Gavin Green blog | Saab | Koenigsegg blog

Published: 01 September 2009

One must, of course, wish Koenigsegg good luck with its recent purchase of Saab. They could hardly do a worse job than the previous owner. General Motors neutered Saab’s Scandinavian quirks, further prostituted its brand by applying it to a Chevy truck and a Subaru, and then went bankrupt. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could do worse than that.

The odds are stacked against tiny Koenigsegg. Yet it has one big advantage over GM. As witnessed by its sports cars and the boldness of its recent purchase, it can ‘think different’.

Small premium motor companies can only prosper if they make cars that are notably different from the mass-made mainstream, and they can only make such cars if they are managed and run by people who can think outside the corporate constraints of big car company conservatism. GM has proved that it cannot do this; most other giant car companies are similarly culpable.

This is one reason why most car company takeovers of the past two decades – in which Goliath has swallowed David –have failed. All GM Saabs, the key Ford Jaguars (the X-type and S-type) and most Volkwagen Skodas and Seats, have been anodyne and conformist cars. Apart from Skodas, these new models have also invariably been commercial failures.

Saab – former pioneers of turbocharging and aerodynamics – needs to return to its innovative roots, just as Jaguar does (and is) under Tata.

Those small makers who have prospered after takeover have invariably kept the innovative and quirky flames of their founders burning – Ferrari, under Fiat; Rolls-Royce, under BMW; Bentley, under Volkswagen; Lamborghini, also under VW.

Perhaps Saab will one day be added to this list.

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By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience