Oh boy. I feel like I’m biting the hand that feeds here, but Saab like this website to be independent, so independent and opinionated it will be.
Saab appointed a new Design chief yesterday. Jason Castriota comes with a fine pedigree and a range of striking and beautiful designs in his personal portfolio. Under normal circumstances I’d throw my arms wide open and say welcome to the family.
But these don’t feel like normal circumstances to me. So whilst I’m excited that Saab has someone like Castriota on board, I also feel uneasy.
Victor Muller has often commented on the fact that Saab has the most loyal customers of any car brand, bar none. I happen to agree. However, in the more focused enthusiast world, I think that loyalty extends a little beyond just the cars. Many of us also have some amount of attachment to the company and the people therein that we get to know over time.
It’s hard to hear this announcement about Jason Castriota and not wonder about what might have happened to Simon Padian. Simon has been described as being the head of Saab Design for the last few years. He’s been the face of many Saab films and design-related releases and his work has been valued to no small degree by the fans of the company. He did all this through some very difficult times for the company. I guess you could say he’s been as loyal to Saab as what many of the fans have been over the difficult years.
In writing all of this, I have to say that I’m completely unaware as to Simon’s fate in light of this decision. He may be staying on at Saab and continuing his work there. he may be moving on. I don’t know, but I do know that he was a notable absentee from the 9-5 launch event I attended in Sweden just over a week ago.
Simon Padian is a Brit, but he’s worked for Saab for 20 years, lives in Sweden, speaks Swedish and has led a team of dedicated Saab designers. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he ‘gets it’ when it comes to Saab.
It should be noted that the Castriota appointment appears to be the outsourcing of some Saab Design. Castriota’s entire design company will work on Saab and his offices are in New York and Turin. Saab’s origins in Sweden and the functional design implied therein are crucial values in the fabric of the company. There’s no word on how much time Castriota or his people will spend in Sweden, but the other question that must be asked in light of this corporate appointment is what will it mean for other members of Saab’s Design team? Will it still remain the size that it is?
The answers to questions about Simon Padian and the size of the design team may not involve negative answers, but in the eyes of someone who values loyalty to the Saab brand, they’re questions that are worth asking. Maybe design needs some new blood, as some have suggested, but the question is still worth asking.
There is no doubt that Castriota is a young star of the design world. Like the appointment of Adrian Hallmark, this is a move that’s a great coup for Saab, but at what cost?
Simon Padian and the Saab Design team understand the brand. They live it. I’m very keen to see what Castriota will bring to the table but I hope the Saab Design appointment means more to him than another feather in his cap. I’m pretty sure it meant more than that to his predecessors.