The Swedes and Saab - what's going on?

On December 19th, it was 9 years ago that the factory gates in the Stallbacka closed. A long time from an automotive point of view. How has the brand held up in your home country since then? A look at the current numbers makes you worry and think.

Long ago - Saab lettering in the Stallbacka
Long ago - Saab lettering in the Stallbacka

It doesn't look really good for Saab in Sweden. The home market is weak, and has been for some time. Sales of Saab spare parts are falling. Specialized workshops report a dwindling workload, at Orio in Nyköping the Saab-specific sales decreased by 9% compared to the previous year in the first 26 months. Second worst on the global network, only the UK reports worse numbers.

Saab are traded extremely cheaply on the used car market, the level is well below German prices. And, worse, the brand seems to go invisible. In a recent survey by Kvdbil, which cars are the best vehicles from Swedish production, the brand closes disastrously.

Classic and youngtimers from Volvo dominate, as the best Saab, the 9-5 can establish itself in 8th place. The 900 comes in 11th, the 9000 doesn't take place at all, and 96 and 9-3 just make it onto the top 15 list.

The top 15 best Swedish-made cars:

1.Volvo Amazon
2.Volvo P1800
3.Volvo V70
4.Volvo V90
5.Volvo PV 444
6.Volvo XC90
7.Volvo Duet
8.Saab 9-5
9.Volvo 240 / 260
10.Volvo 740 / 760
11.Saab 900
12.Koenigsegg CC
13.Koenigsegg Jesko
14.Saab 96
15.Saab 9-3

How did it come to this, in Saab's home country of all places? Trying to explain.

Is Saab invisible?

Of course, the brand's visibility on the streets has decreased rapidly in recent years. Unlike in Germany, where you are used to seeing a Saab now and then, the decline is remarkable. You can drive through Sweden for days without seeing a Saab.

In addition, 9 years after the tragic finale in Trollhättan, the Saab legacies are hardly perceived as such. NEVS has long been sorted into a certain drawer as a supplier of mobility theories. You tell a lot, you have visions. But when it comes to delivering, others are ahead.

Then there is Corona. The elimination of all major events with international participation. The resulting relative calm around the Saab Museum, the lower frequency of reporting by foreign journalists from the historical Saab fund.

Saab is different in Sweden?

Probably the most sustainable explanation for the slide in Sweden is the brand image. Saab has always been different at home than in the rest of the world. While in Central Europe and North America the image of an elitist - not cheap brand was developed and high-quality vehicles were offered, things were done differently at home.

With inexpensive entry-level models, which were mostly only available for Scandinavia, they fought for market share. That was the case at the time of the Saab 900, and it lasted until the end of 2011. The new Saab 9-5 NG was available with a decidedly lean equipment for the fleet business. Vehicles with H7 headlights and without a light signature in the headlights, with fabric fittings and inexpensive radios on board. This gave Saab the image of a low-budget brand, similar to what Opel has in Germany.

Without the exotic and premium status that you enjoy abroad, things won't look bright for the near future either. One will probably have to live with the fact that the Saab world, or what is left of it, is divided in two. The brand is cult abroad and, if you observe the number of readers of the blog project, it is likely to increase.

However, it is quite certain that Sweden will continue to decline at a rapid pace. Invisible, little appreciated. There are no reasons why things could go differently in the future.

A renaissance can come at some point. A reminder of the time when Sweden still had two world-class manufacturers.

But how many vehicles will there be on Swedish roads by then?

23 thoughts on "The Swedes and Saab - what's going on?"

  • It's a shame and sad to see this development like that. Jonas Fröberg (an obvious Saab sympathizer and known from reporting on NEVS) wrote it in the Swedish daily »Svenska Dagbladet« (SvD) in his article »Superswedes - när Sverige var bäst utan att skryta« (»As Sweden best was without bragging ") aptly sketched:" The new image [of Saab from the 2019s] was only valid abroad. Here in Sweden the Saab 1970 was still a Svensson car. […] If Saab still existed, the brand might have been today's ›Superswedes‹, just like Zlatan was for Volvo. "

  • Hi all!

    Well let's not kid ourselves, there are fans (like us) and there is business.
    Saab was wound up and that was it, what you could monetize was monetized and the rest is bobbing around.
    Swedes are a people who have developed into a throwaway society (the topic of hospitality has also turned negative over the years)
    An old Saab 900/9000 doesn't really fit into the picture, because here the newfangled hybrid from Japan or the thing with the big T is better suited to drive around than an old Saab and the Prem gas station around the corner would like to have good crowns for good fuel, these things are more popular.
    As long as I get parts for my Saab everything is fine and the car is moved, if not I mothball the good piece and he can spend the rest of my life in a garage (then serves as an object to be seen).
    If you take off your Swedish glasses at the end, it is only a matter of time before the Swedes lose the last bit of their industry (glass kingdom, steel industry, wood, etc.).
    In this sense, a happy new year to everyone

  • The top 15 ...

