Question for the Asian Saabers

I got this query in my inbox. I have no first-hand knowledge that could help, so I thought it’d be a good idea to post it on here. I know there’s a bunch of Saab clubs around Asia, so I’m hoping that someone, somewhere in Asia might be able to lend some insight.

Our writer is Richard F, and his story is as follows:


Good afternoon from Hong Kong.

I am directing this SAAB question to you because I cannot get a satisfactory answer locally and am not sure who else to ask. If you can’t answer it, can you please direct me to someone who can?

We are recent arrivals in Hong Kong. About four months ago we bought a low mileage SAAB 9-5 2.33T SE 1999 sedan second hand. We had it checked first and were told that it seemed fine except for the air conditioning unit which needed fixing. We got that repair discounted from the price.

We’ve since had a lot of trouble with the car: the air conditioning again, electricals, and a couple of other large mechanical repairs (things I don’t understand). We’re now hearing, from former HK SAAB owners and others, and also from our mechanic, that SAABS do not to well in Hong Kong; in particular that they’re prone to electrical and other problems in the Hong Kong heat and humidity. We’re wondering whether this is true. Certainly there are fewer SAABS here than other good quality European cars. We have friends who drive Mercs and BMW’s who don’t seem to have problems. Our mechanic says that Japanese cars are the best bet in HK conditions.

We like the car and don’t want to get rid of it if it isn’t necessary; but if it’s unable to cope with conditions here we can’t afford the cost and inconvenience of constant repairs.

Could you (or someone you can recommend) comment on the issue I’ve raised? Is there any reason to think that SAABS would cope less well with HK conditions than other European (or Japanese) cars? Is there evidence that they don’t cope well here? If there is, are there precautions we could take to protect the car (it is kept in a car port, but not a garage)?

Any guidance you can give will be much appreciated.


As mentioned, Richard had the car tested prior to the purchase. I’ve already asked if the person who assessed it had any interest in the sale of the car, which wasn’t the case.

As there are a number of Saab clubs in regions with similar climates, I find it difficult to believe that it’s just an issue with local conditions.

Hopefully someone will have some experience with this. Please leave your thoughts in comments.

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  1. Actually, we don’t have such a weather conditions here in Hungary (even the tempreature maximum was is over 40 Celsius last week which is the absolut highest in Hungary ever), buying a used 9-5 is quite risky without special care.
    We guess that many of the 9-5 problems come from the overheating. (DI casette, mass air flow meter, throttle housing, turbo problems, etc.)
    If the previous owner didn’t take enough care and the maintenance was inadequate, bad surprises can happen.
    So, we recommended to each people who want to buy used Saab to order a deep and detailed check from a Saab specialist, and also try to check the past records of the car.
    It’s not enough to check by the buyer.

  2. Weather conditions not suitable for northen european cars ‘could’ be part of the reason there are fewer SAABs in HongKong.

    But the main reason is people’s perception of value and brands are very different there. BMWs and Mercs are traditionally seen as statues symbols and there are just enough presence of pretenciousness in the population’s mind to make them purchase such cars rather than a left of field choice.

    probably the same situation like eveywhere else inteh world really, just that little bit more pronounced.

  3. As I have understand it from people living in southeast Asia, people either have an “cheaper” Asian brand (often Japanese) and then some have a European luxury car. And a luxury car is the same as Jag, Merc or BMW. So that the fact you don’t see many Saab’s over there is simply because the brand is not on anyones radar. And since there a not that many Saab’s around, finding a good mechanic can be hard (end expensive) and that could make owners getting bad service.

    Otherwise, I agree with Ivan. Buying an old 9-5 is a kind of a risky affair that needs to be done carefully. But I sure it hasn’t got anything to do with the climate as such.

  4. I can’t imagine that Hong Kong is that much hotter or more humid than the west coast of Florida (regularly over 90F/32.2C with heat indexes over 120F/48.8C; humidity almost always 85% or more, low temps often don’t fall below 75F/24C for several months) … and we are developing somewhat of a thriving little Saab community.

    I think it probably has more to do with the quality/experience of the mechanics available … and we have 2 different dealers and 2 very good independent mechanic shops that specialize in Saabs.

  5. Whatever it is, it’s not the climate.

    A well-maintained 9-5 is a good choice in the used car market, but a 9-5 that has not been maintained properly is not. It sounds like you have the latter.

    If you spend the money to fix it, the climate will not undo your work.

  6. Richard F,

    Here in Australia there is reportedly an ongoing problem of Euro cars arriving from HK with very low Ks for their age, its is suggested that they have been wound back. This might not actually be the case as I would imagine that is is hard to rack up large distances in HK. But it would be easy to sit in traffic alot and so the engine is a lot older than the odometer suggests. I looked at a 1992 9000 a while back and it mostly looked pretty good but was mechanically shot. Some comments about my story alerted me to the scam. Make sure that is not the case with you, check service records etc. Besides that I bought a late 9000 instead of an early 9-5 as even the dealers warned me off them (sometimes inadvertently).

  7. yes, that manufacture yr of saab 95 heard a lot of problems, depends on how much you pay for this second car, as i am sure if you get this car in hongkong, the price is very good, as in hk, the value in around 7 years cars need inspection before issue the license.

    hope u can go chaiwan and find the garage there to fix all the problem, as the garage is all from old dealers staff .

    they familiar with those year manufactured saab cars

    hope you can find them

  8. We have some Saab cars here in Singapore where the weather throughout the year is hot and humid. They are running fine here and guess they do have problems, just like any other makes, and these can be fixed fairly easily.

    I have 2 Saabs and they are just great cars!

  9. I wouldn’t go and say it’s not suitable. but in a hot humid weather environment, the heat will make all the rubber hose, or delicate electronic circuits wearing out beyond their useful lifespan faster than if they are in a cooler environment.

    I don’t think it’s just for SAAB, it’s also true for all other cars especially the likes of BMW and Mercedez. Perhaps Japanese car are less of an issue because they may not be turbo-charged (so fewer hoses) or they have lesser electronic circuits than a European-made car.

    Challenge in SE Asia is that its mostly summer all year round, so you are getting your car parked under heat all year round. My previous VW, under constant heat attack as I usually parked outside my house, suffer some ‘heat-stroke’ symptons, such as the instrument cluster’s lighting failing (and recovering when the car cool down after 10 minutes).

    So far, I parked my SAAB in shade most of the time, so it has been doing fine. no ‘heat-stroke’ 😉

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