I’m probably making mountains out of molehills here, but I think it’s a fundamental question about Saab’s future direction.
One of the reasons I watch Saab’s development and Saab sales is the hope that GM will enable them to have a model range that promotes growth and thereby investment. The end goal is for Saab to be able to build the type of cars that encompass the things that drew me to the brand in the first place – great design, great performance, and a definite Swedish identity and originality.
Saabs appealed to me because they were unique, very well equipped and had surprisingly plenty to offer when you planted the foot. It was a recipe for instant smiles. The current range are brilliant cars as well. They’re still very well equipped, they’re very reliable, they’re safe and go even faster than what they did before. But the “difference” gap has closed, which is a real concern for the future in my eyes.
Last month I wrote a piece here called Saab are Swedish. It sums up my feelings about the brand pretty well. Here’s an excerpt.
What’s of concern to me is that a brand, or company, as distinctly identifiable as Saab has to maintain strong roots with it’s origins. If Saab aren’t Swedish anymore, if they’re not true to their core values of design, safety, innovation and responsible performance, then they’re just another car company. You can’t just inject Swedishness, as one GM executive espoused a few years ago.
The possibility of a V8 Saab 9-5, in my personal opinion, would close the “difference gap” a little more. And in my eyes that’d be a terrible thing. I didn’t vote in the polls that were posted last night, but if I did I’d have voted “No” on both the non-turbo and turbo polls.
A new 9-5 isn’t likely to be an option for me in the future, so it’s not of particular concern to me as a model choice. The concern for me, though, is the cultural shift that it would represent at the company. Saab wouldn’t be an intelligent company applying their engineering skills to create cars that met needs. They’d be an intelligent company creating cars with a me-too development mentality.
Eggs n Grits quite rightly called this an idealistic stance in comments. And idealism doesn’t run car companies. At a fundamental level, that comes down to building profitable cars that people want to buy. But there’s a little more to it when it comes to niche brands like Saab. There’s a corporate identity and philosophy that enthusiasts buy into. Perhaps those that are lost as that philosophy changes are replaced by new ones who buy into it?
All I know is that if Saab cease to think at a fundamental level like the company that I got into, then maybe it’ll be time for me to re-think as well. I’ll still own and love the Saabs I have, but as I think towards my own automotive future I know that a European version of Cadillac is something I’m not particularly interested in.
I don’t think it’s something Rolf Mellde or Gunnar Ljungstrom would have been that interested in either. Though perhaps they would have built a EuroCaddy back then if the Swedish market of the 1950s could have supported it?
So for me, I’d prefer to see Saab develop and refine a six cylinder car at the most. Back in the 1970s they proved that indeed there was a replacement for displacement. I’d hate to see them go back on that when it came to passenger sedans and their variants.