Ex. Saab designers to Geely/Volvo – Who designs Saab?

Designer Simon Padian who was with Saab Automobile from 1998 to 2012 has moved to Geely Design in Göteborg/Gothenburg where he will be the Interior Design Director. At the same time Simon Lamarre takes the helm at Geely as the Exterior Design Director. Lamarre has according to his LinkedIn account been with Saab Automobile as well. My sources in the automobile design world where hoping that NEVS would hire Simon Padian but since he is now with Geely that is not possible. But there are some other guys near Trollhättan who are more then qualified to run the future design department at NEVS.

My personal short-list  of names to run the NEVS/SAAB design department would be: (in no ranking order)

– Eduard Gray at GrayDesign in Vargön who has proven his talent to design not only cars but super-yachts and motorcycles. Now also with LeanNova as a consultant. We have seen some of Eduards stunning 9-5 generation III designs here at SaabsUnited last year.

– Victor Holmquist at Volvo Construction Equipment is a hard core gear-head with the right mindset and radical ideas on car design. I have seen the designs he sent to Saab when he applied for a job some years ago. His design of an  upgraded 9-3 and fighterjet inspired racer Sonett where mindblowing. Victor had his AlfaRomeo GTV “Modifcatizione” in my carage in Stockholm for some years before moving to Göteborg. That car has so much carbonfiber stuff made by Viktor.

– Ola Granlund, he runs his own design studio in Göteborg. Long time with Saab and according to ex. design chief at Saab Björn Envall, one of the most talented “young” designers he has seen at Saab. His name Granlund is of the Saab family in Trollhättan, his dad Olle was product manager. I met Ola in the military way back in the 1985.

Design is I would say and stick out my chin, is the most important asset for a smaller or boutique car manufacturer. Design must take the lead in front of the mechanical engineering (sorry boys and girls in that engineering field). The competition is so hard today so why not make a design that stands out. Give You a fresh exampel. Mercedes is about to launch new vehicles with “older” design chassis components. The mechanical engineers grinds their teeth, but carry on the new order. Most cars are good on the road and the average buyer does not crawl around on the showroom marbelfloor to inspect if the car has a 3-4-5-6 link rear axle. But the design of the car body, lines and curves is crucial. And just not to mention how the buyers are greeted and taken care of by the sales staff, but that is another write-up here at SU.

88 thoughts on “Ex. Saab designers to Geely/Volvo – Who designs Saab?”

  1. Eduardo Gray is on my list as well. I hope the new 9-3 face lift looks a little like the Mark III. Also the guy that went to Porsche I forget his name.

    • A dangerous route to drive…. one must have a strong core of designers in-house. For special models an independent designer can be brought in. Saab has done this before with the Sonett III that got its lines from Italy.

      • And, the home-designed Sonett II is MUCH better looking IMHO. I’m not an Italian design fan except for Alfa Romeo. Anytime the Sonett II comes up in articles nowadays, the comments are like “OMG, beautiful!” and such. I never see those remarks for the Italian designed Sonett III. I want Scandinavian designers for a Swedish car. And, I want a car that looks like nothing else on the road.

        • I once owned Sonett #376, the design never grew on me. The only good design was the flipfront with easy engine accessability.
          The trunk design is 100% diisaster. I mailbox is a better solution. It is the only Saab I have ever sold not regretting having sold it.

    • To amplify the notion that automobile business is global;
      “In 2006, Hyundai hired Thomas Bürkle as head of the company’s design center in Russelsheim, Germany. Burkle had previously worked for BMW, having designed the 3 Series sedan and wagon, and the 6 Series.”

      I think there are few individuals that will argue with the market success of Hyundai, and their current designs.
      Their success and designs are not coincidental.

          • Certainly true. However, Saab didn’t fail because of its design and Hyundai is not triumphing because of its design. Hyundai is doing well because of their phenomenal warranties and good marketing strategies. Those were two perennial weak points at Saab.

            • True to an extent—but I do think the Sonata for example, took off because of the exterior design and interior comfort. My co-worker had one—-great huge sunroof, nice leather interior, very affordable. They knocked off Mercedes and did a good enough job that people noticed and that drove the sales spike as much as the warranty coverage—-which has existed for a long time now.

              • I had a 2012 Sonata as a rental car for two weeks whilst on vacation. It unfortunately had the standard cloth seats and they were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever experienced. Sounds like the leather ones are much better.

                • Patrik: They are not up to the standard of my 2004 Saab—-but her car cost her about the same in 2011 as my Saab cost in 2004. It’s an affordable car that has styling that resonates with younger buyers—lots of features—very adequate performance and a ridiculously long warranty. NEVS is in for a wild ride if they try to take the Muller path.

        • Well, the good news is that these nicely designed Saabs can be had cheap—-resale has collapsed and there’s plenty of them. As long as Orio can supply parts to keep them on the road, you can buy a well equipped Saab for a lot less than most anything else, including fast selling Hyundai.

    • I agree, but unlike most others, I think his 9-3 was the most worthy design. I really regret not being able to look forward to buying one. I look at his 9-1 and Sonett designs and I see a little too much “me-too”. I look at the 9-3 and I see strength, beauty, and functionality all in one. The car seems to be saying, “Let the boys play their silly games, I’ll stand proud and be what a car should be.” I see a bold stance, great aerodynamics, roominess, and a timeless design. Sure it needs refinement but I see a design that would have made Saab stand out from the crowd again. And, the contour of the hood and front grill, when viewed in a side profile, remind me very much of the original SAAB 92. Oh well, maybe NEVS will surprise us all, hopefully in a good way.

    • We have more pictures from this, and interior shots, but are still waiting on permission to publish them from JC. Interviewed him 6 months ago, posted the draft here, and then lost the ambition to even publish after he kept delaying sending images. I’ll try to follow up with him again.

  2. Congratulations to Simon Padian for moving to Volvo. They can sure use the help, their exterior designs have been good lately, but the interiors aren’t worthy of a premium car. That waterfall theme wasn’t pretty when it first came out (especially in Volvo’s preferred grey-on-grey colourways). Now it’s both ugly and dated. Let’s hope that Geely gives him the resources to get Volvo back in the game.

  3. NEVS should give Jason Castriota a go at it! Giugaro design would also design a beautiful car. I’m sorry to say that Swedish designers are no match to Italian designers! If you want a beautiful design and to have an Impact and make the auto world talk then it must be Italian design, they are simply the Best!

  4. Ola Granlund has been a much underestimated designer at Saab for a long time. Among other things he made the 2008 facelift for the 9-3 which I think still is a very nice and Saabish design. He also made the design transformation of the Subaru WRX – into the Saab 9-2 (still one of the best looking subaru’s).

    I believe Ola has at least a decade of experience from the Saab Design department, he’s born in Trollhättan and as Trued said his father has among other things been project manager for the development of Saab 9-5, so Ola sure has Saab in the genes.

    I’m sure Ola also stood behind a lot of other design work that was presented to the public by Anthony Lo, Simon P or other guys. It’s a common rule in the automotive industry that somebody else than the actual designer is presenting the car design. Usually there is at least one exterior and one interior designer, or rather a whole team of designers.

    I also think the concepts presented by Eduard Gray has been amazing (haven’t seen Victor H designs), but why not hire all the three of them as a team.

  5. I think that Anthony Lo together with Simon Padian have worked extensively at SAAB.

    To the best of my knowledge
    Simon Padian was a SAAB Brand Design Chief and
    Anthony Lo was a GM Europe Advanced Design Director

  6. Einar Hareide led my favorite Saab designs: first-generation 9-5 sedan and wagon and 2003 9-3. Just the right blend of the classic Saab aesthetic with contemporary sensibility and lots of nice compound curves. What is he doing nowadays?

    • I’m also very fond of Einar Hareide’s Saab designs. The original 9-5 from 1997 has really nice lines and has aged beautifully and the same goes for the OG 9-3. That Hareide has his own design studio makes it easier to contract him as well. Otherwise I really liked Jason Castriota’s designs, especially the new 9-3 which unfortunately never made it into production. Bring back the hatch! 🙂

      • “Bring back the hatch” . JH: wisest words spoken here in a long time.
        I believe when SAAB gave up the hatch design, they lost some of their competitive advantage and identity in the marketplace. The market-death spiral began.
        I’d love to know (impossible) how many SAAB’s were purchased due to the cavernous and well designed hatch implementation vs. competitive units.
        Anyone want to venture a guess?
        “Bring back the hatch”…, alas; is it too late?

