The 1947 Saab 92 prototype, a strange but fitting combination of both "odd" and "cute," seemed to perfectly encapsulate why Saab differentiated itself from the rest of the automotive marketplace. When the brand lost that character, they faded into the woodwork and sales dwindled (Saab).

    by: David Sedgwick | AOL Autos

    The whole thing reeked of desperation.

    When Dutch sports car maker Spyker Cars NV emerged as the white knight in a last-ditch effort to save Saab Automobile AB, the business media covered the negotiations in that deadpan “we-won’t-tell-you-what-we-really-think” tone that every good reporter learns in journalism school.

    Consider the circumstances: Spyker, a ten-year-old maker of hand-built sports cars, has never turned a profit. Last year, the company produced 43 cars and lost nearly $36 million. Do the math: That's a loss of $825,00 on each car produced.

    And that was a good year. In 2007, the company lost $3.9 million on each car produced.

    It gets worse. A man named Vladimir Antonov, chairman of Russia’s Konvers banking group, owns a large stake in Spyker. Vladimir is the son of banker Alexander Antonov, who was shot five times in the stomach, chest and finger as he left his house on March 11. Antonov lost his finger but survived the attack.

    At the time, the Russian newspaper Kommersant speculated that the mafia-style hit was related to the Kaliningrad Seaport, a business venture that involves both father and son. Anybody want to speculate how they made their money?

    As we speak, General Motors has announced that the Spyker bid fell short. GM is winding down Saab’s operations, and Swedish authorities are preparing to help a flood of newly unemployed auto workers.

    To be sure, Spyker has not given up on its bid, even though it appears all of GM's deal makers are off for the holidays, noshing on fruitcake and putting the memory of Saab (and Hummer and Saturn and Pontiac) into their recycling bins. Media reports speculated that Spyker had lined up last-minute financing from Marcel Boekhoorn, a Dutch billionaire. Boekhoorn publicly denied it, but it all seems immaterial in any case. Spyker won't buy Saab; the famous Swedish car company can now fade away into the world of automotive trivia.

    But let us suppose that Spyker actually did have the money, management and stable ownership needed for a long-term turnaround project like Saab. Even then, a successful Saab rescue would have been a long-shot at best. Here’s why:

    Saab can’t profitably export vehicles outside Europe. The company’s assembly plant is located in Trollhattan, Sweden. Because the Swedish krona is a strong currency, it is difficult – perhaps impossible – to sell Saabs at a profit in the United States. Other European automakers like Daimler AG, BMW and Volkswagen insulated themselves from currency fluctuations by building assembly plants in North America. Saab doesn’t have the money.

    Saab isn’t the only European automaker to come to grief over currency fluctuations. Sweden’s other storied automotive brand – Volvo Cars – is up for sale in part because it can’t profitably export cars to North America.

    Saab is too small. Last year, the company sold about 93,295 vehicles, accounting for a small percentage of total GM sales. Saab can’t spread R&D costs for the 9-3, the 9-5 or any other model across half a million units in the fashion of a Volkswagen, Toyota or Ford.

    Sweden doesn’t want to be the owner of last resort. Despite our stereotype of Sweden as Europe’s experiment in socialism, that nation’s current government is conservative. If an automaker doesn’t step up to buy Saab, the government won’t fill the void. Don’t expect an Obama-style rescue.

    It’s a sad end for a storied brand. While I never cared for the company’s “Born From Jets” slogan, that ad campaign actually does have some basis in reality.

    Time To Deal on a Saab? Check Out Prices Now

    In 1944, the Swedish Aeroplane Co., an aircraft manufacturer for the Swedish air force, decided to diversify into the auto business. Sixteen engineers built a concept called Project 92, which morphed into Saab’s first production sedan in 1949.

    Saab’s durable vehicles were designed to survive Swedish winters, and they spawned a list of industry innovations. With its streamlined steel body and smooth underside, the Saab 92 had a 0.32 coefficient of drag – one of the most aerodynamic vehicles of its time.

