The Un-Truth About Cars

Warning: long post ahead.

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I’ve got a problem with Robert Farago and The Truth About Cars.  Farago’s a great writer.  One whose work has entertained me in 5 minute lots for the last year or so.  His staple is the GM Deathwatch series, which sort of makes sense – and sort of doesn’t.  Why hitch your wagon to an entity that you believe is going to die?  You make your name and then what?

And what if you’re wrong and end up looking like an idiot?

Having participated myself in this web publishing thing for a year or so now, I also question the wisdom of biting the entire arm the feeds you.  It’s one thing to write ‘fearlessly’ about everything you see that’s wrong with a particular company (or companies), but when you rely on those companies to provide you with cars to write about then you shouldn’t be too surprised when they stop returning your calls or sending you their cars.  Farago himself had to post a plea on TTAC for cars to test – precisely for this reason.

At the moment, Farago sells.  He writes well and everyone loves to hear some commentary on the seeming death of a giant.  It’s like slowing down to rubberneck at an accident.  There’s nothing pleasant about it but you’re compelled to do it anyway.

But what does he do if and when GM prospers again?  Does he recant everything he’s written (59 episodes of Deathwatch so far) and shut up shop?  Does he move to Germany, sit and bask in the machinery he really loves?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, Farago’s recently been concerning himself with Saab.  As it’s a GM brand now, he’s consistently black about the future.  I didn’t expect anything else.  I don’t agree with him but what frustrates me about the whole ordeal is the populist crap that’s included to season the column.  The sniggering anti-GM crowd love it but dig a little deeper and the comedy is revealed as being just theatre and little else.

GM’s Car Czar was busy unveiling Saab’s Aero-X, a Corvette-based concept car….

Wrong – it’s not Corvette based at all.  Don’t let your own photo with the prominent wheel arches fool you, Robert.  It’s a concept based on a completely independant platform that won’t see production.  But hitching it to another GM car suits Farago’s unquenchable thirst for GM badge-engineering stories.

….a brand that’s lost GM several billion dollars over 17 years.

Overstatement.  Commonly believed to be wrong.  There’s been no amount stated for Saab’s losses, but everyone else in the industry reports a figure of about 1 billion over GM’s total interest in the company.  Farago’s overstating for effect, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

….Lutz’ alternative to York’s Saabicide is badge engineering. Or, more specifically, MORE badge engineering. Yes, now that The General has sold off its share in Subaru, the plan to transform Japanese Scoobies into Swedish Saabs has been ditched in favor of turning German Opels into Swedish Saabs (with an Ohio SUV thrown in for good measure).

It’s all well and good to live in an idealized world where funds are free-flowing and accountability is seemingly non-existant.  History will tell us that Saab lived in this world for a long time right before Investor AB decided to divest itself of the carmaker.  The need to badge-engineer was a business necessity in order to expand the range in a cost-effective manner.  Whilst it wasn’t done as well as it could have been IMHO (i.e. 9-2x), I can see the business case for it given the circumstances. 

It’s a case of head vs heart.  As Jimmy Johnson said in The Cinderella man (last night on DVD) "My heart is for my family.  My brains and my balls are for business, and this is business".  Investor AB’s decision to sell it’s decidedly Swedish car company was ‘business’.  GM’s decision to more actively manage Saab is ‘business’.  It’s a matter of how well you pull it off.  In the case of the 9-2x, not that well.  In the case of the 9-7x, better.

Saab are now working on a new entry-level car – from the ground up.  They’re also working on at least one new SUV – from the ground up.  Yes, they’ll share underpinnings with other vehicles –  but that’s ‘business’.  The market will judge whether they’re Saab enough, and if they aren’t they won’t sell.

I’ll get to the oft-quoted and much-wrong thing about Opel in a second.

Saab’s ignition key slot will remain in between the front seats, but the decisions about its major components will now be taken somewhere a long way away from Sweden.

What’s he referring to here?  Powertrain?  Is the Swedish-specced, Mexican-cast, Australian-assembled twin-scroll turbo 2.8l V6 engine not a decent powerplant?  It certainly was when I drove it last month and it had the key hallmark of a Saab powerplant – huge torque over a wide band.

Other components perhaps?  Well, if you’re worrying that much about where your window switches are manufactured then perhaps your priorities need reassessment.  What counts is design, which will be shared between Sweden and Germany.

Anyway, as the Saab faithful will tell you, it’s too late to worry about the brand’s identity

Don’t presume to speak for the Saab faithful, Farago, unless you’ve spent more than 5 minutes among them.  Who carries the brand’s identity other than the faithful?  If GM as a corporate parent don’t remain faithful to the brand’s identity then the market will tell them that that’s happening, the 9-2x being a case in point.  The 9-3 SportCombi being another, but on the positive side.  The 9-5 Biopower’s success in Sweden yet another.

There will always be those that think Saab died in 1993 when the last of the 900’s rolled off the line.  Let them be.  I don’t agree with them at all.  But that’s me.

the Opel Vectra-based Saabs drive remarkably like… Opel Vectras.

Bullshit on two levels in one sentence!!  First, it’s really, really popular to claim that the 9-3 Sport Sedan is based on an Opel Vectra.  Journo’s, particularly slack ones in the US, do this all the time.  Everyone else is saying it and it’s GM, so people will believe it without question, right?

Wrong!

Fact is, the Epsilon platform that underpins both cars was first used in the MY03 Saab 9-3, in concurrence with the MY03 Vectra.  The fact that the Opel sells more because of price leads most to think that GM just gave it to Saab afterwards and said "do something based on this".  Does the Opel have the Re-Axs rear suspension setup?  No.  Does it handle similar to a 9-3SS?  Hell, no!

As a matter of fact, the 9-3SS and the amount of changing to Epsilon (and electrical issues as well) is precisely, according to my research, why GM stepped in and had to take budgetary control of the company.  Saab modified Epsilon so much that the 9-3 in it’s current form can’t be built anywhere else but in Sweden.

It’s a populist stance that’s very common (Farago’s little helper, Johnny Lieberman also misstates it in his kack-handed review of the 9-3 Aero) – and very wrong.  But again, why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

The rest of the article is classic case of mis-quotation for effect.  Farago seems to take some joy in tapdancing on Saab’s perceived grave because it suits his anti-GM purpose.  He also seems to hint at a twinge of sadness about the loss of a previously independant thinking automaker.  Yet he makes no overtures whatsoever as to what could be done to take Saab back to those ‘900 days’.

In my opinion, Saab certainly isn’t as independant and innovative as it once was.  It can’t be.  Why?  Is it because of GM’s corporate ownership stifling the creativity of the Saab engineers etc?  Well, partly.

But the prime reason Saab cannot currently be the Saab we fans want it to be is down to this: Profitability.  It’s hard to swallow, but it’s the most basic fact there is in business.  You gotta pay the bills and carry your weight.  True innovation comes from lots and lots of Research and Development.  And the type of R&D we’d expect from Saab is only possible with either bottomless pockets or decent profits. 

Is Saab everything I’d like it to be at the moment?  No.

Is GM the ideal corporate parent for Saab?  No (my opinion), but it’s the one we’ve got and I think there’s hope.  And those of you that would rather see Saab in Kia’s or Hyundai’s hands, or a Chinese company’s hands – please take a gutcheck.  If that happens then you can kiss the Saab ethos and culture a very quick goodbye.  I know I will, and this site will become just an archive.

Is Saab doomed?  Hell no!  Despite the recent overtures that there’s nothing left of Saab as an independant company to sell – don’t believe it.  If GM can’t produce results in the next few years they will sell it.  Where there’s product, premises, patents and goodwill at stake then there’s always something to negotiate.

I know this whole post has sounded like a GM apologetics study.  Not so.  I’m just not one of those that subscribes to the belief that GM’s ownership of Saab has been the death of the company.  My Viggen has plenty of GM bits in it and it’s the most sensational car I’ve ever owned.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  The 2006 9-3 Aero I drove last month was a superb vehicle and 100% in the Saab tradition as I’ve experienced it.

Don’t believe everything you read by the likes of Farago, regardless of how well it’s written.  Check the context and check the facts.

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29 Comments

  1. Great article Swade.

    I dont even think this guy has driven a Saab 9-3 OR an Opel Vectra. Yes they share the same platform but to drive they couldnt be more different. The Saab is very sporty and likes to be “chucked about” like every good sport sedan does wheras the Vectra likes to be driven more sedately with its cushier suspension settings.

    Only similarity, they are both very comfortable!

    Maybe this pillock shpould sit down so we cant hear him talking out of his a**!

  2. Swade and ZIPPY, as one who in a recent post praised Farago’s writing, I noted his several errors relating to SAAB finances, driving dynamics, etc. But what I zeroed in on was his guts to call Bob Lutz for his outrageousness in basically bragging about how GM had reined SAAB in. He was also right on target regarding how GM’s business model sucks the creative life out of its car units. Yes, ZIPPY, Swade makes a logical sounding business case, until you ask yourself this question: What would you think of a company that took over Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Alfa, cut those makers’ worldclass technical staffs in half, said it was stopping them from developing their own engines from scratch, forced them to use the platforms of Hyundai’s and Daewoo’s, and then halted their ability to modify what they were handed? It’s not an unfair comparison to what GM’s done, however much either of you may wish to deny it. Bottom line: if a parent company can’t support worldclass car building, it should not own such a company. Period.
    As a SAAB owner since 1975 who finds himself contemplating when he will switch to an Audi, all because of what GM has been doing, I can only say, “THANK YOU, Robert Farago! Thank you for having the guts to say what no one else has the guts to say to these bastards!” Except Jerry York, of course.

  3. Great post Swade.

    My thoughts precisely while I was reading the article. This guy is so full of it that I wonder how is it possible that he didn’t drown in it by now.

  4. On a lighter note, Swade, your recent discussion of sales data and inventory assumptions provided me the opportunity to make good on a months old promise to give you a fresh update on SAAB inventory. As you’ll see, days inventory corresponds to sales data, i.e., 9-5 poor sales equal extremely high inventory; 9-3 largely stagnant sales equal high inventory. There were no days listed for the 9-2, for which a mere 61 units were sold in the USA during all of February. What gives? Has 9-2 production been canned? Did I miss the announcement?
    The February inventory list that follows suggests SAAB is the most unpopular vehicle brand in America, which is good news for your USA readers hoping to snag a great deal. Keeping in mind the ideal inventory in auto manufacturing is about 65 days’ supply, the huge SAAB overstock has to mean big bargains!

    U.S. LIGHT VEHICLE INVENTORIES AS OF FEB. 1, 2006
    INVENTORY UNITS DAYS SUPPLY FEB 1 DAYS SUPPLY JAN 1
    9-2- 2,500— — – —
    9-3- 14,400— 223 184
    9-5- 3,700— 403 314
    Total SAAB Car* 20,500— 272 223
    9-7x- 2,300— 143 127
    Total SAAB—- 22,800— 249 207

    *Automotive News estimate

    INVENTORY: Unit count of vehicles on hand at dealerships, factory lots, ports of entry, and in transit on a specific date.
    DAYS SUPPLY: Number of days needed to sell all vehicles in inventory, based on the previous month’s selling rate.
    NOTE: Numbers may not add due to rounding.

    For comparison purposes, Volvo had 75 days vehicle inventory; Audi 57 days; Mercedes 56 days; and BMW 27 days. The monthly inventory report covers all light vehicles and light trucks sold in the USA, and SAAB stands out in the extreme. Domestic cars sales have been struggling against the Japanese competition, pushing the non-foreign inventory average to about 77 days. Few models had inventories higher than 100 days, and the several that did were no higher than 149 days, except for about two Hyundai exceptions that went past 200 days.
    Although the 9-7x, at 143 days, is more than twice ideal inventory, it is the lowest number SAAB has to worry about. However, I would caution against calling that Ohio truck the most popular “SAAB,” because the build numbers are exceedingly low. For example, during a period when Chevrolet built more than 17,000 of the 9-7x’s cheaper twin, the Trailblazer, there were less than 1,000 9-7x’s built. Yet the Trailblazer had only 97 days supply February 1. That’s still well above the target average, but no where near as difficult as the 9-7x oversupply.
    While I never suggest buying cars – especially SAABs – brand new, for those who do so, get out there and get your inventory reducing deal! Bargain hard, SAAB friends, because our favorite cars (and trucks?) are just not moving!

  5. Well put, Swade.

    Here’s the long and short of it: My old sales manager from the dealership (who is now living a dream and managing a Harley-Davidson sales floor) used to say based on his having grown up in a family that owned a GM dealer that there are essentially two people in the world… the people who love Saabs and the people who hate Saabs. I’ve heard it after the fact from my fiancée who grew up in a Saab dealer family as well.

    Fact is, a Saab is always going to be the sort of freak show that it has always been. I mean freak show in the kindest of terms, where Saab was the brand that defined itself by being different than everyone else. The press knows this, and that’s why you never read a glowing review of any Saab product unless they themselves are closet Saab fanatics. It’s not fair at all.

    From an enthusiast’s standpoint, I have driven everything from a two-cycle 95 right on up to the 2006 9-5 and 9-3 Aero. Everything about the new cars is still evolutionary from its predecessor, which is crucial in maintaining the identity of the vehicles. I feel a lot of 900 spirit when I’m in a new 9-3, or even the last generation (Alicia’s got a 95 900 V6, climbs icy driveways like nobody’s business).

    But, I’ve also driven a lot of cars that aren’t Saabs: a couple of Porsche 911 Carreras, a Lotus Esprit Turbo, craploads of BMW’s (3er right up through the 12-cylinder 7er), more Audis than I can count, Subarus, VW’s, Corvette Z06, to name a small sampling. Fact of the matter is, each of these cars had their own quirks and crappy qualities, too. I drive a Saab because it suits my desire for a car that is efficient, built like a brick shithouse, fast and intelligently designed. Those factors seperate the true Saabs (designed and built across the pond) from the rebadged garbage.

    From the Saab traditionalist’s eyes, the imposter cars have no true DNA about them and fail to return the same visceral data that a true Saab can. And with all this malarky about the platform sharing, lest we forget that the 9000, NG900 and 9-5 are ALSO built on other people’s platforms. The media just doesn’t get it.

  6. I recognize that much TTAC is hyperbole, but his last column involving Saab resonated with me. I don’t think GM will ever do well with Saab.

  7. I already sent him a scathing letter a couple of days ago, claiming he was a misinformed pile of shit (although I didn’t say that exactly). He wrote back yesterday and reinforced his opinions.

    I hold great hope for GM and Saab, though my patience, as well as the patience of many other consumers, is being tested. Saab has had quite a few five-year plans in the last five years. Imagine what could have been if the first one had succeeded.

  8. TTAC is a joke. Everything is reviewed through a juandiced prism and conformed to fit their already held assumptions about the product. It can make for enjoyable reading but doesn’t any more reliable insite to the reviewed car than a restaurant menu.

    His following is more a cult of personality than anything else. He spews out wity insults, regardless of “truth” and people love to pile on. GM is in effect like the ungainly nerd in primary school, everyone is too busy picking on him to notice anything done well.

  9. Ummm … excuse me, Swade’s choir, but the guy wasn’t … err … actually reviewing anything. Yes, he made the typically erroneous statement that an Opel and Opel-based SAAB drive similarly, but he’s hardly alone in that error. Those unfamiliar with front drive cars don’t drive the vehicles very effectively, particularly in the case of high performance versions. And, do we know for sure the Aero X ISN’T based at least loosely on a Corvette? GM did design it in-house, afterall, and never did say exactly what that frame is; has anyone compared the wheelbase and track specs to the new Corvette? I’ve written Farago this little Email compliment and apology, and I also compliment David Wishart for clearly seeing the main message of the excellent editorial.

    Dear Mr. Farago,

    I’m dropping you this line to thank you for calling General Motors to task for essentially destroying my favorite car maker of the past 31 years – SAAB. In recent months I have begun following a better-than-average SAAB owners’ blog, mainly in hopes of hearing news GM has sold SAAB before it is completely ruined. While I am confident your excellent column resonated with all SAAB owners – past and present – who lament the, at best, impending loss of the once proud brand, I apologize for those who have unfairly criticized you. As a former journalist, I appreciate that’s part of the territory and that you easily dismiss it. The gist of the anger, as I gauge it, is your statement that Opels drive remarkably like the Opel-based SAABs. As an experienced driver of the highest performance modern SAABs, I can assure you the 9-3 and 9-5 platforms have been enhanced by SAAB to be far better drives than any of the GM stable mates, particularly the 9-5 that’s been modified so extensively as to have a unique platform unto itself. This point goes right to the strength of your article, because with Lutz’s boast of GM’s recent incorporation of once independent SAAB, such essential modifications will very likely cease. (Ha, I’m kidding myself; read “will cease.”)
    For me, the key insights of your editorial, which the SAAB GM apologists invariably missed, was identifying Bob Lutz’s outrageousness for actually appearing to brag about reining in once independent SAAB, and how GM’s bureaucracy does, indeed, suck the life out of automotive creativity. You were equally outstanding for showing the outrageousness of Lutz’s pathetic misrepresentation of Jerry York’s current feelings on SAAB.
    I try my best to avoid commenting on the blogs, but the myopic criticism of your outstanding editorial unfortunately set me off. So I close by sharing with you a portion of my blog post:
    “As a SAAB owner since 1975 who finds himself contemplating when he will switch to an Audi, all because of what GM has been doing, I can only say, ‘THANK YOU, Robert Farago! Thank you for having the guts to say what no one else has the guts to say to these bastards!’”
    Bravo Zulu, and keep up the great work!

    Bill Bartman
    Alexandria, Virginia

  10. Bill, I believe Dinger was referring to reviews in general that are written on TTAC rather than this article as being a ‘review’.

    WRT to the Corvette basis of the vehicle, there’ were various sources quoted as saying that this vehicle was off a completely independant base, not a GM platform. That’s what I based my information on. Farago doesn’t say what he bases his theory on (if it is a theory rather than a backhander), but he does back it up with a picture that emphasises the high wheel arches.

    If that’s what floats your boat, then go right ahead.

    FYI, Aero-X dimensions:

    Length: 4675 mm

    Width: 1918 mm

    Height: 1276 mm

    Track: 1599 mm (f), 1579 mm (r)

    Wheelbase: 2795 mm

    And Corvette dimensions:

    Overall length (in / mm): 174.6 / 4435 (coupe) 175.6 / 4460 (Z06)

    Overall width (in / mm): 72.6 / 1844 (coupe) 75.9 / 1928 (Z06)

    Overall height (in / mm): 49 / 1244

    Wheelbase (in / mm): 105.7 / 2685 (coupe) 105.7 / 2685 (Z06)

    We’re talking minor differences here in some measurements, but I’m quite positive that a bit of research could unearth five other cars that are +/- 20-50mm on a lot of measurements and the Aero-X would be no more based on them as it is on the Corvette – from the information that we’ve been told.

    I’m not in total disagreement with Farago’s overall sentiment. GM and Saab are in trouble. There’s no denying that. However, I don’t agree that the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off and I’m annoyed by the seasoning Farago employs to illustrate his theory: something which you seem to be a lot more forgiving of.

  11. The general tone of the comments, more than just Dinger’s reference, seemed to center on a review of sorts, e.g., “This guy is so full of it that I wonder how is it possible that he didn’t drown in it by now”; “Maybe this pillock shpould (sic) sit down so we cant (sic) hear him talking out of his a**!” What the hell were they talking about? With regard to the GM-SAAB scenario, Farago was about as factual as one can get. And that scenario WAS THE FOCUS of the article!
    Anyway, much thanks for taking the time to post the Aero X – Corvette specs comparison, particularly since you are right that it doesn’t prove anything. However, I am rather struck by the exceedingly close similarities in measurements across-the-board and also the engine positioning; it rather challenges the law of averages, if you catch my drift. You’ve done such a great job passing along so much Aero X information I can’t begin to recall where any “completely independent base” claims came from. I want to believe it’s an independent frame, but at the same time felt we can’t say Farago is wrong until we have concrete confirmation. Besides, he likely has much better inside information than you and I do. I’ve often mentioned having contacts with “eyes and ears” at SAAB in Sweden/Germany. However, GM hates these contacts of mine and has worked diligently to cut them off. Hence, my ability to find out what’s really happening at SAAB grows weaker by the month. But I do continue to hear that average SAAB workers and managers, a number of whom my contacts were very friendly with, resent GM’s interference intensely. I wouldn’t put it past GM to do a quick and dirty redesign of the Corvette with a SAAB-like skin over top. After all, they’ve got cash to preserve. Plus, now I think about it, what involvement did any Swede from SAAB have in the Aero X? Just because it uses the biopower doesn’t prove … .
    Since I am in total agreement with Farago’s sentiment, perhaps I’m being overly forgiving of any “seasoning.” So many journalists are afraid of GM, afraid of Bob Lutz, a “little man” despite his height who did something utterly outrageous in misrepresenting the illustrious Jerome B. York. I love that Farago lets them have it. The fact he might have trouble getting cars to review, if true, is something he should be proud of — even if I do disagree with his SAAB vehicle assessments. There will always be seasoning in news columns — keep in mind, it was an “editorial” — just like there is in blogs, but this guy has spunk. Like I said, Bravo Zulu to that!

  12. I’m blown away by your long post and the valid, down to earth and realistic factual points you outline. Maybe some of my own influence came about in how you’ve torn to pieces the entire ridiculous miss quotes form this Farago character. Your best point of them all is the reality on profitability. At the end of the day Saab like any other business has to make a profit. Without this there is no business and to make it happen you have to provide what the market and consumers want. Not what your ideals tell you. Well done Swade this is at your best.

