David over at Thirdway Advertising Blog has a great post on his site about the ongoing dilution of the Saab brand. Whilst I don’t necessarily share his pessimism about Saab’s medium to long term future, it is a timely reminder that the things that make Saab the carmaker that I love are becoming less and less prevalent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve driven the 9-3 on both road and track and it’s as much fun as you can have sitting down. The 2005 9-5 is a beautiful car and as comfortable a tourer as you could ask for. I’ll reserve my comments on the new 9-5 until I drive one next year.
David sums a few things up pretty succinctly:
The most important thing about the Saab from a branding standpoint is that it embodied the three characteristics of great brands – it was authentic, it was unique and it was consistent. In this world of the Gap, Starbuck’s and McDonald’s the value of brands that are different from the mainstream cannot be overstated. Saab had that.
Even more succinct:
Great brands have in intuitive ability to get the small things right.
If there’s one thing that’s evaporated from Saab’s build language, it’s this. Corporate development has taken the place of intuitive development and I fear that the newer Saab models might suffer from this. We’ve all lamented the loss of a hatchback Saab and as good as the 9-3SS is, the practicality of a Saab hatch was pretty much without equal. Sportiness, comfort, safety, performance and practicality all rolled into one.
These days it would appear that models have to toe the corporate line of fiscal responsibility before the practicalities of the design are nailed down. When you read that GM is allowing Saab’s designers more creative freedom, it’s a relative turn of phrase, I’m afraid.
I’d encourage you to read David’s article: Sad case of Saab.
I’m quite optomistic about the future for Saab. I refuse to believe that a car company with so much to offer could be left to wither. It’s going to take a fair bit of faith on the part of someone with fairly deep pockets, but I still firmly believe that the Saab design ethos is timeless, and therefore able to carry on into the future.