An open letter to Jason Castriota – Saab Design Director

Dear Jason,

I have to apologise first, mainly for the fact that I don’t believe you’ve had a real welcome to the Saab community yet. In truth, your appointment came as a surprise to the enthusiast community and because Saab Design is such an emotive subject, the shock of your appointment tended to occupy the column inches that were dedicated to covering it.

I don’t know if you realise it, but you’ve now got a significant weight hoisted on your shoulders.

It was widely assumed when Saab were sold that Simon Padian would assume/continue the position as head of Saab Design. Simon not only had the respect of the people, he also had significant time-in at Saab, having joined the company over 20 years ago. That sort of record counts for a fair bit in a company that values its heritage as much as Saab does – at least in the eyes of the enthusiast community. Being installed in place of a man like Simon has led to some amount of reservation on the part of many people who visit here.

That’s weight #1.

Weight #2 is the weight of expectation. I don’t know if history will write up the development of the next Saab 9-3 as being as significant as the switch from two-stroke to four-stroke, or the development of the Saab 900. But right now, in 2010, there is no bigger project than the MY2013 Saab 9-3. There is no second chance for Saab with this car. If it fails, Saab will undoubtedly close shortly thereafter. It’s that simple.

That’s a big burden to carry and the concern of the people is weighted accordingly.

So what we’d like to see from you is some sort of sign. Some evidence. Proof of life. We’d like to see that you’re not just a pretty face and a slick presentation. What we’d like to see is some substance. Some sort of demonstrated understanding about Saab and what it should be.

Speaking personally, I’d love to see you driving a Saab 900 to work every day. I’d love to know your thoughts on the driving characteristics of the Saab 96 or even a Sonett. I’d love to see you fight with a Viggen and pick up a load of furniture in the back of a 9000 Aero.

For years, Saab were afflicted with people in control of decisions who we know didn’t “get it” when it came to Saab. We got cars that were progressively de-contented. Cars that were worthwhile in terms of intention but so poorly executed that they did more harm to the brand than good.

Burned by that experience and harrowed by the near closure of the company, we’d like to feel assured that the man charged with bringing the next generation of Saab’s bread-and-butter model “gets it”.

We may be wary, but I think I can presume enough to say that in terms of emotional investment, we’re all in this together. We all want this to work. We all want you to do well.

Welcome to the family. Please feel free to get in touch. Please feel free to share your thoughts and visions for the future design direction of this company.

We’ll all be very keen and excited to hear what you’ve got to say.

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