Your Thoughts – Recommendations on Saab

I had a unique and somewhat rewarding experience today. I was chatting with one of my colleagues at work. He’s owned Toyotas for a long time now and enjoys the reliability that comes with owning the world’s foremost automotive appliance.

Recent events have put him in a position where he’s considering a change of car, and due to my relentless enthusiasm for Saab, the brand has made it’s way onto his shopping list. This was quite gratifying as he’s been a keen purveyor of BMWs and Subarus when not in his own car.

He’s been in my Viggen and quite enjoyed it and through having a semi-regular look here on the website he’s acquired a little of the Saab bug.

As we were talking about things today, I found it difficult to recommend he check out vehicles like a used 9-3SS. The only cars I was confident about recommending were OG9-3s and 9-5s with a good documented service history.

I know he’d love the ride in the 9-3SS and it’d be a huge upgrade from his current Toyota (early 90s model). But given the occasional electrical and interior problems with the early 9-3SS and his past experience with a very reliable Toyota I was worried about the let down that might be experienced if there was a problem.

It’s one thing to write about these with confidence, but when your dealing with a friend and colleague, you’ve got to be sure that everyone’s going to be happy at the end of the day. So i found myself forewarning him about said electrical and squeaking problems that I’d heard about. I mentioned that these have been addressed in recent models but were something to be wary of in early ones.

I ended up recommending that if he wants to look for a Saab, that a 9-5 with a good service record would the best recommendation. Either that or an OG9-3. I think an early model 9-5 or OG9-3 might be more in his budgetary range anyway.


Have you had similar second-thoughts in this situation? And if so, how did you handle them?

You have to assume that the person will do all the proper checks and test drives, but I know that in this instance my recommendation would play a reasonably large role in his initial thoughts about what to look for.

Over to you. Perhaps some of you sales guys can give us all some tips about how to be better ambassadors for the brand.

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  1. For me, being a good ambassador is being honest. When someone tells me how fantastic his/her car is in every possible way, I don’t believe them. Same with myself. There are things I don’t like with my car, and I gladly talk about them. But I’ll always happy to explain that *and* the things I do like with it, and why I go with Saab. Why it’s different, things tou donät see just by looking at the car, the history and so on. I don’t do numbers like top speed, 0-100 km/h and so on. I talk about the brand and what that means to me. There is a rather big risk that the person don’t share my view, but at least I talk about Saab and it’s personality, and hopefully give the person a good image of both the brand and my point of view as an owner. I think the way we as hard core Saab enthusiasts behave are as important as the brand itself when it comes to give someone a good image of Saab.

    Another thing. Being an Mac user for almost 20 years, I lived through the years in the 1990s when things wasn’t so good. One thing that happened then was a kind of “guerrilla movement” in spreading the word about mac. I do the same today about Saab. Examples:

    At work, I often “forget” Saab brochure or flyer at the different places (like at the coffee machine or the dining area) . Someone will pick it up, read it, and start to think about Saab.

    I always have the latest brochures at home one someone visit. It’s easy to start talk about cars, and if the person shows some interest just let them take it with them.

    I play the online game Battlefield 1942. I call myself something like “saab” there (most other players have totally different types of names). Often, people ask me if I have a Saab and I tell them I have and that I like it. And just having players seeing the word “saab” all the time makes them aware of it and that it exist.

  2. I agree with you Swade,that it is different to recommend a car to a friend/colleague, but the 93SS makes SAAB more attractive than the OG 9-3 does(for somebody who wants to change from another brand, as your friend). I´ve a 9000CSE and a 93SS and I like both cars very much. But I´ve never had any big problems with my 93SS even if its one of the earliest models(2003) that were produced. In short words: 9000 and 95 are for travelling/long distance and 93SS is more sportive. So it depends on the driving behaviours. I like to appear modern but differnt–> 93SS is perfect, even if the interior looks a little bit cheap, but performs well.

  3. Have him check out the approved pre-owned program. I did a quick search and found a 2005 9-3 Vector w/ 20000 km for $38000 with the balance of the new car warranty. With the APO program, he’ll also get 3 yr/175 km coverage with roadside assistance, should he need it. The top-of-the-line Camry Grande (sounds like something one orders at Starbuck’s) starts at $40000 w/o options. The Saab has 154 kW/300 Nm of power, compared to the Toyota’s paltry 117 kW/218 Nm. These certified Saabs start at $20000, so there should be something for any budget. I think the answer is obvious. (For the record, I just purchased a certified 2003 Saab 9-3SS last summer and haven’t had any trouble with it.)

