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Saab is about to die, with GM killing talks and announcing plans to shutter the brand. The brand's vehicles will live on, at least temporarily in Chinese models based on the 9-3 and 9-5 platforms sold to a Beijing automaker.  (Source: AutoBlog)
There's no storybook ending to this Saab story

The Saab story was a dramatic piece from start to finish.  Saab Automotive launched officially in 1949, bringing its engineers' experience in aircraft aerodynamics to the auto industry.  That high-tech legacy set the company off to a solid start, but couldn't spare it from a downturn in the late 1980s.  Convinced that the company would turn around, GM bought half of the company in 1989.

In 1995, the automaker posted its first profit in seven years.  However, it quickly slid back into losses as its lineup weakened and failed to appeal in the luxury market against the likes of Lincoln, Lexus, Buick, Acura, Infiniti, and Cadillac.  Nonetheless, GM loaded Saab onboard in 2000, buying the remaining half of the shares on the market, in line with its 1989 vision.

The future looked promising.  New models like the 9-3 and 9-5 pleased many luxury buyers and sales started to show signs of life as it entered the turn of the century.  However, the economic downturn that hit starting in 2007 and continued in earnest through 2008 into 2009 would eventually spell doom for the Swedish veteran.

In June of 2009 the seemingly inevitable happened -- GM filed for bankruptcy.  With that filing came talks of selling -- or closing Saab.  A deal was brokered with Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg, but the optimism driven by that deal rapidly evaporated when the final negotiations collapsed last month for unspecified reasons.  That failure, in part, cost GM CEO Fritz Henderson his job.

And it was the beginning of the end of this Saab story.  GM tried to sell Saab to Dutch supercar-maker Spyker, but in the eleventh hour the promising bid fell flat, leaving Saab Automotive with a final ride into the twilight.  GM announced Friday that it would not be selling Saab's remaining assets or continue the brand, but would instead "wind down" its operations.

A blow to the Swedish economy, the decision is a hard pill to swallow, but it was expected.  And for Saab enthusiasts, there's still an extra wrinkle to consider.  GM has reached a deal with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp to sell the Chinese automaker technology and assets behind its popular 9-3 and 9-5 lineup.  That means that while the Saab nameplate may die, its image will live on for some time in Chinese-branded clones.  For some who miss Saab, that's a comforting thought, for others, a final affront in the ill-fated Saab story.



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RE: The nameplate must be worth something
By BZDTemp on 12/18/2009 6:23:18 PM , Rating: 0
Maybe because GM does not want the Chinese to get their hands on all the tech.

I think this is a sad development. Saab many not have been selling in great numbers but they have always been innovative and unafraid of being different. They are sort of the Swedish equivalent to Citroen only with better quality and a much better history with regards to safety.

I blame GM for diluting the brand and trying to make it just another badge in their collection. Just like Ford all but destroyed Jaguar and Aston Martin.


By Smartless on 12/18/2009 9:34:02 PM , Rating: 4
Have to agree with dilution thing. One of my gripes with Ford was their overuse of their V-6 3.0L Duratec engine which was used in tons of cars like Mazda 6s and even Jaguar X-Types. Ugh.

Getting back to the point, didn't SAAB use Suburu Imprezas at one point or was that only in America?


By Penti on 12/19/2009 12:34:52 AM , Rating: 1
Sure they wanted to sell to the Chinese but wasted idiocy at Koenigsegg and Spyker instead. There's no problem with them getting access to tech, GM still would have owned it. But there's no reason to manufacture expensive up to date cars in China, if they didn't want the future model program and the Trollhättan factory of course they are not interested then. That would only be interested for someone who plans breaking into EMEA any way.

Ford will probably sell Volvo Cars to Geely. But that would be as a whole company with both of the production sites in Torslanda, Gothenburg, Sweden and Ghent, Belgium. Any how the Saab brand is not fully owned by GM as weapons manufacturer Saab AB still owns and uses it. But any way the benefit of the Chinese is that they got access to capital, fresh capital that aren't EIB-loans and retarded venture capital.


RE: The nameplate must be worth something
By ChristopherO on 12/19/2009 5:00:00 AM , Rating: 5
With all due respect on the Jag and Aston comments... Aston and Jag both had very serious quality issues. As of today Jags are some of the best built cars on the road, and have the reliability ratings to prove it, and Aston is the most solid it has ever been. I've been a long time lover of all things Aston, and before Ford bought them, they were through numerous re-orgs and were a total mess. Ford turned it into a billion dollar sale... The Aston name means something again too and people know them... For the first time in many years people have been talking about them with the big league competitors like Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Mind you I have no idea about Jaguar's fate. They have good footing now, but they have an unproven owner. Aston is now owned by a serious conglomerate of racing enthusiasts and will be just fine (both British and some Sovereign money). The most important thing, those guys love cars. The second most important thing, they have a management team that does too.

My primary car is also a Saab 9-5. The 2010 9-5 looked incredible. GM is one of the most poorly managed companies today. The fact they kept Buick... I mean seriously? The average Buick owner is over 70. For whatever reason they have a market in China, but they should have moved operations there and ceased as a domestic brand. They really should have gone two-tier, entry, and luxury. Toyota/Lexus, Chevy/Cadillac. I have a feeling it's basically management and their crazy labor contracts. Even after the bankruptcy the workers got sweetheart deals that gives them better job security than most -- which is insane for a company with 70B of public debt. To this day they still act like they deserve employment... Hey, maybe management really is that clueless, but it is a systemic problem. Everyone from top to bottom at GM needs to look in a mirror and know they are a failure. As long as they keep blaming each other, all they'll accomplish is burning more public tax money. And given that the President doesn't want to lose another 2 million jobs on his watch, he'll just keep shoveling our tax money to Detroit to keep his union support strong. If he lost GM, there isn't a chance he'd get reelected. At this point I believe everyone in Washington is doing this to save their jobs and really couldn't give a hoot about the guys in Detroit or the cars they make. Everyone in DC should have a one-term limit. Then they would stop burning cash trying to get voted back every few years.

As for Saab, I'm sorry to see them go. I think they were great, but truth be told, the GM tenure destroyed them. There is very little reason to salvage the brand because it stopped being unique almost 20 years back. It would probably be easier to start over and make a new company than repair the blemish that Saab has on their image at this moment. Even though the new 9-5 looked gorgeous, it was almost 100% GM and very little Saab.

Sorry to the guys overseas. They really deserved a better group of management then they were forced to deal with.


RE: The nameplate must be worth something
By Penti on 12/19/2009 9:47:13 AM , Rating: 2
Saab didn't have a small car something important (at least in Europe), that's really a reason why they fell so bad. It wouldn't have shielded them from the 30% drop, in sales, but it would at least made them money when they had sales. For example 10% of Volvo's sales in 2007 where C30, 13.6% where V50 (another 13.75% S40). Saab could have easily sold 10-20k more cars with just one small model.

We buy big cars in Sweden, V70 is the most sold. But these companies can't live on Sweden alone. They must understand that and they have not. Saab was only small cars till the 80's... And production in Sweden is actually cheap compare to the states where they need to pay massive health care and pension insurances.


By MightyAA on 12/22/2009 10:06:44 AM , Rating: 2
They actually did have one developed. It started as the 9-X concept and I think eventually became the 9-1. GM killed the project and release.
GM killed a lot of Saab. Just google back to around 2000. Saab had a running prototype variable compression engine which won a bunch of awards; GM accountants killed the development, let go the engineering department, and moved development to Detroit. Way to go!


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