Before 10 years ago. Saab for the last time at the IAA.

Frankfurt in autumn 2009. I'm on my way to the IAA with a friend and two acquaintances. Saab shows the new 9-5 generation. At this point, it is very far away that I will write a blog about the brand around 1 1/2 years later. On the contrary. Because Saab is really no longer important to me. I've been through a lot with the brand.

IAA 2009. The last appearance of Saab in Frankfurt.
IAA 2009. The last appearance of Saab in Frankfurt.

There was my 9-3 II Aero Cabriolet. A really nice car and at the same time the sheet metal nightmare on four wheels. At a mileage of 5.000, the Saab disappeared into the workshop for extensive revision for days. Then it worked again - for a short time. Then when parts went defective that would have been expected at mileage of around 200.000, I threw the towel in exasperation. Our relationship ended at exactly 20.000 kilometers.

My Saab dealer had previously forgotten to forward the order for a 9-5 Anniversary Bio Power station wagon to Sweden, so that it was no longer available due to the factory holidays. The purchase of an exhibition vehicle failed because of the value of a full tank; in short, I was completely served. The 9-3 went to the Mercedes dealer, I vowed never to enter a Saab dealership again. At this point the story could have ended. Then there would be no blog, the readers would use their time for other purposes. But then everything turned out very differently, which is a long story.

GM is also fed up with Saab

Not only I have a cloudy relationship with Saab in 2009. Even GM, hit by the financial crisis, has had enough of the Swedes. There is the nice story that GM simply erased the Trollhättan location from the map of its former empire and thus pointed out the imminent divorce to those responsible for Saab. It is uncertain whether the story really happened that way. She is already believable.

By the end of 2008 at the latest, it is also clear in Sweden that the Americans will be serious. There is speculation in the national press whether GM will simply close the plant or sell Saab. Can you actually sell Saab? The journalists ask. And Dagens Industri headlines that the last chapter has now been opened for Saab. And should be right. At the beginning of 2009, GM sent its daughter to the reconstruction. The Swedish variant of a regulated bankruptcy to get the company out of debt for new investors.

Saab presents the new 9-5 generation at the IAA 2009

At the IAA 2009 we of course have no inkling of any of this. It was only clear that Saab is in some trouble. The word got around, but we don't reflect on how deep the crisis was. On the contrary! We are excited about the 9-5NG, because a completely new Saab is a rare event. And then he stands there on the Saab stand.

Large, elegant, impressive. A car that you wouldn't necessarily attribute to the brand due to its size. Do I want him? To stay with the truth - not really! The first contact leaves me relatively cold. Why is it? There is this strange atmosphere, which is perhaps temporary, perhaps also lasting for the whole fair. It tastes of crisis, tension, and I cannot classify it at the time.

Add to that the careless handling of the vehicles, the inexpensive materials that put me off on this day. Also, because I do not know the story behind it.

The Saab 9-5 NG is a Hesse!

At this point, the small Swedish brand is on fire from all sides. Above all, the Opel works council tried with all means to secure the production of the 9-5 NG for Rüsselsheim. To compensate for this, a couple of Opel Astra should have been built on Göta Älv. Not too many, of course, just enough. It is obvious where the intended relocation will lead. The strengthening of the Opel parent plant and, in the medium term, a complete liquidation of Trollhättan. Oh yes, solidarity among employees and works councils in the global GM family does not exist in 2009.

If the financial crisis had not come, the latest Saab would probably have become a Hesse. That's for sure, the vehicles on the IAA 2009 and all pilot series models are. Because the tools for the production of the 9-5 NG reach only on Friday before the IAA start from Rüsselsheim coming Trollhättan.

Departure under the sign of the IAA?

Most visitors are unlikely to notice the drama surrounding Saab. The 9-5 NG arrives at the IAA 2009 much better than my audience. My friend, who drives Audi in the meantime, is still infected. He wants to order one then and drive as a company car. The virus does not release him even after 10 years, but unfortunately there is no cure. Because there are no new and thus no more company cars from Saab.

Another model is almost drowned in the hype around the 9-5. In Frankfurt, Saab presents the 9-3 X, a crossover station wagon that is one of my favorites among the new models. A bit of lifestyle mixed with the brand's typical understatement. With the facilities for success and departure. Unfortunately, it never gets the attention it deserves. And drowned in the crisis.

