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The Rise and Fall of Saab under GM: Innovations Controversies and Financial Struggles

Introduction to Saab and its History

Saab, the Swedish automotive company, has a fascinating history dating back to the 1930s. Initially established as an aircraft manufacturer, Saab eventually ventured into the automobile industry.

Over the years, Saab authored many innovations in safety, fuel efficiency, and environmental friendliness. This article provides insight into the history of Saab as well as the acquisition of the company by General Motors (GM).

Saab: A Brief History

The Saab Aircraft Company started its operations in 1937 in Trollhttan, Sweden, during World War II. Saab established itself as a reputable aircraft manufacturer in Europe after the war.

Saab expanded its operations beyond aircraft by executing a joint venture with Scania AB to produce commercial vehicles in 1968. In 1978, Saab released the 900, its first mass-produced and hugely successful passenger car.

In 1990, General Motors purchased a 50% stake in Saab known as Saab Automobile AB.

Saabs Innovative Advancements

Saab gained recognition in the automobile industry thanks to its innovative advancements in environmental friendliness, safety, and fuel efficiency. All Saab vehicles aught to eliminate air pollution by developing various solutions, such as ethanol-ready engines and alternative fuel infrastructure.

The company also added features such as Saab Active Head Restraints, which helped reduce the risk of whiplash when involved in a collision. In early 2000, Saab introduced the Hybrid concept.

It was the first vehicle in the world to use diesel hybrid technology. With an incredibly high fuel efficiency rate of 70 miles per gallon, it was an instant success.

Other advancements in Saab models include improved headlights that adjust for safe driving during various weather conditions.

Acquisition of Saab by General Motors

In 1990, General Motors purchased half of Saab AB, initially intending to improve the manufacturing methods and create better models. GM wanted to use Saabs advanced safety systems in their vehicles and make use of the well-trained employees to boost sales.

However, a series of financial losses ensued between 2001 and 2009, leading GM to start the liquidation of other car makers, such as Saturn and Hummer. In 2008, GMs losses reached an all-time high, and as a result, they abandoned several non-core functions.

Including Saab. In 2009, general Motors announced the closure of Saab following its inability to renew a suitable deal for its sale.

When general Motors abandoned the deal with Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, Saabs future seemed uncertain. Saab’s Last Leg: Spyker Cars Takes Over

Saabs future seemed bleak after General Motors decided to discontinue its operations.

It was not until a Dutch carmaker, Spyker Cars, stepped forward with a $400 million bid for the acquisition of Saab in January 2010 that Saab’s future seemed secure once again. Spyker was successful in its acquisition bid, thus taking over the brand.

However, Spykers attempts to revamp the company were fruitless, forcing Saab to declare bankruptcy in 2011.


In conclusion, Saab had a rich and fascinatingly innovative history that was nearly cut short by financial difficulties that culminated from General Motors acquisition and erratic ownership. Had Saab managed to stay afloat, it would have had additional breakthrough technologies, and we would have even better automobiles today.

Nonetheless, Saabs contributions to automotive ingenuity and safety will never be forgotten. GM’s Strategy and Motive Behind the Purchase of Saab

General Motors’ (GM) decision to purchase Saab was a strategic move aimed at expanding GM’s brands.

GM planned to introduce Saab’s safety systems and designs to American vehicles to bolster car sales. Additionally, GM expected to introduce its manufacturing methods to make Saabs more competitive.

Initially, GM hoped to streamline operations to improve efficiency, decrease production costs, and increase profits resulting in a sell-off of shares to boost shareholders’ value. GM’s plans included using Saab’s technological innovations to improve other GM brands while offering cost-effective methodologies in Saab’s management.

GM also hoped to merge Saab’s technology with GM’s advanced electronic technology, resulting in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated fuel efficiency average of 27.5 miles per gallon by 2022. This goal aligned with the US government’s push for initiatives to enhance fuel efficiency and decrease air pollution.

Given the above, GM’s acquisition of Saab seemed logical and groundbreaking. However, multiple factors that led to bankruptcy highlighted deficiencies and poor execution of GM’s strategy.

