Much has been made of the damage done to our brand in recent years and there’s no denying that some of this is true, especially in recent months. In Scandinavia, the spotlight has been on this company in a way that I think it unprecedented for a car company and quite possibly for just about any company in Sweden.
Amongst all the hysteria, it’s easy for people to translate “brand damage” into meaning “no brand value at all” and nothing could be further from the truth.
Saab is quite literally the last of the independent premium European brands and for the right investor, that’s something that’s worth quite a lot. You can’t create 60+ years of history and achievement overnight. You can’t create enthusiasm or loyalty overnight. Current issues aside, it would take a decade or more to create what Saab has from scratch and that’s if everything goes right for you.
Saab is a manufacturer of premium automobiles, designed in Scandinavia and made here, too, with the singular exception of the 9-4x. Our DNA – Innovation, aircraft heritage and Scandinavian origin – influences everything that do. Our cars are developed with three brand pillars in mind – progressive design, sporty driver focus and responsible performance. These are built into every car we make and those attributes still mean plenty in 2011.
They mean that we minimise the potential adverse impacts for those around us (real life safety, environmental responsibility). They mean that we develop cars that engage the driver in the driving experience, building the car around the driver (our ‘cockpit’ interior is developed that way for a reason). Our designs consistently bring out an opinion in people that observe them, but they also serve people in terms of functionality and safety.
That sort of cohesive, holistic approach doesn’t come overnight, and not without some considerable forethought. We’re not for everyone, and we don’t try to be. But we’re quite deliberate in what we do.
We still have an image as an intelligent carmaker, one who does things a certain way for a reason. We cling without apology to our Scandinavian roots and imagery because it’s a vital part of who we are as a company, and the things we do.
We are fortunate enough to have built a number of automotive icons over the years and we think of those icons with pride: the world-beating early Saab rally cars that ignited passions in people all over Europe in the 1960s. The turbocharged revolution that Saab led in terms of family cars in the 1970s. The iconic Saab 900 range and especially the Saab Convertible that began its life in the 1980s and continues to this day. The versatile combination of performance and practicality of the Saab 9000 Aero in the 1990’s and the mad combination of beauty and brutality of the Saab 9-3 Viggen that saw in the 2000-10 decade, leading on to our most beautiful convertible ever in the ‘noughties’ and a true premium Saab sedan/wagon in the original Saab 9-5.
All of these vehicles have been taken into owners’ hearts over the years and have helped us to build one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic brand followings in the world. “We don’t just have customers, we have enthusiasts”.
This is a community that came out in the middle of a northern-hemisphere winter in January 2010 to demonstrate their love for the company when it was threatened with liquidation in early 2010. In 60 cities around the world, around 10,000 people came out in what was an unprecedented show of support for a car company. You can’t build that sort of support overnight.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, there’s no doubt that the Saab brand has suffered some level of damage in recent years/months.
The core of Saab’s DNA still exists, however. It lives on in our products, our design, our driving experience, and in the hearts of those who work here and drive our vehicles. We certainly need some stability and continuity to get our ‘mojo’ working again, but I’m absolutely convinced that the core principles of this company are worth fighting for, that people will come to Saab when they feel that conditions are right, and when they get to see and experience our new product.
What we have is worth preserving and building on, which is exactly what we plan to do.