  13. I’m not so familiar of facts represented by both sides, but my point of sending the link was that Robert Farago discribes the GM-s attitude towards SAAB quite good. The thing that pisses me off most, is that GM upgrades the peoples cars to a premium. They have different standards and it doesn’t come out well. They should build the high end product first and later downgrade it, like BMW does. The point also was in the Bob Lutz’s idea of pricing, that SAAB should cost $1000-2000 more than a similar Opel. Doesn’t the pricing itself reveal GM-s plan of SAABs future. Has SAAB done great job with Opel’s platforms, no doubt, the 9-3 and Vectra are very different cars in favour of SAAB, but is it enough then they are against BMW, Audi, Merc and Volvo. I’m certainly on the position that the direction of GM is not the best for SAAB, but it is definitly better that doing nothing.

  14. I’m not so familiar of facts represented by both sides, but my point of sending the link was, that Robert Farago discribes the GM-s attitude towards SAAB quite good. The thing that pisses me off most, is that GM upgrades the peoples cars to a premium. They have different standards and it doesn’t come out well. They should build the high end product first and later downgrade it, like BMW does. The point also was in the Bob Lutz’s idea of pricing, that SAAB should cost $1000-2000 more than a similar Opel. Doesn’t the pricing itself reveal GM-s plan of SAABs future. Has SAAB done great job with Opel’s platforms, no doubt, the 9-3 and Vectra are very different cars in favour of SAAB, but is it enough then they are against BMW, Audi, Merc and Volvo. I’m certainly on the position that the direction of GM is not the best for SAAB, but it is definitly better that doing nothing.

  15. Bill,

    I was making a comment about the tone I find on TTAC, a tangential comment to the post.

    As for what you seem to feel is unfair / unjustified / unknowledgeable (or whatever) criticism of the site I say this, when you use an overriding negative tone you are looking to be controversial and when you call you site The TRUTH About cars you had better be damn certain not to have factual errors. He invites all the critics he gets and it only adds to his reputation.

    I find your letter to him a great work of comedy. That you dink us for too being blinded by our Saab bias to understand his greatness while at the same time showing some sort of need to prove you get it and are on his side is such a trip. I’m not saying we don’t have our biases but when you start referring to people as, “those bastards” I certainly hope you don’t think you are impartial. But whether you do or don’t your letter does do a great job of illustrating my comment about the cult of personality that surrounds him, that is to say a few Saabisti say he’s a booby-head and you feel the need to write him a cheerleading letter imploring him to continue the struggle in spite of all the rest of us who don’t see that he is the only one who “has the guts”.

    HA! As if he’s the only one to ever offer GM or anyone else criticism. You got me laughing Bill, you got me laughing.

  16. And you prove my point, Ding, misinterpreting my letter as “some sort of need to prove” I get it and STILL missing the point, and overall accuracy, of what Farago wrote. I’ve posted far too many words already, here, so if you can’t follow what I tried to say (ahem, all one needs do is their own research), read David Wishart’s or Hendrick’s excellent posts. And yes, “bastards” was a bit of a sneaky trick, intended to get the attention of a certain segment that was mindlessly and occasionally profanely cheering on Swade. It likely worked.
    Oh, and hey, JOE LOBO, just when we worried it could not happen, we finally find something we disagree on: I see this as most certainly not Swade’s finest moment, but rather, perhaps his worst. Blogs at their best are tools that have pointed the news media in the right direction. Blogs that summon up words like, “Maybe this pillock shpould (sic) sit down so we cant (sic) hear him talking out of his a**!” threaten to become blogs “so full of it” they do indeed “drown in it.”

  17. No problem, Ding, it happens. Simply read, or re-read, my posts of March 3, 2006 for 10:51 AM, 03:17 PM, and 05:30 PM; and also March 4, 2006 at 01:38 AM. In fairness I believe you overlooked or missed some points, particularly with regard to March 3, 10:51 AM. This is a long post, overall, of which I take much blame along with Swade, who made the initial admission.

  18. Bill, I’ll come back to you on the point of disagreement. I will be leaving shortly on a trip to Newcastle about 2 hours north of Sydney. And yes, I’ll be taking the family in my delightful 9-5 Aero and enjoy every second of the trip back and forth. If you want to send me your own e-mail to chat directly please do so.

  19. Bill, OK, maybe I was a little harsh but I’m just sick and tired of that kind of unprofessional behaviour of some journalists and reporters. What I mean is that you can not be taken seriously or be a jurno of high class if you deal with halftruths. First you go and say something that is very obvious like the fact that GM is not doing a very good job with SAAB, but lets not forget that SAAB would be long gone by now if it weren’t for GM. Then you go and start spreading partial facts about something that you obviously hadn’t even researched properly(this is about the article not you, of course). Well that is just plain s**t and I dont have to like it.

    And one other thing, who gives you the right to apologize to someone on my or on behalf of anyone else?

  20. Sorry, Teddy, for the delayed response. Contrary to what my often long posts suggest, I do occuply myself with things non-SAAB. Of course, I usually drive there in most cases in my great 9-5 Aero, so I guess I’m always in SAAB mode in a way.
    But … absolutely … I was over-the-top apologizing for others who rightfully have their own opinions. What I was seeking to do – appropriately or not – was to break through what I saw as a hysterical mob pile-on by disturbing it with a loud shout! I didn’t mean to single out your comments, and don’t blame you for becoming “a little harsh.” The fault lies in Swade’s ad hominem attack on Robert Farago. It was so unlike Swade, a blogger I respect, and it created this mob attack mentality where I felt reason went out the window. And that’s not TS style.
    The reason I suggested Dinger – who I particularly apologize to for what he perceived as a holier than thow attitude – recheck my earlier postings was because everyone appeared to miss my initial admission that Farago was in fact open to criticism. When the ubiquitous Joe Lobo gets back to us, I’ll do what I should have done at the very start and give a blow-by-blow of where I feel Swade was way off the mark. Until then, be aware I actually sent Farago a different Email, still complimentary but hopefully less intense (“I can only say, thank you, sir, for having the guts to say what no one else has the guts to say to these bean-counting incompetents!”), as I was able to recall the one posted in TS. Swade was copied on that Email, because I asked Farago for input on what, if anything, he knows about the Aero-X being Corvette-based. And that kind of thing, to me at least, is what TS is all about.

  21. I’m back after the fantastic drive in the 9-5 Aero, what a car.

    Bill, your point on what blogs are for is spot on, none disagrees with that. But the posting from Swade is perhaps the culmination of a series of bad press that seems to be more interested in miswriting anything about Saab regardless of the validly of the content. Swade’s response to Farago’s article is a simple proof of how misleading the press is. I have been highlighting the continuous damage that the press is putting on Saab in particular here in OZ where the brand is simply heading in to oblivion. No matter how good or bad anything that comes out the journos are there to get Saab. Swade’s post in this respect was an example on how to straighten the truth via factual evidence. Swade’s blog had to come out as a proof of that. This site can in many ways straighten any of these misleading articles and help Saab’s cause. There is no other means of setting the record straight on what is written. And through this site Swade has done this very well. Carl is in favor of Swade’s points and has given more factual points. So, Swade’s has simply proven through the real facts how misleading the statements from Farago are.

  22. Gents. If I can have my blog back for a second….

    First of all, Bill. i don’t have a choir. I have a comments section. I’m not a journo, I’m an auditor with a prominent interest in Saabs and software on which to do it. I write with my heart on my sleeve. If others agree or disagree, then that’s what comments are for.

    I disagree with you about this being my worst hour. I’d count this among the top 10 posts here, and seeing as how I pay for it, and I have to get through the sleep test, I’m happy with that. Why? because I responded to something I thought was wrong with something that I beleive to be right.