Initial Impact of GM’s ownership on Saab’s Business

GM’s acquisition initially transformed Saab’s automotive brand positively. GM was the right suitor for Saab, as it provided financial stability, improved production financing, and offered necessary technological advancements.

At first, GM’s integration and reorganization strategies produced success. GM invested heavily in Saab, increasing its research and development funding, resulting in many improvements to the brand.

Saab’s new model releases, including the likes of the Saab 9-3, were popular in the automobile market. The model, produced from 2003 to 2011, was awarded the U.S. National Highway Safety Administration’s Five-Star Safety Rating and was highly touted for its improved safety features.

All of Saab’s models during that time complemented their distinct brand style and technological advancements. Initially, GM’s purchase of Saab resulted in an increase in sales and a positive client feedback response.

In early 2005, Saab sales were up by 38% from the previous year. The sales figures highlighted prospects of a profitable recovery and further success to come.

However, things started to spiral out of control over the next few years, leading to Saab being sold to Spyker Cars, eventually leading to bankruptcy. One of the core problems was an unhealthy distribution of costs and profits.

GM failed to integrate Saab fully, thus limiting some aspects of joint opportunities, resulting in fewer shared costs and profits. Additionally, GM delayed Saab’s technological innovations and financial assistance, causing disagreements and a tense relationship between the two companies’ management teams.

While GM’s initial interest was to expand Saab’s brand and improve sales, financial difficulties and declining sales figures, culminated in GM deciding to close down Saab’s operations due to financial losses. The discontinuation of loan funds and an unstable financial future led to Saab’s decline.


GM’s acquisition initially showed benefits for Saab in the short term, with a positive client feedback response, award-winning models, increased sales, and technological innovations. However, GM’s failure to use Saab’s niche technological innovations led to disagreements and a tense relationship between the two companies that culminated in the discontinuation of loan funds.

The subsequent financial loss and ultimate bankruptcy of Saab highlight the critical need for healthy partnerships and an efficient distribution of costs and profits.

Controversies Surrounding GM-Saab Partnership

General Motors’ (GM) acquisition of Saab was not without its controversies. GM’s plan to streamline operations, cut costs, and improve profits led to major disagreements with Saab’s management teams, eventually culminating in Saab’s bankruptcy.

Several factors contributed to these controversies. Firstly, GM wanted to merge Saab’s technology with its own advanced electronic technology to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollution.

Saab, however, had already developed alternative fuel systems, such as ethanol-ready engines, and intended to make electric vehicles. This led to disagreements between the two companies over the appropriate course of action.

Secondly, Saab’s Swedish management and workers opposed GM’s American accounting methods. Saab’s profitability was criticized due to the lack of contribution to the shared economy despite the brand’s significant market share and technological advancements.

The result of this was Saab being given fewer shared profits and finding difficulty contributing net worth to the shared economy under GM. These controversies led to a tense relationship between the two companies and divisions between their management teams.

The disagreements eventually boiled over, resulting in numerous issues concerning Saab’s production, efficiency, and financial investment. Technical Advancements Made by Saab Under GM’s Ownership

GM’s purchase of Saab enabled the automotive brand to develop some of the world’s most advanced technology during its time under its control.

Some of the most significant technological advancements made to Saab’s product line by GM included:

1. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – In 2003, Saab launched the 9-3 Aero fitted with ESP (Electronic Stability Program).

The safety feature was a first in automotive engineering and received acclaim for aiding in improved vehicle control and enhancing automobile safety standards. 2.

Hybrid Technology – Saab introduced an eco-friendly hybrid model vehicle in 2006. The vehicle was fuel-efficient, utilizing a powerful battery that enabled the vehicle to achieve a high fuel rating, which met government regulations.

3. Advanced Crash Safety Systems -Saab introduced the Advanced Side Impact Protection (ASIP) system developed under GM’s investment, improving safety for passengers in accidents.

4. Night Panel – The Night Panel feature allowed drivers to switch off all dashboard lights except those necessary for legal and safe driving conditions, thus reducing distractions and enabling improved night vision.

