Now that a new day in Saab history is truly dawning, there’s something else that I’d like to change. Most will probably find it symbolic, but I beg to differ.
I’ve always been a little irritated at the whole Saab model nomenclature. 9-3, 9-5, 9-2x, 9-7x, 9-3x, etc.
Naturally, I love the “9”. That’s Saab history. Truly a part of the corporate lore, a legacy that’s not up for negotiation. Starting with 92001, that “9” has graced every Saab from beginning to end. We’re keeping the “9”.
On the other hand, I’ve always been a little dissatisfied that the secondary designator (-3, -5, etc.) is derived from the similarly designated BMW series. What happened to Saab originality? Why do we let BMW define the automotive niche that the car occupies? Why make any comparisons to any competing manufacturer on purpose?
You see, back when Saabs had two-digit names, they defied classification. Even the 99, with the proliferation of European hatchbacks during its tenure, had a unique market position. It was big enough inside to be a “full-sized” car in many markets, yet small enough and nimble enough to be efficient, quick and fun. It did not have a true direct competitor.
Even my beloved classic 900 (1979-1993/4) didn’t define its market position in relation to any other specific competitive offer. It did, in later years, concede the top dog position to the newer, sleeker, faster 9000. In that relationship one knew which was the leader because the 9000 was an order of magnitude higher in number.
In the 1980’s, one of the more memorable Saab advertising campaigns used the tag line, “Follow your own road.” It truly fits Saab and its heritage of independent thought and iconoclastic design. Why would we then limit the public perception of any Saab product by pigeonholing it into a class defined by someone else?
Am I off base here? Is it necessary to couple the car to those conventions for effective marketing? I can see the positives — it helps the unwashed to identify the size and a few vague notions about the car without much effort. But has this really worked? Do you think that people really glance through an automotive magazine/website/car lot and say to themselves, “That’s a 9-3, it must be in the same class as the 3-series.” I don’t think so.
Personally, I’d much rather see Saab distance themselves from any automotive market expectations and create a path that only Saab can follow. If I wanted a 3-series, I’d have bought one! Let’s get on with the business of making Saabs, not banal, class-following, “me-too” cars.
I think that the name is a great place to start.