Intrigues around Saab

In September 2009 indicates what 2011 will lead to the end of the brand. Intrigues, actors with an unclear agenda, big drama. There's Jan Åke Jonsson, the Saab CEO, who turns overnight from Saul to Paul and raises questions about his role. As a GM manager, he seems to Saab tough cuts, as CEO, he positioned himself superficially against the Detroiters. His role in the fight for survival will never be completely clear even after the separation from GM. Is he just the extended arm of the Americans and vicarious agent in the stablebacka?

There's BAIC. At this time, the state-owned company is still the preferred GM partner in China. The Chinese do not exclusively acquire the intellectual property of the old 9-5 and 9-3 II as well as Saab engines and transmissions. But they want more. At the IAA 2009 there are the first rumors. 25% share of Saab or maybe a little less? A little later they let the cat out of the bag. 20% would be absolutely sufficient. No seat on the Supervisory Board is desired, but many millions are announced for Trollhättan and ensures free market access in China.

A story that sounds too good to be true. But back then you want to believe because a straw can look like a tree trunk to a drowning person - and it gives hope. A year later, BAIC will attempt to take over Saab as a whole. The poker game takes some time and ultimately fails due to a missing signature.

Christian von Koenigsegg is traded as a possible Saab buyer. The founder of the sports car manufacturer from Ängelholm has the overall package in mind. A modern plant, exciting developments such as the electric all-wheel drive, a modular platform or the electric car concept that is way ahead of its time. Together with the BAIC millions and the Chinese market access for its super sports cars a tempting offer. Koenigsegg finally refuses, today he tries again under different circumstances and with NEVS and Evergrande. China beckons, and even now the motivation of everyone involved is not as clear as it seems.

2019 - what's left?

The story of Saab is clear. There is nothing to interpret. The brand is dead and it stays that way. Jan Åke Jonsson is the obstetrician for startups in Sweden today and is otherwise well-employed. At BAIC, business is mediocre, and Koenigsegg lure new adventures. Next year, a Koenigsegg sports car will be built in Trollhättan. The circle then closes. After 11 years.

The most amazing development is going through the Saab 9-5 NG. Against all odds, it is still being built. Not in Rüsselsheim, for example, but where a Saab should come from. In Trollhättan. Thank Victor Muller, he dares this adventure. The 9-5 brings it to a considerable level of maturity in a short time and drives straight into the hearts of fans. I'll buy one too, I'm happy with it, and a little sad when it leaves. With its history, it is already one of the automobiles that are immortal for all time.


Thanks: At this point a big thank you to friend Uli, who has provided the pictures for this article. Without him, the realization of the contribution would not have been possible.

25 thoughts on "Before 10 years ago. Saab for the last time at the IAA."

  • Thank you so much! Very interesting. At that time I suspected that the 9-5NG was built in the pre-series in Germany. Possibly even with a commissioned development service provider ...
    Maybe this is a little interesting anecdote and certainly one may talk about it in light of the time passed: I can remember that at least attachments (doors) at the company ThyssenKrupp Drauz Nothelfer in Saarland for the 9-5NG
    were built. Maybe they have also built the bodies for the pre-series.

  • 2009, I was there with a Saab-gifted ticket, the year before the IAA I had bought a new 9-3. It was a strange atmosphere on the stand because you felt that it was about survival. It was the first and last time I ever sat in a 9-5 NG. You could tell, that they were pre-production cars, but I thought, that will be a great car if it goes in series.
    The 9-3 were well-made, better than my my 2008, but I was not dissatisfied with that either.

  • That's delicious too ...

    If it had been like that (you a spy), maybe today we would have something in SAAB design 😉

  • Very poetic - and unfortunately so aptly sadly beautiful ... I have to dry a tear.

  • Spicy (!) Stories are of course all the more interesting ... 😉 I also hope for a short story about the newly inflamed love - anyway and precisely because of that 😉

  • "(...) and the moment they both turn around (...)"

    You are a belletrist, Monsieur Anddeu.
    Nice and sad, what you write there and how you write it.
    Chapeau and Merci ...

  • Thanks for the praise, Mr. Hürsch 🙂

    In 2009 I photographed almost every detail of the new 9-5, almost 80 photos of the Saab stand and the cars on display, of which I sent the 40 best to Tom. Saab folks then thought that I would be a European-looking spy in the service of a Japanese manufacturer ...

    At that time I was as well as some other Saabists, I was fascinated by the shape of the 9-5, but bitterly disappointed by the material quality and feel in the interior, no comparison to the 900 (I). Nevertheless, the 9-5 was my personal favorite next to the Citroen C6.