5. Hands-Free Parking -In 2008, Saab introduced the Parallel Park Assist in its Saab 9-4X crossover vehicle.

This technology enabled automatic parking in tight spots. 6.

Aero-X Concept – Saab unveiled Aero-X in 2006, a concept vehicle with radical groundbreaking design and advanced technological features. The design and concept were eventually integrated into the 9-4X.


GM’s acquisition of Saab was a turning point for the automobile industry. The investment resulted in groundbreaking technological advancements in Saab vehicles.

Although GM’s acquisition was initially beneficial, controversies over shared profits, different management principles, and shifting automobile market complexities eventually resulted in the bankruptcy of Saab. Nonetheless, Saab’s contributions to automobile design, performance, and technological advancements will always be remembered positively.

Expansion of Saab’s Global Reach with GM’s Networks

The announcement of General Motor’s (GM) purchase of Saab gave the automotive brand financial stability and numerous benefits, including access to GM’s sales and marketing networks, which were among the best in the industry. GM’s networks enabled Saab to streamline its operations and capture new market opportunities to enhance its brand’s global reach.

In particular, Saab’s global reach expanded with the introduction of GM technologies and the sharing of new technologies with other GM brands. For example, The Saab 9-5’s front-wheel-drive technology was received well by customers in markets recording snowfall as the mechanism improved traction in harsh winter weather conditions.

Saab also introduced cars to previous untapped markets, thanks to GM’s sales and marketing networks. GM’s vast distribution channels enabled Saab to cater to new territories, such as South Africa and South America.

The result was a steady increase in sales figures, and the return on investment began to take hold. Moreover, GM’s networks allowed Saab to leverage various initiatives, including environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods and fuel-efficient technologies, such as the diesel hybrid vehicle approach.

Saab used these to create a socially-responsible brand, receiving international recognition for its efforts. Market Performance of Saab Under GM’s Ownership

Though GM’s acquisition of Saab brought both companies’ financial stability and several groundbreaking innovations, it wasn’t a path free of financial troubles.

Despite Saab’s market potential, the brand began to experience difficulties with fewer sales after 2006, resulting in GM’s expectation of profitability by the brand not being met. GM’s plan of integrating Saab’s technology into its other brands failed, and there was a lack of shared development and costs.

This resulted in reduced profits and increasing difficulties in keeping Saab’s operations operational by GM. By mid-2009, the decline in sales revenues led to GM’s decision to sell Saab, and the brand was eventually acquired by Spyker.

The Spyker acquisition also proved insufficient to revive Saab’s fortunes. Saab was sold off in parts, eventually resulting in its bankruptcy in 2011.

Despite Saab’s untimely exit from the market, the innovations brought in by GM under its ownership led to the production of various models, including the Saab 9-3X, the Saab 9-5, and the Saab 9-4X. While some models had initially shown signs of promise, it was difficult to compete with established luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes Benz in sales figures.


General Motor’s purchase of Saab in 1990 aimed to leverage Saab’s innovative car developments and streamline the brand’s operations by merging it with the established GM sales and marketing networks. While the purchase initially provided a potential path to success, controversies over management differences and a lack of shared profits eventually resulted in Saab’s financial challenges.

Nonetheless, Saab’s technical innovations under GM’s ownership pushed the boundaries of what a car manufacturer could do, and the brand’s advanced safety systems and environmental initiatives that came with this collaboration are still remembered today.

Product Developments During the GM-Saab Era

The era of GM’s ownership saw several notable product developments for Saab. GM’s investment provided Saab with the resources and technological advancements necessary to introduce new models and enhance existing ones.

With GM’s expertise and financial backing, Saab made significant strides in design, performance, and innovation. One of the key product developments during this era was the introduction of the Saab 9-3.

Released in 2002, the 9-3 received a complete redesign and boasted a sleeker, more modern exterior. The interior was also upgraded to include advanced features such as a hands-free phone system, enhanced sound system, and climate control.

The Saab 9-3 quickly became a popular choice in the compact luxury car segment, attracting buyers with its refined styling and advanced technology. Another notable product development during the GM-Saab era was the Saab 9-5.

