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Timeline of SAAB's Company History
A Brief Timeline of SAAB's Company History
Though widely known for their iconic automobiles like the Ursaab and Saab 92, Saab AB, "Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget," actually got its start as a Swedish aerospace and defense company in 1937. With Europe on the brink of World War II, Saab was created with the sole purpose of manufacturing fighter planes for the Swedish Air Force as a means of protecting the nation’s neutrality.
When WWII finally came to a close and the demand for fighter planes began to dwindle, Saab ultimately had to start branching out into other markets to maintain their profits. This led to the start of Saab’s first automobile project in 1945, known as "X9248." Though upon its formal release in 1949, the vehicle was renamed to the Saab 92.
The Saab 92 went on to sell more than 20,000 cars by 1955 before it received a redesign and was relaunched as the Saab 93. The 93 saw a number of improvements, such as a switch from a 2-cylinder to 3-cylinder engine, but arguably its most impactful contribution to Saab’s legacy was the inclusion of its trapezoidal grill. This grill went on to be a trademark inclusion in all Saab vehicles.
Over the next decade and a half, Saab continued to improve upon the 92 base model by releasing the Saab 95, 96, and 99. The 96 alone went on to sell almost 55,000 cars and these newer models also implemented well-received features such as front-wheel drive, freewheeling, and shoulder seat belts in the front seat. The 1968 Saab 99 was the biggest departure from the 92 and included several new innovations like self-repairing bumpers, side-impact door beams, and a wraparound windscreen.
Following their success throughout the 50s and 60s, Saab AB went on to merge with Scania-Vabis AB in 1969. The new company was known as Saab-Scania AB. Under this new banner, Saab continued to produce the 99, albeit in a combi coupe model. The vehicle continued to perform well in sales and in 1976 Saab manufactured their millionth vehicle. However, new offerings from Saab were right around the corner.
In 1978, partnered with Fiat to re-manufacture their Lancia Delta as the Saab 600, which ultimately led to the development of the 9000 in 1985 – Saab’s very first luxury vehicle. Alongside the 600, 1978 also witnessed the arrival of the now-iconic Saab 900. The 900 went on to produce nearly one million models and even today has a large fan base.
Saab was on a roll and in 1989 the car division broke away from the rest of Saab-Scania to become its own company – Saab Automobile AB. The new version of the company had a 50/50 split in ownership between long-time investor AB and General Motors. GM had such high hopes in the company that they invested $600 million. This substantial investment not only allowed them to acquire all outstanding shares but also led to the development of the new 900. Though this new 900 never reached the heights of fandom the original did.
Then, in 1997, Saab celebrated its 50th anniversary by unveiling the Saab 9-5. The 9-5 was the first vehicle produced by Saab in 20 years to not use the combi coupe body that had become synonymous with the company name.
In 2000, GM spent $125 million to acquire all remaining shares in the company, making them the sole owner of the new subsidiary.
In the years following GM’s purchase of the company, Saab went on to release several new models including a new sports sedan 9-3 in 2003, the Saab 9-2x in 2005, and the Saab 9-7x also in 2005. Both the 9-2x and 9-7x, based on Subaru and GM platforms respectively, were not considered successful and were canceled only a few years later.
After a few more canceled models, GM announced in 2007 that the Saab brand was officially under review. Eventually, the company went into administration (the Swedish alternative to Chapter 11 bankruptcy) and the company’s future became uncertain.
Over the next couple of years, different deals were planned but ultimately fell apart. Though the intellectual property rights for the Saab 9-3 and 9-5 were sold to Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co Ltd (BAIC) in 2009 for $197 million. This sale allowed Saab to keep the company doors open for an extra three months.
GM continued to accept offers for the Saab brand until January 7, 2010, but was not optimistic about ever reaching an actual deal.
On February 23, 2010, Saab was finally sold to Spyker N.V.. However, this good news for Saab was short-lived as in 2011 Saab once again began to fall into debt. Neither Saab nor its new parent company Spyker could cover the losses and both companies just stopped paying their bills and product suppliers to Saab stopped making deliveries to the factory altogether.
Financial problems continued to plague the manufacturer and several Chinese partners including Hawtai, Youngman, and Pang Da attempted to acquire the company. GM, however, blocked these acquisitions and the company was finally forced to file for bankruptcy on December 19, 2011.
After subtracting the value of its assets, Saab was left with a debt of $1,500 million. Spyker N.V. attempted to cover this debt by filing a $3 billion lawsuit against GM for their interference in potential deals with the would-be Chinese automobile partners.
Unfortunately for Saab, this lawsuit was ultimately dismissed in June 2013 with a court ruling GM was within its rights to block the potential deals.
While this lawsuit was taking place, the main assets of Saab AB were acquired by a Chinese consortium known as National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), with the Swedish National Debt office retaining control over Saab Automobile Part AB.
NEVS attempted to relaunch the Saab brand under their leadership but legal issues pertaining to logo and name use complicated matters. In 2013, NEVS did manage to release a new model of the 9-3 but the company soon ran into financial troubles of their own – going as far as to file for bankruptcy protection in August 2014.
Then on June 21, 2016, NEVS revealed that they would no longer use the Saab trademark on their vehicles, effectively ending Saab’s nearly 7-decade run.
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Last modified: July 01, 2021