    This is not a “gotcha” site for GM. It’s a place where Saab enthusiasts can come read some news and some opinion from a fellow Saab enthusiast and contribute to it as well. Occasionally there’ll be something active too, but that’s when it happens and the happening isn’t an obligation.

    I don’t censor comments here and never hope to, but i’d ask everyone to keep the discussion always on-topic.

  23. What bad press, Joe? It was a business story, one I judged rather accurate, as I try to detail in the unfortunately but unavoidably lengthy point-by-point that follows. While the following may appear harsh, it in no way changes my opinion that Swade runs the best damn SAAB blog on the Internet. Further, Swade appears to love soccer and basketball, so he will appreciate that opposition and disagreement do not (certainly not in this instance) equate to disrespect. [BTW, Swade, all bloggers, just like radio/TV talk show hosts, attract what I call “choirs” – readers/listeners/viewers of like mind who let the “host” do the thinking for them and never reason on their own. It’s not your fault, and to your great credit you don’t have the legions the worst blokes do. But you have them; it’s a natural factor of modern media – and human nature.]

    SW ARGUMENT 1 – The heading itself, “The Un-Truth about Cars.”
    BB RESPONSE – Swade’s heading equates to the very arrogance he accuses Robert Farago of having. Implied message: “Don’t listen to him, readers, listen to me, because I do have the ‘truth.’” He then goes on to prove he has no such thing. Read on.

    SW ARGUMENT 2 – “Why hitch your wagon to an entity that you believe is going to die?” Swade asks. “You make your name and then what?” He then immediately asks, “And what if you’re wrong and end up looking like an idiot?” Continuing this issue later, Swade again asks, “What does he do if and when GM prospers again? Does he recant everything he’s written (59 episodes of Deathwatch so far) and shut up shop? Does he move to Germany, sit and bask in the machinery he really loves?”
    BB RESPONSE – Well, as one who spent much time in national print and broadcast news, I can tell Swade it will be dynamite for Farago when GM “dies,” because he will be able to boast mightily about his foresight. While it overstates Farago’s fame potential, one can compare the boost Farago will get out of GM’s collapse to the “bankability” of America’s Super Bowl standout athlete or a World Cup standout performance. And if Farrago’s wrong (he’s not wrong, as I’ll explain next), it’s irrelevant. Media moves too fast to remember.
    I say Farago is not wrong because “death” of GM does not necessarily mean obliteration or even bankruptcy. In fact, I know of no person or entity expecting GM to cease to exist, but merely to be severely downsized, with or without bankruptcy. Farago will be able to claim, quite accurately, that “GM as we knew it” is dead; “told you so.” At 24 percent market share and dropping, business philosopher Swade should readily see the implausibility of sustaining eight separate brands. Further, Swade – who it can be said points out his business acumen at least as much as I mention my media background – should also know that what GM is trying to do, save itself through spending cuts, has never before preserved a failing company. Never; never in ALL history. Only revenue has done it, and that means desirable product; lots of desirable product.

    SW ARGUMENT 3 – “Having participated myself in this web publishing thing for a year or so now, I also question the wisdom of biting the entire arm the (sic) feeds you,” Swade wrote. “It’s one thing to write ‘fearlessly’ about everything you see that’s wrong with a particular company (or companies), but when you rely on those companies to provide you with cars to write about then you shouldn’t be too surprised when they stop returning your calls or sending you their cars. Farago himself had to post a plea on TTAC for cars to test – precisely for this reason.”
    BB RESPONSE – I was stunned when I read that. Truly agog. Let me tell you a little story from my old media days, my SAAB friends. America’s Car and Driver magazine for many years has published a January issue featuring what its editors determine are “The 10 Best Cars.” In the premiere issue, there were no Japanese brands listed. None. So, an angry Toyota and Nissan pulled their advertising from the magazine, causing significant revenue loss. Next “10 Best” issue, there were a good number of Japanese brands listed; today, there are just about all Japanese brands listed.
    Even Swade should be appalled by such a spectacle. Imagine there are two auto writers, Teddy and Swade. Teddy compares a Toyota Camry sport version with the similarly sized Alfa 159. He writes the Camry is a good car overall, but a real bore to drive, not at all for the true enthusiast. On the 159, he finds it a dream drive, a true enthusiast’s car. But he cautions it may not be as dependable, given recent product history. He concludes that, for his tastes, he’d take a chance on the Alfa, because it’s such a great drive. Swade compares the same two cars. He thinks exactly what Teddy thought, but given his “biting the entire arm” philosophy chooses to soften his words. He describes the Camry sport version as “somewhat less sporty” than the 159, but adds a typically innocuous “it’s a great drive with its invariably silky smooth Japanese V-6.” Swade briefly mentions Alfa’s history of dependability woes, but quickly intones, “A spokesman for Fiat, which owns Alfa, assured me all of those problems are in the past.” All too satisfied to print the company’s claim without any attempt at verification, keep-everyone-happy Swade concludes he would he satisfied to own either car. Afterwards, Toyota quits letting Teddy have any cars to test, but calls Swade on a weekly basis inviting him to test more vehicles. Which reviewer would you trust and respect more? Which one would you prefer to read? It should be obvious.
    Let me put the example in more serious terms: Imagine Joe Lobo is a news correspondent in Iraq, and witnesses and reports atrocities committed against Iraqis by U.S. and Australian troops. The U.S. and Australian military have Lobo expelled from the country, and invite in this fellow Steven Wade. Wade reports that the two militaries completed an investigation of the eyewitness reports of atrocities, and concluded the reports were completely false. Wade didn’t check it out himself, didn’t talk to any Iraqis who might have evidence; he just reported what the military told him. Good enough for him, and for readers in his view.
    Do the above examples represent how we want to receive information, i.e., by not “biting” the hand that feeds you as Swade suggests? I don’t think even Swade wants it. Yet he clearly does not realize that if it is true Farago had trouble finding vehicles to test, it hints at a positive for him, just as with my imaginary reporter Lobo – and, some real reporters – who the U.S. military doesn’t want in Iraq.
    Like Swade says, he’s a blogger – I cannot hold him to the same standard I do a journalist. But his attitude does go a long way in showing his preponderance to not overly criticize GM, rather invariably jump to its defense like he were on its staff, and avoid when possible presenting information on how bad things are for SAAB, especially in America. Maybe he sincerely doesn’t know the latter, but does he make a sincere attempt to try? Perhaps he does, but is sincerely misguided by his willingness to constantly believe the public relations spin GM constantly spits out. (NOTE TO DINGER: No, Ding, I don’t ever mistakenly address Farago as, “Dear leader.” But upon considering the difference between Farago’s and Swade’s attitude towards information gathering and dissemination, I wouldn’t have any qualms whatsoever being in a position where Farago was my leader.)

