Sad end as book closes on Saab story

By David Linklater

The Saab Sonet III. Photo / Supplied
The Saab Sonet III. Photo / Supplied

Well, it looks like it's really over this time: end of an icon. Troubled Swedish carmaker Saab went into bankruptcy in December and save a "white knight" investor stepping in, the marque will quietly breathe its last as 2012 progresses.

Assets are being sold off and the last 100 or so cars on the assembly line were reportedly crushed. That's pretty sad.

But things have been bad for a while. General Motors never made the impact it had hoped with Saab (it bought the Swedish maker in 1989) - possibly because it didn't build the cars the once-innovative marque deserved.

In the midst of the global financial crisis in 2008, GM put Saab up for sale, but it took nearly two years and many failed negotiations for a deal to be made with Dutch supercar maker Spyker in January 2010.

There were big plans, including expansion into China, but the revitalised Saab started to collapse again in April 2011. Distress funding was mooted involving different Chinese partners, the most promising of which were Pang Da and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.

Ultimately, GM blocked the deal, as it did not want its platform and powertrain technology in Chinese ownership.

On December 19 last year, Saab filed for bankruptcy. Which is the end. Or not, as Swedish law allows for a company to be bought out even when it's in administration.

There's some good news: among the assets being sold off were the 120 cars in the Saab Museum.

It was feared the prized collection would be broken up and disappear into private hands but, reportedly, the city of Trollhatten, Saab AB (parent company of Saab Automobile until 1989) and The Wallenberg Foundation have raised the funds to keep the collection together.

What next? To be confirmed. But we get the feeling now might be the time to sit back and celebrate a once-great company. Here are five of our favourite Saabs.

SAAB 92 (1949)
Saab was originally an aviation company, making planes for the Swedish Air Force, and its first production car showed aerodynamic styling. Under the svelte shape was a 764cc two-cylinder engine with 19kW. Top speed was 105km/h.

SAAB SONETT III (1970)
Just to show Saab wasn't all about swish-looking family cars, it had several tries at the Sonett sports car - a roadster in 1955, the Sonett II coupe in 1966 and finally one that actually sold, the Sonett III of 1970. It was nowhere near as pretty as the cars before it, but over 8000 were sold before the oil crisis ended production in 1974 - four times the production of the Sonett I and II models combined.

SAAB 99 TURBO (1978)
The Saab 99 was launched in 1968 but looks fresh even today, with its signature wraparound windscreen and "hockey stick" C-pillar. The 1978 Turbo version was one of the first mass-produced turbo cars and was rallied by the real Stig - Blomqvist, that is.

SAAB 900 CONVERTIBLE (1984)
The model that established Saab as a style icon. The 1984 900 convertible was the first in a line of four-seat drop-tops that were supremely sexy. Mention Saab and for many, this is the car that springs to mind.

SAAB 9-5 (2010)
Notable because it finally achieved what GM always wanted: style, quality and driver-appeal to rival German executive cars. European press really rated the all-new 9-5, but its dependence on GM technology was probably what finally sent Saab into bankruptcy.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 22 Sep 2014 14:45:29 Processing Time: 628ms