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If The Saab Sale Goes Through, Will It Still Be Called Saab?

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2011 Saab 9-4X

2011 Saab 9-4X

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By now, you probably know two things about Saab:

  1. It's not dead (yet).
  2. If it survives, it's going to be an electric car company (maybe).

But if item #2 comes to pass, will Saab continue to be called "Saab"? An article in Detroit News raises some doubts. 

A family history

Saab is a big company. The general public knows it best as Saab Automobile, creator of uniquely styled passenger vehicles. But before Saab Automobile was sold to General Motors in 1990, it had a couple of siblings -- both of whom are still in business. Saab AB is an aerospace and defense company, making everything from fighter jets to missile systems, and Scania (formerly Saab-Scania AB) manufactures commercial vehicles like big rigs and buses.

Although they've become estranged from one another over time, the three companies still own rights to the Saab name. And they all use the griffin as part of their logo.

The problem with Saab

When GM sold Saab in 2010, the company's new overlords at Spyker were given permission to use the Saab name and logo with few questions asked. That's largely because Saab's brand and product lineup weren't expected to change much.

But Saab's performance under Spyker (now known as Swedish Automobile) was terrible. Roughly one year after the sale went through, Saab's assembly lines had stalled, and the company found itself unable to pay workers. It hasn't produced a car since March 2011, and it's become something of an embarrassment to its former siblings.

Which is, in part, why Saab AB and Scania have expressed concerns about handing over rights to the Saab name and logo to Saab Automobile's potential new owners, National Electric Vehicle Sweden. Scania spokesperson Erik Ljungberg says that his company wants to ensure that the griffin logo "isn't used for anything we can't stand behind". And for what may be the first time, Saab AB seems worried that the general public's ideas about Saab the automaker will negatively influence their opinions of the defense company.

What's behind all this?

The straightforward answer to that question is that Saab's reputation is seriously damaged, and Saab AB and Scania want to take this opportunity to distance themselves from their automotive kin.

What's more, unlike during Saab's sale to Spyker, Saab AB and Scania aren't sure what Saab will become in the hands of NEVS. There are rumors that the company plans to keep Saab's exterior designs intact and replace the cars' guts with electric powertrains. But of course, once NEVS owns the company, it can do as it pleases. If NEVS dramatically alters the look, quality, and identity of Saab, it could negatively impact the entire Saab brand, including that of Saab's siblings.

And there may be even more to the story: Scania is owned by Volkswagen, which would probably be more than happy to see Saab's new owners spend a lot of time and money launching a completely new auto brand.

Our take

We have no idea which way this might go. Clearly, NEVS wants to buy Saab because it's a well-known brand. But depending on the strength of their convictions, Saab AB and Scania could potentially force NEVS to scrap the Saab marque and use a new name for its line of vehicles.

Which might bring the potential sale of Saab to a screeching halt.

We'll keep you posted as this long, strange saga continues. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, misgivings, eulogies, or commendations for Saab, drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

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Comments (3)
  1. So many of us who own SAABs wanted to "move up" to the newest technology and innovation from SAAB when the 2011 9-5 and 9-4x were launched last year.
    If SAAB returns as a vibrant company and offers a 2014 SAAB 9-5 SportCombi, move me to the front of the line to purchase one.
    Currently I own a 2003 9-5 Aero sedan and a 2008 9-7x Aero and love them both (although the 2008 is more Chevrolet than SAAB).
     
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  2. Isn't there enough Electric Car Companies and not enough buyers for them? A friend of mine bought a Chevrolet Volt for God knows how much and it just sits in his garage and it has a small gas engine? I am waiting for a diesel in a Chrysler vehicle and they better get off their dead butt's and get this going or I will go to a different car company for a diesel. They have 18 months or else!
     
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  3. I'm glad to see that SAAB will come back as electric which is long overdue. What people don't realize that I.C. engines are so outdated. SAAB has a history of advance innovations and electric Saab technology will finally move Saab in to 21st century. No I.C. engine can match both performance and efficiency of electric motor, Tesla has proved that. Unfortunately convectional auto industry converts existing i.c. engines platform into electric, which leads to unsuccessful design. Nissan leaf is Vesrsa, Volt is Cruz or focus is focus. But Tesla is a design from scratch & it's a success. Electric motor can maintain efficiency of 96% vs I.C. engines 24% at the best. Battery technology is advancing faster than ever. This time for Saab to show that
     
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