Saab owners defending Saab – part 1

I’ve seen a few examples of Saab owners getting active in defending the brand in the last few weeks, which is quite encouraging.
The mainstream media have a defult position on Saab at the moment, which is typically sympathetic though overly critical and generally uninformed. Whilst some journos will do their research on some brands, they’ll typically take what they’ve read elsewhere as the be-all and end-all when it comes to Saab.
This first defence comes from Stephen B, here in Australia. He’s just penned the following letter to the editorial team at Wheels Magazine, one of the oldest motoring mags here in Australia.
I don’t necessarily agree with the ownership opinion at the end, but I’m quite pleased to see Saab owners taking some action and thought I’d post this (and another letter, shortly) as an encouragement to others to call the press to account. When you see the motoring media do something wrong, don’t be afraid to tell them.
My thanks to Stephen B for passing it on.
As a SAAB owner I read with some sadness and anger your article in the March 09 edition on SAAB’s current dire circumstances. Bob Lutz’s statement “Frankly, (SAAB has) been on GM life support ….and the hope is always with the next generation of products they’ll make money.”, made my blood boil. GM bought SAAB to lever itself into the European Premium Brand end of the market, Opel were never going to do it, they’ll always be the “Deliverance Cousins” of the German litter.
SAAB was a quirky car designer that people bought because they loved their design cues, safety, innovation (1st Turbo Production car) and practicality. So what have GM done in 20 years? Well they funded SAAB to produce all of 3 new models in that period – hardly a great action plan to pull SAAB into the new age!
The first of these 3 new models in 1993 was built on an aging Vectra/Ascona platform that was already being replaced by Opel, but at least it looked like a SAAB and sold well enough. Then because GM wanted a “Premium Look” SAAB were forbidden to produce a Hatchback, even though their market niche had bought the “Combi Coupe” in droves.
The 1998 95 Sedan was the beginning of the end with no new hatches seen since.
Sure GM had money issues, but rather than let SAAB accelerate the program to replace the 10yo 95, or build one of their fine “concept cars” where did they spend the money? On building a Cadillac Version of the 93 – the BLS! It has sold next-to-no units – a complete waste of money!
The fact that SAABs sales were at their highest pre GM in 1987 when the “Classic 900” was already 10 years old, and urgently needing replacement says a lot about what GM has done to this company since.
GM has kept SAAB on “life support” as they ripped out SAAB’s “Turbo Heart” and other safety innovations (eg active head restraints) for use elsewhere. I say its time to turn off the life support and euthanase SAAB rather than sell what’s left of SAAB to a Chinese or Korean company – GM actually keep all of SAAB’s IP in any deal for SAABs new owner to license back, and the rights to use the iconic “Griffin” logo license actually expires in 2010.
Finally can we in Australia draw any parallels? Yes, SAAB is a niche 2 model manufacturer with a capacity of 150,000 cars a year and relies on exporting over half of these, all is ok if the product is good and people have the money to buy them but any slip up in design, the exchange rate or the economy then sales dies first and then the company follows. Sound familiar? Lets hope GM-H has a better control of its destiny.