    Today I am no longer attracted by a visit to the IAA, although I work only 20 km from the exhibition grounds. Electric cars, autonomous vehicles and the usual aggressive front masks, especially the German manufacturers do not interest me. In addition, the time of the big monster fairs has slowly overtaken, also recognizable in the print area, where the importance of Drupa goes back and the IPEX (UK) has become meaningless.

    What kind of times were those in the 70s: Saab showed the 99 EMS, Citroen was last represented with the DS, the Ro 80 shone with its innovative design, Lancia unfortunately said goodbye to its elaborately built cars and integrated much price-optimized Fiat -Technique (beta). Even a Polish minibus (Nysa) had done it to me back then….

    Best regards,
    Uli

  • The IAA 2009 was the last one I visited. I was looking forward to the new 9-5 and it was my highlight. He did not really convince me at the time (at least the pre-production models on show). At that time I did not have the feeling that I was facing the important (final) shot that saves the company.

    In general, the atmosphere was strange. The whole appearance was already cloudy from the colors alone. The situation was reflected in the stand (understandably). I always had a ritual when I visited the IAA. I went to the fair, walked through the halls, tried to integrate Saab somewhere and always stopped by the Swedes shortly before the end of my visit. So also in 2009 and that branded itself back then. When I left the booth, it felt like the last time I saw someone I knew. You smiled at each other again and the moment you both turn around you both know that you won't see each other again. Unfortunately it happened the same way ...

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  • The alternator broke our 9-3 diesel for the first time at about 56 000km, because second time then at 145 000km broken.

  • PS

    I hope that despite Tom's AW, which has overlapped with my comment, continue.
    However, with significantly less confidence now ...

  • I hope so too, the answer is still coming and I'm very curious about that.

    For the moment, however, the tension was excellent and very high. A real Tom ...
    Everyone has hated, dismissed, possibly even betrayed SAAB * or at least avoided - GM, dt.
    Works Councils, an Internal CEO * and even the editor-in-chief of this blog. In his niche no more
    and no less than a leading medium, which was soon able to establish itself quickly and successfully.

    Sounds like Cliffhanger to me. How and why then something rekindled, yes
    is even aflame and blazed up, we are sure to find out ...
    At least I hope so with great confidence.

  • An exciting question and the answer would make an interesting article. Unfortunately, it is also a bit spicy, because not quite common, which is why the readers have to give it up.

  • An exciting review, Tom. Even more exciting, however, is the question of how the love for Saab then rekindled !?

  • PS

    I remember something and I think it's important.
    Here also my thanks to Uli, whose photo gallery the article
    very, very good to wear and enriches ...

    Already at the first picture I wondered if it was coincidence or not
    The intention was that the wine red stripes in the polo and shirt of the
    Visitor correspond with the backdrop of the NG?

    I do not have to and do not want to know that exactly. The photos are good and
    always worth a thank you and a horsepower.

  • The company still exists, but the Saab signs have been removed for some time.

    To keep it fair: workshop and service were always impeccable, the sales began to show weakness, as the longtime seller turned his back on the house.

  • I was also 2009 at the IAA. I even received two Saab tickets to visit the new 9-5 NG. I have not received that from any manufacturer before. Except for the quality impression and for me too high seating position, I found the car well (not great). The exterior design, however, had convinced me. Well done was the preparation on the website of Saab. It was a small film of employees from the designer, engine department, etc. and always a little more of the car to see. Until the IAA the film was complete on the net and the author could be considered. When I drove him to the dealer trial, I was very disappointed. The chassis was a gray, the build quality is not really good. So then the 9-5 sneaked out of my head and I stayed true to the) -3 SC.

  • Thanks Tom for this great, but also sad report! Just what a pity what happened to Saab and.

    I felt the same with the 9-5NG as you. I was able to test it extensively on the occasion of the Int.Saab meeting 2010 in Switzerland and then asked myself: Do I want a car like this? No was the first reaction, just to buy one of the last in 2012! And yes, I had great pleasure in the even bigger (too big) 9-5 NG, but then sold it in 2018. I feel the same way, I just have too many cars, that costs and you can't always move them all enough. I have sold four Saab in the last 10 months, all for a good to very good price. I bought one, the wonderful 9-3X, the most misunderstood vehicle under Saab.

    Incidentally, I can only confirm the impressions of reader Ebasil. My Saab run extremely reliably. Of course, mine doesn't have any major mileage on the clock, but in terms of age from 1998 to 2009 almost everything is included and all absolutely problem-free. (When I think of my neighbor, he already has the third transmission in his Tiguan with 70000 km or is it the differential? in his car ...)

