Frankfurt in the fall 2009. With a friend and two friends, I'm on my way to the IAA. Saab shows the new 9-5 generation. The fact that I will write a blog about the brand around 1 1 / 2 years later is very far away at this time. On the contrary. Because really Saab is no longer close to my heart. I've been through a lot with the brand.
There was my 9-3 II Aero Cabriolet. A really nice car and at the same time the metal-turned nightmare on four wheels. At kilometer reading 5.000 the Saab disappeared for comprehensive overhaul for days in the workshop. After that he worked again - for a short duration. When parts went defective, which one would have expected at mileage around the 200.000, I threw the towel unnerved. At exact 20.000 kilometers our relationship ended.
Previously, my Saab dealer had forgotten to forward the order for an 9-5 Anniversary Bio Power estate car to Sweden, so he was no longer available due to the plant holidays. The purchase of an exhibition vehicle failed due to the value of a tank; in short, I was fully served. The 9-3 hiked to the Mercedes dealership, vowing 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 wisely otherwise. But then everything changed completely, which is a long story.
GM is also fed up with Saab
Not only do I have a dull relationship with Saab 2009. Also GM, struck by the financial crisis, has fed up with the Swedes. There is the nice story that GM simply deleted the Trollhättan location from the map of its former empire, pointing out Saab officials about the upcoming divorce. Whether the story really happened like this is uncertain. She is already believable.
By the end of the year 2008 is also clear in Sweden that the Americans will be serious. The national press speculates whether GM simply closes the plant or sells Saab. Can you actually sell Saab? The journalists ask. And Dagens Industri headlines, now the last chapter for Saab would have been opened. And should be right. At the beginning of 2009 GM sends its daughter into the reconstruction. The Swedish variant of a regulated bankruptcy to make the company debt free for new investors.
Saab presents the new 9-5 generation at the IAA 2009
Of course we do not suspect anything at the IAA 2009. Sure was, Saab is in any difficulties. Word has spread, but how deep the crisis was we do not reflect. On the contrary! We are looking forward to the 9-5NG, because a completely new Saab is already a rare event. And then he stands there on the Saab stand.
Big, elegant, impressive. A car that would not necessarily be attributed to the brand because of its size. Do I want to have it? To stay with the truth - not really! The first contact leaves me relatively cold. What is it? There is this strange atmosphere that may be temporary, maybe even for the whole fair time. It tastes of crisis, tension, and I can not classify it safely 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!
The small Swedish brand is under fire from all sides at this time. Above all, the Opel works council has tried by all means to secure the production of the 9-5 NG for Rüsselsheim. To compensate you should have been allowed to build a pair of Opel Astra at Göta Älv. Not too many of course, just so that's enough. Where the intended shift will lead to is obvious. The strengthening of the Opel parent plant and, in the medium term, a complete settlement of Trollhättan. Oh yes, solidarity among the employees and works councils in the worldwide GM family does not exist for 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 in the hype about the 9-5 almost under. Saab presents in Frankfurt the 9-3 X, a crossover station wagon that is one of my favorites among the new models. Some lifestyle mixed with the typical understatement of the brand. With the systems for success and departure. Unfortunately, he never receives the attention he deserves. And gets lost 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 then you want to believe, because a straw for a drowning man can look like a tree trunk - and gives hope. One year later, BAIC will try to take over Saab as a whole. The poker game takes some time and ultimately fails due to a missing signature.
As a possible Saab buyer Christian von Koenigsegg is traded. The founder of the sports car manufacturer from Ängelholm has the entire package in view. A modern factory, exciting developments such as the electric four-wheel drive, a modular platform or the electric car concept, which is far ahead of its time. Together with the BAIC millions and the Chinese market access for its super sports cars a tempting offer. Koenigsegg finally strikes it, today he tries again under different circumstances and with NEVS and Evergrande. China lures, and even now the motivation of all 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.
However, the most amazing development is the Saab 9-5 NG. He is still being built against all odds. Not in Rüsselsheim, but where a Saab was supposed to come from. In Trollhattan. Thank Victor Muller, he dares this adventure. The 9-5 brings it in a short time to a considerable maturity and drives directly into the hearts of the fans. I too buy one, I'm happy with it, and a little sad when he 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.