Saab quality rating problems

If you owned a 2004 Saab 9-3 and you sold it yesterday you’d be pretty happy right now.

As if resale value issues weren’t tough enough already, JD Power released their vehicle dependability ratings earlier today. These ratings rank vehicles that are three years old based on problems recorded per 100 vehicles. The early Saab 9-3 Sport Sedans have suffered with a poor anecdotal reputation and it seems that reputation now has some numbers to back it up.

The industry average, as recorded by JD Power, was 216 problems per 100 vehicles. Saab ranked quite poorly with 319 problems per 100 vehicles.

It could have been worse. We could be cheering for Isuzu, Suzuki or Land Rover. Those three did worse.

These rankings should improve over the next couple of years for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, problems with the 9-3 did get sorted a little more in the 2005 and 2006 years. Secondly, a larger number of non-9-3 vehicles should take up some numbers. The 9-5 was quite solid all this time, but it occupies such a small proportion of Saab’s sales in the US that it hardly makes a dent. Next year, though, the first 9-2x’s will be three years old and the inclusion of 9-7x and 9-2x figures over the coming years should temper things a bit.

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  1. Quality problems. Everyone has them.

    Saab is hurt by these measures in a subtle way.

    Saab, during these years, made only two models. And, those models share a LOT of components. Engines, electrics, etc. So, if only ONE component was faulty, it can blanket a large percentage of the Saabs made in that span of time.

    Contrast that with Toyota. They make multiple types of vehicles, and the vehicles that they make use a variety of drivetrains, etc. Therefore, any single-component failure would be isolated to a relatively small population of Toyota vehicles.

    With all of your eggs in one basket, you’ve got to be nearly perfect for these measures to work out. This is the downside of being a smaller player.

  2. It’s a shame that we’re depending on the 9-2X and 9-7X to bring up the ratings. I get a smile on my face driving my 04 9-3 Arc (and I never smile otherwise), but the ratings are probably right on the money based on the service history of my car. It’s been pretty good since I got it, but it should be better. For example, the hand brake locked on, the sun roof decides not to close once in a while (pinch protection), and an an occasional “stability control failure” warning occurs when parking which soon disappears (a common occurrence on these cars). It’s tough to impress people too. My wife’s first ride: She gets in and knocks off the “Smart slot” on the console. I have to explain that it’s “removable” (lousy, cheap plastic design really) and she didn’t break anything. “Just keep your hands off the console” I tell her. Then, as we start out, she lays her arm on the arm rest (which is what I thought arm rests were for), and her window opens. I have to explain that Saab put super sensitive switches right where your hand would lay on the arm rest. “Also keep you hand off the arm rest” I have to tell her (Stupid, stupid design). Then, occasionally, someone bumps the rear of the console and it falls off because the plastic clips have snapped. I don’t think we can blame GM for this either. I had to remove the whole center console on my wife’s Aztek (GM) recently because an alpaca pee’d down the air conditioning duct when we were transporting her (all 100% of it). The cover was supposed to snap off according to the shop manual, but it wouldn’t budge even though I used a crow bar. Then I found the 2 hidden bolts. The point being that it didn’t break, and I abused the heck out of it. It’s almost impossible to remove a plastic part from the Saab without it breaking (not so with USA GM products). I had to replace burned out rear fog lights on the Saab. Instructions say to push on plastic tab and the receptacle will release. Yeah, after the plastic tab breaks off. My lights are now held in with cable ties. And why did they think DRL (daytime-running-lights) means that all of the lights should be on all of the time (because it was the cheapest way to do it I suppose, but that’ll be fixed with the LED DRLs I hope).
    Please Saab, stop this nonsense!
    But I still smile when I drive it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I must have been a very lucky 2003 9-3 SS owner. I had relatively few problems with mine. I did have the handbrake problem, 2 headlights, a battery and the sunroof sensor fixed. That was it over 3.5 years. I enjoyed my 9-3 so much that it was recently replaced with an 07 60th Anniversary convertible. Granted, it has not been 2 full months yet, but it has proven totally faultless. I just hope it stays that way.
    I just don’t see how J.D Powers surveys are accurate. We also have a 2004 Subaru Forester. 75K miles plus and the ONLY problem we have had was a fog light bulb go out. Period. End of story. Yet it does not rank higher.
    I also have several friends with BMW’s, 2 of which had so many problems with their vehicles (a 7 series and an X5) that they each received replacement vehicles. Another sold his 3 series before the warranty went out and went back to Lexus, yet BMW scored way higher than SAAB. Mind-boggling!

