Our Old Friend Lance Cole, writer of “Saab 99 and 900: The Complete Story”, and the forthcoming Saab tribute book,
“Saab Cars The Complete Story” wrote a Saab Obituary in the Daily Telegragh last Saturday. It is now available for all to see on line. Please click onto ttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/classiccars/8989929/Saab-the-end-of-the-road.html and take a look. You can log in at the Telegraph web site to add comments or here if you wish.
The new book should be available towards the middle of the year and we will have exclusive snippits for you to read here at SU.
35 thoughts on “Daily Telegraph Saab Obituary”
GM. It’s been a zombie for the past couple of years!
Will order the book immediately when it becomes available.
This extract here sounds promising.
It’s very sad to be reading of the demise of Saab, a name that has stood for quality, reliability and inovation for many decades. The motoring world has lost a name that brought to us so many of the safety features that we take for granted today on our cars as we drive on the evermore conjested roads around the globe. I shall continue to drive my Saabs, both old and new, to show other motorists what has been lost from the world of the motor car.
Isn’t this article a tiny bit too pessimistic, and not to say pre-mature, considering all the work going on in Trollhättan and all? Surely not a text you’ll want to read days before the We are many we are Saab-events.
I think the simple facts are just passing us by. Companies like Saab are not killed by GM and yes GM is just too easy a target.
People who believe the advertising massage and chase illusions killed Saab, and sadly I think they are gone.
Today, all cars pretty much look alike and that illusion and an attractive low price sells. In a bad and faltering world economy companies like Kia and Hyundai sell the illusion of style and low, low price. Face it, nothing is for free. Those free oil and filter changes on our Saabs were built into the price, they sure as hell were not free. A friend bought a Hyundai and got hammered after the sale just keeping up with all of the service requirements that cost him an arm and leg. But walking in the door his wife thought she was getting a great deal.
GM didn’t kill Saab, the smoke and mirror illusionists selling look alike products at a cheap intro price killed Saab. Now before that sounds like I am being a hypocrite I also still wonder why Saab under Muller could not sell me a car, the same car that GM sold my wife? The price of the same car went way up in the Spyker era. Same assembly line and same workers and I liked her car enough to spend a few thousand more. I could in no way justify spending $9,000 more for the same car. What was Victor Muller trying to accomplish buy holding prices high? In MHO, he should have nursed the company back inch by inch over time. Perhaps I’ll even reconsider my early rants about the smaller BMW engines? How about a smaller but more reliable and easier to work on motor and driveline? Mercedes made a great but questionable reputation inch by inch. The 190 went to 200 and then my God to 220 and they were bragging about “swept bearing surfaces” for durable motors. In a faltering world economy perhaps small, reliable and less bells and whistles are the future.
Have you read the news the last two months? General Motors DIRECTLY prevented Saab from continuing life under the purchase by Youngman. General Motors is DIRECTLY responsible for where Saab is at today. So you could rationalize by talking abuot price points and Kia—-but facts are facts. GM obstructed a sale that would have had us talking about the assembly line starting up in a couple weeks. It WAS General Motors. And yes, I agree with you about the pricing—-and the need for an entry level model to compete in today’s market.
What are these guys smoking. “Saab makes the turbo work in the mass market”.
I put well over 100,000 miles on my GM turbo as did a few hundred thousand Olds and Corvair owners in the 1960’s.
What is his definition of mass market? I wish guys like this and Swade would do some research before they set a finger on the keyborard. The problem with the Corvair and it’s handling was that people were not running the proper rear tire pressures. The TRW and Garrett Air turbos ran fine I assure you. And no Swade, it was Caddy, not Saab who first had air flow through the seats surfaces and your comments about the catalytic converters are so far off. One of the fellows who was part of that project had a good laugh when I read your comments to him.
Did they produce enough GT’s to qualify for homologation under FIA regading you seat belt comment?
They made a decent enough car. I like them but I do not believe in revisionist history. Heck the guy does not even know what “OEM” means. Of course you worked for an Original Equipment Manufacturer, that is what a manufacturer is but now with things being farmed out like AC/Delco breaking off who does manufacture their own parts. Mitsy turbos for example.
