Tits Up

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There will be no bailout for Saab – and so, no bailout for Saab owners.

Sweden’s other automaker, formerly an appendage of GM, recently filed for bankruptcy liquidation – not reorganization. It no longer builds cars and no longer intends to build cars. There will be no 2013 Saabs – no more new Saabs, period.

And so, no warranty-covered repairs, either.

If you own a post-GM Saab – which means 2010, 2011 and 2012 model Saabs – look down because you are holding the bag. Saab dealers are no longer being reimbursed for repairs to these cars, which would normally be covered under warranty, because the parent company, Saab, has no money to reimburse them with and more, barely exists anymore other than as a name on legal documents.

This doesn’t mean Saab dealers are going away – or that you won’t be able to get your Saab repaired. It does mean you will be paying for all repairs – including repairs that would otherwise have been covered by Saab the company.

Owners of ’09 and older Saabs, which were built under GM’s auspices, can breathe easier because GM will still cover the nut for warranty-related repairs to these vehicles.

However …

It’s also likely that many Saab dealers will close shop, especially if they are not multiple-brand dealers – which could mean it’ll be harder to find a shop willing (able, really) to properly service your car. Saabs are quirky and like any import brand (and more so, a low-volume niche brand) need Saab-specific tools and skills/training to service properly – as well as Saab parts.

And the supply of parts is probably going to dry up – especially trim/body parts and any parts such as controls and electrical stuff that are Saab-specific, if there’s not sufficient market demand for an aftermarket supplier to step in. And that assumes an aftermarket supplier will be able to acquire the rights to produce the parts, too. Which they may not – at least, not until after the lawyers get through gnawing the corpse. And that could take years.

For Saab owners, the liquidation of Saab is as much a disaster as it is for Saab itself. In addition to the potential repair/upkeep hassles and the loss of warranty coverage, depreciation is going to be epic. A 2011 9-5 bought six months ago for $40,000 is probably now worth about $25,000 –  if not yet, it will be soon as the word gets out and the Blue Badged Dragon becomes a pariah brand.

Don’t get into a wreck, either.

The combination of massive depreciation and increasingly scarce parts is probably going to result in a much reduced “total it” threshold. The usual practice is to junk the car when the cost of repairs is expected to approach 50 percent of the car’s current fair market value. That threshold is crossed sooner when the car is valued around $20k vs. $40k. Or when it’s just impossible to get parts for the thing – including replacement body and trim panels, which is likely to become a problem for the last-of-the-line Saabs. Especially the last 9-5, which was all-new last year (2011) and of which very few have been produced (as of late 2011, fewer than 1,000 of these had been sold in the entire United States).

It sucks all around. 

I hate to see Saab go out this way. Saabs were different in looks and function – a rare thing in this increasingly homogenized marketplace. I will miss the Night Panel display, which let you toggle off  all the lights and gauges (except the speedo). Did it serve any real purpose? Not really. But it was cool – and no one else had it. Ditto the ignition key in the console, which may not have been the best place for it but which, again, was something different. The final Saab also had an aviation-inspired “altimeter” speedometer that was also unique.

Most of all, though, Saabs drove differently. Or rather, they expected you to drive. The high-pressure turbo 2.0 liter engine in the last 9-5, for example, was peaky and fierce – like an old-two stroke motorcycle. You had to keep it on the right side of the powerband, which meant, paying attention to throttle inputs and what gear you had the transmission in. Sometimes, it was necessary to drop down two gears instead of one – but if you enjoy driving vs. passively sitting there, sail fawn glued to your ear, eyes glazed over in suburban consumerist stupor, this was fun.

Saab also let you hear the turbo as well as feel it. A high-pitched whistle pierced the cabin as the pressure built up, like an old 707 (remember?) with real jets hanging off each wing on its take-off roll. The green backlit altimeter further set the mood. 

It’s too bad – and it’s sad.

For Saab owners, for Saab itself – and for the car business, which becomes noticeably more two-dimensional with the passing of the brand.

Throw it in the Woods?

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think it’s going to be that horrible parts wise. The way things are done is so much different than in ancient times. We live in a time where OEM parts off the OEM tooling are sold into the aftermarket with the OEM identifiers removed. A time where the aftermarket parts supply is considerably more comprehensive.

    There will be rarely failing parts that will be difficult to get. But keeping the cars going shouldn’t be a problem. Trim and other bits will be. Body panels maybe… it doesn’t seem to take a big market for a chinese company to make knock offs these days.

    Plus the liquidation might go the same way as DMC and someone gets the inventory cheap enough to create an entire business around it.

  2. “Governments can’t just take over take over a private corporation without finding private partners.” That may be a slight improvement over the flavor of corporatism practiced in the USA which seems to be doing whatever it takes to benefit the elite on an ad hoc basis.

  3. I own a 2006 93, I only have 55,000 miles on it and plan on keeping it for awhile.

    I still can’t picture a world without Saab in it, depressing.

      • Eric, European Union regulations are very complicated. Governments can’t just take over a private corporation (like SAAB) without finding private partners who must own a certain minimum percentage. In any case, if GM was unwilling to sell for fear of some of GM’s technology falling into unwanted hands the whole thing was decided by GM and no one else. The Swedish government was out of the picture.

        I understand that some Honda Fit models are coming to Canada and they are Made In China, at least until the new assembly line for the Honda Fit is ready in Mexico.

        It’s the thing of the future! How many Chinese made components are already being installed in so-called domestic brands? Does anybody know?

        We may not like it, because we have a lot of unemployment and should be making our own “stuff” right here in North America, but the corporate bean counters make the decisions which are entirely profit based and they don’t know the concept of some basic allegiance to the mother country where they want to sell their marvelous driving machines!

        • Nothing wrong with Profit based decision, really. Should they be responsible for their owner or country?

          If they do what you suggest they should, would you pay extra 50% or 100% for the same car?

  4. In the short term, late model Saabs may depreciate fiercely. However, becoming extinct will hasten their elevation to “collectable” status, and thus increase market value. Only problem, as noted above, is they won’t remain “drivable” collectables for too long, if no parts are available.

  5. I liked Saab. It’s too bad that they went TU. It certainly limits our choices down the road. I don’t know how the Swedish government let that happen. When it comes to things like that, I think it would have been in their interest to keep the brand going until they could spin it off.

    From here on in, car buyers will have less choice and be worse off for it. I certainly would have considered driving one again. I had a 1988 Saab 9000T which I drove for about 2 years. It wasn’t the most reliable car, but it was fun to drive.

    There’s no use in buying one now, that’s for sure.

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