Why GM got it wrong with Saab, by Ben Whitworth

Published: 23 September 2008

London motor show video

Looking at the Chevrolet Volt and Saab 9-X Air concept that have dominated CAR's homepage over the past seven days, I couldn’t help but play the ‘what if’ game. Instead of the catalogue of mismanagement that has hallmarked GM’s ownership of Saab (it bought half of Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget in 1990 and the remaining 50 perfect in 2000) what if it had put Saab firmly back on track?

You know, invested heavily – and intelligently – in the Swedish brand’s already superb research and development, tapped into its innovative engineering heritage and created a maker of cars that could stand shoulder to shoulder with BMW, Mercedes and Audi. What if, instead of the disgraceful 9-2X and 9-7X and the antiquated 9-3 and 9-5 range, Saab showrooms were filled with production versions of the 9-X, 9-X Air and 9-3X to tackle Germany’s big three, with the Aero-X giving Maserati and Porsche a run for its money?

It’s an absolute travesty the way GM has systematically marginalised Saab, endlessly tarnishing its once shining image and depriving it of lifeline investment while ploughing money into crass and jingoistic nasties like the Hummer.

This week GM – which is currently haemorrhaging £35 million a day – pinned its hopes on the new Volt and its E-Flex technology, and is now desperately trying to sell off Hummer to anyone with a vaguely realistic offer. And I can’t help wonder if GM had handled Saab the same way VW did Audi, it wouldn’t be going to the wall quite so hard and quite so quickly. Anyone agree with me?

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Scroll down the page to the embedded player below to see video of the Saab 9-X, 9-X Air, 9-4X and the Turbo X   

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By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

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