Carl-Benz-Strasse 27, Frankfurt am Main. For a brief moment everything seems fine. The Saab flags are waving in the cool March wind, truck traffic thunders past on the street. But the second look reveals the sadness. Where Saab new cars once waited for buyers, there is a yawning emptiness. The window panes are cloudy and dull. The dust of the road has settled on them.
Carl-Benz-Strasse 27 is part of German Saab history. 40 years ago, Saab Automobile opened another dealership here. One of several in the Frankfurt area, but optically the least attractive. It was here of all places that people held out until the end, and the history of Saab Germany also ended on this building.
Factory branches of Saab and Seat
After Saab, Seat moved into the front part of the building. Occupied the showroom, and where there were once Swedish cars for sale, there were Spanish ones from then on. Seat somehow stayed true to the Saab line. Because this time, too, it was a works agency that was present for a few years. Then a strategist at Seat found their own representation too expensive and sold it to one trading partner, who erected his own building on Hanauer Landstrasse, leaving Carl-Benz-Strasse on the left.
Carl-Benz-Straße was and is always only the second choice. The front line of Frankfurt's car dealerships is on Hanauer Landstrasse, not here in the second row, where slaughterhouses and meat wholesalers dominate. It will always remain a mystery why the fine company Saab of all things was drawn into this wild mixture of import-export companies, forwarding agencies, catering supplies and a few oddities.
The path leads into the courtyard, here the mood improves. It doesn't just look like a relic anymore, Saab is definitely still active here. A signpost, the first Swedish cars. Further left, the former entrance to the car dealership, it's locked. The next door, which once led to the customer service reception, belongs to an independent workshop. The new Saab 900 was advertised on one of these doors until a few weeks ago. The big blue sticker lasted from 1992 to 2021.
Now he is gone.
In the back third of the yard is Saab Service Frankfurt at home. For about 9 years, the continuation of old tradition. Here you will find concentrated Saab competence, you enter the Rhein-Main hotspot of the Swedish brand. The farm, including the part that does not belong to the Saab workshop, is firmly in the hands of the trolls. Saab dominates, a lonely Volvo classic has joined them.
relics of the olden days
The relics are increasing now. Saab service parking lots, Saab sunshades from last summer. An advertising flag asks to try a Saab hatchback. I would like to. Where can I book the test drive? Disused Swedish sheet metal is parked in the back corner of the yard.
Stoically, at the end of the car's life, it is ready for the last act. As spare parts carriers, parts will extend the life of other Saabs. In between, one or the other vehicle is parked that was luckier and is now waiting for restoration.
There's a lot going on here. The roller doors raise and lower regularly, and a Saab leaves the workshop for a test drive again and again. Customers drive up, suppliers bring supplies of spare parts. This is where Saab lives, with passion, and there seems to be no end in sight. If you didn't know the history of the brand, you would think you were in a normal car repair shop that is committed to the Swedish brand.
An independent workshop maybe, one that takes care of the older generation. But with heart.
My path continues, up to the roof of the building. I want to get an overview. Part of the "Saab Zentrum Frankfurt" lettering is stranded here. He lost the "Saab", the rest was probably not that interesting anymore. The view continues towards Ferdinand-Porsche-Strasse. New cars and vehicles for press representatives were once parked on the now deserted area between the workshop and the street.
A small kingdom wedged between a slaughterhouse and an animal shelter. The king was once the branch manager. He was on the payroll of Saab Automobile AB, was not paid royally, but was paid royally, and you can guess what the Swedes had to pay a month here.
The end and the present
If you look ahead, in the direction of Carl-Benz-Strasse, you see the elevation of the office wing. This is exactly where the story of Saab Germany came to an end in 2011. With the divorce from GM, one was without a home. The German Saab employees went from Rüsselsheim to Frankfurt-Fechenheim. The last base of the Swedish manufacturer in Germany.
The final act of the Saab drama took place in an improvised office and under cramped conditions. The last German managing director and his basic team resided here. Hoping for a turning point, for better times, for the phoenix rising from the ashes.
It's all a long time ago. A cold wind is blowing. I'm freezing, walk past the prehistoric solar modules in the direction of the stairs and leave the roof. Another customer drives up to the yard, and an employee starts a 9-3 for a test drive.
A letter catches my eye. Passion is written there.
History meets passion here, and if it weren't for the latter, the yard below me wouldn't be full of cars. That will be what will make the difference. If there were no passion, Saab would have been just a normal car brand. A few survivors would get more or less repaired in backyards today; the date when the last Saab would be off the road would already be set in stone.
As it is, the Swedish cultural heritage gathers in this strange, tragic place that is full of contradictions. Relics, tradition, desperation and passion collide. The place can tell if you endure your own silence and like to listen. A story that you have to endure and that you should get involved with.
Because it is unusual and just as typical for Saab.