    I don't think so bad at the second glance. The 2 is missing, of course, and that's annoying.
    But there are also a number of Volvos missing. For example the 940/960, which for many Volvo drivers was the last real old-school Volvo. The Saab model range is even comparatively complete.

    Volvo has built a lot more models of different types than Saab. And they still do it today. With 4 versus 9 places in the top 15, Saab seems to me - without having calculated it - even disproportionately represented.

    And fans of the 96 can look forward to it. Done.

    Its opponents between 1968 and 1974 were the Volvos 140/160 with 2, 4 or 5 doors + a high-roof station wagon (145 Express) and up to 160 hp.

    They are completely forgotten in S and cut out from the 96th At the 2nd glance through the Saab glasses, the list is not that bad ...

    Merry Christmas everyone & keep on saabing

  • Not surprising!
    I am basically no different. In my 20 years of driving license it was only a German make (BMW), otherwise Fiat, Lancia, Alfa, Peugeot, Volvo and now Saab.
    Why should the Swede go differently ...

  • @ GP362,

    Right. It is exactly like that.

    The exciting question and the speculative answer is how our relationship to flashing & beeping Saab would be if it existed today.

    When it appeared, the 9-5 had its sharpest critics in the Saab driver camp. The fact that the SC was even more practical than the hatchback of the 9K and that the key was correctly placed was not enough for many to reconcile. Often the damning verdict was that this was no longer a Saab. I heard it this way and no other way on a test drive in a 9-5 Aero SC.

    Met and approached 2 9K drivers in Germany in the past few years. Always first owned, meticulously maintained, not for sale and, according to the owners, still the best car in the world.

    You yourself ask yourself in 9K what has happened in the last 30 years. And Tom announces a comparison between Anna & Gentleman, in which the 9-5 can already feel like a winner if he proves to be on par with other strengths and weaknesses.

    I think Saab had a harder time selling us new cars than other brands early on. We're special too. And for many of us the successors to the hatchbacks were no longer special enough. Some have punished Saab with different defiant reactions ...

    These range from meticulously maintained and, if necessary, expensive repairs to the 900 & 9000 & 9-3 I still in first hand today, to entire collections of such vehicles (so that you never need another one again) to brand changes because the next company car is no longer a 1K could be but was not allowed to be a 9-9.

    Others had no problem with younger Saab and there were also new customers. But it would have been squaring the circle if Saab had managed to open up new buyers and market shares after a phase of positively special models without stepping on the feet of many lovers of the special.

    The fact that there was no longer a large hatchback with the 9-5 is just one point. The fact that with the 9-3 II there was no longer a second one and that there were no longer any of the popular turbo coupés a third. Strictly speaking, from now on you could only say of the convertibles that they were part of a tradition.

  • I think we should shed the slightly glorified picture of vacation in Sweden. Sweden is not Bullerby, but a country with tough economic practices. When you have to do with Sweden on business, that's not always pleasant, to say the least.
    The approach in Scandinavia is of course very different from ours. I know of examples where in D our highly academic objectors and authorities were still having technical discussions about whether something was even feasible, the Swedes already had it in operation and it worked fine. Just as quickly, great achievements were given away without emotion. But we can do that very well in Germany, preferably to China.

    The hard core of a fan base has gathered here and tries to save its passion for a long time. We are involuntarily condemned to sustainability! If SAAB were still alive, the majority of those present would perhaps order a new company car in Sweden every two or three years. The discussion would be completely different. As with all other brands, it would be about beeping assistants, autonomous driving, e-SAABs ...

    When I look outside the box, I personally wouldn't care if one of our domestic brands were to leave the scene - I see them completely emotionless!

    I've been with it for around 32 years and I hope that I can continue to run my four darlings for a long time, otherwise I'll have a serious problem with a loss of quality of life. When I occasionally drive other vehicles and then come “home” to one of my 9000s, I always wonder what the auto industry has been doing in the last 30 years? The light is no longer entirely up-to-date, but otherwise ...?

  • @ Detlef Rudolf (logical explanation)

    It's a shame you don't have any either. The phenomenon occupies me again and again - again without even finding a starting point.

    In general, Swedes seem to like their country and a certain penchant for and pride in Swedish brands and products is still evident today.

