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SAAB - Going Extinct, Does it Really Matter to Any of Us?

Article by Carmour Tan

Ever heard of the brand SAAB? I suppose you have. Ever seen the actual car recently? I suppose you haven’t. Neither have I. But what we do know of Saab is that GM owns the brand and due to the recent global economic crisis, GM needs to unload its under-performing brands from its stable and like its other Swedish counterpart Volvo, which is currently owned by Ford, Saab needs to be sold off to someone who is actually crazy enough to take control of it. Now why do I say crazy in this context?

Ever seen a Saab recently? Yes, I asked that question above and you’d note that you have not unless there’s one sitting in your garage and you’re the owner of that Saab. And that would be the only Saab in a 20km radius. This is the reason why I’m saying that the person who wishes to take over this company and brand is foolish or plain crazy. No one actually buys Saabs. Of course, we’re on a planet of about 6billion people or so (give or take a few billion) so somehow, Saab may have found a white knight in the form of Spyker, another Scandinavian car manufacturer which builds really outrageous cars for the obscenely rich and not so famous (as I still don’t know anyone or read about anyone who bought them). Talks on the sale and purchase have been going on and the conclusion is that it’s down to the price. It’s obvious if you want to take over an ailing company, you’d want it dirt cheap and without debts. Even the crazy entrepreneurs from Spyker would want to bargain until the cows come home. But for all you know, it’s a lost cause already and Saab is on the verge of extinction.

But enough on whether the deal is successful or not; the bottom-line is that Saab is a struggling brand that’ll go under if the deal with Spyker does not go through and it will be picked apart like that British manufacturer Rover and its engineering, blueprints, chassis designs will be sold to some Chinese company and rebranded as such. Imagine this; Rover is dead, from the ashes rose ROEWE. Close, but still no cigar. So imagine Saab as SAABE or BAAB.Or even SAAC (hey, isn’t that already a Chinese manufacturer?).

So you may now ask why Saab on the verge of going under? It has heritage, it built decent cars once but why isn’t anyone buying them, especially here in South East Asia? Simple; It has no brand awareness whatsoever. No one wants to buy an unknown car. Look at the uphill battle cars like Skoda, Seat, or Chery face. Some of these brands may be built like a tank, or even have the build quality of a croissant. But the reason why these cars are not selling is that they have no brand awareness. I can bet you that most of you don’t have a friend or a relative who owns a Saab or any of the cars mentioned above. In my 37 years of living, I’ve only met one person whose dad drove a Saab 900, and that was 15 years ago.

For their marketing plan and brand awareness, Saab wants us to equate its aviation and fighter plane heritage to their cars. But in all honesty, even if we bothered looking at fighter planes we’d all want F14 Tomcats and F22 Raptors instead of Saab Viggens. See? The same problem happens when it comes to their fighter planes. We all want something else rather than a Saab. I’ve never met anyone that was looking for an executive level car tell me that he recently went to a Saab showroom in Kuala Lumpur to look at the cars there. All I’ve met say that they’re looking for a Mercedes, BMW, Audi or even Lexus. I’ve never known anyone that even suggested looking at Saabs.

Saabs are quirky. They used to have their ignition keys beside the handbrakes. So that when you hop in the car, you place your hand near the handbrake, insert the key into a slot beside the handbrake, start the car and reach a few centimeters to drop the handbrake then reach for the gear stick right in front of the brake. Extremely logical, but do we honestly care for small details like that when we’re so used to finding a keyhole close to the steering wheel? If you look closely at the underneath of a Saab you’d see that it has another mud flap somewhere in the middle of the car in between the front and rear tires. Somehow this little thing works by keeping mud off the sides of the car. This company has thought of nearly everything. Except dashboard design. They think that their dashboard relates to the cockpit controls of a Saab Viggen. For Gods sake they’re wrong. A fighter plane’s cockpit is not the final word on ergonomics. It’s messy. Like having Swedish meatballs thrown together with jam and brown sauce. All these little things supposedly give Saab its character. It’s nice, but we all know that if we wanted Swedish, we’d go for a Volvo. At least it has an IKEA style sense of design. If we wanted quirky and character, we’d go Italian, go for an Alfa Romeo, as stylish as an Italian Suit yet with slightly sartorial or slightly silly touches that we’d love, and temperamental to boot.

Would I miss Saab if it went the way of the dodo? I don’t think so as I’ve never actually wanted one in the first place. It was the same as when MG Rover kicked the bucket - I couldn’t care less that it happened. However if Ferrari went bust and stopped making cars, I’d cry and wear black for a month or so.

And what does Saab give us that we can’t get from any other car? I still don’t know. If you do know, you must be a Saab owner and therefore you’re biased. If you’re a Saab owner and you’re feeling angry at this article, you shouldn’t. You should treat this as an early warning and sell your car as quickly as possible and buy something that isn’t a Saab before it is worth lower than the value of scrap. And don’t get any ideas that your Saab will be a collector’s item one day. If it isn’t a Ferrari or a Bugatti, it may be better if you actually sell it and save yourself the pain and suffering in the long run.

Author is an expert on articles concerning cars. He is also a regular car blog and car forum contributor.

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