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Despite a blusterous background, Saab Automobile AB has managed to preserve its image as a premium Swedish vehicle automaker. At different times the company was managed by various shareholders; even so it coped with its key mission – the production of safe top-tier cars with a touch of Swedish traditions. Nowadays Saab continues recovering from longstanding financial troubles but keeps on enlarging its model line. Let’s have a look at the most notable facts from the brand’s history.
Saab AB as an automotive brand appeared in the world map in 1945. Four years later the first car model, the Saab 92, saw the light of day. In 1968 the company entered into a historic merger with Scania-Vabis; the two brands formed the Saab-Scania alliance. The move was followed by the production of the brand’s best-selling solution – the 900.
Twenty years hence, an automobile division of the alliance was separated into a standalone unit, called Saab Automobile AB. In 1989 the company’s 50% share was acquired by General Motors in a deal of $600 million. Nonetheless, GM had more ambitious plans to receive an absolute ownership over a Swedish automaker. In 2000 its plans realized: the giant acquired the remainder and turned the brand into its whole-owned subsidiary.
Ten years later GM sold the division to Spyker Cars N.V. (Dutch vehicle manufacturer). Still, already in a year Saab got into financial troubles and filed for bankruptcy. Even on such conditions the struggling company did not lose its attractiveness among emerging automakers. Thus, in 2011 one of the Chinese consortiums made a bid to purchase the division; however, the previous owner, General Motors, blocked the deal due to the unwillingness to transfer technology and production rights to the Chinese.
In 2012 a Chinese consortium, called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), sought permission to acquire Saab, and won. The new owner restarted the production line and came into the market with Saab 9-3 and 9-3 Aero.
Ahead of the Curve: Saab’s Innovations
For nearly a 70-years history, Saab engineers have invented a range of breakthrough elaborations. Some of them were widely adopted by other automakers who sought for innovative approaches in production process. Here are only the most significant ones:
1963 – Saab designs and implements diagonally split dual brake circuits, the first ever elaboration of a kind in the industry;
1970 – the introduction of the world’s first washers and headlamp wipers;
1971 – the elaboration of heated front seats which were fitted as standard;
1976 – the production of the first ever turbo engine with wastegate for boost control;
1978 – the company showcases the world’s first passenger compartment air lifter;
1982 – the launch of asbestos-free brake pads;
1985 – the invention of a direct ignition;
1991 – Saab unveils the first ever CFC-free air conditioning system;
1993 – the introduction of the rear passenger protection system;
1994 – the release of a new engine management system (Trionic T5.5), based on Motorola 68332 processor;
2000 - the elaboration of a Variable Compression engine;
2003 – the launch of CargoSET for the convertible;
2008 – the introduction of a Cross-wheel drive with eLSD (XWD).
Facilities and Lineup
As of 2008, Saab produced more than 90.000 vehicles in three largest operations: Trollhattan plant in Sweden, Graz plant in Austria and Ramos plant in Mexico. Interestingly enough, almost all company’s car types use number 9 in the model nomenclature. The only exception is the Saab-Lancia 600 that was a rebadged version of Lancia Delta.
In 2014 NEVS decided to revive the manufacture of the 9-3 model. Thus, the family has been replenished with a standard sedan, a station wagon, a convertible, and an electric version of the make.
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