What ticks me off is that then bad information gets repeated and becomes fact. Who had the first production turbos, last week some old timer said he remembered a Studebaker with one but I can’t confirm that.
While there were obviously cars that had used turbos prior to Saab, when Saab really began to emphasize the 4 cylinder turbo engine in the 99 and classic 900, they had the mindshare on efficient turbo engines. In that era, when you thought turbo, you thought Saab. (Sort of like IBM did not make the first personal computer, but in the 80’s, when you thought of the PC you thought of the IBM PC.)
Saab designed a wastegate to control boost. As I understand it, this design helped tamed the turbo and made it much more palatable (less maintenance I believe) to the average driver.
I was born in 1974 so I don’t have first hand experience. My understanding is that the number of cars equipped with turbos in the early 70s was minimal at best.
“An original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, manufactures products or components that are purchased by a company and retailed under that purchasing company’s brand name.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OEM
Saab was not an OEM. When I’m buying an OEM part for my 9000, I don’t get the Saab logo.
What did GM do after the Corvair turbo? A few thousand? LOL. LMAO. What did GM do after putting airbags in 1973 Toronados? What did GM do after bringing the EV-1 “Impact” to the roads well before Prius? Nothing. They did nothing. At one point, Saab’s entire line of cars were turbocharged—-every model and every trim level. What percentage of GM’s products were turbocharged? Then and now? How many? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Saab didn’t invent FWD either, but believed in it enough to make all of their cars FWD. As far as being “revisionist” I don’t see that at all.
“General Motors stepped in and the rest is recent history – a range of warmed-over Vauxhalls and even Subarus that were devoid of that mystery ingredient that was “Saabism”. ”
Uh, I seriously object to Lance Cole delegating 3 of the 4 Saabs that I have owned to the ‘not-real-Saabs’ bin. Our 9-5 is as much a Saab as our old 900, in many ways it is even a far better car. In thrashing the GM-era Saabs he is also thrashing a younger generation of proud Saab drivers. I know I shouldn’t be offended by someone who clearly got stuck in the mid eighties, but since this old gets quoted on my favorite Saab web site I felt I had to respond.
Good response too! I too went through a pissed at GM phase till I got to spend more and more time with the new generation 9-3’s and am starting to like the car more. About the only regret is that I could not afford the 9-5 Griffin at the dealer. I did not even make him an offer for fear of insulting him (or embarrassing me?), with a tad stiffer suspension it may have been a match made in heaven.
One of the things that made me realize how much I like the newer Aero was when I was helping my son pick out a 900 classic. Nice and solid like a tank and good for it’s time. But getting back in the new car after each ride in a classic was making me fonder of this new stuff. Except for all of this electronic stuff I never use. What is that moon roof for anyway? Should I carry a sextant in case I am lost at night to shoot a star fix?
My 2004 GM era 9-5 ARC wagon is a terrifc car too. I agree with your post. These cars are as much Saab as they are GM.
Personally speaking I have always found Mr Cole to be a little off-message but on this point I have to agree. Nobody who bought a new (ish) 9-5 or 9-3 for their obvious and valid practical reasons wants to hear another Saab fan say
“Well of course, that new 9-5 you got there-its not a real Saab.”
But the fact is something was lost once GM starting playing around with Saab. I am one of the folks that stopped buying Saab’s after the old 9-3 Aero turned into the new Saloon 9-3 Aero which was more expensive, worse quality and less practical and less powerful it also looked like a rebadged Vectra, that’s a fact.