    In 1958, the GT 750 was the first production vehicle to boast factory fitted seatbelts, and in 1967 the Saab 99 featured crumple zones in the front and rear.

    Saab’s reputation as a cold-weather brand found a receptive audience in the northeast United States, and in 1989 General Motors bought 50 percent of the company for $600 million.

    General Motors acquired the rest of Saab in 2000, but it soon became clear that GM had no idea how to nurture Saab’s quirky reputation. In 2004 they launched the Saab 9-2X, a rebadged Subaru Impreza which wags soon dubbed a “Saabaru.”

    Then there was the Saab 9-7X, a thinly disguised Chevy Trailblazer. To establish the truck’s Swedish credentials, GM’s brain trust put its ignition near the floor. Oh yeah, that’ll do the trick…

    Sure enough, Saab has not made any money since 2001. Reuters reports that it lost $392 million in 2008, with a similar loss expected this year.

    In 2009, GM put the company up for sale, and the vultures started to circle. Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB placed a bid for Saab, but backed out in November when negotiations started to drag.

    Then Beijing Automotive purchased the tooling and technology for the old Saab 9-3 and 9-5, which it will use to launch its own car brand in China. And Spyker showed up with its Russian backers…

    Which leaves us with one last question: Now that Saab dealers are unloading their inventories, should consumers take the bait? At first blush, the answer seems to be yes. The 9-3 and 9-5 are perfectly good cars, and the discounts are the auto industry’s version of a yard sale.

    If you can find an unsold Saab 9-7X – a vehicle with a list price of $43,400 – you can get it for as little as $30,000. Saab dealers are offering discounts of $12,000 or so for a 9-3 with a starting price of $30,360.

    Okay, so the price is right. The warranty is solid, too. A GM spokesman tells me the company will honor the warranty, no questions asked. And if a Saab dealership in any given area shuts down, another GM dealership will handle any warranty repairs. After the warranty expires, GM no longer is obligated to stock repair parts. But aftermarket parts suppliers will step up and sell parts.

    Industry analyst Jesse Toprak of the online pricing guide TrueCar.com says buyers shouldn’t be worried about the warranty or the availability of parts. “If a Saab fits your needs, the price definitely cannot be better,” Toprak said. “If you want to keep the car for five years-plus, they are one of the best buys we’ve seen in a long time.”

    As of Nov. 30, Saab had only 2,095 vehicles in stock, so don’t dither. And if you do purchase one, you’ll own a piece of automotive history. Most likely, this is Saab’s last roundup.

    Read More about Saab:

    - Saab's Dead: Sale To Koenigsegg Falls Through
    - Beijing Autos To Buy Saab Technology
    - Research New Saab Cars on AOL Autos