    Perhaps Frederik Backman (author of “En man som heter Ove”) has a theory as to which Swedes were the “Saab type” for what reasons and why there are so few?

    First the father, then the son (Ove). Backman describes the Swedish Saab customer as a cross-generational and lifelong convict with considerable rough edges. The touching story of Ove is also that of a narrow-minded & conflict-ready sociopath, whose isolation is initially broken by fellow men against his will. A (thawing) process that he is increasingly enjoying himself.

    That is certainly all very exaggerated. But Backman created this figure (Ove) deliberately and in detail as a convinced Saab driver of the 2nd generation.

    Maybe many Swedes understand why? I do not get it. But I have a feeling that Backman could explain the relationship between the Swedes and Saab well ...

  • Lots of very interesting and meaningful firsthand comments about Swedish experiences with and about Saab - and unfortunately all very disillusioning, sadly sad! 🙁

    I am stunned that even 93 II (or even 9-3 III?) Are supposed to populate the junkyard. These are such good, reliable cars with the latest design and technical qualities. I enjoy it every day! Hopefully not the convertibles? Are there any still there? Do Swedes still drive convertibles at all? Which one? Volvo doesn't build any more ...

  • When it comes to Swedes, “annorlunda” always comes to mind. For the past 30 years we have only been on vacation in Sweden. We made a lot of friends and - even though we almost always came in Swedish cars - we never really got the slightest reaction. On our first trip to Sweden we had a Volvo 740. The owner of Slussens Pensionat on Orust, a pronounced “hater” of Germans, although still young at the time, only said: “Saab is better”.
    My experience is that Swedes are very fond of German cars and have no special relationship with their domestic products. It's a shame, but Swedes are very analytical and cost-conscious when it comes to business.
    For me, the wrong image of Saab - like many other things - is a consequence of GM's policy. It is either stupid or simply thoughtless to follow a 900 classic as the successor to the 900-II.
    Then you got the receipt.

    But the German branch was no better either - not even in the days of Spyker. When I was still professionally active, during the short Spiker era, I ordered three Saab at once, including a fully equipped 9-5 NG.

    Saab wasn't even worth a pre-written thank you letter. Since the same GF is now in charge of Orio, you can't expect much - where are the actions for Classic Saab drivers, where is the support for this clientele?
    Saab's leadership has long been as cold as the headlights of the last cars.
    Cars are emotion and that is worth far more than these technocrats can dream of. Fortunately, I have this emotion every day with my 900 Turbo. Even the 9-5 NG didn't come close, although it was a great and very good car.
    My Opinion: Saab's options weren't even used to 30%. If Mr. Wallenberg had been just as interested in Saab as he was in Atlas-Copco, Saab would be mentioned in the same breath as BMW today.

  • It was like this in 2009 or 2010 - we went on a winter holiday in central Sweden, just like in a few years before. The 9-5 station wagon (first series) pulled us over the wintry roads without any problems - the vacation trip was a pure pleasure.

    At the end of the holiday there was a small acoustic disturbance from the engine compartment (whistling noise), the cause of which we could not assign. There was no SAAB workshop to be seen far and wide. We asked the nearest gas station attendant where we could go to a branded workshop. He then just looked at us helplessly and said almost instructively that there is of course only a VW and an Opel workshop nearby - he couldn't help us with SAAB. We then drove the 1000 km home with a whistling sound. Later it turned out that it was just a so-called deflection pulley that was no longer fully functioning and that could be quickly replaced in Lübeck.

    In retrospect, the point of view of the tank attendant in Sweden was probably not an isolated case back then - a cheat brand from Wolfsburg is probably more popular than the good Swedish product (for whatever reason). The almost complete hiding of SAAB among the Swedish population is therefore not really surprising to me - but I don't have a logical explanation for it.

  • In 2011 I was in Sweden with my 9.3, and there were still a lot of 9.3s like ours in Golf. In the meantime, the 9.3 can mainly be found in the scrapyards, in road traffic only in the greater area around Trollhättan. I only saw the 901 on a Sunday while on vacation in Sweden. However, as with us, the car seems to have a certain sympathy value - as often as I was greeted by “strangers” there (“thumbs up”). I never saw the 9000 and 902 there in traffic. at best in the junkyard. For the last few years I have been on vacation in my 9.5 station wagon in Sweden, which is hardly noticed there as an everyday car. 9.5er, (especially the station wagon) are used up as family station wagons, one also often sees in the junk yards, increasingly also 9.3II sedans. From year to year you see fewer saws on the streets, which, as mentioned, may also be due to the fact that in Sweden it was apparently rather the leanly equipped vehicles that were sold, while in our country more vehicles with upscale equipment from better-off first-time buyers were acquired. Anyway, we will maintain our vehicles and keep them running !! And every now and then save a Saab from scrapping. Costs less than the depreciation of a VAG ... etc. and, above all, is much more fun: Saab - a vehicle with character!