        • Scrapping the hatch/CombiCoupe/Wagonback was a horribly wrong executive desicion at Saab. It was the highest level management who failed.
          When Saab failed some of the competition made them, Audi A5, A7, BMW GT and now 3 Series GT, Porsche Panamera.
          For cry out Saab just about created this styling in 1974 with the 99 CombiCoupe with Björn Envall at the helm. Saab had been looking at Renault 16 then for inspiration. Here some trivia Björn told me the other day; the square lights on the 99 came after having looked at the first Renault 16. 99 was scheduled to have round lights in europe.

          • Saab was left with little choice but to abandon the hatch once GM cut Saab’s budget. They probably should have abandoned the 9-3 wagon in favor of the hatch, especially since having a 9-3 and 9-5 wagon seemed counterproductive. Yet at the same time, the 9-5 wagon was unexpectedly successful so I guess they were hoping to same would ring true for the 9-3SC It is indeed frustrating.

            • As I have said before, and Angelo so eloquently echoes; the only metric in business that really counts is success.
              Failure by any measure is just that…failure.
              Hyundai has obviously met a market desire, and filled it. Their success is, and should be enviable by every automobile manufacturer in the world.
              NEVS take note.

            • I’m sorry, but your comment makes little sense, Patrick.
              If they already had the design, and tooling, etc…why would a budget cut and a redesign cost less?
              As Trued said, it was just a bad decision. Nothing more, nothing less..

              • Don’t shoot the messenger. Just telling you what I read many years ago. The 9-3 lineup was to consist of a sedan, wagon, convertible, and a three-door hatch. Naturally, the sedan formed the core of the engineering and design effort. The convertible and wagon were relatively simple derivations of the sedan. The hatch was to use a significantly different version of the platform and thus required a significant investment beyond what was already completed for the other models. Perhaps I should have elaborated earlier. No, I do not blame GM for everything. In fact, I give GM a LOT more credit than most Saab fans do. I happily drive a GM Saab and love it dearly.

                • Thank you for the most eloquent clarification of your point, Patrick.
                  Agreed; I think the effort for the sedan as being the core, was to “mainstream” the SAAB design, regrettably losing its identity and competitive advantage. Was that a SAAB decision…we’ll never know for sure.
                  Of all of the SAABS I’ve owned, I must say my 2006 9-5 was the most enjoyable and trouble free of all of my previous SAABS, as borne out by my excellent dealer service department. (I tend to keep them many miles). I do think GM brought more mechanical predictability to the table, while not diluting the brand excessively; and of course extended the life of our beloved SAAB many years beyond its natural life.

  7. Hmmmm…… Might be a challenge…… Good – and needed – for Volvo, maybe not so good for Saab. To design a SAAB is not just to design a car. It is so important that SAABs identity – and not at least; integrity will be kept and progressively developed. What has been – and should be – so strong and extraordinary about SAAB-design is:
    – Integrity between the technological progressiveness and “out-of-box-thinking” and the design itself (Shape, lines. aerodynamics).
    – An understanding of the “wholeness”, the main-lines, the body-stance etc as being more important than “smart” or trendy details and the details as elements that should be supporting the main-attitude in the wholeness of the design and company-philosophy.
    – Scandinavian minimalism, with a meaning for every decision and detail.
    – As a consequence: SAAB should not take part in the never- ending competition about silly new tail-lights etc. with no relation to the wholeness that makes most of modern cars (not at least Mercedes, actually) look so “alike” each other and very much like a messy puzzle.
    I really hope NEVS/SAAB will find the right people to continue and develop this design-philosophy!
    In that sense, SAAB will stick out from the crowd and have a meaning. If not, it will just be another car – and as such; completely uninteresting.

