Will Saab's Demise Draw Bargain Hunters To Dealers?

December 20, 2011
Despite repeated eleventh-hour lifelines, the week began with the end of Saab

After its petition for bankruptcy was approved by a Swedish court Monday, word traveled quickly. 

Here in America, a nine-minute conference call to the nation's 188 dealerships confirmed the 64-year-old automaker's fate.

And until Saab Cars North America board members meet Tuesday and provide further details, dealers know little else, notes Automotive News (subscription required). Legal claims for compensation against losses are likely, but it remains to be seen whether Saab can respond financially.

Meanwhile, we're curious whether consumers will respond financially by sifting through Saab dealers' estimated 3,000 new 9-3, 9-4X and 9-5 units, expecting stop-loss bargains on the newest dead brand. Presuming dealers will be receptive to offers south of sticker prices, are these final Saabs worth it? Also, there is the issue of whether or not warranties will be upheld.

The 2009 Saab 9-3 was our most recent test of the model; not for lack of interest, it was for lack of any significant changes since a 2008 freshening. Call them large compact or small mid-size cars, 2011 Saab 9-3 Convertibles, Sedans and SportCombis (wagons) are likable but not quite as sharp as European competitors.

What can be said of the 2011 Saab 9-4X? The Cadillac SRX-related crossover is at least a better effort than the unloved Saab 9-7X based on the Chevy Trailblazer. That's about it.  We found it acceptable in many ways, distinctive in none.

And then there's the 2011 Saab 9-5. We'll say it: it is worth it. Even when we grumbled about the sedan's sticker price rubbing elbows with BMW's 5-Series and Mercedes' E-Class, there was little else to nitpick. Style and substance were finally synced. If any car could've led Saab's charge back, it was this best-yet 9-5.

Consumers toying with the idea of Saab shopping might consider a quick chat with their financial institutions first. Not only is it sensible for any vehicle purchase, it can confirm a lender's willingness to finance an out-of-production brand. One credit union we consulted didn't anticipate any roadblocks; ability to repay, car value versus loan amount and credit history are still the primary considerations. However (and primarily with big banks), we've found more restrictive policies against writing loans on dead automakers.

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