  4. My 2004 9-3 Aero was the least reliable/durable of the 3 SAABs I owned (sunroof improperly installed, passenger seat sensor replaced, all door handles replaced, bad window regulator x 2, bad cd changer x 2, ruined front shocks replaced, battery left me stranded, ECU left me stranded, peeling dash, peeling A/C unit, and more all within 40K miles). Sold it at a bit of a loss back in May and it did make me sad as it was fun to drive but the squeaks, rattles and headaches caused by multiple flatbed rides to the dealer were a bit much for me. I look forward to the full 9-3/9-5 redesigns as I’ll sell the BMW when the extended warranty is up and will be back in the market at a time when those models have a bit of maturity.

  5. This does not surprise me at all! Don’t be fooled that these are just problems with the 9-3. My 9-5 has been to the shop more times than I can count. Wheel speed sensor, wiring harness, faulty seat heater, gas tank totally replaced, speaker replaced, masive coolant leak… I can go on. I love the SAAB community, and this website, but I have to admit that in this case the saying holds true, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” This will be my last SAAB.

  6. Johnny, Its ashame that things like that happen, but one thing to consider is that the 9-5 has been rated the most reliable european sedan. Of course, bad apples slip through, and 1st impressions mean a lot.
    I hope this doesn’t mean you turn to the un-inspiring world of hondas and toyotas.

  7. Dan:

    I’ve got to give the devil its due — own a Toyota and it will grow on you. My wife’s RAV4 did 80k over 6 years and all I did to it was change the oil, flush coolant and put new tires on it. Wait — come to think of it, I had a similar story to Ted’s console that broke, only it was the console cover/armrest that came off. That was it.

    Ted: Alpaca. Aztek. Together. That’s one ugly picture, my friend. I hope that you got one of those amazing Aztek discounts. Actually, for as ugly as they are, I’ve heard that they are pretty good haulers and are pretty reliable.

    And, as to the comments about BMW, MB, etc. above, let me remind all of our viewers at home that the JD Power ratings come from OWNER SURVEYS. That is, the owner’s OPINION means a lot. I think that a lot of BMW owners aren’t very car-savvy, and they miss some of the repairs because most (all?) BMW dealers sell/give/take a ‘one-year service plan’ with all of their vehicles. They con the owners into bringing the car back at regular intervals to sell them stuff while they ‘service’ the vehicle. These little ‘service’ stops conveniently disguise the fact that the owner came in with a short list of annoying things that they took care of at the service call. That is, since it is fixed during a ‘scheduled’ service appointment, it isn’t a ‘repair’ in their minds anymore. Brilliant marketing, really. My first Saab came from such a dealer, and I remember the service as being great. That’s my opinion, even though there were a few issues fixed during those service calls.

  8. Wow. Some one actually admits to owning an Aztek?
    Aztek is WITHOUT A QUESTION , the ugliest production vehicle of the 21st century thus far.

  9. Its all down to expectation. Saab has (had?) a reputation for build quality and when they squeak and rattle people feel very let down. My 9-3 has a squeaky seat and a rattle in behind the dash with 8k on the clock (and mine is the 07 dash). The 3 series just seems so much better screwed together and feels stronger when I drive it back to back with mine.

    That said it has not broken down on me yet and it is much much cheaper than the BM. Other cars go wrong too we just seem to wash our dirty laundry in a very public way.

    Any one here completed a JD power survey? Never met anyone who has.

  10. “Aztek is WITHOUT A QUESTION , the ugliest production vehicle of the 21st century thus far.”
    Guess I won’t mention the Aztek anymore (slowly slinking away…). But it makes the Saab look even better when parked by it. And it hauled 5 old 96s here for me from far away places. Gotta give it some credit for that ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Mine is a 9-3,Arctic 2003, now 66K.From the beginning (can’t believe no-one’s reported this ) is the unrepairable central locking system which has been in countless times from year1. This car is my No 2 SAAB–1st broke down at 30K with timing chain failure (no warning from car or Company ). They keep interrogating the computer and replacing chips or something and refuse to accept my suggestion that they actually look at the main offending door and its locking mechanics. This car has had no prangs,no attempted break-ins and I’m the only owner. Latest thing to haappen is the drivers window has come adrift–why , why, why? And they want $600 plus laboour to fix it! Will there be a No 3 SAAB–not on your Nellie

  12. Hey, look who tied Lexus for the #1 spot. Fancy that.

    While my car doesn’t really have anything to do with these statistics since it’s a ’96, I would like to say that out of the ~9 problems it’s had over the years, only two of them weren’t caused by the idiot previous owner: A knob on the MCC panel broke, and the timing chain started to come loose. I think I’ve been relatively lucky considering the horror stories I’ve heard on here.

