The History of Saab


Saab Automobile AB,is a Swedish car manufacturer owned by Spyker Cars N.V.. Since its inception, Saab has been known for innovation, pioneering significant advancements in ergonomics, green technology, safety and turbocharging. Originally the car manufacturing division of Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, later known as Saab AB, Saab Automobile was acquired by General Motors in 1990 who sold it to Spyker Cars in 2010.
Saab was originally a division of Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (Swedish Aeroplane Company), which had been created in 1937 in Linköping. The company had been established in 1937 for the express purpose of building aircraft for the Swedish Air Force to protect the country’s neutrality as Europe moved closer to war. As the war drew towards a close and the market for fighter planes evaporated, the company began looking for new markets in which to diversify.
In 1944, Project 92 began, with the goal of creating the first Saab passenger car. The result, the Saab 92001 (or Ursaab), was unveiled three years later, with a design that highlighted the company’s roots in aviation. Notably, the car’s drag coefficient of 0.30 was the lowest of any production car of the time.
Three years into Project 92, a company site in Trollhättan was converted to allow automobile assembly and the project moved there. The company has remained headquartered there since.
In 1949, Saab was ready to bring the car to market, and the Saab 92 went into production, selling 20,000 examples through the mid-1950s.
The 92 was thoroughly redesigned and reengineered in 1955, and accordingly was renamed the Saab 93. The car’s engine gained a cylinder, going from two to three and its front fascia became the first to sport the first incarnation of Saab’s trademark trapezoidal radiator grill. A wagon variant, the Saab 95, was added in 1959.
The decade also saw Saab’s first foray into performance motoring with the Saab 94, the first of the four Saab Sonnetts.
1960 saw the third major revision to the 92’s platform in the Saab 96. The 96 was an important model for Saab: it was the first Saab to be widely exported out of Sweden. It proved very popular, selling nearly 550,000 examples.
Even more important to the company’s fortunes was 1968’s Saab 99. The 99 was the first all-new Saab in 19 years, and unlike its predecessors, severed all ties with the 92. 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 design by Sixten Sason was no less revolutionary than the underlying technology, and elements like the Saab “hockey stick” profile graphic continue to influence Saab design.
In 1969, Saab merged with the Swedish commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania-Vabis AB to form Saab-Scania AB.
The 99 range was expanded in 1973 with the addition of a combi coupe model, a body style which quickly became synonymous with Saab. Owing to its great success, the millionth Saab was produced in 1976.
Saab entered into an agreement with Fiat in 1978 to sell a rebadged Lancia Delta as the Saab 600 and jointly develop a new platform. The agreement yielded 1985’s Saab 9000, sister to the Alfa Romeo 164, Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema; all rode atop a common Type Four chassis. The 9000 was Saab’s first proper luxury car.
1978 also was the first year for the 99’s intended replacement: the Saab 900. Nearly one million 900s would be produced, making it Saab’s best-selling model. A popular convertible version followed in 1986, making up nearly 20% of 900 sales.
In 1989, the Saab car division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company, Saab Automobile AB, headquartered in Sweden; General Motors and Investor AB controlled 50% each. GM’s investment gave them the option to acquire the remaining shares within a decade.
GM’s involvement spurred the launch of a new 900 in 1994. The new car shared a platform with the Opel Vectra. Due in large part to its success, Saab earned a profit in 1995 for the first time time in seven years.
GM exercised their option to acquire the remaining Saab shares in 2000, turning the company into a wholly-owned subsidiary.
Owing to fading fortunes across their entire business, GM announced that the Saab brand was “under review” in December 2008, a process which included the possibility of selling or shuttering the carmaker. Reportedly, 27 potential buyers emerged, and serious talks progressed with three bidders but as the talks progressed, GM’s support receded and the company went into administration.
In 2009 as talks with several firms failed, GM formally announced their intention to wind down the Saab brand.
On January 26, 2010 General Motors confirmed that Spyker and General Motors had come to an agreement allowing Spyker to purchase Saab, subject to regulatory and government approval; the sale was completed in February 2010. General Motors will continue to supply Saab with engines, transmissions and also completed vehicles in the shape of the new Saab 9-4x from GM's Mexico factory.

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