In 1937, faced with threats of war, the Swedish government wanted to acquire an air force capable of protecting its neutrality and created Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget, which translates to “Swedish company with shares in aircraft”.
The acronym is SAAB and its logo represents an airplane facing forward with the four letters below. The company will manufacture the models 90, 91 after building aircraft under license… In 1945 peace returned, the management of the company wants to diversify the activity and in 1947 will create a car division.
A car for the Swedish market
If the 90 and 91 were airplanes, the 92 is … a car. About twenty aeronautical engineers and technicians gathered around Gunnar Ljungström turn their skills in the construction of aircraft into the creation of a car; As a result, the Saab 92 has the profile of an airplane wing.
Introduced on June 10, 1949, it was redesigned by the industrial designer Sixteenth Season (Karl-Erik Sixten Andersson) for industrialization. The Saab 92 was released in December 1949 in one color: dark green. A testament to the care given to aerodynamics, despite a small 19 kW twin cylinder, the car reaches 105 km/h.
Success in the US
Very quickly, Saab markets the 93, a 33 hp version with a 3-cylinder engine. In the rally, Erik Carlsson begins to make himself known. In 1956, Saab established a subsidiary in the United States, a market that would become the brand’s first export market.
In 1959, 13,000 cars will have been imported. At the Stockholm motor show in 1956, the Saab Sonnett (or Saab 94) caused a sensation.
It was a two-seat open sports car with a fiberglass body. The Saab 92 leaves the scene while the 95 arrives; it is Saab’s first estate car. The logo became square with rounded corners; on a blue background we find the plane and the letters Saab in capital letters.
The rally in the 60s
From the 1960s, rallying became an important vector for development. Erik Carlsson wins the RAC rally in 60, 61 and 62 and, in 62 and 63, Monte Carlo. Until 1980, the rally will be part of the brand’s DNA. The model of Saab Sport 1966, based on the 96 model, was named Saab Monte Carlo 850.
It adopts the Ford V4 instead of the original DKW twin. Safety also plays a big role at Saab; from 1962, cars were equipped with seat belts. The Sonnet II (Saab 97) appeared on the market in 1966, especially for the American market, without much success (1,768 copies in 4 years).
Finally, Saab is planning a completely new model: the Saab 99. It is a five-seat, two-door sedan whose line, although different from the 96, retained the brand’s typical style. For Europe, the problem is the price, because the Saab is expensive. In 1969 it was the merger with Scania and the arrival of the Sonnett 3, whose aesthetics were quite divisive.
1977, the arrival of the turbo
In the late 1970s, it was still the 99ers who had the upper hand; Saab will always have used its platforms for the leg. Besides, it’s not the shape that counts, but what’s under the hood. The turbo comes with the 99 turbo.
Available in a three-door hatchback version, it was recognizable thanks to its specific wheels and its exclusive rear spoiler. It’s success at 200 km/h…
In 1979, 900 arrived; the model met the strictest applicable safety standards. It is developed from 99, but with a longer wheelbase, 21 cm longer wheelbase, new front end and completely new interior. It will be the best-selling Saab with 1 million copies.
From 1985 things go badly
As part of a constant improvement in its production quality, Saab signs an industrial agreement with Fiat, leading to the launch of Saab 9000sister and clone of Fiat Croma and Lancia Themewhich are all being built on the same platform.
This enables the Swede to tease European premium brands. In 1990, General Motors bought 50% of the Saab shares to end up acquiring 100% of the capital in 2000. To gain economies of scale, GM decided to use Opel platforms to develop the Saab 9-5 and 9-3.
From 2007, the crisis hit Saab, whose production fell from 95,000 cars to 20,800 in 2009. It was the year when GM wanted to get rid of Saab. The Dutch producer Spy cars will finally acquire it in 2010.
Unfortunately, the decline is only accentuated, and Saab’s automotive branch will thus definitively disappear with it bankruptcy in December 2011 of Saab Automobile AB. The red-crowned griffin, adopted in 1974, will no longer grace a single car.