    SW ARGUMENT 4 – “The sniggering anti-GM crowd love it but dig a little deeper and the comedy is revealed as being just theatre and little else,” Swade writes of Farago, immediately offering this Farago quote: “GM’s Car Czar was busy unveiling Saab’s Aero-X, a Corvette-based concept car….” A clearly perturbed Swade then erupts: “Wrong – it’s not Corvette based at all. Don’t let your own photo with the prominent wheel arches fool you, Robert. It’s a concept based on a completely independent platform that won’t see production. But hitching it to another GM car suits Farago’s unquenchable thirst for GM badge-engineering stories.”
    BB RESPONSE – Damn, this Swade fellow is trusting; too trusting. He appears to trust everything corporations tell him; never questions a thing, not a thing! So, SAAB friends, let’s you and I look at this the way we would hope an information disseminator would have looked at it. I never recall a concept where the manufacturer didn’t identify the platform, boast about the platform, and give details about how it was being used in the concept and what the future would hold. But lo, here comes the GM in-house designed Aero X – likely having had no SAAB-Sweden influence whatsoever – and we are told the vehicle is “a concept based on a completely independent platform that won’t see production.” That statement makes absolutely no sense. GM, with its dire financial woes, acquired some independent platform it never plans to use? I … don’t … think … so. GM, which recently reined in SAAB for spending additional monies needed to maintain its standards, now allows huge annual loss-making SAAB to acquire some independent platform GM never plans to use? I … don’t … think … so.
    At least Swade is but a blogger. What of the auto writers in Geneva? No one but Farago had the sense to question what specifically underpins the Aero X? I don’t know for sure if that’s a Corvette under the Aero-X, and I don’t know if Farago really knows. What I do know is that the across-the-board dimensions (which Swade offered only after I pressed him) and engine placement of the Aero X are so similar to the current Corvette it defies the law of statistics. An independent, unidentified platform never to be used in production; how convenient for GM – and how utterly preposterous! Rather than ratchet up the volume in his ad hominem attack on Farago, Swade could instead have followed the lead of the best blogs by questioning what went on with the Aero X development until the big media chimes in
    Now, TS is excitedly promoting an idea for SAAB to sell a limited edition of hand-built Aero-X models. Well, gee, has anyone bothered to check if this concept is even a drivable vehicle? Has GM offered to let any writers drive it? If it is drivable, does it come even close to meeting the standards we know SAAB would have for it? Or is it, as I increasingly suspect, a GM styling device likely sitting atop a Corvette that had no technical input from the SAAB engineering team? Swade might want to propose the limited edition idea directly to GM and SAAB. I can just guess what the answer will be, and I’ll bet I know exactly why.

    SW ARGUMENT 5 – Swade gets very riled when Farago describes SAAB as “….a brand that’s lost GM several billion dollars over 17 years.” Swade corrects Farago with, “Overstatement. Commonly believed to be wrong. There’s been no amount stated for Saab’s losses, but everyone else in the industry reports a figure of about 1 billion over GM’s total interest in the company. Farago’s overstating for effect, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?”
    BB RESPONSE – While Swade was taking business classes that led to his theorem on corporate necessity and how GM had no choice but lay waste to a once great if small car maker, I was investigating government misdeeds and corporate corruption. In at least one instance, individuals went to jail due to what I revealed as a journalist. (NOTE TO GOOD OLD DINGER: No brag, pal, just the facts.) I cite this background in relationship to my observations of GM’s full financial incorporation of SAAB followed by the hiding of the unit’s losses from the public and, most importantly, GM stockholders. To wit, GM’s denials of the recent sourced revelations of SAAB’s big 2005 losses. In my years as a journalist, the business press has been one of the most placid aspects of the overall profession, failing to question or investigate corporate claims perhaps almost as much as Swade, admittedly not a journalist, fails to question GM. I don’t know if “several billion dollars” is too high. However, given GM’s attempts to hide the real numbers, I trust Farago more than what retired American columnist great Jimmy Brelsin rightly called “the Pekinese of the press,” especially the Pekinese of the business press Swade is using to attack Farago. The average docile business reporter makes the uncountable (and unaccountable) correspondents who failed to inform the public there were no weapons in Iraq, no Iraq connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, no threat from Saddam Hussein, no hope for an ultimately successful war against Iraq let alone reason for war at all, look almost respectable.

    SW ARGUMENT 6 – “The need to badge-engineer was a business necessity in order to expand the range in a cost-effective manner,” Swade wrote. “Whilst it wasn’t done as well as it could have been IMHO (i.e., 9-2x), I can see the business case for it given the circumstances.” He adds that GM’s “decision to more actively manage Saab is ‘business’. It’s a matter of how well you pull it off. In the case of the 9-2x, not that well. In the case of the 9-7x, better.”
    BB RESPONSE: Allow me to respond with a short but pertinent story. GM long held hopes of taking control of BMW. The German owners were not so much horrified as bemused: How outrageous that the maker of Cadillac, let alone Chevrolet and Opel, could see itself capable of sustaining the so-called “ultimate driving machine.” With what? Badge engineering? Incorporating BMW into the Saturn, Chevrolet, and et al family? Message to Swade: The quality and value of diamonds are measured by cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. The quality of a diamond is measured by its cut, color, and clarity. The carat weight measures the size of the diamond. Of the four factors, cut is the characteristic directly influenced by man; color, clarity, and carat weight are all dictated by nature. Those companies that select the highest quality diamonds and stress the best cut, invariably charge the most. No Swade or GM-style bean-counting process can help: the maker must have customers willing to pay. If there aren’t enough willing buyers, it must either cease operations or start making lesser diamonds, hoping to compete with established lower cost competitors. Just about invariably, it doesn’t work, and the once great quality manufacturer implodes.
    As I’ve noted previously, if GM is not suited to run a world class maker of premium sports sedans – and it most clearly has proven it is not – then it should not own such a unit. A U.S. auto magazine said it best when GM announced the “Born to fail” 9-2X. It would be better to see SAAB die a natural death while building the quality cars it’s known for, editorialized the magazine, than to have it fade away as a shadow of its former self. Volvo offered to buy SAAB two decades ago with a plan to heavily limit models and production. A fair argument can be made that there should just be one SAAB model, a “SAAB Turbo,” because SAAB’s total sales, even counting the new Chevrolet SAAB truck, equal total sales of single models from other premium – that’s right, premium – manufacturers. SAAB as a limited quantity “boutique” style unit could operate under a larger automotive parent, though most certainly not GM given 16 years of evidence. With customers choosing not to buy what we perceive as a “real SAAB,” GM has taken the dangerous route of cheapening the SAAB products, such as by reining in SAAB’s right to modify GM bits.

    SW ARGUMENT 7 – Swade tells us Saab is “now working on a new entry-level car – from the ground up.” He adds that SAAB is “also working on at least one new SUV – from the ground up. Yes, they’ll share underpinnings with other vehicles – but that’s ‘business’. The market will judge whether they’re Saab enough, and if they aren’t they won’t sell.”
    BB RESPONSE: Not exactly. GM’s “dangerous route” I cited above could work. Remember, I was referring to people wanting, and willing to pay for, premium products. There’s a great quote from a great, late American, P.T. Barnum, that goes, “No man ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” Some weeks ago Chevrolet revealed a “retro” Camaro. It won’t be the awesome drive of a SAAB, it won’t be the quality of a SAAB, and it won’t be the safety of a SAAB. But people are lining up for it, because of looks and image.
    I was told more than a year ago on good authority that GM wishes to sell the SAAB infrastructure, i.e., engineering, manufacturing, etc., and keep only the SAAB name. This may be the reason GM executives so feverishly deny sell reports, and refuse to say what the Aero X is based on, or may be based on if and when produced. If GM does succeed in selling the underlying SAAB infrastructure and simply gives, say, some restyled Pontiac or Opel (or Corvette) a SAAB badge, that vehicle can easily be a hit like the new Camaro even though it’s not a “SAAB” at all. What would the new, eager throng of buyers know? They never drove a real Swedish SAAB. All that they’re looking for is a nice looking car that makes them look special, and if it has the name “SAAB” (for the price of a Pontiac!) it’s all the better!