  • Addendum / clarification

    Quite a few thumbs down. Perhaps not everyone took my comment the way it was meant?

    I don't want to have said anything against the NG. For me it is still one of the most beautiful or even the most beautiful limousines of the last 30 years.

    And that's exactly why it can't be slimmed down at will. Anyone who wants a large and prestigious car also prefers a sovereign engine, sophisticated interior and wants their headlights to be state-of-the-art.

    Everyone can ask themselves whether they would prefer an NG Aero 2.0T or a 1.6 liter with fabric seats, H7 and compromises on the sound system.

    Such models damage the upscale image of Saab and are economically dubious. With the small numbers that were realized by the NG, one can and must assume that the costs per unit produced have increased and not decreased due to the diversification of engines and equipment.

    Saab did not use that, nor would customers have wanted or benefited from it. Instead of spending a lot of money and time on undesired engines and equipment, the diversification of the sedan, these capacities would have been better used for the (earlier) introduction of the new 9-5 SC.

    After that one could have rethought about smaller engines and other equipment lines. And if anything, they would have made more sense with the SC - after all, buyers of station wagons are much more oriented towards cost-benefit calculations than buyers of representative limousines.

  • @ Ken-Daniel S The Saab employees, today also ex-employees in the museum or at NEVS, were and are always friendly and happy to tell. Regardless of whether they are workers in production or in development. I have always experienced hospitality in Sweden; a few times it was almost too much for me.

  • @ Ken-Daniel S

    For his 20th birthday, I took my second 9000 to the 2017 SAAB Festival in Trollhättan. I've been the fourth owner of this 9000 97CS for eight years and it's always been a work tool. I'll keep him in good shape as best I can. Above all technically, it is in top shape, as it literally has to be ready for use 24/7. After almost 24 years of working life, it already has a certain patina visually - we have that too 😉
    But now to the point. Next to me was the last 9000 ever delivered in this sad group of 9000s (which is getting smaller every time), the very last one is in the museum. This car from a Swedish owner looks very sad. I think he won't be there in the future either. But that doesn't bother them.
    Then suddenly a Swede came along, looked at the chassis number of my 9000 and then spoke to me. He would very likely have worked on the construction of this car and thought it was nice to see a copy from “his” time 🙂

  • It's sad to read, unfortunately I've never been to Sweden, but Trollhättan is at the top of my travel wish list. I spoke to Swedes in Austria at the Swedish Advent market in Vienna and many of them had no idea that Saab is Swedish at all.
    What would interest me, how did that behave in the past when Saab was still alive? What if you've come from far to see Saab Trollhättan? Were the workers happy or didn't they care?
    Can provide two anecdotes: Once I was in Ingolstadt, the Audi Museum and a factory tour. In the group there was also a family from Canada who were enthusiastic Quattro drivers, the group leader was very pleased that a family came from Canada especially to see the production facility of their cars.
    Then I went to the Subaru plant in Japan with my mother, we both speak Japanese, explained to them that we are from Austria and that we like to drive Subaru there - they didn't care.

  • Is that still a rearview mirror?

    The article brings me new knowledge and the rubric could also be called “Tom's magnifying glass”, “microscope” or “Tom's dissecting table”.

    I was last in the densely populated south-west of S in the summer of 2019, and I noticed that the Swedes are clearly into upscale equipment and powerful engines. The vehicles and the abbreviations on the rear spoke volumes.

    Tom's reference to the stripped-down Saab, especially for this market, seems to me like a conclusive explanation for the current development and also the previous failure. A limousine of 5 meters + (9-5 NG) may offer a lot of fat, but it still cannot be slimmed down at will. The utility value does not increase as a result. But prestige, image and margins are falling. The wrong way for Saab ...

  • I always drive Saab. As a car for all days but I also enjoy some old timers. Saab is only driven by the real Saab fans. Spare parts are increasingly going to companies that are specialized. Saab clubs are seeing a growing membership. So saab is a strange phenomenon on our streets. We stay true to our brand.

  • @ Hans.S, the "return of investment" is every day while driving! .. provided you drive your SAAB, which is difficult at 6-11 in the garage 😉

  • I've always had the feeling that the Swedes treat Saab quite coolly. Even Volvo runs the risk of losing market share to Lynk & co. A survey in Sweden revealed whether they are willing to pay a premium for a Volvo. They are not. It is much more difficult for Saab.
    As for the prices here in Germany, I just don't look any more. It's sad for how little money a 9-3I is
    Convertible is to be had in the well-known portals. And it won't get any better. Unfortunately!