However if at that time you traded brands into Saab or didn’t realise what you were missing by way of magic ingredients, you maybe didn’t care for giant hatchback/fastback style and genuinely thought saloon or Estate was more “premium”-and there are many who do then the new 9-3 was a perfectly good car with a decent badge and sporty handling and bags more style and poke than the equivalent Honda or Toyota. It was a good purchase decision, be proud of it or the 9-5, but please know that the apogee of design and engineering and all things Saab including the use of Turbo charging and ABS and front wheel drive and crumple zones and safety cages, and functional design rather than competition lead design, high torque output at low revs, and astonishing pace between 50-90 (911 quick infact) was the Saab 900. All the cars that came before were working up to that point, and those that came after were of course more modern but never as cutting edge as they should have been and certainly not unique.
infact they became directly comparible with all other manufacturers with whom they were competing (Volvo/Audi/Merc/BMW) -this lost them ground and exposed them, by then they were out of their niche and never to return. (Well I hope the last chapter is not written). We shall have to wait for history to tell us who is right in the prices of the auction rooms of the future when a rare Saab 9-5 comes up for sale at Coys or Bonhams. For now though my money is still on the 900 Carlsson (Aero/SPG type kit) T16 Turbo with a 185 Redbox. It was an Icon even in its own time and the Saab 9-3 and 9-5 of today frankly are not.
Post first generation 900 model SAABs may or may not be real SAABs depending on one’s definition of real SAABs. Unfortunately, as Toby K points out, SAAB and most brands today have had their personalities diluted. Things like shared platform engineering, fuel economy standards, and safety requirements conspire against having a mass produced car stand out as different much beyond the grill design. Regardless of whether they are real SAABs or not, the later cars don’t scream SAAB the way the 2 stroke, V4, 99 and first generation 900 cars do. Nonetheless, I continue to drive SAABs because they offer qualities I want in car even if the package is not as distinct from the market as it once was.
As I keep telling people: A real Saab must have Night Panel, BioPower (developed without GM’s knowing or approval — does not get more Saaby than that) and SAHR to mention a few. And as a bonus, it should have a retractable cup holder.
Every Saab model has one or more items that disqualifies it being a true Saab. The 9-5 actually comes close, but… Alas… No hatchback!
And that, IMO, is a true Saab. I.e. one or more crucial feature is missing.
For me the great sadness is I was actually ready to buy back in with the future ng9-3….it just sounded as if they were back on track-I hope I find out oneday soon, it’ll be sad to know they were getting it right and never see the product.
Lance is a genuine SAAB guy but SAAB is only almost dead, not dead yet ….. fingers crossed!
The fact that the word obituary is used on Saabs United tells me it’s over. Of course, I hope my interpretation is incorrrect. Just no news lately of hope.
Saab is not dead, it is in receivership. The Receivers obviously think that they have enough interest to sell it as a going concern, as they have stated, as logic suggests as does the fact that they can turn potential bidders down whom they think have not done enough homework on their bid. There is much more chance of a spectacularly successful future than oblivion. What is all this about obituaries?
GerritN posted exactly what I was going to say.
This article by Lance Cole completely demolishes his credibility in my view.
Yes the company is bankrupt. No, it is not over yet. All the indications are that the administrators are actively seeking a solution that could see someone start building Saab cars again in some from in the future. Even if that does not come to pass and the worst happens, it is totally irresponsibe and premature to be peddling that line now. Except, of course, Mr Cole seems to be determined to conclude the story here because he has a book to sell!
“Warmed-over Vauxhalls devoid of Saabism” ? On a purely factual basis, that statement is wrong, wrong, wrong. Only if one were to credulously consume the drivel that has been written about GM-era Saab by “journalists” with no real understanding of these cars would one arrive at that conclusion. (Swade has written some excellent blog entries on this subject.)
Yes, the Epsilon platforms were a joint Saab-Opel development and yes there are a lot of shared components. But Saab sharing platforms (9000) and engines (where do we start…?) was nothing new even when the NG900 was made! Clearly, in making this statement, Mr Cole has made it plain he has never actually driven a 9-3ss/sc, or a 9-5, nor compared them with driving a Vectra B or C, nor indeed managed to gather a single fragment of factual information from Saab about the actual engineering behind those Saabs. If he did he would realise he was talking out of his wastegate. Speaking as someone who has driven plenty c900s and 9000s but loves his 9-3 ss for the very Saablike character it radiates behind the wheel, I find it actually embarrassing and even a little bit offensive to read this nonsense from someone who is supposed to be an authority on Saab. Even the mere detail that these cars have a centre-mounted ignition switch is in itself a “Saabism”. Then there’s the seats… the dash… the sense of swiftness and safety…
I also recall that in “99 and 900” Mr Cole said nice things about the 90, but here he denigrates the car. As it happens I have made the gag about the car being a “cut and shut” myself on Saab forums in the past, and I’m sure others have too, but this about-turn from Mr Cole maks me wonder where he is coming from.
