Saab's history is full of ideas that never came true. The chapter on compact Saabs is particularly tragic. The small series that was always missing. A failure that meant that Saab never came out of the basement, and that the brand no longer exists today.
There were several attempts to establish a third, compact series. Sometimes on our own basis, then on the platform of the Opel Astra and at the very end as a derivative of the Mini series from BMW. But that alone came to the public eye and came onto the market Saab 9-2x. A Subaru in fair disguise that had nothing to do with Saab.
But which offers a lot of driving fun.
The struggle for the 3rd series began in the 90s. GM had invested 50% in Trollhättan. With Keith Butler Wheelhouse, a GM manager headed the company. He redeveloped, rigorously cut jobs, outsourced parts of the company and sold them. And it quickly brought the manufacturer back into the black.
The development of the new 900 generation was a challenge (900 Saga Part 1, 2, 3,), whose success depended no less than the survival of the company. Lived madness, because never before had anyone placed an almost completed project on a strange, unknown platform. The risk was successful and the Saab 900 II quickly came onto the market for the time.
Saab was making money again
That was in 1993, and the changes in the auto industry in the years that followed were enormous. The German premium brands entered the compact market. First and foremost BMW with the E36 Compact, which rolled out to customers from spring 1994. Audi was working on the A3, which, based on the VW Golf, was to appear two years later, advertised as a “new extravaganza”.
The invasion of the compact class was considered a risk. Back then, premium had to be large, while smaller vehicles were considered to have low margins. Would customers be willing to pay for it?
And Saab? In Trollhättan you saw both the challenge and the opportunities. A compact Saab was projected. Initially based on the Opel Astra F, which was quickly discarded. Then, based on the concept of BMW, a compact model was devised based on the still young 900. The overhangs of the body were cut radically for this purpose.
The result was a design that could have rivaled the Audi A3. In addition, the compact would have passed as a Saab at first glance.
Saab 900 compact
The Saab 900 Kompakt would have been inexpensive to implement. Together with the “normal” 900 it could have rolled off the production line in Trollhättan. Same technology, higher quantities. The idea was amazing. The third series at Saab, it was within reach. That was in 1995. The start was expected by the end of the decade.
But once again everything turned out differently. Keith Butler Wheelhouse was replaced in 1996. His successor Robert Hendry had completely different ambitions. Wheelhouse, who came to Saab through Ford, was never a complete GM man. The Saab and Trollhättan brands have always been closer to him than Detroit.
It was different with Hendry, who only stayed briefly at Göta Älv and who was to climb high at GM. The plans for the Saab 900 Kompakt disappeared in the shredder. For now. In the meantime, Audi had pushed the A3 onto the market. To the horror of GM, it was so successful in the Opel Astra segment that the topic was on the table again just two years later. This time under completely different circumstances. The next attempt had nothing to do with the first idea of a compact Saab.
With pictures of BMW AG and Audi AG (1/1)