  • Yes - SAAB us Swedes - does that still fit together? I first asked myself at the then irretrievable end of Saab 🙁 How much money is and has already been pumped into the German automotive industry by the German state or taxpayer ... (I don't want to think about any sense / nonsense / benefit here) It doesn't matter - was in Sweden and that's probably not an issue.
    Okay - SAAB is also just a car with a max. desired useful life of maybe 10 years - in some countries maybe more.

    We supposed SAAB fans / crazy people are probably an exception - and that is certainly the same with other brands!? But we can't really save the (SAAB) world either?

    I myself get smiled at by colleagues and friends with my currently four SAABs - but of course I'm over it.

    And whether what we do with our SAABs is then all rationally and financially useful - I don't really try to think about it ... (As long as I don't have to)

    By the way @ Joe - my “newest” SAAB achievement is (as you wrote), a 9000 AERO in good condition - the part was not a bargain and will definitely devour two or three euros in the coming spring so that I can also use this (mine) Dream car can be preserved for posterity - whether they want it or not 🙂 ... - it will be worth it to me 🙂

    I don't really want to comment on the subject of ORIO ...

    Lg. From Thuringia

  • @Joe, respect, 11 Saab!

    There is still room for improvement with me. It attracts Saab No. 6, but I am also concerned with all the concerns that Tom and you Joe described. How can we keep our Saab alive in the future? And with what effort? I certainly don't believe that there will ever be a return on investment. I've written that many times, it's like it always was, Saab didn't have a large market share before and that is also reflected in the young / oldtimers. But hand on heart, who wants to drive an MB or BMW when they have a Saab in the stable 😉

    There used to be a brand of cigarettes that advertised with the slogan; it has always been a bit more expensive to have a special taste! Where the expensive at Saab is more related to maintenance than to value. Unfortunately……

    Keep on saabing!

  • Saab was and has always been different in Sweden. Just as the 9000 were used up, the rest is now burned. It's a shame.

  • It's kind of clear to me too. Unfortunately, this will continue and the SAAB inventory will trigger faster and faster. That can only be stopped if measures are taken as soon as possible.

    Nobody really gets the message across either. Without your SAAB blog Tom, who still mobilizes some enthusiasts, there is little nutritious about SAAB. Otherwise, what would strengthen the brand image is completely missing.

    SAAB / Orio does not promote the necessary classic division! In principle, it just goes on as if it were a regular product. One tries to simply deliver parts as long as possible. Anyone who has studied or studied business will agree with me. One just hopes instead of taking action.

    There is little written about SAAB in youngtimer and oldtimer booklets, although there are so many special models where you could write about them. Manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and Porsche do better! They also advertise their classics there. Orio would have to be quite different to get around that. And the prices for SAAB would just have to rise. Such a 3 series convertible rises and rises, where the prices for the 900 he remain the same or in some cases even decline.

    The other models have fallen in price. Who buys a used 9000 CC or Aero and then invests many thousands of euros? Although these are awesome cars, hardly anyone does that. The bodywork is one thing, but mostly getting the leather seats through and replacing is difficult. Since there is no classical division that produces such parts in such large quantities that it is reasonably cheap. One-offs are expensive. I did that at Viggen.

    The market sleeps and is not “woken up” at all. Without your SAAB blog, there would be even less cohesion. Some SAAB meetings no longer take place due to Corona and others have just "disappeared".

    Unfortunately, I know some enthusiasts who, as soon as a major investment comes in, gives up and “slaughters” the car in order to get the most out of it. Many “former” enthusiasts have jumped off the train.

    Where is the limit on what you can spend? I keep asking myself that too. I currently have 11 Saab's. The 2.2 TID gets a new chassis, in addition to the recently completed exterior renovation and the removal of the typical rust spots. Another 9-5 needs a lot of rust removal and also painting work. It's just on the elevator. And I'm wondering whether I should have it done or whether there is a battle vehicle. Although I tend to preserve it. Because otherwise someone is gone again.

    Another 9-5 performance just got an ATM and other work was done. With the Viggen, which is really totally perfect, the door frame tarnishes the picture, because under the rubber? Alu oxidized like this. That upsets me, but it hasn't been able to replace it for years because the part doesn't exist. But I never get the amount invested back for any of the cars, as there is no market for it.

    And who would be willing to pay EUR 900 or more for a 9000 or 20 in good condition? But for a BMW or Mercedes, this is different.


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