Launched in 1997, the 9-5 was a mid-size executive car that featured a distinctive and aerodynamic design. Under GM’s ownership, the 9-5 received updates to its exterior and interior, including improved safety features and advanced infotainment systems.

The 9-5 showcased Saab’s commitment to producing vehicles with cutting-edge technology and Scandinavian design. During this time, Saab also introduced the Saab 9-7X, a mid-size luxury SUV.

This model was developed in collaboration with GM and was based on the platform of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. While some purists criticized the 9-7X for not being a true Saab, the model aimed to attract a wider range of customers and compete in the growing SUV market.

The 9-7X featured Saab’s signature styling elements, such as the distinct grille and interior design touches. However, it ultimately faced challenges due to its association with a non-Saab platform.

The Influence of GM on Saab’s Design and Manufacturing Process

GM’s influence on Saab’s design and manufacturing process during their ownership was both positive and controversial. While GM aimed to integrate Saab into its existing infrastructure and leverage shared resources, the differences in management and culture led to disagreements and conflicts along the way.

One of GM’s significant influences on Saab’s design and manufacturing process was the adoption of shared platforms and components. This approach aimed to streamline production and reduce costs by utilizing components and platforms from other GM brands.

Saab models, such as the 9-3 and 9-5, shared platforms with other GM vehicles, allowing for economies of scale and cost savings. However, this approach also led to criticism and concerns among Saab enthusiasts who felt that the shared platforms compromised Saab’s unique identity.

They argued that Saab’s distinctive design language and engineering DNA were diluted by the use of platforms and components from other GM brands. Despite these criticisms, GM insisted that the shared platforms were necessary to achieve cost efficiencies and improve profitability.

GM also influenced Saab’s design language, pushing the brand towards a more modern and mainstream aesthetic. This was evident in models like the Saab 9-3, which featured a sleeker and more contemporary design than its predecessor.

While some enthusiasts appreciated the updates, others felt that the designs lacked the distinctive character that had made Saab vehicles stand out in the past. In terms of manufacturing, GM brought in its expertise in lean manufacturing and quality control processes to improve Saab’s production operations.

Saab plants underwent significant restructuring and process improvements to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This included the implementation of GM’s global manufacturing standards and the adoption of GM’s production methodologies.

However, the integration and application of GM’s manufacturing processes also faced challenges due to cultural and organizational differences. Saab’s Swedish management and workers were accustomed to their own manufacturing methods and had reservations about fully adopting GM’s practices.

This disconnect led to tensions and disagreements between the two sides. Despite these controversies, GM’s influence on Saab’s design and manufacturing process resulted in advances in production efficiency and cost savings.

However, the clashes of culture and vision also contributed to the challenges that Saab faced during this era.


Product developments during the GM-Saab era introduced notable advancements in design, technology, and performance. The Saab 9-3, 9-5, and 9-7X showcased the brand’s commitment to innovation and its ability to compete in the luxury and SUV markets.

GM’s influence on design and manufacturing processes brought both positive and controversial changes to Saab. While shared platforms and components helped reduce costs, some enthusiasts felt that Saab’s unique identity was compromised.

The integration of GM’s lean manufacturing processes brought efficiency gains but also faced resistance due to cultural differences. Despite these challenges, the product developments and innovations achieved under GM’s ownership reflected Saab’s commitment to delivering high-quality vehicles that combined Scandinavian design, advanced technology, and performance.

Financial Performance of Saab During the Ownership Period of GM

During the ownership period of General Motors (GM), Saab’s financial performance witnessed both highs and lows. While GM’s initial acquisition of Saab brought financial stability and resources, challenges and controversies impacted Saab’s profitability, leading to a decline in financial performance over time.

GM’s acquisition of Saab in 1990 provided the brand with the financial backing and resources necessary for product development, technological advancements, and global expansion. Investments were made in research and development, resulting in the introduction of innovative models and the enhancement of existing ones.

These efforts initially translated into increased sales and positive customer feedback. However, controversies and disagreements between GM and Saab’s management teams impacted the financial performance of the brand.

