This blog has been dead, or perhaps near death, for some time now. Just today I heard news that I knew required me to finally break the spell and express my frustrations and laments for the world to (hopefully) read. The Swedish automobile maker Saab has declared bankruptcy. While possibility does remain that they may be resurrected, hopefully in just three days but any amount of time would be fine with me if they could continue to make cars, the potential for a future for Saab is unlikely at best.
I bought my first Saab a couple of years ago, and while it never ran I remember fondly the nights of tearing parts off of it to scalp to my friends. Many of my friends had Saabs, and still do, and it is them that I owe the thanks for introducing me to those three and five door Scandinavian brutes. It was just a couple of months ago that I bought my next Saab, a Viggen, and I now have firsthand knowledge of the reasons for what you may have read about regarding Saab owners. Many news outlets are using adjectives to describe Saab owners, such as “loyal”, “devoted”, and “attached”.
Truth be told, we are. I recall before I owned a Saab how I would go with friends to pick up Saab parts from other Saab owners, or how we would meet Saab owners in parking lots and discuss how wonderful Saabs are. The one thing I always noticed was that Saab owners were rarely on their first Saab. Often they had owned many before the one they were at, and they planned on buying Saabs for years to come. I met some that had a 900, 9-3, and 9-5, just because. What other car company has as many fan clubs or forums devoted to their cars? I never met a Saab owner that did not absolutely love their car.
And once I entered the world of Saab, with my Viggen, I understood those owners far better than any journalist ever can. My Viggen has power, but it also has, what is often reserved as a label for Italian cars, soul. No cars anymore have interesting designs or fun ideas. Today cars are always built with the purpose of getting someone where they want to go, rather than taking them there.
Saab owners seem to be from a different breed of people. Many journalists and even Saab enthusiasts have referred to Saabs recently as “quirky”. The spectacular attraction to Saabs by their owners is so much more than that. I think that Saab owners wish cars were more than cookie cutter boxes with as many options a company can put in their cars for as little money as possible. Saab owners hate the idea of doing something for the masses. Saabs were never made for the masses, rather, they were made for the few crazy enough to buy one. The company originally made airplanes, and the interior of a Saab is like a cockpit. Owning a Saab is like owning something living, you get to know more about it everyday. I have gotten non-stop calls and emails from the gentleman I bought my Viggen from, asking for pictures and to know what I have done to the car since I got it. He loved his car, but I expected that when I bought the car sight unseen.
This post would not be a proper differintegration post if I did not bring up GM. Saab had all but signed papers selling the company to Chinese investors when GM stepped in and stopped the deal. GM still owns a stake in the company, and some designs or what not, so they still get a say in what happens. Apparently GM thought that Saabs would compete with GM cars in China, so they killed the deal and forced Saab into bankruptcy. First I want to say that I bailed them out against my will when they were bankrupt. I wish that they had not been bailed out and had been forced into bankruptcy. Now, where GM is wrong is assuming that people that want to buy a Saab might now buy a GM product. I know this is true in the US, and I have little doubt that the peculiar nature of Saab owners crosses cultures into China and other areas. GM cars, in addition to being crap, are utterly boring. They were all designed by a committee and show it. No potential Saab owner is going to be defeated enough by this news to buy a GM vehicle. Saab owners are a hopeful bunch. Why did GM decide to kill Saab? Because, as they have shown over the past, well, since they began, GM has no idea how to make business decisions.
So, that is it. The end of one of the last car companies that makes interesting cars. Still, Saab will live on. I will still tinker with my Viggen, and many other Saab owners will enjoy their cars. But, there will always be something missing knowing that I can’t buy a brand new Saab, knowing that every Saab that will be built has been built. What do I do? Do I enjoy my car and add mile after mile to it or do I try to preserve it for future generations to know what a truly great car is?