personality and character were developed.
In the U.S, Saab has been the car of those with high intellect. Not the university students’ car, but the car of their professors. Saab was also among the very first brands to launch the small turbocharged engines of the sort that environmentalists prefer, and most major car companies are investing in today. And they were Born from Jets. (sarcasm)
In other words, Saab has had a base as heavy as lead, full of values and image in its brand which – if skillfully managed – could have gone limitlessly far with a global industrial firm like GM behind it.
Out of all this came nothing.
For a number of years GM sent managers to Trollhättan, some of which became popular, but none of which amazed us with their dynamic drive. The interest from the top of GM in what they were actually doing at Saab always felt – at best – marginal.
Peter Augustsson came from the resource rich company SKF (a ballbearing maker) but when milllions were spent on the development of the current 9-3, GM management were finally fed up and decided to put Saab in order. The final straw was the discovery that the 9-3 was developed on the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra but still had a ton of parts that had been modified by Saab at great expense. The engine mounts were moved, the electrical system modified and the fuel tank was designed by Saab.
A former manager at Saab put it like this:
You have an ocean of engineers who receive a fuel tank and are asked “Can you make it better?” Well, of course it can be made better if it is allowed to cost a hundred million. When GM discovered what was happening they decided on a quick fix: A Subaru with a boxer engine (Something Saab had never had) was given a makeup job and named the Saab 9-2.
A more serious try was made with a Subaru crossover model, but by this point in time GM’s poor finances had already started to affect the business, and the ownership stake in Subaru was sold. Saabs crossover model was canceled.
Instead another makeup job was done, this time with an enormous American SUV, the Chevy Trailblazer that was called the 9-7x. This model was only really sold in the U.S.
Then it was decided that the Saab 9-3 and 9-5 were to be built in Germany’s Rüsselsheim plant, but before the decision was put into effect, the 9-3 was back in Trollhättan again. The 9-5 was delayed and still has not started to be built.
At the same time a new crossover, the 9-4x, has been developed. The intent is (has been?) to build it in Mexico. A new futuristic convertible has been shown as a concept. An even newer 9-2 to be made alongside the 9-3 in Trollhättan has been discussed. Collectively the most exciting modern model lineup Saab ever could ahve dreamed of.
Now they look to remain a dream.