  4. If possible,the best way to convert or even engage people in the Saab culture is to offer them a lift. In my work I am often collecting colleagues from the airport or taking them out here and there, and they are always intrigued by my ’06MY 93-SWagon. As recently as yesterday a colleague with a brand new LandRover Discovery 3.0V6 commented on how nice my ‘skateboard’ was! Although my family have driven Saabs for 30 years, this is my first, and also the first car I have owned that has caused so much comment amongst friends, neighbours and colleagues – it is a subtly differnet car to the ranks of 3series and A4s – not a flash car but one that adults and kids alike enjoy riding in (Swade, the kids love the button dash!!).

    I see kore Saabs on the road her in NIreland now than ever before but still feel like waving when I see an fellow owner (my Dad used to do that when they were pretty rare and I was always so embarrased;) ).

    CTM, I also believe that the honesty principle works best, no-one wants to hear you crow about your car, and to be honest it doesnt compare all that well in the typical ‘trump card’ categories with A4, 3series etc, so best to focus on the design, heritage and desire to not follow the crowd as the key differentiators.

    Most of all, park it prominently, keep your headlights on all the time and spread the word in whatever way you can.

  5. ctm: Great idea about forgetting the brochures. It should work well where I’m employed.

    Mark: I agree about the heritage. When I think Honda, I remember the first Hondas in the USA. Not much more than sheet metal and wheels wrapped around a motorcycle engine. I would often see one with the rusted out front fenders flapping in the wind like Dumbo’s big ears. To me, that’s their heritage–no concern for safety whatsoever, until it became popular. Saab, on the other hand, since day 1, has never wavered, and has always emphasized safety along with functionality and being environmentally friendly (well, at least after getting by the 2-stroke).
    But, about today’s Saabs, honesty is really the best policy, but with a good dose of the heritage stuff so people know they can feel good about themselves when driving a Saab.

  6. It seems like it would depend on whether or not your friend is going to finance the car or not. I’m currently thinking about financing a low mileage ’99 9-3 here in the states, but it’s looking like it’s going to be hard to finance such a small sum of money.

    The newest 9-3 is now 5 years old so it will be hard to find one that is certified. If your friend is not used to Saab repair costs, they might want a warranty of some sort.

    I think an og9-3 would definitely be worth it if your friend paid for it outright. You own a Viggen so you can inform your friend about all the various issues that these cars have.

  7. I would recommend the latest year 9-5 aero that fits into your friends budget. if he must consider a 9-3SS, tell him to avoid the sports suspension as that increases the likelihood of interior noises and road noise in general. if I were buying another SAAB it would definitely be a pre-facelift 9-5.

  8. The 9-3SS is the best way to go.
    You friend has a soft spot for BMW and to be frank the 9-5 cannot tick the handling and ride box. The 9-3 has had a few teething problems but nothing seriously mechanical or electrical for that matter. To the best part of my knowledge the only encounters of 9-3 problems have been minor (and I’m talking about a total of 1200 cars in 5 years here). with I’d say 5% requiring some aftersales service. The majority being the sort of problem you can’t be bothered to go to the dealer about, because the car is essentially fine. I would buy a 175hp vector as the price to power ratio between that and the aero doesn’t really warrant the Aero.

    Hope this helps

  9. I felt exactly the same way when shopping for a used car with my mother. I had her test a 9-5 (which she really liked) but when she asked about the 9-3 I told her to steer clear.

    I’m not a guy to place all my faith in CR, but just through anecdotal evidence I’ve read I think there are some real quality/reliability issues with the 9-3 SS that prevent me from recommending it.

    Don’t feel bad, SAAB should feel bad about putting a product out that their most hardcore fans couldn’t recommend to a friend or relative in good conscience.

    You did good, Swade!

  10. Honesty is key. I’ve recommended Saabs to a few of my friends, but have warned them in advance to some reliability issues. I used to have a ng900 with the 2.5 v6, and i had more trouble with that motor. i loved the car though. i now have a 2003 9-3SS and have not had any issues with the car so far.

    I have given a few people rides and they may ask a question or two about the car/brand and I try to answer in a way that has a “that’s neat” or “cool” effect to the response.

  11. I don’t know, but the 9-3 is getting waaaaay to bad of a rap for the early modles built before Dec. 2004. We have two 9-3s a 2005 Linear and a 2006 SC and they both are rock solid and reliable. I’d recommend them any day.

  12. The 9-3SS drives so much better than the OG9-3, and I’m sure the problems with the early 9-3SS are exaggerated. My 9-3SS is one of the first ones manufactured (number 1200-somthing), and I have had no serious problems whatsoever. 🙂

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