Remembering December 18 – how far Saab has come

This is the second entry in a short series focused on remembering December 18, 2009. That was the day that Saab nearly died, with GM vowing to close the company.

Of course, that didn’t happen, but it’s worthwhile to share a few thoughts about what happened.

This second entry is from Till72, from Germany. The third (and final) entry will be published tomorrow – you don’t want to miss it.

Thanks to Till for sending this through.


Dec. 18th 2009

Do you remember? I’m pretty sure you do. To me it’s one of the moments I can even remember what I did the moment the news popped up. I was talking to my dealer on the phone about that 9-3x he had in stock and as I read that “wind down” stuff in a mixture of stubbornness and fear that it might be my last new Saab I told him that I’d take the car. But most of you know that story.

Deep inside I and many, if not most, of us never lost the faith that Saab was worth saving. And we showed that. In many many posts here at SU, in some 70 convoys, in the “I-won’t-buy-from-GM“ campaign…

If I should name the good part of these dark times I’d say it’s from a very personal point of view that I discovered how big my love for Saab really is. And on a broader range the fact that the community got even closer together and with help from Steven at SU central managed to get those events together. And that SU and the fans played quite a role in the successful sales process has been openly admitted by Victor.

So we have proven that Saab has definetely the most loyal following in the automotive industry and we have been rewarded by Spyker’s aquisition of Saab in February. In those ten months of hard work Saab have made many archievements. I won’t list the all again as Steven did that before.

Sure there are also some issues like sales organizations in some markets, the lack of a performance model, the 9-4x launch without a diesel…

Not ideal. But the best you can do with the existing product and limited financial ressources. Dreams are ok, but right now reality counts. Saab just can’t spent a buck on something that doesn’t bring at least three bucks in return.

Saab just can’t please everyone. They never could and they never will. In reality, no-one can. But if you always wait for your personal perfect Saab to come along you may have to wait eternally. If I read the comments on some of Steve’s posts I could get the impression that Saab have a disasterous lineup with absolutely no highlights. And that’s just not the case. We have a brand new 9-5 and 9-4x and a 9-3 that admittedly is a few years old, but still is not old fashioned.

We’re just on the first anniversary of the extinction day. Not even the first anniversary of independence day. A year ago many of us would have sold a kidney for being able to buy anything with four wheels and a Saab badge on the hood in 2010. From that point of view many of our complaints seem to be out of range.

Sure we have the right and maybe even the duty to take a critical look at things. But always keep in mind that independent Saab has just begun and a lot of time in the recent ten months had to be spent on internal organisation issues due to the carve out from GM we don’t even see from outside.

Saab survived the the end of the hatchback, 20 years of GM ownership, even the announcement of a wind-down process. So don’t call Saab doomed because they lack some colors or engine choices. The only thing that could doom Saab is if that loyal following stops believing. And I, personally, hope that will never happen.

That we are very eager to see Saab develop is surely an expression of our love for our quirky little car company. But we have to be patient, too. I’m pretty sure if we could take a look at the wish list of Saabs management we would find most of the things we ask for. But if we could take a look at the cashflow and regular costs we might understand why things take time.

Thanks again to Victor, Jan-Ake and all who were involved in the sales process, to Steven, and to all who rallied in the convoys and ran or supported other campaigns and all of you at SU. You rock!

37 thoughts on “Remembering December 18 – how far Saab has come”

  1. I remember that day. I dumped out half a pint of Jack Daniels in my backyard, and then drunk the other half straight in two gulps.

  2. I remember it clearly.
    The dark headlines.
    The smugness of the you-know-who in swedish press
    The questions from the co-workers
    Me not believing this coul be the end.

    And it wasn’t ! 🙂

    Thank you Jan-Åke
    Thank you Victor
    Thank you Mats

    And Thank YOU, Steve!

    Good night everybody!

    • Oh, yes. I remember posting that quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as an example of how all the press were saying that Saab was done, finished, dead….and yet, as long as the door was not completely shut, there was still hope.

      And then Swade found it amusing and meaningful enough to have a special post with that video clip, acknowledging my analogy. Thank goodness for everyone here at SU as we were able to encourage each other and encourage the employees at Saab, and turn that hope into the SAVE SAAB convoys, letter campaigns, etc. We did make a difference….and had fun doing it too! 🙂

    • Not, exactly: (see GM website)

      Edward E. Whitacre, Jr.
      General Motors Company
      Director since July 10, 2009

  3. You tell ’em, Till! While things can always be better, we need to be thankful that Saab is alive and is making progress. Things could be much, much worse.

