The new Saab 9-5, the first new Saab model since 2002Television viewers and car geeks of a certain age may remember a 1970s-era Saab commercial that pitched the car's safety attributes by having a stuntman (we presume) flip the sedan half a dozen times across a road before it lands right-side up. He then restarts the battered vehicle and drives off.

Less than a year after the Swedish car brand was given up for dead when then-owner General Motors couldn't find a buyer, and five months after it was acquired by Dutch automaker Spyker Cars, a small but vocal group of loyalists are hoping that the 73-year-old company shows similar resilience.

Saab this month will start selling its new 9-5 luxury sedan in U.S. showrooms, after outlining plans last month to debut three additional new models over the next two years. Three of the four models will be built in Sweden, with almost three-quarters of the parts in the 9-5 being produced specifically for Saab, according to Victor Muller, chairman of Saab and CEO of Saab parent Spyker.

"We Want It Back"

"It's a true Saab's Saab," said Muller of the 9-5 at a presentation in New York late last month. "Saab as an independent company is going to cherish and build on its heritage much more than it ever did before."

It's encouraging news to the relatively small but vocal group of Saab owners (full disclosure: the author owns a Saab) that's been committed to a brand known for its idiosyncratic looks, early commitment to front-wheel drive, hatchbacks and turbocharged engines and the aforementioned structural durability.

"We remember what Saab was and what they turned into," says Bruce Turk, president of Vintage Saab Club of North America. "We want it back, and it's worth fighting for."

Saab: A History in Pictures – Click below for an image gallery from Autoblog. Saab 9-5

Founded as an aircraft company in 1937, Saab debuted its first car -- the teardrop-shaped two-stroke-engine-powered 92 -- in 1949, and has since broadened its popularity with such eye-catching models as the 99, 900 and the 9-3. In 1990, General Motors acquired half of Saab, which has sold about 25% of its cars to U.S. customers, and bought the remaining shares a decade later.

Fears of a Dead Brand

The brand languished in recent years, however, as GM went into bankruptcy and shed unprofitable brands. Saab, whose production plummeted from 125,000 units in 2007 to 21,000 last year, was put up for sale, along with GM brands Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer. GM nearly reached a deal with Swedish high-end car maker Koenigsegg.

That agreement fell apart last year, spurring both fears of a dead car brand for the owners of the 1.5 million Saabs on the road worldwide and close to 60 "Save Saab" rallies in about 30 countries.

Ultimately, Spyker acquired Saab from GM for $400 million -- most of which was in the form of Saab shares GM was allowed to keep under its bankruptcy agreement, and secured a $550 million loan from the European Investment Bank to restart operations and develop new models. Spyker also brought on former Ferrari and Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota to lead its design efforts.

"The community felt very strongly that the company was viable," says Drew Price of the Los Angeles Saab Club. "We didn't want to see the company join the ranks of other memorable marquees that dissolved for whatever reason, like Austin-Healey or Sunbeam."

Jousting With Audi and BMW

Whether Spyker's efforts and such loyalty are enough to reestablish the brand remains in question. With its flagship 9-5 sedan having not been updated in 13 years, many Saab customers defected to German brands such as Audi and BMW. The new version, which has a $47,000 sticker price and 300-horsepower engine, is slightly more powerful and slightly more expensive than Audi's A6, and is comparable in price and power to BMW's 535i.

It's also odd-looking, according to CNET. "The car, in profile especially, looks slightly wrong, although we suspect it'll appeal to anyone who likes a touch of quirkiness," CNET reported in a road-test preview earlier this month.

Still, Muller says the company will use its 9-5 relaunch and other new models, including a 9-4 crossover and a new 9-3 the following year, to ramp back up to 125,000 units -- or about one-tenth of BMW's annual production -- by 2012, and will be profitable by then.

"My gut says it will be very difficult to turn a profit, but Victor Muller says it can be done, so we have to take his word for it," says Turk. "I wish him luck."

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Finding Stock Ideas

Learn to do your research and find investments.

View Course »

Asset Allocation

Learn the most important step in structuring an investment portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Danny King: you are the first and only person to have ever mentioned seeing this commercial, I would have been about 7 or 8 years old and it is the only reason I would have ever heard of saab (in kodiak alaska) and why I have been a life long saab lover, I cannot find a video of that commercial and in 15 years of looking I have not found a solitary mention of it, until now. thank you! really thought i was crazy. does anyone else remember seeing it? and frame it in platinum does a video of it exist anywhere? i've looked on the saab site that has 'all' of their promos and commercials and can find it.

August 27 2012 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a SAAB owner I hope the stryker folks can pull this off.

August 14 2010 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fmeyer11's comment

Nobody wants another $47K car. If they could get the purchase prices in the low $20s and still provide teh European engineering, they would kick some serious tail.

August 13 2010 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had the opportunity to see the new 9-5 Aero and I was impressed. It will price out when fully loaded around $50,000. It seems to be a world class luxury performance vehicle. The COO of Saab NA is so enthusiastic about the vehicle that saw I was looking at it and showed me all its bells and whistles. I hope they are successful. The pictures don't do it justice, it is very nice looking vehicle and a vast improvement over some of the less edgy product that they were producing in the past few years.

August 13 2010 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I miss my Saab!!!

