Robert Collin on GM’s 20 years with Saab

Robert Collin from Aftonbladet has posted a blog article on GM’s 20-year ownership of Saab and it’s a pretty damning post.
Swedes can click through and read it in their native tongue, but we English speakers will have to make do with my dodgy translation and summary.
Some of the facts about Saab’s history from 1989 until now:
* When the Saab 900 began losing sales in the late 1980s, Saab’s owners (the Wallenberg’s Investor corporation) looked for an expansion partner to help Saab develop new vehicles. That partner was GM. Saab had a great reputation at this time with the 900, the introduction of turbocharging and the revolutionary convertible.
* GM were willing investors, but didn’t pay much mind to Saab’s clientele of ‘individuals’. Actually, they didn’t pay much mind at all, preferring to leave the oversight and assistance to their other European brand – Opel.
* In the late 1980s, Opel were working on a new Vectra, the basis for which may have made a good base for a new Saab. Instead, Opel stuck Saab with the outdated Vectra/Ascona platform, which Saab had to make the best they could (a car that Collin said they failed with, though some may disagree. It should be noted that some in comments question this Ascona/NG900 relationship)
* The 900/9-3 failed as a drivers’ car and only got worse when given more power, the Viggen being the final example (a notion that I’d disagree with. The Viggen was a fundamentally flawed, but still magnificent machine)
* The 9-5 saw a Saab adaptation of the new Vectra platform that the 900/9-3 missed out on. Collin considers it to be a compromised vehicle as well, too soft riding (if my translation is correct).
* In contrast to Saab’s heritage of getting the power of a six from a turbocharged four, Saab now got a sub-standard V6 from Opel and a diesel engine from Isuzu.
* Saab got the Epsilon architecture for the 9-3 but it was optimised for an Opel-grade vehicle. The changes Saab needed to make were expensive and Collin considered the styling to be indifferent, which was a big mistake.
* Collin then explores the faiscos that were the 9-2x and 9-7x, which took Saab further away from their core identity through poor model choice and execution.
It’s not only a damning piece about GM’s poor handling of Saab, but it also illustrates the strenuous relationship between Saab and Opel, a relationship that Opel would seemingly like to continue.
Many commentators tend to think that Opel’s only interest in a relationship with Saab would be for the purposes of utilising their excess capacity in Germany and thereby protecting German jobs. The integrity of Saab’s products under this arrangement must surely be in question.
I guess the thing we have to be mindful, and grateful for, is that during these 20 years, Saab were still around. We have a chance to hope for an independent-spirited Saab today because GM kept them around until now. Small comfort, perhaps, but comfort nonetheless.

My apologies to Robert Collin if my translation has resulted in me mis-stating anything of substance here. It’s the best I could do via a web translation, and hopefully I’ve got the core of the article correct.

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