Nothing is stronger than love, except a B234R.
History of Saab Automobile AB
The Saab Group is a aerospace and defense brand based in Trollhattan, Sweden. The acronym Saab stands for Svenska Aeroplane Akitebolag (SAAB). They did and still do manufacture fighter planes for the military. After WWII ended, Saab Group wanted to expand their business and created the Saab Automobile divison. Their first production car was the Saab 92 which launched in 1949. Decent sales of the 92 allowed Saab to redesign it after a few years. The Saab 93 was the result of this overhaul. It was a more powerful car, gaining a cylinder bumping the number up to 3 instead of 2. This model proved to be more successful than the 92 with production numbers being more than double the 92. In 1960 Saab performed another redesign on the 92 platform and created the Saab 96. This was the first Saab to be extensively exported and sold outside of Sweden. It was their first big hit, selling around 550,000 worldwide. The 96 originally used the 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine, then switched to a 4 stroke V4 Ford motor. Also, the 96 proved to be a very capable rally car, winning 2 World Rally Championships and many Great Britain and Monte Carlo rallies.
In 1969, Saab merged with Scania-Vabis AB. They did and still do manufacture commercial vehicles such as semi trucks and buses. This meant Saab Automobile could use Scania's manufacturing plants in Sweden so they didn't have to outsource their engine builds. In 1968, Saab introduced the 99. This is the first Saab that wasn't based on the 92. It didn't incorporate any components from the 92 and proved to be their most important car to date. The 99 had a much more luxurious and comtemporary interior. 10 years after the lauch of the 99, a new engine was available for the car. A 2 litre turbocharged inline four motor came in the top of the line model 99. This was very important for Saab because it was the first mass produced production car to come with a turbo. It quickly started a trend with other automotive manufacturers to include turbochargers on their mass produced cars. 1978 also brought the replacement for the 99; the Saab 900. However, Saab did continue to manufacture the 99 until 1984. The 900 is the best-selling and quintessential Saab ever to be produced. Over 900,000 900s were produced from 1978-1993. In 1984 Saab took part in a joint venture with Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia. They all shared one platform to design a car. Saab created the 9000 which was intended to be an executive-luxury car in comparison to the 900. The partnership fell apart because Saab's standard for safety proved far too high for the other three Italian brands.
In 1989, the car division of Saab-Scania broke off to form Saab Automobile AB. They were under the ownership of General Motors and Investor AB. Saab was financially troubled during this time and needed the support from these investors. In 1994, Saab launched their first car that was based off of an existing General Motors vehicle. The 1994 Saab 900 NG (Next Generation) was a radically redesigned Opel Vectra; it only shared 1/3 of the parts. Saab finally earned a profit in 1995 after several years of struggle, but sacrificed quality to achieve it. At the turn of the millennium, General Motors purchased the remaining 50% of Saab Automobile AB. Under GM, several new Saab models were created; all of them in an effort to generate a profit. Since Saab's number one priority was safety, this made it difficult for GM to finance them. Saab always re-engineered the cars they were given to satisfy their own standards. In 2010, GM found that Saab was costing them too much money and put the brand up for sale. Very few serious bidders were interested, but the Dutch supercar company Spyker bought Saab Automobile AB at the last moment. As before with GM, Spyker needed to make a profit with Saab as quickly as possible to save the company. The new Saab 9-5 was still being finished when it went on sale. This made it a commercial flop with both very low production and sales numbers. in 2012 with no other alternatives available, Saab filed for bankruptcy and liquidated all of their assets, halting production and ending their life as an automotive brand.
Saab developed many new techonologies and applied existing ones to mass produced cars. This is a timeline of some signifcant innovations from Saab.
Saab vehicles always had a different look to them. They were always designed to cater to a specific demographic, such as architects, dentists, graphic designers, and professors.
Above is a good example of what made Saab different. The hockeystick C-Pillar design cue has been in all of Saab's cars since the Saab 92. It gives the car an odd, swooping rear profile that doesn't look like any other vehicle.
I would like to give a huge thank you to John Libbos for providing me with information for my project. John Libbos was the Product Development Manager for Saab North America from the early 1980s up to Saab's bankruptcy.
I would also like to thank Tom Donney and Marty Adams for also providing me with valuable information. Tom Donney owns a large portion of the General Motors heritage collection for Saab. Marty Adams used to own a Saab dealership.
About The Project
I have always gravitated toward Saab cars whether it be a daily driver or weekend tuner. I've always enjoyed the quirkiness of their design and their attention to safety. The Saab Automobile company has, and always will hold a special place within the automotive industry. This project on the history of Saab is meant to showcase their approach to running an automotive brand from a unique perspective. Saab took the view of the customer is not always right. This is how they ran the company. It will also describe many of the different automotive innovations they pioneered. The significance of this project is to show that Saab remained loyal to their roots and didn't succumb to following popular automotive trends.
Saab Automobile initially began in 1945 when their parent company SAAB AB saw that the demand for fighter planes had dropped off dramatically after WWII. They then started to manufacture cars and launched their first production model in 1949. 21 years later in 1969 Saab Automobile merged with Scania to form Saab-Scania. Under this partnership, Saab lauched the 99 and 900 models which made a very postive impact on the brand. Jump to 1989, Saab Automobile AB broke off from Saab-Scania and became an independent manufacture. During this time (1989-2000) Saab Automobile AB were controlled by both General Motors and Investor AB (each owned 50%). In 2000 General Motors bought the other 50% of Saab Automobile AB making them a wholly owned brand. From 2000 to 2010 Saab only built cars on foreign platforms, but they were spending astonomical amounts of money by practically re-engineering what GM gave them. Eventually in 2010 GM couldn't finacially afford to keep Saab and sold the brand to a small Dutch car company called Spyker. Unfortunately Spyker had to put Saab's new 9-5 for sale before it was completely finished which led to poor sales. In 2012 Sypker could no longer support Saab Automobile and filed for bankruptcy. This was the final blow before Saab had to close down for good.