August 13 2010 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have owned Saabs since the early 1970s (after a ten year lover affair with another quirky little car, the Corvair)and they were all great cars that gave me many miles and years of driving pleasure with very little trouble. In fact, I continue to drive a 1983 Saab 900 three door hatch model that I purchased new and which still runs and looks great. I also own a 2009 Saab 9-7X SUV that, while not a true Saab, definitely has been infused with the ride and handling characteristics Saabs are known for. There is no comparison between the Saab 9-7X and the boring and ill handling Chevy Trail Blazer platform it is based on. I'm looking forward to Saab's new line of cars and hope to be driving Saabs for many years to come.

August 13 2010 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Had two "old 900's". Put close to 400 K on a 5 speed. Bought them because Volvo quit making 2 door cars, NOT because of FWD--- ever try going UP a slippery hill with FWD? More than once I had to BACK UP.
SAAB management were idiots even before Government Motors started in with the SAAB stickers on TRUCKS...should have been good for a coupla million "units", eh.
Non-turbo SAABs back then had NO power, did they offer the turbo as an option on the base car?
Nope, ya had to buy a "TURBO" with all sorts of yuppy stuff to get it. Not even a "low pressure" turbo for a little more low end grunt, as I recall the price difference back then was about 8 grand so as not to get blown off by minivans.
The base car suffered from terminal understeer (yea FWD)- sway bars would help that, but THEY were an OPTION. In '87 they came up with a 16 valve motor and cleaned up the engine compartment, you could actually SEE the oil filter. But, guess what, NO low end grunt and the WORST "aero headlamps" I have ever seen, almost as bad as an early 6 volt VW bug. (BTW, I know ALL ABOUT Cibe, Marshal, and Hella)

The ONLY automatic they offered until the 9000 came along was a Borge Warner THREE speed. It didn't shift, it slammed. The Volvo unit wasn't much better but at least the Volvo motor had some low end grunt to work with. The 9000 auto wouldn't fit the 900.

Not, I admit that for years SAAB had little dough to work with. They could have done better with what they had. They enjoyed a brief period when every doctor's wife had to have one. It didn't last, those people went on to SUV's.
By the early 90's you could buy a bullet proof Japanese car with a smooth V6 for SAAB prices. Parts which failed on the SAABS more than once have YET to fail on my Japanese cars at the same miles. GO figure. Or better yet, check Consumer Reports repair data.

I wish these guys well, but for what they want for a SAAB I can buy a Lexus IS 250.

August 13 2010 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ah yes, I traded a 68 Mercury Cougar that couldn't get out of its own way in the winter for a 99 that I took places I wouldn't take my Jeep. Unfortunately, the rubber bands holding the tailpipe and muffler on always broke and left you dragging and wondering what that nose was. The twin Solex carburetors required frequent diaphragm changes out on the highway, (easy to do), so I always has a spare set in the glove box. The obnoxious part was the oil filter. It was changed with your arm through a small porthole in the belly pan. The Brits must have had a stockpile of WWII filters laying around so some camodian decided to stick it on the engine slated for the SAAB. Not only was it the old style filter with the replaceable element but it was mounted with its opening pointed down which caused it to start leaking as soon as you loosened it. I suppose it taught you to work faster and to aim the stream of oil with your elbow. I will say the only serious problems were a blown head gasket and, of course, the clutch. I think SAAB was the first or one of the first European Common Market projects and as such it had a hodgepodge of German instruments, French(?) seats, and British engine. The engine was, to a large degree, the major source of my problems. If I were to buy another SAAB it would have to be as reliable as most Asian products, cost about the same AND have a boxer style TDI engine. Did you get the part about cost about the same?

August 13 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My wife used to love Saabs until GM bought it. Then they started looking less like Saabs and more like the corporate clones for each platform.

Hopefully, Saab will bring back the slantback, i.e., the rear window and deck lid being flush, so that a car can be instantly recognized as a Saab.

August 13 2010 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John McBaine

A quarterly profit by GM --- Wow --- How surprising, how wonderful.

It only took the Obama removal of not one, but two CEO's and a hand picked successor like Whiticare, who, as Chairman of the GM Board, virtually handed the company over to the Obama Crowd without even a fight. His successor has only been on the GM Board for a year and, like Whiticare, has no automotive background. Do I smell another Obama hand-pick?

All it took to achieve this quarterly profit announcement was a "Managed Bankruptcy" orchestrated by the Obama Administration and completed in a manner of months instead of years. Was the "Managed Bankruptcy" and forced removal of two GM CEO's legal? Don't know. Doesn't matter.

So, GM's return to profitabily was paid for by zeroing out GM's stock. Stock held for years by employess and retirees who invested in GM for their retirements. It also caused the value of GM Retail Bonds to be wiped out, after calling Bond holders, (many were also GM employess and retirees saving for their retirement) evil "speculators".

Add to that the arbitrary closing of GM Dealerships (many of which have been reopened due to litigation by the dealers), walking away from debts owed to thousands of suppliers, and, in general, walking away from their debts and obligations to just about everyone.

But that's not exactly true. I forgot that the new GM stock will be 70% owned by Obama's Federal Government, 20% will be owned by the UAW (now, how in the world did that happen?), and the balance mainly owned by the Canadian Government.

Yep. We're very excited by GM's return to profitability. All it took was the strong armed take over of our company, WITHOUT EVEN A FIGHT BY GM BOARD CHAIRMAN WHITACRE, and the total loss of years of our hard earned retirement savings.

Way to go Mr. Whitacre and the rest of the GM Board. You turned my company over to the Chicago Thugs and the UAW without even a fight. Was it legal? Was it even really necessary? Don't know. Doesn't matter.

August 13 2010 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply