I posted an article a few days ago about what makes a Saab driver a Saab driver and the responses are still coming in. I had noticed a very short response from David Mills and I pushed for more of a response and he told us why safety was such a big thing to him and it was quite moving. He also has owned about 15 Saabs over time and will tell us his favorites. I felt his response should be a post on its own and asked him to write a follow up to his response. We may not always agree on everything written on SaabsUnited and that is the beauty of a site like ours, I thank David for sharing this story.
Jason Powell has asked me to write an article about my experience with Saabs, as a follow up to his article asking why we on SU buy Saabs. Jason asked me to elaborate on my answer to his question about why I have owned so many and why I am so loyal to the brand.
I have leased, or purchased, or helped to purchase, 15 Saabs for my immediate family since 1999. So why so many? Primarily safety. I think pound for pound, Saabs are the safest cars in the world.
I am a safety nut, geek, and guru, and I must confess to a car safety obsession. I realize that most people never think about safety the way I do. Although safety is becoming more and more part of the car purchase equation today, that has not always been the case. And in my early years of car driving, it was hard for me to find out any information on car safety no matter how hard I tried. I am also a car nut generally, and had car magazine subscriptions for 30 years. But I think it is fair to say that car magazines are very deficient at giving good safety information about cars.
Unlike most people, I needed to find out about car safety because knowing car safety was crucial to my job. I have been a personal injury lawyer for 30 plus years, always representing injured people for the last 26. Many of my clients received their injuries in car accidents. I needed to know why and how my clients got hurt in their car accidents. So I have seriously studied car safety, real world accident statistics, and crash testing, because knowing about car safety in depth is part of providing quality representation for my clients. I’ve been involved in some pretty big auto accident cases – a Ford Explorer / Firestone Tire roll-over death case was one.
But my quest for knowledge of car safety, wasn’t just out of professional necessity; car safety was also personal. I really cared about my wife and my two daughters’ safety. And the most likely way to get a serious injury or die if you are under 40 years of age, is in a car accident, if you live in the western world.
I first test drove a Saab in 1979 but bought an Alfa instead. The Alfa was gorgeous and I thought the Saab was ugly even though it was a blast to drive, more fun, more power, and more room. Had I known about how safe Saabs were in 1979, I would have bought the Saab in spite of its looks, and who knows how many Saabs I might have owned by now. But back then information on safety was pitiful.
But in 1999, I got a second chance to buy a Saab, a 1999 9-5 and the rest is history. I actually went to the dealer looking for a Volkswagon and ended up buying a Saab after I test drove the Saab. After I hit the gas about a block down the street, and was grinning from ear to ear, I knew I wanted it. I knew enough about car safety by then to be pretty sure that Saabs were safe cars, but I didn’t know how safe. So after my first Saab, I began to investigate Saab safety, and the more I learned, the more I decided they were the brand for me. The fun factor, the utility, the value, the good mpgs, the fact that they didn’t scream of “big money’ like Bimmers and Mercs, the overall quality, were icing on the cake. I also liked the fact they were Swedish and not German.
As a lawyer, the most frequent comment I heard from my automobile injury clients was: “It happened so fast, there was nothing I could do.” Car magazines were touting active safety, but my clients were telling me, that most of the time, active safety didn’t matter near as much as passive safety. When I saw a video online of two 9-5’s hitting head on in an offset collision and how well they held up (I had never seen anything like it) I decided Saabs were what I wanted for my family.
Later in 1999, I bought my second Saab for my oldest daughter, who was in college, a 1999 9-3. And I just kept adding Saabs after that as my family needed them.
And now for my Saab story. The second most frequent comment my automobile injury clients make is: “I never thought it would happen to me.” Well, in 2002, it happened to me. Well, not to me, but to my daughter. She was in a very serious car accident in her 1999 9-3. In what could have been my darkest hour, Saab was there for me.
At the time, I blogged frequently on Saabnet. A week after the accident I posted the following description of the accident on Saabnet which I will re-post in full here (with a few minor edits) because it has the freshness of very recent memory.
Submitted April 2002
A week ago yesterday night about 9pm I received a call from my daughter saying that she had been in an accident. She assured me she was ok. Fortunately she told me she was ok before she told me she had been in an accident. My daughter goes to college near Lynchburg, Va. and I live in Memphis, TN. She told me that her car (a 1999 9-3) had been totaled. I asked her what happened. She said she really didn’t know other than all of a sudden a car was in front of her and she had tried to swerve to keep from hitting it but didn’t even think she had hit the brakes before the impact had occurred. Right before she hung up she said she could see the other vehicle and she was certain that somebody in it was probably killed. The EMS got to the scene and checked her out and we got a call from EMS maybe 20 minutes later saying that she appeared to be fine but that they were taking her to the hospital for observation.
