Over the next few days, I’m going to be featuring a few people’s stories and/or thoughts. All of them coincide with the looming first anniversary (and I think this will be the only occasion where it will be consciously remembered) of December 18 – the day GM announced that Saab would be closed down.
The first in this short series is from Henrik S, whom I thank for sharing so much of his personal Saab journey.
More than 30 years of Saabing has put some major tracks in my soul. Therefore it is not so strange that the years of 2009 and 2010 affected me a lot personally. When it came to my knowledge that Saab was out in the cold and for sale it made a big impression on me. A lot of questions went through my head and for some of them I could not find any answer even though I kept on reading the press. It was not until I went into Saabsunited.com (SU) that I found out that I was not alone with my questions. I had found a place were I could talk to other “Saabistas” and get new hope when the darkest headlines were shown in the daily press.
During the spring of 2009 it felt like Saab actually were going to make it. There were a lot of interested potential buyers and there were some positive rumours on SU. But, since it still was just rumours I told my wife that if Saab did not survive this roller coaster I wanted to buy one of the last Saabs manufactured in Trollhättan. It has always been a dream for me to go into the dealer and order a completely new Saab. If the worst would happen, I knew that I would only get one chance and that was now!
Time went on and Koenigsegg Group (KG) was later on pointed out as buyers. I kept on saying to my friends that now Saab is going to be saved. We are back on track! I cannot forget that I said during the coffee break that I thought KG would make a great owner of Saab because of their entrepreneurship. When I got home that day, the 24th of November, the biggest news on TV was that Koenigsegg had given up their attempt to buy our beloved brand…
The 25th of November I went to my nearest dealer for a first discussion about what cars they had in stock. They had one that was almost according to my specification, a white 9-5 SC Griffin 2,3t BioPower. The man I talked to could not give me anything more on what impact the failed deal would have on Saab. So I went home and told my wife that I had made a first investigation on what was available. I also made clear that it was not completely impossible that we would have to buy a new car sooner than expected. I just could not see myself in another car than Saab…
Monday morning and more news, and again there was a glimpse of hope. New interested players were entering the picture. Later that week there was news about a Dutch brand named Spyker that I had never heard of before. Honestly, at first it sounded like a big joke to me, and that was also what my friends were thinking. But as a true enthusiast, the glimpse of hope was enough for me to say that “there is hope and it is not over until the fat lady sings”! I can still hear my friends laughing to what must have sounded like a very desperate man’s last words!
During the following weeks the hope grew and even though there were some strange and doubtful information I still thought that it was more likely that Spyker would actually make the deal than that Saab would be closed. Again the SU was a great source of hope for me.
It is impossible to forget Friday the 18th of December 2009.
I was about to leave my office for the weekend and I only wanted to check the latest Saab news before I left. Once again the headlines stuck me like a knife right into my Saab heart. This time it was even worse, “The deal is off and GM will now shut Saab down”.
My head felt empty and I just did not know what to do. Instead of going home directly as I had planned I went to the gym and pushed myself as hard as I could, trying to clear my head. Usually this works and when I have had a tough day at work, working out at the gym helps me to forget the problems so that I can be positive and relaxed when I get home to my family. This time it did not work. I just felt sick and for the first time I could not see any glimpse of hope for Saab. It was a nightmare for someone who has been trying to spread the Saab spirit to each and everyone for more than 30 year.
When I got home I was not sure if my wife had seen the news. I did not bring the subject to the table either, spoiling the Friday dinner for the family. When the children had went to bed there was a phone call from a friend that had not called me for years. I could hear his voice as he sad he was sorry for the funeral of Saab. At that time it sounded more like malicious pleasure over what had happened. My wife asked me what he had said and I told her the news. She had already heard it from her parents but she did not want to bring it up before the children had gone to bed.
On Saturday the 19th of December 2009 I went to do the Christmas shopping. But this time I did not visit the usual shops. I went directly to my Saab dealer. As I had expected, the dealership was completely empty of people. There was a lonely salesman and a lot of cars. In front of a wall there was a yellow 9-3 Viggen in great shape together with a red 9-5 Aero from 2001. In front of them there were a tailors dummy dressed up in a pilot’s suit and helmet. It made me feel strange. The salesmen asked me if he could help me.
– Yes, I want to buy a new Saab.
– Are you serious?
– Yes, (I laughed) do you have anyone in stock?
– What do you want?