  8. Too pity Simon’s gone, however,
    a clear vote PRO J A S O N C A S T R I O T A ! !

    He’s inhaled the SAAB virus and history and proved it through marvelous phoenix-designs. He could even go a step further with the next generation based on his phoenix concepts and create a truly unique, “corky” saab. He’s the man !

      • I have e-mail contact with Andreas for over half a year now, regarding job as digital sculptor, the same job I had at Saab. In beginning of October it seemed like the final decision for this job was close, but I waited, and just a few days ago I got the message that the date for decision about this job has been moved forward, perhaps to beginning of next year, or the spring. I have not asked Andreas about details of what he does, I know that the design of a car is top secret until the car is released and in production. But I assume he has done the facelift for the first Nevs 9-3 to be produced soon, and the electric version that will come next year. I also assume he now is working with the new 9-3 on the Phoenix platform. I once asked him if he has any more designers with him, but I never got an answer. To design a complete new car is a big job, perhaps Nevs does like Saab did with the new 9-3, engage a designer like Castriota.

  9. Einar Hareide, Simon Padian and Anthony Lo most definitely understood what a Saab should look like. The original 9-5, 9-3SS and AeroX were timeless as was the NG9-5 which regretfully had its life cut short. Saab needs to continue the design revolution that was started by the NG9-5 which is, IMO, timeless. Forget the JC 9-3 which was a total mess that would have been a disaster saleswise.

    • Agreed! All of their designs are timeless, like a Saab should be. I drive an ’03 9-3SS and I am amazed at the number of people who think it’s practically brand new. Regular washing and waxing helps a lot, but I think that speaks volumes about Saab design. With a minor facelift and some reworkings to the interior, a NEVS 9-3 can do well, from a design perspective at least. The NG9-5 is a stunning design and I think many of its wonderful qualities could easily be transferred over (or at least inspired) to a facelifted 9-3.

      • Patrik H, I agree with You.
        Zippy, have heard that it was Jan-Åke Jonsson who hired Jason Castriota now looking back on what came out not the best decision. Specially when knowing what the work environment at the design department was like at that time when Jason occasionally showed up in Trollhättan.

    • +1 , those cars are imho also the best designs there are.
      JC:s designs are brave and forwards thinking but they don’t capture anything of Saabs prior design language.

  10. One hero from the Saab design department whom I forgot to mention in my previous post is Matias Cindric. He has been playing behind the scenes, but was responsible for the overall co-ordination of Saab design iwhen the design headquarters moved to Russelheim (Opel) for the 9-x concept cars and the 9-5 NG – must have been tough work to fight with those GM people.

    Matias is currently working at Yovinn AB

  11. OK, so with the risk of sounding overly negative, sorry for that in advance.
    Guys, face it, NEVS is designing cars for China. If you have seen all the Frankencopies of main stream Western cars driving around in China then you know that NEVS doesn’t need any high flying designers. A high school kid with a nice box of crayons will be sufficient to fill Padan’s and all other escapees old shoes.

    Yeah, sorry again, that sounded pretty negative after all. I decided to stay out of the discussions for most of the last year, but this feeling of doom has been growing on me lately.

    • Welcome to the dark side Gerrit. I actually have less doom and gloom than you do about what type of cars NEVS/Saab is capable of building. I have plenty of doom and gloom though, about the fact that they seem incapable of running a business.

  12. I agree with Trued. Mechanical parts innovation is not my worry I prefer stuff reliability and cheap parts available in short time including aftermarket like it is with my 9-3 2009 at the moment. The same chassis, proved turbo engine and Aisin auto 6 gears or more enough to restart and show up sales numbers to assure investors that project is effective. Many my friends share it is a trend product cycle decreasing every year. All carmakers have to show up completely new model every 5-6 years so design is only the key to success. Look at Korean manufacturers whos kia or hyundai in mechanical stuff is nothing frank or in the other hand local GB small boutique car producers – Lotus, Caterham, Ginetta etc. they are still alive producing probably hundreds of cars only.

