I may be biased (as a matter of fact, I know I am), but my 1999 model Saab 9-3 Viggen is the best Saab I’ve ever driven. I’m also honest enough to say that a recent 9-5 Aero might challenge for that title if I got a chance to drive one for a little while. By all accounts, they’re an excellent car with performance and comfort a-plenty.
On the weekend, a few of us had a chance meeting with a UK Saab enthusiast who laid claim to over 2,000,000 miles driven in Saabs over the years. He’d owned older Saabs back to the 99, several 900’s and currently owns a 9-5. He was lamenting the ‘demise’ of Saab under GM ownership but loves his 9-5, saying it’s possibly the last of the ‘real’ Saabs. Like my 1999 Viggen, his 9-5 (year unknown) will quite likely have some GM-stamped parts under the hood.
Let me briefly lay claim again – these cars, the 9-5 and Viggen, are possibly two of the best Saabs ever built in terms of performance, quality and comfort – and they’ve got GM parts in them.
Now, I’m not questioning his love for Saab one little bit. The man was genuine. I’m just questioning how you write off a future era based on one of the players in that era when the player has made a positive contribution to the continued existence and improvement of the brand. I know that cost cutting in recent years has made the cars more generic, but I’m trying to see that as a growing pain that was necessary to bring some stability in the present and thereby facilitate some growth and a return to character for the future. I’m as disappointed as anyone that a 9x-based vehicle hasn’t come to pass, but I’m also a trained finance professional. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Despite what you read here on occasions, I’m trying to stay pretty upbeat about the future of Saab. Like many of you, I reckon the potential’s there for some great things over the next few years and am drooling at the possibility of Saab’s first genuine SUV entrant and maybe even a Sonett renaissance at Geneva in just over a month from now.
As buzzed as I get from the possibility of great Saabs in the future (and I do think the best is yet to come), it’s always good to have a look back and see where they’ve come from. I hope they guys at GM and Saab watch stuff like the following video occasionally, to remember Saab’s heritage and philosophy in it’s proper context, not in a way that suits their current marketing strategy. I have a feeling that a lot of the people that really matter when it comes to design and engineering need no reminder whatsoever. It’s most likely to be the suits that cut the cheques that need to see some old school Saab to get their minds straight.
The following video is a Google Video presentation called "The Saab Difference". It’s from 1990 and it heralds some of Saab’s unique car design and building philosophies. If they were different from other manufacturers, it was because of a conscious decision that a car had to be made the right way, which can differ from the common way. It’s the philosophy that underpinned Saab successfully for many years and whilst the technologies have changed and Saab needs to change with them, the philosophy remains the same.
Here’s hoping that powers that be think so too.
My thanks to TuuSaR for dropping the link in comments.