    SW ARGUMENT 8 – Swade became further upset over this Farago statement: “Saab’s ignition key slot will remain in between the front seats, but the decisions about its major components will now be taken somewhere a long way away from Sweden.”
    BB RESPONSE: Once again, Swade becomes furious at Farago for stating a simple truth. You would think if someone has a blog that advertises itself as all SAAB, that person would do some research about what happened to SAAB in recent years. Following are just a few examples of the many things Swade either doesn’t know about, or doesn’t care about. Go figure.

    NUMBER 1 – Engineering staff gutted by GM three years ago. A large portion of the great engineers who did the astonishing engine and awesome suspension of the 9-5 and all the SAAB’s before it have been laid off by GM. I’ve forgotten the percentage without researching it, but it was a heavy cut. I believe most of the work on the new 9-3 occurred before the cut, so that’s why I think it came out fairly acceptable as a SAAB. But what of future SAABs? Allow me to share what a former, and highly accomplished, technical consultant to SAAB and Scania (marine and vehicle) told me about the lost SAAB engineers: “That was just tremendous talent that’s been lost, and you just can’t replace it. GM thinks it can replace that talent in house. But it can’t.”
    NUMBER 2 – Limiting of SAAB in-house research and development, including a ban on SAAB designing and manufacturing its own engines in the future. Let me tell you what these GM cuts have cost you, fellow SAAB fans, courtesy my own Deep Throat: Small displacement, extremely powerful six cylinder engines; experimental engines using ceramic blocks; and a vehicle using true four-wheel steering. And that’s just the R&D I’ve heard about, now all scrapped by GM in favor of standard Opel bits that SAAB will now likely be prevented from freely modifying. There were prototypes of the features I described above, un-badged secret future SAABs that were driven in the U.S. I was told by those lucky enough to drive the prototypes that the advances were thrilling to miraculous. All are gone now, thanks to Swade’s holy protectorate, GM. No, Swade, the OZ V-6 in the 9-3 is NOT good enough for me, and I have said flatly I will NEVER own an engine from the Garbage Maker. Sorry, my OZ friends, but I’m exercising my American constitutional right to be completely irascible if I want to be. And if Swade thinks I’m just one anti-GM complainer, he’s welcome to come see me in the USA and I’ll introduce him to all the friends and acquaintances who’ve already – that’s right, already – left SAAB for other makes: Mercedes, Audis, Subarus, VWs, and even (go figure) Hondas. You can see the evidence yourselves in the ever stagnating SAAB USA yearly sales numbers.
    NUMBER 3 – Horrible working relationship. People who worked for SAAB as technical consultants have told me the relationship between SAAB and its parent is very tense. SAAB people hate the GM interference, although, my contacts admit with some humor, love having GM’s money. The Swedes fought bitterly, but unsuccessfully, to keep the 9000 in production, and are now fighting bitterly to keep the fantastic 2.3 engine in production. Opel over the years has also had a tense relationship with GM, as Germans and Swedes are ethnic cousins who stubbornly cling to their own ways of doing things as the best way. GM is perceived, correctly in my opinion, as not caring about quality the way Germans and Swedes do. The same type prejudice against Ford caused tension with that company’s manager of the Volvo-Jaguar-Aston Martin-Land Rover premium car division, who quit following a short tenure.

    SW ARGUMENT 9 – In response to Farago’s statement, “Anyway, as the Saab faithful will tell you, it’s too late to worry about the brand’s identity,” Swade really goes ballistic: “Don’t presume to speak for the Saab faithful, Farago, unless you’ve spent more than 5 minutes among them.”
    BB RESPONSE – Ummmm, excuse me. Excuse me, Mr. Wade. Mr. Farago certainly speaks for me, who’s been driving SAABs since 1975. And you, sir, certainly do not! In fact, Mr. Farago speaks for many others, a number of whom read and post to your site. If you prefer not to believe there are very many SAAB fans for whom Farago’s words resonated, as I’ve already said you’re welcome to stop by the USA any old time and I’ll introduce you to all those former SAAB fanatics I know or know of who’ve already abandoned the SAAB brand because of GM’s influences.

    SW ARGUMENT 10 – Appalled by Farago’s statement, “the Opel Vectra-based Saabs drive remarkably like… Opel Vectras,” Swade reloads and fires: “Bullshit on two levels in one sentence!! First, it’s really, really popular to claim that the 9-3 Sport Sedan is based on an Opel Vectra. Journo’s, particularly slack ones in the US, do this all the time. Everyone else is saying it and it’s GM, so people will believe it without question, right? Wrong!”
    BB RESPONSE: This one’s embarrassing for me, because only a few weeks ago I labeled a car tester who made a similar comparison between the new 9-5 sport version and an Opel as either an idiot or moron “savant.” Watching Swade get equally nasty over the issue, I realized the error of my own ways. I continue to believe – indeed “know” – that these auto writers are not driving the SAAB models effectively because they are invariably accustomed to rear drive performance cars. But I now need to temper my anger – get a life, I might say – over this issue, because of a rather shocking encounter two years ago. My tale actually goes back to March 1997, when SAAB super fanatic Jack Ashcraft, a former SAAB-Alfa dealer and later modifier and re-designer of aging SAABs, wrote the following in a European Car magazine sidebar headlined, “Limo with a Hatch”: “The 9000 Aero is flatly the finest road vehicle I have ever driven, particularly when driving at speeds most drivers only dream about. This car has high-speed road capability well beyond 95% of all other cars on any back road, no matter what wheels you are up against. The 9000 Aero is one very fast, safe automobile.”
    In 2003, I Emailed Jack for advice regarding the best vehicle to eventually replace my aging 9000 Aero. To my astonishment, Jack said, “I’ve driven all the current SAABs, and I prefer the Subarus.” I’ve been procrastinating, for a year now, on contacting Jack to tell him I purchased a 9-5 Aero and to honor his request for my driving impressions of the Subaru Impreza STi and the particularly disappointing (and poorly set up) new Legacy GT. When we do eventually connect, I will politely tell Jack that I fully believe the 9-5 Aero deserves every single shining compliment he gave the 9000 predecessor. I’ll then ask why he’s gone Subaru. Until I see Jack’s response, I can only assume he has a preference for the small, toss-able performance cars.
    So, thinking back on Jack’s Subaru conversion has made me think perhaps we should all cool it on going ballistic with these reviewers. Let us, instead, begin seeking ways, through blogs such as TS, of getting our message directly to future SAAB enthusiasts. Even though recent TS events have shaken my confidence in blogs as blogs now exist, I still see this medium as pointing toward a revolutionary change in mass communications.

    SW ARGUMENT 11 – Swade described Farago as seeming “to take some joy in tap-dancing on Saab’s perceived grave because it suits his anti-GM purpose.” Farago “also seems to hint at a twinge of sadness about the loss of a previously independent thinking automaker. Yet he makes no overtures whatsoever as to what could be done to take Saab back to those ‘900 days’.”
    BB RESPONSE – Farago has no reason to make any such “overtures,” as his thesis suggests the original SAAB is long gone, with no way to bring it back to the “900 days.” The truth is sobering. Can those many highly talented engineers purged by GM be rehired some day? Many obviously would have found new jobs, and may not want to uproot, especially for a company that burned them. Also, unless the merger between the aircraft division and Scania could be recreated – extremely unlikely, at best; extreme fantasy, at worst – the major synergy that made SAAB truly great is forever lost. It was, after all, Scania that helped design and long manufactured the great SAAB four-cylinder engines, and the truck and marine engine giant also helped with the turbo charging breakthroughs. Likewise, the aerospace division gave the car division advanced materials such as the light but strong plastic used in previous bumpers, and helped with the excellent interior ergonomics including the carefully selected instrumentation colors that GM recently screwed up.