  13. I’ve been told who’s designing the facelift as of May. He’s not mentioned above, and he’s not from one of this community’s favorite companies if you catch my drift. He also has experience designing cars to appeal to the Chinese market, which obviously makes sense. It just so happens that cars for that market appeal to me, like compact SUVs and premium compacts (except the long wheelbase compacts, gag). I’m actually not worried, he’s good. Haven’t seen a damn thing yet that he’s done for Saab yet, that should change soon.

    • I’m not worried about the designs we will see, in time. I am worried about whether all of us will have a chance to buy one of them—-that is, unless we all move to China.

    • Does not sound to good in my ears, I am sorry to say…. Designing to “appeal to the Chines market” (or to any “common taste” ) is not the right way, IMO. Design is – or should be – an honest expression for a true attitude and philosophy, integrated with a general approach to life. That, IMO, SAAB has done through the years, but only very few other car-manufactures. Design or art made to satisfy a general (lack of) taste will never be true and therefore uninteresting…. But let us see and hope for the best: New generations of SAABs with integrity, philosophy. logic and personality reflected and integrated in the design.

      • I like the way you expressed that and maybe that’s the reason I love my Saab. But think the trick will be to keep people like you and I as customers by doing things just different enough—-trying to keep with the spirit you just laid out beautifully—-but on the other hand, making the full product line more accessible to more people than the old Saab ever did. The reason I say that is because while that philosophy you described served us well as buyers, it did not serve Saab well as a company who must sell a lot of cars and make a lot of profits. They have to find the sweet spot of offering the type of engineering and design we want, with a bit more mass appeal and affordability to stay in business this time. This is not an easy task—-it’s very daunting.

      • Troels, I sure hope common taste equals to people with families and not just some modern day green yuppie trendsetter who wants to drive the latest fashion statement which he or she can flip as soon as someone else offers more bling…
        The future ‘Chinese influnced Saabs’ might even have RWD, enormous back seat leg room, but no cargo space to speak of?
        Better take good care of your 9-5 SC’s boys.

      • Saab design is “my thing” so I love these kinds of discussions. You are absolutely right that Saab has a long, proud history of unique design and unique engineering solutions. I hope the future of Saab will continue these traits. However, to build upon what Angelo says, I think the key will be to use design and engineering to emphasize why Saab is ‘better’, not merely to emphasize why it is ‘unique.’ The difference is subtle, but it’s critically important. Saab needs to be different because it’s better, not just for the sake of being different. Many have suggested this to be Saab’s fatal flaw, and that began decades ago, long before the GM and Spyker eras. As a Saab owner, I absolutely swear by many of the brand’s so-called “quirks”, the center-mounted ignition being one. However, these quirks must be communicated as advantages!

  14. SAAB traditionally did not design things just to be different. Their airplane heritage affected the design and engineering and this contributed to the cars being different. Later, that heritage became diluted because the cars had to be based on global platforms for reasons of economics. This resulted in the the owners/managers of SAAB insisting that these generic based models had to have the ignition key on the floor for the cars to be real SAABs. This missed the point entirely. It wasn’t the key on the floor that made the older SAABs different, it was the thinking that put the key on the floor in the first place that made them special.

  15. Google: Wulin Gao Wa
    She is an up and coming Chinese car designer.
    Expect her to make waves in the market, and NEVS would be very lucky to have her in studio.
    Angelo would like her too!

    • Joe: Please. You are trivializing what Rachel Pang and I had, by making it seem as though I would also fall for Wulin Gao Wa. Besides, it would be easier for me to introduce my family and friends to my new girlfriend Rachel, than to my new girlfriend Wulin Gao Wa.

      • Angelo;
        Did you see Wulin Gao Wa’s photo?
        Like I said, NEVS would be lucky to have her.
        Keep Jason C, I’ll take her any day.

  16. The NG Saab 95 was completely designed in Opel Ruesselsheim . No Saab designers were involved. Same goes for the Saab 94 which was designed in the US. The Saab brand studio was involved in colour and trim and some interior detailing. If the 9x Air , bio hybrid , Ng 95 , Aero x were key designs then the ultimate Saab team would be Mark Adams, Malcolm ward and Anthony Lo.

    Original 9x – Michael Mauer who has gone on to make an amazing job at Porsche.

Comments are closed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.