The 6. May 1998 was a dreary, rainy day. Trollhättan's local paper read an unusual death notice. The Saab 9000, loved and appreciated, was no longer produced. An obituary of all those who were allowed to build this extraordinary vehicle. Not a few believed that the last true Saab had come off the line that day.
After 503.087 copies was now finally over and the last Saab 9000 rolled into the museum. A unique success story for the small, Swedish car brand was at an end. Opportunity to search 20 years later.
Not a few consider the 9k to be the best Saab ever. And veterans still have bright eyes when they talk about these years. The big Saab was in their opinion the only vehicle where the brand could realize itself without restrictions.
The exception Saab between the times
There may be something in it. The history of the car brand Saab is characterized from a technical perspective of two long periods. There's the Gunnar Ljungström era. In his time, all models were created from 92 to 99. The 900 must also be attributed to him, even if he arose after the departure of Ljungström. Because it is based on the architecture of the Saab 99.
And then, starting with 1990, the GM era. All vehicles were bound to the platform dictation from Rüsselsheim and Detroit. Even if Saab made the best of it. Between these two blocks of time, the Saab 9000 was created. The unique opportunity to start with a piece of white paper, without any limitations or constraints. The opportunity for the young talents in the Stallbacka who understood and took advantage of their opportunity.
The result was an unusual car. A cheeky, unconventional attack of a small manufacturer in the luxury class. With hatchback, front wheel drive and turbo engines. In Gothenburg, where they still built slow, angular Hecktriebler, one saw with horror the car of the future from Trollhättan come. And in Stuttgart they still built the W123 ...
Saab was ahead of the times. At least this once, for the breath of a felt second. And the 9k turned into a success story. For his makers he became a recommendation. Not a few of the young, innovative designers left Trollhättan in the coming years and made their career in Gothenburg and Germany.
The 9000 was certainly not the last, true Saab. Although some magazines saw it that way then. But he was the conclusion of an era, and no Saab before and after clarifies the philosophy of the brand as he did.
The shape follows the function
With wood and leather, the 9000 showed the luxury insignia of its time. Otherwise he remains mercilessly factual and thought through to the last detail. The controls always have a white font on a black background. Indications of importance, like the speedometer, are in signal color. Pure aircraft construction, the cockpit of a Viggen jet follows the same logic.
This subordination is best seen in the design of the door handles. Only a white line on the black handle is enough to orientate in the dark. That's just awesome. Handles with a glossy surface would have been unthinkable at the time. They could have developed unwanted glare effects. A car like from another time. Ambient light and premium interior would have rejected the designers of the 9k as what they are: Pure vanity without any function.
The greatest strength of the 9000 is also its biggest weakness. While the Tipo4 colleagues of Alfa and Lancia beguile with Italian grandeur, the Saab is first and foremost an engineering car. Sober and thought through to the last detail.
On the 6. May 1998 was over with the Saab in the upper class. More than half a million vehicles were a success for the two 9000 generations. This was made possible by the 900 Turbo, which has become more and more demanding and expensive throughout its career, and has prepared its customers for the 9000.
It could have gone on with Saab in the upper class. From 1990 one worked on the Successor, But not for long, then GM had no more courage, and the Wallenbergs had long since renounced the car business. The 9000 has no successor, and anyone looking for reasons why in Trollhättan cars were no longer built, which finds one of the roots here.
The Saab 9000 remained without a successor
In Munich and Ingolstadt they invested in the 90er years in the upper class and built strong brands. Saab lost this unique historic opportunity. The 9-5 could and should never replace the 9k. He was the car for the middle class, below the 9000 successor and above the 900 II. He played this role with flying colors.
The last 9000 rolled on the 6. May 1998 in the museum. Not without a farewell round on the test track to turn the factory. An exceptional vehicle, for sure. From a time that was just different. Not digital, not electric, where innovation was tangible and cars were elegant and not SUVs. An era in which car companies and young talents had opportunities against large corporations in the car business. A time that's just over.