Disputes over the sharing of profits, manufacturing processes, and integration strategies led to strained relationships and affected Saab’s ability to navigate challenges and achieve sustainable profitability. Furthermore, the global economic downturn and financial crisis of 2008 had severe implications for Saab’s financial health.

The automotive industry was hit hard, and Saab faced declining sales and liquidity issues. As a result, GM announced the discontinuation of the Saab brand in December 2009, seeking to focus resources on its core brands and trim losses.

Reason for Saab’s Spin-off from GM

The spin-off of Saab from GM was primarily driven by financial difficulties and the need for GM to trim its losses. Despite initial hopes for profitability and synergy between the two companies, challenges and controversies arose that led to the decision to separate Saab from GM’s portfolio.

One of the primary reasons for the spin-off was GM’s focus on restructuring and cost-cutting after the financial crisis. As the crisis hit, GM faced significant financial challenges and a need to prioritize its core brands and operations.

Saab’s financial losses and declining sales made it an expendable venture in GM’s efforts to return to profitability. Additionally, the differences in management philosophies and cultural clashes between GM and Saab played a significant role in the spin-off decision.

The Swedish management team and workers had reservations about fully embracing GM’s practices and direction. The disagreements over manufacturing methods, shared profits, and technological integration created a strained relationship, leading to a breakdown in synergy.

Furthermore, the financial resources required to support Saab’s operations during a period of economic instability became untenable for GM. The ongoing losses and lack of a viable path to profitability for Saab led to the disinvestment decision.

In 2010, Spyker Cars, a Dutch car manufacturer, successfully acquired Saab from GM. However, this attempt to revive Saab’s fortunes proved insufficient, and the brand faced further financial challenges, eventually declaring bankruptcy in 2011.


During GM’s ownership of Saab, the financial performance of the brand experienced both periods of success and challenges. While the initial acquisition brought stability, resources, and the potential for profitability, controversies surrounding shared profits, management differences, and strained relationships impacted Saab’s financial performance.

The global financial crisis of 2008 further exacerbated these challenges, leading to the spin-off of Saab from GM. The differences in management philosophies and the need for GM to prioritize its core brands and operations drove the decision to separate Saab.

However, the spin-off ultimately resulted in Saab facing further financial difficulties and eventually declaring bankruptcy. The Impact of GM’s Purchase on the Swedish Automobile Industry

GM’s purchase of Saab had a significant impact on the Swedish automobile industry.

It brought both benefits and challenges, influencing the industry’s dynamics in various ways. One of the immediate impacts was the influx of investment and resources into Saab.

GM’s acquisition provided Saab with the financial stability and backing it needed to develop new models, invest in research and development, and expand globally. This injection of capital helped strengthen Saab’s position in the industry and supported the growth of Swedish automotive manufacturing.

GM’s ownership of Saab also facilitated the transfer of technology and knowledge between the two companies. Saab gained access to GM’s advanced technological advancements and manufacturing processes, allowing for improvements in efficiency and quality.

This knowledge transfer elevated the technological capabilities of Saab and contributed to the development of innovative features in their vehicles. Furthermore, GM’s purchase of Saab increased the international visibility of the Swedish automobile industry.

Saab’s reputation for safety and innovation, coupled with GM’s global reach, exposed Swedish automobile manufacturing to a wider audience. This raised awareness of the industry’s potential and the quality of Swedish automobiles.

However, GM’s ownership also presented challenges for the Swedish automobile industry. The integration of Saab into GM’s operations created tensions between Swedish management and GM’s corporate culture.

Differences in management approaches and decision-making processes led to conflicts and a clash of philosophies, hindering the full realization of synergies between the two companies. Additionally, the eventual spin-off and subsequent bankruptcy of Saab created uncertainty within the Swedish automobile industry.

It highlighted the vulnerability of Swedish automotive companies to global market forces and demonstrated the challenges of maintaining profitability and sustainability. Overall, GM’s purchase of Saab had both positive and negative implications for the Swedish automobile industry.