Yes, I have a copy of “99 and 900” and I appreciated the book for the information it contained but, if the truth be told, it is only because there is precious little competition as regards Saab books in the English language.
I’ll tell you what, though: a characteristically sophisticated and entertaining book by Swade on this beautiful car company, warts and all, would cleanse the nasty taste this has left in my mouth.
It is my understanding that the last generation 900 was a bit ‘iffy’. Often criticized for using an older Opel platform, making the end result too unlike everything else Saab has produced before or since. Both when it comes to road holding capabilities as well as safety.
I suspect this is what Lance was referring to. The GM 900 was a noticable step down from its predecessor.
As I understand it, the second generation 9-3 is a completely different beast — one that has served me well. Adjusting to the GM parts bin was a long journey, and it seems to have left a foul taste in the mouths of many Saab fans (as well as automobile journalists). The end result (hardware wise) though is good, but few hung around to enjoy it.
But, there are certainly Saabers out there who never tried ANY Saabs produced under GM’s watch. And they have certainly not tried any of the good ones of later years. We should have done more to reach out to them, but I think the lack of a hatchback made that difficult.
That obituary doesn’t feel quite right yet. Saab hasn’t quite used up all of of it’s nine lives yet. There are some more chapters to play out and still some hope I think.
Just a thought.
Yep…. Not a big fan of Lance’s writing to be honest.
Thanks everyone. Odd is it not when one says something that differs from perceived and desired wisdom, that one goes from liked to unliked.
If you think the term obiturary was wrong, or just mine, you best read all the other obits to Saab published across the British car (and other) magazines, papers, supplements and classic car imprints. Try Classic Car Weekly’s very rational Saab Obit for a start.
I would love Saab to have lived, but it no longer lives and Saab as we knew it is gone. You can argue and shout at me until time stands still, but Saab as we knew it is gone. It might be reinvented, but not as the Saab we knew.
I know it hurts and I know you are feeling raw and do not want to read anything that conflicts with your hopes, but I think you will find that Saab as we knew it, is over.
Just for the record, and aimed at some of your wilder, utterly inaccurate comments, I have driven and owned new generation Saabs (as well as older ones)- contrary to the untrue claims made by certain commenters. Very good they were too. I loved my 9-5 and the styling of the 900NG/ 93.1 was very clever.
The 93/2 was more Saab and less GM of course, but it remained a shared platform based car. Oh and in my article I mentioned the Saab badged Subarus – which I note you all have ignored in your attack on me and defence of Saab. Are you really telling us that the Saab badged Subarus were indeed, Saabs?
I would happily own a curernt 93 – especially a TTID, but I would be under no illussion or delusion that it was a Saab in the context of the original Saabs – how could I, that would be denial. But it does not make it bad car, and nor did I say that in the article.
I wrote here at SU in 2009 that the 93 TTID was the best diesel engine application in the market place (at that time). But what a shame about the cheap interior plastic and the leather seat trim that was ruined within 3,000 miles- the bolsters with which you may be familiar.
As for my knowledge of the engineering that went into the modification of these Saabs, amazingly I have some, despite someone’s claim that I do not. And if you had watched the new 900 perform as it did, in its EURONCAP offset test, (as I did) you would have wanted to know more and find out all you could as to why that happened (as I did).
In the light of the inaccurate, untrue, comments made by some about my words or Saab experiences, I can only assume your emotions and desire for Saab to live, have clouded your judgements.
The facts are that the NG 900 , the 93/1 and the 95/1 and he brillaint 95/2 (also praised by me at SU in 2010/11)were based on GM Opel Vauxhall parts and platforms. No amount of Saab trim or tweaking modification, or ‘warming over’ can deny those facts even if you want it to be so.
I was not trashing these cars- and I never said that, I described them as ‘warmed over’ – which if you take a Vectra / Calibra platform, suspension and engine, and tweak it with some injections of Saab ideas, leaves you with a modifed car. How does adding a key between the seats, turn a Vectra into a Saab? It did not in my view, even if you think it did in yours.
In case you have forgotten the NG 900 had to be redesigned into the 900 as it was off the mark in several areas of its dynamics, and it also had a rather unfortunate EURONCAP result, much to Swedish consternation.
So, the newer Saabs were in reality, GM based Saabs that were Saabised to varying degrees by the amazing, talented, wonderful people at Saab. But those cars were not designed and built from the ground up by Saab- were they? They did not have that quality of Saabism in the context of the original Saabs – how could they.
And what of the Fiat Type Four Saab the 9000 – do I put that in the same boat – no because, despite the intention to share 1,000 parts, it shared less than a few dozen, Saab really did reinvent the base platform far more radically than the later GM Saabs.
Saab 90? A good solid car- but always a two car model variants welded together. Describing it as such does not constitute slagging it off.
So, everyone has an opinion and some of will not agree about each others respective opinion, but as for me having never been near a new generation, GM Saab, think again.
Unless of course SU is become the home of some kind of one-party state where anyone with a differing view, based upon years of experience, is to be villified based upon a doctrine of one perception?
So it is goodbye from me, and lets remember the best of the Saab days. I am off to fix my Citroen.
“leather seat trim that was ruined within 3,000 miles” I only held on to my MY08 9-3 SC for 30000 km, but the seats were still pristine at that point. I fear you are still overly critical of the later GM-era Saabs.
You mention EuroNCAP as a yardstick for a true Saab, but how do you propose to quantify “quality of Saabism” in newer Saabs? What makes the MY10/11 9-5 less of a Saab than the original 900? My point is that if a Saab engineer found a perfectly good part in the GM bin, why should he instead proceed to reinvent the wheel? That is the first class at any school of engineering: Do not reinvent the wheel. OTOH, that old 900 lacks BioPower, SAHR and even Night Panel.
For me it boils down to how a Saab feels on the road and how versatile it is. The NG 9-5 has a handicap (versatility-wise) since it only came as a sedan. My 9000 CSE is a better fit for IKEA, but not nearly as comfortable (OTOH the 9-5 has more room lengthwise for a 2 meter madras, especially for taller persons who do not enjoy wearing the steering wheel as a tattoo).
I suspect the majority of SU punters have a special place in their hearts reserved for the 900 (and 9000), so you are actually preaching to the choir despite some of the negative comments left here.
Mr Cole is correct about the leather I have seen it get very baggy and worn on the squab sides in very short miles. It was a known quality issue especially on ng93 SS/SC variants 2003-2007.
I don’t think the seat has changed since 2003…’08-’11 have same as ’03. 75k on my ’08 and seat looks new
2011 Saab 9-3- Built in Sweden, designed by Swedish engineers (I presume), German motor, Japanese trans., uses 1% US/Canadadian parts. What’s so GM about it???….what percent of “GMness” does the car have?
Dear Mr. Cole,
I had no intention to antagonize you and scare you away from SU, far from it since I _do_ value balanced comments. However, I’ve learned the hard way, working with many people of different cultures and spread over many continents, that one has to be extremely careful with choosing ones words carefully when addressing all those people. It’s easy to, inadvertently, hurt someones feelings and close the door on further dialog.
Imho, your remarks about ‘GM Saabs’ was delegating not only those “GM Saabs” but also the people owning them to insignificance with respect to the ‘true’ Saab history. From your reply I gather this was not your intention but, at least that’s how I feel it, still hurts the feelings of a large fraction of proud and happy Saab owners.
Please don’t let this little altercation turn you away from SU. I think I speak for the majority of people here if I say that we value everyones opinion.
Btw, Citroen stopped making real Citroens after the BX 🙂 I’m a Citroen expert too, I own a 1991 BX 🙂
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