Saab always had a sort of underdog thing going for it, especially when compared to other European brands such as BMW and Audi, but was that its biggest selling point?
Saab has always been somewhat niche, in that it was never as popular as brands such as Ford or BMW, both of which had a more mainstream appeal. When you say “I drive a BMW,” people are impressed; when you say “I drive a Ford,” they’re understanding, but when you say “I drive a Saab,” they’re usually confused. “A Saab, what’s that?”
Blake Z. Rong nails the perception of Saabs and their owners in a piece he wrote for Road & Track, which you can read in excerpt below:
Saab owners are a tight-knit group, small and experienced and waning in number. Some might call them weird. You have to be, I suppose, to remain dedicated to a brand with hardly any parts support, a brand that stuck to its bizarro-world ways—antiquated, even—well into the Nineties, a brand that was always the quintessential underdog on and off the track.
That said, is it possible that this image is what made Saab appealing to those who bought them? This understanding makes more sense if you’re buying a brand new vehicle, so let’s imagine that it’s 2010 and the new and improved 9-5 Aero has just entered the market with a base price of $49,125.
The prospective buyer checks the Car and Driver review of the new 9-5, and they say it’s got a “bodacious bod, smart luxocar tech inside, seriously sticky cornering performance.” Motor Trend gave the car similar praise, though both outlets criticized the 2010 Saab 9-5 for its pricing and a lackluster powertrain that can’t fully manage the car’s weight.
It seemed that Saab’s effort to make the 9-5 a better place to be in, rather than a faster car to be in, weren’t fully appreciated. And so it was referred to as an overpriced Buick, even if it was a Buick that had a heads-up display system, heated and cooled seats for front and rear passengers, a Harmon Kardon sound system, superior all-wheel drive system by Haldex, and commendable build quality. To us, the 9-5 was as much a Buick LaCrosse or Regal as the 9-3 was a Chevrolet Cobalt. This was the result of Saab ignoring orders from The General to badge engineer its vehicles.
So the prospective buyer would potentially see Saab as a brand that’s trying to overcome the cards stacked against it, and build a vehicle that’s more enticing than other European luxury cars, while having the support of a domestic, easy-on-the-wallet, compact car. It was admirable quest, no doubt, but it became a suicide mission that ultimately turned Saab into an automotive history lesson.
We’ll leave you with this rather interesting description of the brand, as told by a Swedish colleague of the writer of Swadeology,
What is Saab, really? I mean, come on, try to define it for me. Volvo is a car company that is very easy to understand, one that make cars. A lot of cars. But Saab… Saab is really just a very, very appealing idea.
To hear our take on why Saab vehicles are still an excellent choice, click here.