While it brought investment, technological advancements, and increased international visibility, it also presented challenges in terms of management integration and long-term viability.

Current State of Saab after the Spin-Off from GM

Since the spin-off from GM, Saab has faced significant challenges and undergone several ownership changes. Following the acquisition by Spyker Cars in 2010, Saab’s future initially appeared promising.

However, the brand continued to struggle financially, leading to further ownership changes and eventually bankruptcy. After going bankrupt in 2011, various attempts were made to revive Saab.

Chinese consortium NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden) acquired the assets of Saab, with a focus on launching electric vehicles. Under NEVS ownership, Saab’s production and operations were scaled back, and efforts were made to develop electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

In 2017, NEVS announced plans to rebrand and relaunch Saab as an all-electric car brand. They introduced concept cars and announced partnerships with Chinese companies for production and distribution.

However, the branding changes and limited market presence have made it challenging for Saab to regain its previous standing and market share. The current state of Saab is one of limited operations and a niche presence in the market.

The focus on electric vehicles reflects the industry’s shift towards sustainable transportation, but the challenges of competing in a highly competitive market remain significant. However, there is still hope for Saab’s revival.

NEVS has signed agreements with ride-hailing companies for the distribution of its electric vehicles, positioning Saab as a provider for urban mobility solutions. Additionally, the increasing demand for electric vehicles globally presents opportunities for Saab to reestablish itself as a player in the automotive industry.

Despite the challenges, Saab’s legacy as a safety-focused and innovative brand continues to resonate with consumers. The brand’s heritage and reputation provide a foundation for potential future success, but it remains to be seen how Saab will navigate the evolving industry landscape and reestablish itself in the market.


GM’s purchase of Saab had a significant impact on the Swedish automobile industry. It brought investment, technological advancements, and increased international visibility.

However, the integration challenges and eventual spin-off and bankruptcy of Saab demonstrated the vulnerability of the Swedish automotive industry and the difficulties in maintaining profitability and sustainability. Currently, Saab is in a state of limited operations and faces significant challenges in regaining market share.

The focus on electric vehicles and partnerships with ride-hailing companies provide potential avenues for its revival, but the brand will need to navigate the competitive industry landscape to reestablish itself as a player in the market. The legacy and reputation of Saab as a safety-focused and innovative brand may provide the foundation for future success, but the path ahead remains uncertain.

Comparison between Saab Before and After the GM Acquisition

The acquisition of Saab by General Motors (GM) brought significant changes to the brand, both in terms of product development and overall company dynamics. A comparison between Saab before and after the GM acquisition reveals both positive and negative impacts on the Swedish automaker.

Before the GM acquisition, Saab had established itself as an innovative and distinctive brand in the automobile industry. The company’s roots as an aircraft manufacturer influenced its approach to automotive engineering, resulting in unique design elements and a focus on safety.

Saab cars were known for their unconventional styling, advanced engineering, and commitment to driver safety. One of Saab’s strengths before the GM acquisition was its ability to push boundaries and introduce innovative features.

The brand prioritized safety, producing cars that were equipped with advanced safety technologies ahead of their time. Saab was also recognized for its turbocharging technology, which improved engine performance and fuel efficiency.

Additionally, Saab vehicles enjoyed a reputation for being reliable and durable, making them popular choices among customers seeking a premium driving experience. The GM acquisition brought both advantages and challenges to Saab’s brand.

On one hand, the financial backing and resources provided by GM allowed Saab to invest in research and development, leading to advancements in technology and product development. Saab benefited from GM’s global reach and economies of scale, which enabled the introduction of new models and expansion into new markets.

One notable positive impact of the GM acquisition was the transfer of technology and manufacturing expertise. Saab gained access to GM’s advanced manufacturing processes and shared platforms, which improved production efficiency and cost savings.

The integration of GM’s practices and technologies allowed Saab to enhance its manufacturing capabilities and quality control. However, the GM acquisition also introduced challenges and controversies that impacted Saab’s brand identity and financial performance.

The integration of Saab into GM’s operations led to clashes between Swedish and American management teams, resulting in disagreements over strategy and de

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