    SW ARGUMENT 12 – Swade conceded that, “In my opinion, Saab certainly isn’t as independent and innovative as it once was. It can’t be. Why? Is it because of GM’s corporate ownership stifling the creativity of the Saab engineers etc? Well, partly.” He went on to say the prime reason Saab cannot currently be the SAAB “we fans want it to be is down to this: Profitability. It’s hard to swallow, but it’s the most basic fact there is in business. You gotta pay the bills and carry your weight. True innovation comes from lots and lots of Research and Development. And the type of R&D we’d expect from Saab is only possible with either bottomless pockets or decent profits.”
    BB RESPONSE: Swade’s correct on that last sentence. But his answer is a tiring refrain of let GM do what it wishes, as it’s all for business. He positions himself as the wise student of business lecturing us, yet if he really knew business, he’d understand there are aspects and markets where the common rules can’t be applied. Fine diamond making is one of those. I’ve already addressed Swade’s many fallacies on this topic, so I won’t belabor it further. I simply repeat once more, if GM cannot support the needs of a world class premium sport sedan manufacturer, it should not own such a unit. It should either sell the unit, or shut it down. That’s right, I said it – shut it down. As the U.S auto magazine I quoted stated so succinctly and eloquently, it would be better to see SAAB die a natural death while building the quality cars it’s known for, than to have it fade away as a shadow of its former self. Life WILL go on folks; and there’s still Alfa.

    SW ARGUMENT 13 – More honesty from Swade: “Is Saab everything I’d like it to be at the moment? No. Is GM the ideal corporate parent for Saab? No (my opinion), but it’s the one we’ve got and I think there’s hope. And those of you that would rather see Saab in Kia’s or Hyundai’s hands, or a Chinese company’s hands – please take a gut check. If that happens then you can kiss the Saab ethos and culture a very quick goodbye. I know I will, and this site will become just an archive.”
    BB RESPONSE – First of all, GM sold Lotus to an Asian investor years ago, and Lotus has remained very British. Second, I do not know where this Kia and Hyundai thing is coming from. Swedish business press reported Chinese investors. So, unless Swade has some serious insider information, he’s doing what he’s accusing Farago of – “seasoning” words for impact. My own employer with (US$) revenues in the hundreds of millions is owned by an equity investment giant that takes no active role in the company’s business approach, other than to pressure top management if revenues fall. That’s to be expected. We don’t know who or what GM talked to in China, and it’s quite possible GM was trying to do what my insider contacts told me and just sell the SAAB infrastructure, keeping the name. So, in not one but two ways, Swade consciously or unconsciously “seasoned” words to scare readers.

    SW ARGUMENT 14 – “Is Saab doomed?” Swade asks. “Hell no! Despite the recent overtures that there’s nothing left of Saab as an independent company to sell – don’t believe it. If GM can’t produce results in the next few years they will sell it. Where there’s product, premises, patents, and goodwill at stake then there’s always something to negotiate.”
    BB RESPONSE – “Hell no” was quite a stretch. Yes and no might be more accurate, depending on how bad a “death” GM suffers. I’ve discussed GM’s possible sale of only the SAAB infrastructure, not the name, with some people with inside knowledge. All agreed that if GM maintained only the SAAB name, the result would be re-badged GM products, likely ostensibly upgraded Opels plus a few Cadillacs and maybe the Corvette. Each said they would try to find out what auto maker purchased the SAAB infrastructure and, if feasible, switch their own buying allegiance to that manufacturer. The Aero X may be the scenario GM’s been aiming for – a 100 percent GM-designed SAAB that has everyone fooled into thinking it’s a real SAAB. Public interest in the design gives GM hope of resurrecting the SAAB name as non-Swedish full GM products, while the remaining infrastructure of what was SAAB for 60 years is quietly sold to the highest bidder. Keep in mind Bob Lutz’s likely preparatory statements that SAABs need not be built in Sweden, and then imagine him giving this private toast in Detroit: “We never needed Sven and Olag all along; just the wonderful words of P.T. Barnum.”

    SW ARGUMENT 15 – “I know this whole post has sounded like a GM apologetics study,” writes Swade. “Not so. I’m just not one of those that subscribes to the belief that GM’s ownership of Saab has been the death of the company. My Viggen has plenty of GM bits in it and it’s the most sensational car I’ve ever owned. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The 2006 9-3 Aero I drove last month was a superb vehicle and 100% in the Saab tradition as I’ve experienced it.”
    BB RESPONSE – Ever notice how Swade’s constantly saying he’s not defending GM? Not just in this post, but in many posts. What does that tell you? I would edit his words above as follows: “I know this whole post has been a GM apologetics study. So study hard. Test tomorrow.” Also, calling the GM bits in the Viggen “plenty” was a stretch when one considers the new 9-3 has far more GM bits.

    SW ARGUMENT 16 – “Don’t believe everything you read by the likes of Farago, regardless of how well it’s written,” ends Swade’s ad hominem attack. “Check the context and check the facts.”
    BB RESPONSE – Swade’s long post proved, I’d say, he could easily have made the same comments about himself. In this instance, at least, I certainly would. As I said in an earlier post, if Swade’s business lecture on SAAB-GM begins to make sense to you and you haven’t been drinking heavily, slap yourself into reality by answering the following question: What would you think of a company that took over Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Alfa, cut one of those makers’ world class technical staffs in half, said it was stopping it from developing its own engines from scratch, forced it to use the platforms of Hyundai’s and Daewoo’s, and then limited or fully halted its ability to modify whatever it was handed?

  24. Whoa! What a pissing contest! I happen to agree with Farago – and feel SAAB’s best days are behind them unless GM unloads quickly. Why oh why couldn’t they do a Ford/Volvo deal, with just enough financial support but “hands-off” attitude to where Volvo has thrived?

    What they need:
    1. New flagship, pronto.
    2. 9-3 hatchback.
    3. 9-3 based SUV/tourer
    4. Kill the 9-7 NOW. It’s an embarassment.

    The only 2 cars they sell now I’d consider are the 9-3 convertible and wagon. Last summer during the GM fire sale I was a heartbeat (pun intended) from buying a 9-2…if the backseat was only bigger.

    In the case of the 9-2, SAAB improved on Subaru’s vehicle, both in looks and handling.

  25. Bill,

    I’m not blessed with the amount of spare time that you are, so I’m going to have to keep this short sweet and final.

    If there were more than 2 Saab blogs on the internet, or even if the other one was in English, I’d take your “best damn Saab blog” writings as a compliment. I’m beginning to understand that that probably isn’t the case.

    Sorry mate, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry than to go through your point by point and explain why I think your wrong. Hopefully we can sit down over a steak and a scotch and do that face to face some time in the future. Right now, I have a regular job to do, a regular family to father and new stories to research and write for this site, which I’m not going to have hijacked for the satisfaction of another.

    We don’t agree on many things at all, we’re going to have to settle for that.

  26. I guess that some people have not seen the March (?) issue of Fortune which basically corroborates many of Robert Farago’s editorials. It’s the cover story. Do yourselves a favor and read the piece, especially Dinger.

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