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    1 - 20 of 31 Comments
    legveinsaresexy Dec 30, 2009 9:15 AM
    To me, it comes as no surprise that Saab is biting the dust. In the highly competitive North American market, a carmaker's product line has to stand out in one way or another. As a whole, their vehicles lack the reliability and resale of a Honda or Toyota, the snob appeal of a Mercedes, the driving dynamics or a BMW, the value quotient of a Hyundai, the sleek styling of a Jaguar, the safety reputation of their crosstown rival, Volvo, or the patriotic appeal of an American brand. Furthermore, over the half century or so they have been in the US, they have yet to make anything with the acceleration of a Viper, the "Tree Hugging" fuel efficiency and low emissions of a prius, or the "Go Anywher" ability of a Jeep.
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    comisar99 Dec 29, 2009 5:57 AM
    THIS is a OBAMA care car- socialism does NOT work, the Commies that sold me my FIRST Saab treated me like Shi*** so NOW I finally get my reward, their is a GOD, and the END of SAAB, I will dance on your Grave! Two more things to put up to show Obama that being a Commie does NOT work! This is Sweet reward, NOW I await the END of Obama!!
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    johnrayner21 Dec 29, 2009 4:44 AM
    Do yourself a favour,buy a CAR preferably a good second hand SAAB, drive your 100.000/200.000 miles in it, changing the oil every 3/6 months, and then tuck it away in the garage,to bring it out in the summer months to drive around and show off how cars were made, when all others are driving around in their new plastic moulded,chip driven ,high technology enviomentally friendy, disposable biogradable pieceof profitable junk, that satisfies the accounts of the big nationals GM and Fords. Sell them a good brand name and they will kill it.
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    jdlewis95 Dec 29, 2009 4:05 AM
    NObama once again was proved to be a nitwit who is incapable of running a country. The Swedish Government loves the fact that Saab is closing because now they'll have more reason to tax the wealthy to put all of those Saab employee's on welfare. Obama can't see that socialism doesn't work. Every economy has crashed in every country that has tried to make it work.
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    shicks3237 Dec 29, 2009 2:34 AM
    Saab innovations - one of the first with front wheel drive, single overhead cam engine, four wheel disc brakes, electronic fuel injection - these innovations all occured in the very early 1970's, before even the Japanese caught on. Of course, the problem is that in the early days they left the engine design and manufacture to the Brits - reliability left something to be desired...
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    jma1155 Dec 29, 2009 2:25 AM
    GM's decision to kill Oldsmobile was a highly irresponsible management decision...it was one of the more steadfast Iconic brand names that gave GM much of it's capitol over the years and could have been turned around to make profits again. Their second decision to kill Pontiac was the fatal blow to GM's incessantly inept management....another Iconic name that could have been turned around with some good old fashioned elbow grease. GM's Board of Directors should be lined up and shot based upon their exceptionally poor management vs the exceptional wealth paid to them... they have been the source of most of GM's problems for decades..... GM is doomed to failure at this juncture....it's just a matter of time and lots and lots of taxpayer dollars wasted. I say shoot the Board of Directors at dawn....and let John Delorean run the show.
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    wordwise7 Dec 29, 2009 2:14 AM
    My '99 9-3 has fewer than 50,000 miles on it. Like my '90 9-3, it's been a bargain to maintain. I hated the design of the GM-era mutations, so a new car of the last production year wasn't tempting. My husband would gladly take me car-shopping; but I have no interest in any other brand. Now, I hope to drive my second -- and, obviously, last -- Saab until I'm so old that someone takes away my keys.
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    tuomey2 Dec 29, 2009 1:14 AM
    And WHY is this "SAAB" story worthy of AOL news, without mention of Mercury/Oldsmobile/Plymouth/(Packerd)/Pontiac/Saab/Saturn/etc.? Obama/"We The People" now own controlling shares of Chrysler and GM - As such, shouldn't "We The People" have a say/vote on which auto brand will continue or die/end?
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    sethracer Dec 29, 2009 1:02 AM
    I owned a 1971 SAAB 99E. It saved my butt in the middle of a Torino (coming from behind) Vega (in front) Sandwich. I spent a college summer working on them part-time for a quirky independent SAAB repairman. However, I can describe a SAAB engineering meeting. Trying to solve a design issue, one engineer suggest a solution. The Head engineer says, "No, someone else has already done it that way!" Okay, pipes up another engineer, "How about this way? No, says the Head engineer, One time, long ago, someone did it that way too. How about this way, suggests a third engineer. Great, we will do it that way, says the Head engineer, nobody has ever done it that way before! And that is how the whole car is designed. We are talking "quirky"