  4. What happened in the last 12 months is nothing short of a miracle and a “Cinderella” story. SAAB truly deserved to be saved, and by the right owner too.

    I can only imagine what we can look back on for SAAB’s accomplishments and milestones 12 months from now, Dec 18, 2011.

  5. I just wish I could afford a new 9-5. Its a beauty. The new 9-3, however, could quite possibly be my next car.

    I must say I honestly thought 18 December 2009 was ‘end time’. I remember sending Swade an email expressing how genuinely sick to my stomach and depressed I was. Now just look how far we have made it. Victor, Jan-Ake, Swade, all of Saabs employees and owners have shown the world that the world needs Saab.

  6. It was almost like losing a loved one. I couldn’t quite grasp how to move forward if Saab weren’t around anymore. The idea of switching brands left me so cold that in its resurrection, I don’t think I’d ever be able to consider not owning a Saab now. It’s an amazing feeling that I’m sure most of you share.

    Great entry TIll.

    In other news, I just saw this reuters piece about the 9-4x’s brother, the SRX, is going to be getting a plug-in hybrid option with Volt technology. Color me intrigued.

  7. We’re all glad Saab survived.
    One year ago, the feeling was like missing one the “steady points” of somebody’s life.
    But Saab is also an economic entity which can survive only by selling cars.
    Everybody wanting Saab to keep alive and keep innovating, should consider (if possible) to buy a new Saab car… 🙂

  8. I only have a blurish remembering of those days. I was still fighting for Redna, as it is a lease car, first with the my company then with the leasing company.
    I can remember waiting every night for new positive news from Swade, and only sleeping 5-6 hours per day because of that.
    I think the X-Mas in Dec. 2009 were the worst for me.
    I wish you all a merry X-Mas, and nice days with your beloved ones. I will try to spend some days without SU.


  9. I remember clearly these days in last december weeks 2009.

    Some days after we got the griffin-up song – still the most played song in my iTunes library…

    I’ll never forget the convoy in Trollhättan some weeks later and only 6 month after this the festival at the same place.

    Unbelievable what happended in this last year!

  10. Excellent post Till.
    When things got critical and even some rough dudes around here started getting emotional it really hit me this is not just a car brand for people like myself, but something that is a part of the identity of many. Numerous people have been saved by these cars -in one way or an other- so when the time came we had to save Saab. When Swade gathered the troops and we got the ball rolling there was no stopping. Like you say look where we’re now.

    The reason I’m hard on the company and want them to give everything they’ve got, is for the fact that it’s not over yet. We must correct misinformation, push the word out and push Saab to make increasingly better products. No loyalty is not enough if these things are not taken care of, especially when so many are still more than eager to see Saab (Spyker) fail.
    80k cars sold next year is a tough task and we must be relentless in showing the way. This includes letting Saab know what the customers want them to do differently, now that they can.

    • Didn’t want to say that we should not be hard on Saab sometimes. Just like parents are hard on their kids because the love them. But I know you got my point. 😉

      Last week I sent my dealer a mail with the specifications for the 9-4x I want to have. So we’re at 79.999 sales left to gain for 2011. Every journey starts with the first step.

  11. It was a friday…I was going out for a drink with so me friends, the main discussions were about Saab , dark weekend that was……besides that I remember all the videos that appeared like mushrooms that day on youtube about Saab being dead..RIP Saab and so on. But now that`s all behind and things are looking as they should…….pretty good !!!:D

  12. Very nicely written, Till. Those were horrible days not least dreadfully thinking what what kind of car I would ever drive if they closed Saab down. When my lease 9-5 Aero finished I bought the car and am happily waiting for the new 9-5SC to come out.
    It takes guts and lots of hard work when one thinks what Saab and those people in Trollhätten had to go through. You deserve success and we are behind you.
    Thanks again….now where ist the new 9-5 SC?

  13. It was really a dark day. this 18.12 last year. But we all believed this is not the end and so SU was the main activity (refreshing it every hour for getting news) during my holidays.

  14. I remember it so clearly. I was driving home from the last day of work at the company where I had worked for almost 10 years when I heard the news on the radio. I felt so bad, first the very strong possibility that I had met some (now former) colleagues for the last time ever and then the news about Saab. It was almost to much to handle.

  15. I took my older Saab in yesterday to the dealership service department for a repair. They and the mechanics were really glad for the business. I don’t always go to the independent shop. He’s cheaper but arrogant, and a liberal to boot.

  16. “

    An attorney who is a member of the SAAB community had a legal theory and he contacted Swade who reached out to US Saab dealers.

    US Saab dealers hired their own attorney and found a theory that the “new” GM would be liable if they did not sell SAAB.

    Under the bankruptcy SAAB dealers would have lost every thing if SAAB was shut down with no recourse. However, in the releases signed by the dealers as part of the bankruptcy, GM had promised to use it best efforts to sell SAAB. In court GM would have have had a hard time proving it used it best efforts to sell as it liquidated the company with willing buyers protesting ?

    Mike Colleran has a cute story of getting a visit or call from GM’s chief legal counsel after GM received the dealer letter.

    Hey, SWADE: who leaked the story to the WSJ ? The story made the front page “above the fold” !!!

    Jim Haynes

    PS: Kurt Schirm who is the SAAB dealer council president had dealers write their elected representatives.

    • Still doesn’t, Jim. I found the story by copying your search terms into the search window at WSJ.blogs specifying the ‘2 years’ period.


  17. I remember the 18th december of last year as it was yesterday. I was on vacation in New York City. Running over the Times Square and reading the Headline on the Billboard above the wallgreens store at the 42nd Street. I was shocked than searched for a free wifi and read the Story. That was the end for my vacation, the rest of my time in NYC where horrible.

  18. Well Said Till72
    I remember that day and I especially remember how it felt to be a part of this strong Saab loving community. Even in the darkest days, most of us still knew how to “Cowboy UP” and “keep calm and carry on”.

    we’ve come a long way!

  19. I ended up reading SU during these times. Before that I didn’t know that much about the brand. I’ve come to realize how much potential it has, the Scandinavian origin and their philosophy in general is intriguing and I really like it.

    Seeing the brand with so much potential and energy left, being killed by an American giant with the possible death being cheered on by the heartless bastard media and their brainwashed readers is utterly sad and I wanted to see it differently. I’m an automobile enthusiast and Saab didn’t deserve to vanish.

    Saab moved my mind, telling that there is an alternative for the individualist. Spyker also spice things up quite a bit, I knew what they were before the deal and their cars had an effect on me as well.

    My future garage will have a Saab in it. A powerful niche brand it is, attracting intellectuals since 47′.

    / Smith

  20. Well! But now the real challange begins, people has to buy Saabs……in great numbers. Dont forget that. Everybody is happy about the “alive thing” lets not forget the importance of that to come. This community (SU) it´s not enough to save the brand. Somehove the sales must rise whithout putting to mush money on it. thats the big challange but allmost the most important.

    The answer is leasing deals and good ones (I think), and that fast. Ive said it before and say it again.

    The storm is not over yet, it´s just begun. I really hope the knowledge in that department is as good as their engineers are. In US I´m not sure, hope it is a temporary remake that has taken little to long. Thats worring me. Sort that up and a can sleep better at night.

    Don´t se this statement as negative, se it as extreamly important for the future.

    PS If I had the money I sure would by a new car, but I don´t DS

  21. That day was not a good day, but I mostly thought that Saab would survive some how.
    BTW, the hatch didn’t end. It just got suspended mostly because of GM myopia. Now that
    GM is out of the picture, the hatch can return, even if some hatches might actually be twin doors?

    It won’t be plain sailing for Saab for quite a while as there are still some hurdles to cross.
    I don’t think Saab will really start to succeed until the NG9-3 (or whatever it’s called) arrives,
    and starts making it’s presence felt. In the meantime it might be a bit of a bumpy ride, but
    hang on and it will be worth it in the end.

    Hopefully when the NG9-3 arrives, I’ll be able to buy my first new Saab and put my OG9-3 out to pasture. Well more likely a new owner! Saab just make that new 3 door hatch and I’ll move heaven and earth to buy one. I’m sure I’m not alone either!

  22. It was tuff time, visiting here in SU many, many times a day. Mood going from optimistic to very dark, what actually happened in that day. After reading the news here about closing, I immediately called to my dealer (he didn´t had that “death” information yet) and asked wheter their 9-3x ttid still was in showroom and that I will make a reservation about it for weekend and next Monday 21st December I bought it. Now 40 000 km behind with that car and I like it very much. Still really looking forward to 9-5 SC ttid to buy it next year when it comes out. When buying 9-3X I was afraid that it is my last new Saab but luckily that fear didn´t come to reality. Saab is still here! Merry Christmas to everyone from Finland!

    • I’m sorry, too. Though I hope that we’ll find some occasion to meet. And I hope it doesn’t have to be another save Saab convoy…

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