  13. To extende the warranty or not?

    My 9-5 Aero Wagon (2003) is about to turn over 50,000 miles. I can buy a comprehensive extended warranty up to 100,000 miles or 5 years, for around $2,100 through my local credit union. It covers just about everything (except sludge problems!).

    But the real question is, do I need the extended warranty? Its been towed four times –way too many times for a “new” car. When I look over the warranty repair records, I’m amazed at the things the dealer has done on its own. At this point, I’m on my third battery and gotten a new fuel pump, direct ignition cassette, a/c hoses, head gasket, projector headlamp ballast, ABS computer, cat converter, and I dont know what else. I could never claim that my 1990 900 was terribly reliable. Still, what’s the likelihood that I incur $2100 in failures over the next 5 years? With some many things having been replaced already, what’s left to fail! Yet, Consumer Reports tells me to expect major engine failures. Right now, I’m inclined to buy the extended warranty.

    Any comments would be appreciated.

  14. We have 2 9-5 Aeros. One sedan, one wagon. They are replacements for a ’87 900S, and a ’91 900 turbo.

    Glad they have onstar, because both have needed emergent towing on more than one occasion. 3-4 times for EACH 9-5. Makes me sad, actually. I fully expected to be wondering how many hundred thousand miles I put on my new saabs like I would have with a 900 (or 99, lol).

    Last night my check coolant level message popped up, and I found that my 2003 has the same leak by the firewall that my wife’s car had (2002). WTF. Sorry, that is a recall level problem, a massive coolant leak is a mission kill on my car, the last time they instantly knew what the problem was at Saab because it’s COMMON according to the mechanic.

    My last rant is the OnStar. We really like the onstar. We use the phone all the time, and the emergency stuff… it’s nice to know it’s there. That said, it turns off for good the end of this year. They are switching to digital phones, and they are not offering an upgrade. I’d PAY for a new phone. I’d pay whatever they charged for it. Disabling that safety feature with no upgrade path… they just burnt a 2-Saab family for good. I know it sounds silly, but killing safety and resale value over a phone part that they could make money on upgrading is the last straw. The reliability on both our 9-5s has been poor enough that not having a 1-button tow truck capability makes them scary to drive, frankly.

    My wife just bought a BMW, and I’m going to get a new car before my OnStar runs out December 31st. Sadly, it won’t be a Saab, either. I called Saab to let them know. I said that Saab people had something rare for car owners, brand loyalty. We’re a little crazy about it, frankly (I mean that in a good way ๐Ÿ™‚ ). It takes a lot to drive someone like that away, and they just did times 2.

  15. Hi MB,

    That’s very sad. It’s stories like this that drove me to a late 9000 for our back-up car rather than a 9-5. It’s sad that they stuffed them up so badly but even more sad that they refuse to support both the cars as well as the technology that is otherwise being forced onto new Saab owners. Hope you have a better run with BMW.

  16. My personal experience with my 2002 Saab 93 (also called the upgraded 900) which was made from 98 to 03, is bad in terms of reliability. Comfort of driving and LOTS of power scores 10 out of 10 (even 11), but maintenance and costs of parts scores 1 (or even 0) out of 10.
    Engine mountings, gearbox mountings, serpentine (vee) belt failure, flange gasket failures, front suspension bushes and mountings failure, SID pixel loss, ABS warning lights, front and back emblem damage, rattling dashboard, doors and windows a major piss off… etc…

    My motivation for buying a new 2007 Saab 93 Linear was purely for the passion of the brand and the hope that GM would have fixed this shit.

    They did, the car is much much better, in fact, it compares very good with the BMW and Audi building quality. For a change.

  17. Saab is not made for South Africa,
    its too hot here,
    these cars are made for Scandanavia.
    For snow and minus 20 degrees C.

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