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    tlozaw Dec 29, 2009 12:58 AM
    GM is selling Saab's PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY(!) to the Chinese on the cheap, somewhere around $200 million. With that gone, why would any other companies be interested in buying Saab as a brand? GM is like a pathetic lapdog eager to please its owner in hopes of getting treats (in this case, more access to China's markets). They've already handed over US weapons technology to the Chinese. This is just another bold, arrogant butt-kissing that sells out American workers and consumers as well as Saab. Since like the rest of US taxpayers I'm a de facto GM stockholder, I have a message for the administration and GM's board of directors.-- GET A CLUE.
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    ilasli Dec 29, 2009 12:52 AM
    I love my Saab. I live in an area with legendary winters and road conditions (I've spun out twice this season, with virtually no damage!). It has always started, -25f wind chill or ********* my second Saab, and wasn't going to be my last. I put 100k on it in one year, and only had $1,800 in maintenance/repairs the entire year. For the average person, that's 7 years worth of driving. Incredible! This is so sad...
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    byarby2000 Dec 29, 2009 12:42 AM
    GM has turned into everything that's wrong with corporate America and union America. It's a political "hot potato" that is doomed to a slow death. It's death would be faster and more humane if Democrats would keep their pitifully inept hands out of private businesses.
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    stpldrc Dec 29, 2009 12:27 AM
    What a shame that GM "killed" this great car; a car that out-compete Volvo. Luckily, Volvo was bought by FORD and not GM. But, hey, all hopes are not lost; last minutes deals may gain enough traction to safe this great car.
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    ajr2159 Dec 29, 2009 12:13 AM
    Let GM take it, and they will break it!
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    mkallit Dec 29, 2009 12:03 AM
    I miss my old '75 99 EMS .. all my friends had one as well.... reliable ( as long as you carried a few extra relays and tools ) quick, fun, great in the NE snow ....
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    wastul Dec 28, 2009 11:40 PM
    I owned a used 1973 Saab back in the mid 70s. There were many things I loved about the car (heated seats, anyone?) However, I had no end of problems with it and it wasn't because I failed to keep it serviced. Seems like every time I took it in to the shop, it came out with something else messed up. I never was sure if it was the car itself or an inept service department, or both. I was glad when I was able to finally rid myself of the interesting blue beast as it died it's death as I barely made it into the new car dealer's lot. So don't blame GM entirely for SAAB's demise. If SAAB had built a fully reliable car, irrespective of the price, the market would have been there--- word does get around, no matter how much smart advertising money is spent to offset it. Heck, even a sleaze ball used car dealer (and a wanna-be comedian?) turned me down when I asked if he would consider buying it, saying "I'd be Saabin' if I did." Har har. RIP Saab. Hope your jets were better than your cars. Maybe the jets had/have heated seats??
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    nomoretoyota Dec 28, 2009 11:25 PM
    Yea, GM F-ed that up too. The brand really didn't offer much. Most of the earlier ones were butt ugly. GM at least cleaned the exterior up. But, if SAAB Aeroplane company, who started it, feels bad, it should take it back. They still make a decent aircraft. Add to the fact that the chi-coms are coming on too strong with automobiles now that this little company doesn't stand a chance. Bye Bye.
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    nwtrekkr Dec 28, 2009 11:21 PM
    I agree 100% with ekdailey921
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    saashaudio Dec 28, 2009 10:58 PM
    Back in the 80's, I had a 1979 3 door 900 Turbo. What a fun ride that was. Quick and agile. A little pricey to maintain, but it was woth it. The brand was never the same after GM took over. What a shame.
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    penstate79 Dec 28, 2009 10:44 PM
    Well the viper may be fast, and the Caddy makes you look like the local don correone, but the 1947 Saab is what all the kids think is cool. I rode down Interstate 10 outside Mobile, in his black Morris Minor, and it got more heads turning among college students than I ever thought possible. He must have made their day. "Small is beautiful", as the old VW ad used to say.
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    Please keep your comments relevant to the Last-Ditch Efforts To Save Saab Brand Fail article.
    GM has announced that the Spyker bid fell short. GM is winding down Saab’s operations and Swedish authorities are preparing to help a flood of newly unemployed auto workers.


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