Well, shoot, as noted in comments, I am a couple of months late in getting to this particular piece of Saabology. So, instead of removing the entire thing, I’ll simply leave it to you, dear readers.
If you want my take on the same subject essay that Swade covered here, then click over to the rest of the article after the jump.
That’s right: Saab owners are more passionate about their brand than people who own other marques.
Read this little quote:
After studying 1.2 million postings on “Motor Talk”, Germany’s largest motoring web forum, Rüdiger Hossiep, a psychologist at the University of Ruhr in Bochum, concluded this summer that Saab drivers have the highest levels of “psychological involvement” with their cars: more than 10 times the passion of the average Volkswagen driver.
In a fascinating read from, of all sources, the Financial Times, comes a great “outsider-turned-insider” view of the Saab culture and why we Saabisti are so caught up in the whole Saab thing. Personally, I think the author, Mr. Sam Knight, is spot on.
Apparently, Mr. Knight was a late comer to the car culture, not having learned to drive until a little later in life. Once he did learn, he found that Saab was the car of choice for him, but he wasn’t exactly sure why it felt so right. He’s boiled the story down with the help of some pretty heady input — from Erik Carlsson and Björn Envall themselves.
To summarize the conclusions almost does this little gem of an essay an injustice, but I’ll give it a shot.
According to Mr. Knight and his advisors, the affection that Saab owners feel for their cars stems from one of many of these attributes:
1. Engineering. “For Saab owners who know how cars work, proof of their engineering prowess is important.” I’d agree with that.
2. Design. “…the other main quality of Saab – and that is to do with design.” Absolutely. Saab has always been a designer’s car — upholding the ideals of “uncompromising functionality” and the “quality of surprise”. I also like Mr. Kinght’s statement that “Saabs [designed by Sason and Envall] are the work of subtly alien minds.” Well put!
3. Individuality. “Individuality – a kind of Swedish, unpretentious individuality – therefore lurks in many conversations with Saab owners.” Amen to that. We want to be independent thinkers, wanting to be different. For me personally, this becomes more important as time goes by. I don’t want a car created for the masses, assured by marketing and focus groups to sell millions.
I also like his analysis that puts this trait at odds with selling cars in volume. “The commercial drawback of being an “anti-brand brand”, of course, is that many people drive Saabs precisely because other people don’t. Originality abhors a crowd.”
4. Personal attachment. The article quotes Erik Carlsson, perhaps Saab’s most celebrated public figure, thus: “There has been this Saab,” he said. Carlsson’s finger was tucked inside his cardigan. “My Saab. Saab somewhere in here it has been.” Wow. great journalism, Mr. Knight.
5. Uncompromising views. There is a certain iconoclastic individualism inside Björn Envall, and he, like no other living soul, shaped the Saab designs that we know today. Mr. Knight records the following from their interview:
As time went on, and Envall talked, I began to realise that, beyond a certain level of satisfaction and polite curiosity, he was not really interested in what I or other drivers thought about the cars he had designed. He was scathing about focus groups – “it came to be a fashion to ask people about what you should be” – and when I asked Envall if he had ever tried to design a car for a particular kind of person, or to give them a particular thing, he shook his head. “Neh. I just do it by heart or something, greed.” He tried out the word. “Greed,” he said again, and grunted happily. “To see that I can do something which fits me.”
6. Surprise. I’m not so sure about this one myself, but Mr. Envall certainly is!
Envall said that this was what he tried to put in his cars. “You take care of the surprise and try to mould it,” he said. And it is also the reason why for him, of all people, Saabs do not hold that mystery, that unlikely affinity.
I’m interested to read more from some of his cited sources, especially the professor from DePaul. More on that in a later installment. Hop on over to FT.com to read the entire essay. It’s very, very good.