Why Saab’s sale or closure matters so much to me

I am pretty confident that we’ll know Saab’s fate in a little over 48 hours from now. Between 48 and 56 from the time of writing, I reckon.
GM will either sell Saab to one of the bidders on the table, or they’ll liquidate Saab’s operations, rebadge their models as other cars within the GM range, and effectively call an end to more than 60 years of iconic Swedish automobile production in Trollhattan.
A very large portion of my fondest memories in life have involved cars. From the Gemini and Torana of my youth to Holdens and Alfa Romeos owned by friends, and finally, my experiences with Saab. I’m mechanically inept, but I do consider myself to be a car guy. A car junkie, in fact, although a selective one.
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t consider myself an automotive historian. But I love getting into the history behind the marques that I love. And Saab’s history is a rich one full of wins against the odds, innovation, determination and individuality. There’s a stubborn commitment to doing things their way that I absolutely love about this company. Not because it’s rebellious, but because 99% of the time, it was right.
If I could have done one more thing to help Saab this week, it would have been to pass on a copy of the book, The Spirit of Saab, to Ed Whitacre. I don’t imagine it would make one single iota of difference to his decision making, but at least he’d be more aware of the great company he’s contemplating dropping the axe on.
I guess that’s the one thing that really kills me about this whole situation.
Saab’s future isn’t going to be decided by the reality of their potential or the new models they’ve developed. It’s going to be decided by a board of men and women thousands of miles away from Trollhattan. These men and women have very little attachment to the Saab branch of the company.
What they seek is goodwill with their shareholders because right now, satisfying an angry bunch of shareholders (the US taxpaying public) is key to getting those people back on side as customers. A quick buck helps.
So a six-decade long history and a promising future could well be set aside by a bunch of people who don’t really care about Saab, led by a temporary CEO who admits he doesn’t know much about cars.
It’s business for him, but it’s personal for me.
The Saab automobile manufacturing unit has a history, a corporate philosophy and a product that I love. I relate to it. It makes sense to me. I see other supposedly fantastic modern cars and I wonder what on earth people see in them to love them so.
And it’s not just me because I’ve met people all over the world who feel the same way. Saab gets under your skin, into your blood. It’s the combination of factors that Saabs offer that does it and I’m still yet to see another manufacture satisfy so many of my automotive needs, so well.
It’s individuality. Humanity.
Saab have had some of those characteristics watered down a bit over time, but they’re still there. Those characteristics and the potential for the future are the reason people the calibre of Ecclestone, Genii, Muller, Merbanco, Samuelsson and Nygren are interested in this company.
We believe in it. They believe in it, too.
I’m really unsure as to how the next few days are going to play out because I don’t think that GM believe in Saab in any way, shape or form. The sad reality is that Saab is GM’s asset to do with as it pleases, subject to the law. It’s all just numbers on a spreadsheet to them and that scares me – a lot.
There are enough people around who believe in Saab for me to believe in a positive future for this most excellent of car companies. From old customers looking for a re-birth to new customers looking for a way out of that automotive Matrix.
All I can do right now is remember the good times, hope for some better times and thank all of these bidders for believing enough in Saab to give us all this last chance.

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