– This one but in white. (I pointed to a Jet Black 9-5 SC AeroGriffin with complete Hirsh Performance kit.)
We went into his office and had a long discussion about Saab in general and about the price for the car I wanted. Apparently he had sold a new 9-5 SC just before I entered the shop and he was a bit confused about the sudden interest. Just like me that customer also had a Saab Convertible in the garage. Obviously I was not the only enthusiast that day who was trying to save what was possible.
I got a price on a fully equipped car in the right colour. It was a lot more expensive than I normally would have accepted but this day was nothing but normal to me. I came home very late that day and it was already dark when I locked our red 9-5 SC outside our garage. That night I took a glass of wine and discussed the prospect from my dealer with my wife. She gave me her approval to go on if I wanted to. I told her that I would give the dealer a call on Monday to discuss some details but in my mind I had already bought the car. That night I did not go into SU, I just had enough with the sad news on TV and radio.
When I turned on the news on Sunday the 20th December there were some glimpses of hope once again. Mr Muller had countered and wanted to refine his bid. I went directly into the SU again and now there were more positive news. We all know what happened afterwards, another month with a roller coaster.
Since there was some hope again I waited for a while for the final decision regarding the car. If Saab would make it through this crisis then I felt that I would rather put the money into the new 9-5. The weeks passed by and when it was time for the Detroit auto show in January we had not made the final decision yet. I had weekly contact with the salesman so he knew about why I was hesitating. At the Detroit auto show the GM president made some kind of improvised statement about Saab, and again there was bad news. We will shut down Saab, the bids are too week, show us the money etc.
That day I made up my mind. I felt that the last thing I could do to show my support to my beloved brand was to buy my “white angel”. I called the salesmen, who was on a ski trip but I got hold of him between the last lap and the after ski.
– We have made our decision, just make sure that the car is equipped with the sport chassis and black/beige leather seats.
– Ok, I give you a call next week to confirm.
Two weeks later, the 26th of January, the initial contracts were signed in Stockholm between Spyker and GM. I went out into my garage, poured up a glass of white wine and made a toast to my “friends”, a white 900 Convertible and a red 900S Coupé. I will never forget that day and the feeling when the deal was done.
Celebrating the deal between Spyker and GM with two old friends.
Two weeks after the deal was done, we went to pick up our new car. I had told my wife that I probably would have problems to keep the tears back when we entered the showroom, but since Saab had survived it was only tears of happiness. Our new family member stood in the hall, white and shining, just waiting for us to step in and start the 230hp engine. I can tell you that it was a very proud man that left the dealer that afternoon!
Our white angel, ready for delivery with winter tires on. (The yellow one was not for sale…)
Now one year has passed since GM told the world that they would close Saab down I have put 1500km in our white angel. Each time I turn around the ignition key between the seats I get reminded of the roller coaster at the same time as I listen to the Hirsch sport exhaust system. This car is an extraordinary example of the Saab engineering spirit, even though it is spiced with some Swiss tuning knowledge.
Comfortable and a lot of space for the whole family but when you step on the gas you get a big smile in your face at the same time as the 360 Nm engine pushes you back into the sport seats! Saab has always been representing designs that are timeless and driven by usability. This car is no exception and I truly love to look at the car from every angle. The car looks great in the garage together with our white C900 Convertible. There are almost 25 years between them but they do have at least one thing in common, they have got the Saab Spirit within them! For those who have never owned or driven a Saab it might sound ridiculous but driving these cars is a truly special feeling. It is difficult, probably impossible, to describe in words. Let me just say that I love it and I can never get enough of the Saab feeling!
This is one beautiful and timeless design!
A true sports car for the whole family.
The twin exhaust system from Hirsch gives a great sound and a nice throttle response.
Since we bought our 9-5 less than a year ago there will probably not be a new 9-5 in our garage for some years, but we do need a second and smaller car for driving between our house and our work. Hopefully I can wait a couple of years and then put an order for the next generation of the 9-3. Maybe in hatchback style!
Meanwhile I will enjoy our family members: The abovementioned 9-5 (white angel), the red OG900S (1990) and the white OG900 Convertible (1987). A week ago our stable of Saabs was enlarged with a OG9-3 (2002), also white, but now my wife says it is enough. We will see about that…
Keep on Saabing!
Greetings, and Merry Christmas!
The complete family:
Our red 900S (1990).
Our white 900 Convertible (1987).
The latest model in the stable, 9-3S 2,0t Polar Edition (2002)