New Saab Cars
Saab is a Swedish manufacturer of high-end cars that boasts a history of design and technical innovations marred by financial setbacks over the past two decades.
Founded in 1938, the company specialized in military aircraft engineering during its first few years of existence, which coincided with World War II.
The development of passenger cars began in 1945. Saab's plan to create a small, affordable model resulted in the 92. The original prototypes had a drag coefficient of only 0.32 (a number that would still be impressive today) and underwent rigorous tests to ensure quality.
The car hit the market in 1949 and sold more than 20,000 units up until 1955, when it was completely redesigned and renamed 93. A wagon variant called 95 appeared in 1959 and enjoyed a 19-year run.
The dawn of the '60s saw the third major revision to the 92's platform in the Saab 96. For Sweden, this highly-popular model proved to be the equivalent of Germany's Volkswagen Beetle. It sold nearly 550,000 examples over a 20-year span.
In 1964, the first all-new Saab not based on the 92 was introduced. The 99 had many innovations and features that would come to define Saabs for decades: wraparound windscreen, self-repairing bumpers, headlamp washers and side-impact door beams. The 99 range was expanded in 1973 with the addition of a combi coupe model, a body style which quickly became synonymous with Saab.
The brand merged with Scania Vabis in 1969. A year later, the 500,000th Saab rolled out of the Trollhättan factory.
The launch of a Turbo model in 1978 marked the end of the first-generation 99. It conquered the hearts of rally enthusiasts by winning several events with Stig Blomqvist behind the wheel.
The 99 evolved into the 900 in 1979. The car became a smash hit during the '80s with over 900,000 units sold (including a convertible variant). The 1987 Saab 900 was the first front-wheel-drive vehicle to receive ABS brakes.
In 1989, the struggling car division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company, Saab Automobile AB; General Motors and Investor AB controlled 50 percent each. A redesigned 900 was the first model to be launched under new ownership, and due in large part to its success, Saab earned a profit in 1995 for the first time in seven years. However, the car did not achieve the same reputation for quality as the classic 900.
As it celebrated 50 years of automobile production in 1997, Saab unveiled a replacement for the ageing 9000: the 9-5. Meanwhile, the 900 received a facelift and renaming complimentary to its new larger sibling: it would now be called the 9-3.
GM exercised their option to acquire the remaining Saab shares in 2000. Three years later, a new 9-3 made its debut. In 2005, Saab released the 9-2X and 9-7X (based on the Subaru Impreza and Chevrolet Trailblazer, respectively) in North America in an effort to boost sales. Unfortunately, both were a critical and commercial failure and were scrapped after a few years.
GM ran into major financial troubles of its own, eventually filing for bankruptcy. The automaker announced that the Saab brand was "under review" in December 2008. Koenigsegg nearly completed a transaction before pulling back at the last minute.
After a long saga, General Motors confirmed an agreement allowing Spyker to purchase Saab on February 23, 2010. From then on, however, things just kept getting worse.
In April 2011, several suppliers halted shipment of components to the Trollhättan assembly plant because of unpaid invoices. As a result, Saab had to stop production. Unable to pay debts and even meet payroll, the company turned to China's Hawtai and Pang Da to secure emergency funding.
Saab's plea for a voluntary reorganization – one of its last remaining lifelines – was soon denied and trade unions asked the government to declare the company bankrupt.
Technically, Saab is still selling the 9-3 in sedan, wagon and convertible body styles, the 9-3X and 9-4X crossovers as well as the 9-5 sedan.