We got in touch with people from her college who went to the ER to check on her to give us progress reports. Fortunately she was released about 3am that morning and I drove to Lynchburg (in my Aero) beginning about 4 hours later.
The other driver, another woman, was not so fortunate. My daughter’s suspicions were correct. As the trooper later told me the other driver was a DRT (dead right there). Apparently the other driver was dead drunk and high on cocaine and somehow ended up headed north in the southbound lanes of traffic at night without headlights. My daughter hit her head on in a frontal offset collision and my daughter was traveling at least 60 mph. Fortunately for us, the drunk driver was in a small Daihatsu Charade which was no match for the 9-3. I later saw pictures of the Daihatsu and the damage was incredible. The steering wheel was over the center console and the trooper told me that the left front wheel was under the driver’s seat. The driver’s door was nearly off and the driver’s side of the vehicle was completely contorted. The drunk driver was killed instantly.
The trooper figured the drunk driver was also doing about 60 mph because her car ended about 100 feet north of the collision site and my daughter’s car ended up about 100 feet south.
The Saab sustained very heavy damage to the front left of the car. Both doors on the driver’s side would not open and the driver’s door was buckled at the door latch causing the driver window to blow out. But the passenger compartment stayed well in tact and the only real concern of mine was some significant intrusion into the driver footwell. The front left wheel was broken and turned 90 degrees and most of the intrusion came from the side rather than the front. This caused my daughter’s only serious injury, which was a ligament injury to her left foot. She also a badly bruised right shin. Somehow my daughter managed to pull her legs out of the way, otherwise she might have had a severe injury to her left leg. She will have to wear a moon boot for 4-6 weeks but that seems to be all that she will need. Very thankfully, she did not come close to sustaining any trauma to her head or torso.
All of the people who saw her (EMS, witnesses, troopers, doctors, classmates and professors) could not believe how well she had fared. Kudos are in order to the Saab engineers. I hope they get to read this and receive inspiration to keep up the good work. On their behalf, I got to tell a lot of people about the safety of Saabs.”
Sometime much later after the accident, my daughter confided that she had probably been going much more than 60 mph and probably more than 70 mph (it was a 55 mph speed limit) when the collision occurred. Just prior, she had been doing 85 and had eased off the accelerator as she was coming to a town. But it happened so fast she never got her foot off the accelerator. Active safety wouldn’t have mattered at all.
A couple of days later she told me that she never wanted to own anything but a Saab. And so far, she hasn’t. Neither has my wife or my younger daughter. Neither have I. My oldest daughter’s husband now drives one and my youngest daughter just got married so I am hoping it won’t be long before her husband is in one as well.
I would like to say that the accident described above was the only accident that my wife and daughters have been in since we have been Saab owners. But unfortunately, that is not the case. They have all been in other accidents in our Saabs. They have had three other accidents, all minor fortunately, with no injuries. In one accident, my daughter, granddaughter and wife were all in the car. But any of these could have been much worse.
Accidents like the serious one in 2002 have lingering consequences even when they turn out well. Every lawyer knows this. The 2002 accident happened the Saturday night before Easter. Every year around Easter time, my daughter hates driving in the dark and avoids it until well past Easter. She still complains about her foot. But she’s alive, doing very well, and has two children of her own now (who ride in the back seats of their parents’ two 9-5s). End of Saab story.
I told Jason I would say a few words about some of the Saabs I have owned. My favorite was my 2003 Aero Wagon, but that is because I am a wagon guy. I have had three wagons. The first was a 2000 9-5 SE six and I presently drive a 2006 9-3 2.0 Sport Combi. All are great wagons both in styling and handling but I liked the fours better than the six. (That engine choice is true of all of the Saabs I have owned). I find the wagons to be more front/rear balanced than the sedans so they handle surprisingly well even with the extra 170 lbs or so. They are just so damn useful.
My favorite handling car was the 2000 9-3 coupe which, though not a Viggen, is quite fun to drive, especially after having modified the turbo. For a four door, I think the 94 9000CDE was the most fun to drive, but we bought it used and the prior owner was clueless about how to take care of a Saab and we paid for it. My fastest car was a 2001 Aero 9-5 sedan that would just absolutely fly. And I am sure like most people here, I would love to see Saab bring back the hatchbacks. We had several 9-3 hatchbacks and they simply are far more useful than a four-door sedan, and from a safety point of view, a better design. I regret not ever getting a Viggen and I am sure my wife regrets not ever getting a convertible. Maybe someday.
I am pulling for Saab to survive. My whole family is. Because Saab was there for us, we have been there for Saab. Yes I bitch about Saab not getting on its feet again and not getting an owner worthy of it. But, I will be there for Saab as long as I am around, and as long as Saab is making safe cars. My real hope is that Saab is around long after I am, and that it continues its safety heritage and legacy, and that it will still be there for my kids and grandkids, just in case a dark hour is in their future.