    However, we cherish and care for our Saab! Always good ride.

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  • Yes, yes, and yes the 9-5NG is a brilliant car that says no one likes saloons and can not imagine selling this car anymore. Of course a few product improvements would be nice to us so you live with a battery sucker and a not perfect bodywork.
    But honestly, a car that is 10 years old and still feels today as a new car, which other brand can say that?
    Space for batteries and É engines is there, who makes the right upgrade?

  • PPS: The not-so-friendly Saab dealer from back then has surely thrown in the towel long ago and no longer practices in these Saab-adverse times - I assume (?).

  • Goosebumps and honesty

    Those were my first thoughts too, and that's all I can think of ...
    A really great thrill and a fully accurate commentary.
    Thanks to Tom and thanks to you.

  • BJ 2019

    Funny and true, what you're wearing PostScript.
    Just recently (before 2 or max 3 days) I got into a parking lot
    Vehicle tail in the corner of the eye. A nice rounded butt with the unexcited
    Taillights and it was also a convertible ...

    But only a few meters further in the direction of the own SAABs run, then came also the
    Front in the field of vision. As rugged as a quarry and with such a high bling-bling factor as
    you can easily cut diamonds worth X-billion dollar from simply
    pick up his grill.

    It was an MB. And my spontaneous thought was: "They still can't do it."
    As for the design and appearance of younger SAABs, they are also for a BJ 2029
    still good if things continue like this with MB, BMW, VW, Tesla and Volvo ...

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    1
  • An honest report that reflects the situation before 10 years ingeniously. Goose bumps! Thank you!

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  • The Aero Cabriolet was BJ 2004. A Monday car from the beginning unresolvable and nerves cost. By the way, the only monday car I ever had from Saab, and there were many. Otherwise, the quality always voted, to the end.

    Yes, why do you sell the 9-3 SC? I already know that it is always a political issue when I part with a Saab. So why: On the one hand, because everything is in motion, nothing set in stone, not even the blog. On the other hand, because objectively there are far too many cars and not all of them can be moved and maintained. Especially because the older Saab are more important to me than the “modern” vehicles. Whereby, to stay with the truth, the separation was not made lightly.

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  • PS: The 9-5 (like the 9-3 Griffins) still looks so up-to-date that you could think it was BJ 2019. In fact it took the big German competitors about 10 years to get something similar to the little Swede. Described very well in the report. It's a shame, but that's nothing new for us ... 🙁

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  • Hello Tom, thank you very much for this, not only in retrospect, very interesting report with many different noteworthy aspects! One question: what year of manufacture was the “nightmare convertible”? I cannot confirm such reports (which of course I do not want to question) from my experience. From time to time you read about such “problem Saab”, like recently the reader's contribution to his first 9-3 II sedan.

    I can't confirm that for my four Saab, they are totally reliable! My first Saab, a 9-3 I Cabri SE, Bj 2002, bought as a year-old car: zero problems. I drove it until 2007 when I ordered a 9-3 II Cabrio MJ 2007 (facelift inside, not yet outside) as a new car with 150 hp diesel. A great car with a fantastic engine. Except for the strange fact that the alternator had to be replaced twice in the first five years (as a gesture of goodwill) - it was probably a cheap component beforehand, the last one then lasted until the end - no problems here either. Until I swapped the piece of jewelry with one laughing and one crying eye in 2017 for an even larger piece of jewelry: A Griffin BioPower Cabrio, MJ 2012, with deer 210 hp. Here too: zero problems. This also applies to my second car, a totally reliable 160 PS Diesel SportCombi, BJ 2011, which I bought this year to relieve the burden on the convertible. Runs and runs and runs ...

    Were the others just “Monday cars”? Or was 2008 actually a very bad year, i.e. a dent in quality?

    And, if I may allow myself the question: Why did the blogger actually sell his 9-3 SC with Griffin optics (I had seen it at Muckelbauer)? Also quality reasons? Not long ago there was an interesting article on the question of consuming or selling, with the conclusion that it should be overtaken and kept. Sorry for the curiosity - but, if my friend is not totally wrong, nothing needs to be overtaken on my 9-3 SC, everything ok, no rust, despite more than 170.000 km. But maybe it's also because it was always a garage car.

    Have a good trip to everyone and no trouble with our wonderful Saab - with me they were and are the most reliable cars I've ever had! 🙂

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