Lifeline, or deathknell?

Some Saab news from Reuters this evening.

GM Chairman Robert Lutz has come out in support of the Saab brand, but claiming that Saab will have to produce 250,000 units a year in order to get profitable.  Saab sold 128,000 units in 2004.

"We like the brand, and we want to retain it," Lutz told Automotive News Europe in an interview published on Monday. "We will do what is needed to keep the Swedish character of Saab."

One option GM has considered is for all Saab models to share architectures with other GM brands, including engines and transmissions, the paper said.

A Saab design team would add "Swedishness" to Saab models derived from other GM divisions and affiliates. It said the same team developed the Saab 9-2 based on the Subaru Impreza and the Saab 9-7 SUV derived from the Chevrolet TrailBlazer.

Forgive me for my scepticism, but I’m not sure you can just chuck a generic machine out there and "add Swedishness".  What are they going to do?   Roll out a Chevy and spray it with Norsca?

Saab design is innovative, original, groundbreaking, thoughtful, functional and often unique.  You can’t easily just go ahead and draft this into a generic automobile.  Lutz is looking for a mass-production solution to what is, in essence, a niche market.

I guess a part of the problem is that there aren’t enough people out there that will appreciate the thought, planning and functionality that’s built into a Saab.  People in the ‘massest’ mass market of them all, the US (where GM has to crack it with the Saab brand) prefer raw power to sophisticated power.  Hence the 9-7x about to go on sale there.  Unfortunately it seems that if the dollar is truly the final decider, the ultimate dilution of the Saab brand may only be a few years away.

The only question left is, what happens then?  Could there be a white knight that recognises the value and uniqueness of the Saab brand and philosophy?  There are other divisions of the original Saab AB company that survive on their innovation and quality and perhaps if the automobile company is cut loose there may be some sort of business plan that can get this company back to the place where it belongs.

If you’re like me, the value of the Saab brand is its differentiality from other car makers.  Hopefully, with or without GM, there is a way to preserve this into the future.  There’s a very rich heritage that would be left behind.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *