Most automotive enthusiasts would agree that there are few occurrences in the automotive world more saddening than the demise of a brand with a loyal following.
For its faithful, the Saab name is as revered as those brands that many admire without question or hesitation; Porsche, BMW, Audi. For the truly fanatical, it’s comparable to Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini.
Unfortunately, for most of the US market (and presumably the world market) Saab was perceived as nothing more than a quirky alternative to the mainstream German offerings and inferior in many ways even to that other foreign-owned Swedish marque–one of my favorites–Volvo.
I’ve driven various generations of Saabs and must admit to distinct feelings of frustration and disappointment that the cars didn’t gain more notoriety and generate a larger customer base. The torquey direct-injection turbo-charged engines are good on gas and entertaining to drive. The steering is direct and quick and the suspension is sporting without being too harsh for commuting. Various eccentricities abound in the cockpit, such as the green gauges, the floor mounted ignition, and the excessively useful ‘black panel’ button. The styling is–almost always–unique and unlike anything else on the road.
I currently drive a 2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo4. This was purchased at a dealer, brand new, a year old due to being delayed at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey while waiting for the powers that be to determine exactly whose asset it was before it could be distributed to dealerships. It is as comfortable as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but drives more like a much smaller, nimbler car. In addition to exhibiting outstanding road manners, the new (old?) 9-5 also stands out in a crowd. It’s immensely refreshing not to ever see your exact vehicle approaching in the opposing traffic lane.
Of course, perhaps that’s part of the problem with Saab in the first place. If they had sold more, they’d be more profitable… but also more plentiful, and perhaps less desirable because of it. This could lead to decreased sales, lowering profitability, again increasing rarity and desirability… This might have been the brand’s epic problem: unique enough to be considered different and appealing to a niche, which put them on a rollercoaster ride of always being just barely able to survive. One downturn too many and they’re bankrupt. Or as in reality, bankrupt 3 or 4 times.
In any event, the name—though not the griffin logo—lives on. The rights and production facilities were purchased by an electric car company in Sweden called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS). In fact, at the time of writing, their site redirects to www.saabcars.com
It is currently unclear what vehicles will be available in what markets, but while we wait to see what shape the future takes, enjoy these images of what might have been and almost was: the Castriota-designed Saab 9-3 Phoenix.