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Saab loyalists lament passing of iconic brand

When Saab filed for bankruptcy Monday blaming General Motors, Saab loyalists took to the Internet to broadcast their anger, taking potshots at GM.
This photo of a vintage 1967 SAAB V4 was submitted by a reader in 2009, when rumblings of trouble first came to Saab.
This photo of a vintage 1967 SAAB V4 was submitted by a reader in 2009, when rumblings of trouble first came to Saab.Submitted by Lars Christer Salle / Lars Christer Salle

Saab fans are the type of people who take photos of themselves with their quirky cars, or buy two or three models just for the heck of it.

So it was no surprise that when Saab filed for bankruptcy Monday, blaming General Motors, Saab loyalists took to the Internet, transmitting their anger for all to read and taking potshots at GM.

On Twitter, @kempas tried to convey how horrible he felt by tweeting:

“Just so you know, this feels like what it would feel for Apple fans if Apple disappeared.”

And @arh wrote:

“RIP Saab. GM put it into a coma, then blocked those who would revive it.”

There was even a telling tombstone graphic on Life with Saab, a Saab fan blog and Facebook page with the inscription: “Here lies Saab Automobile AB: Fatally wounded by GM and denied first aid by Sweden’s Government.”

60-year old Saab saw its heyday in the 1980s but never lost its allure among a certain quirky-seeking intellectual set. That devotion fueled much of the outpouring today, surmised Sasha Strauss, managing director of brand strategy firm Innovation Protocol and adjunct professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication.

Many people get attached to their cars, and Saab in particular inspired pride for many auto enthusiasts, he said.

“I do believe this marks the end of what was one of the most important car companies in history,” he said.

Saab USA spokeswoman Michele Tinson acknowledged the spike in customer outrage today, and he said there has been an increase in activity on the company’s Facebook page set up for customers.

“We’re watching the situation evolve,” she said.

As for the GM bashing, a GM spokesman said: “People are expressing their emotions and it's certainly fair for them to do so.”

Monday's announcement by Saab owner Swedish Automobile that it was filing for bankruptcy came after many months of rumored death for the troubled car company. Arrows have been pointed at GM because the Detroit-based company rejected a Chinese company’s bid to buy Saab and give it a new lease on life. Even though GM sold Saab last year, the auto giant still holds a stake in the firm and thought such a sale would not be in the interest of GM.

“We did what we could over many months to help them, but the sale was a bridge too far for us,” the GM spokesman said.

Shawn Holwegner, a Saab lover known as Saab Addictius on Facebook, who lives outside of Reno and owns four Saabs, knew this day would come. He stayed up most of last night to hear the final word on Saab, even though “they’d been on the brink since April.”

That’s just what loyal Saab owners do.

“They’re one of those types of cars you either love or just can’t stand,” he said, and he’ll continue to be a lover even though he’s not sure what will happen as far as parts and service for his beloved cars.

In the immediate future, Saab owners will be able to get the parts and services they need, according to Saab’s Tinson, but it’s unclear how long that will last. For the 188 Saab dealers in the United States, including 16 that only service Saabs, it’s business as usual, she said, but she would not offer any timeframe on when things might change.

“Its too premature to give any concrete answers,” she said.

Auto analyst Lauren Fix said she expects GM and Saab will have enough parts for the near term and back any vehicle warranties. As for the months and years ahead, she doesn’t expect many difficulties for Saab owners when it comes to drive line components because many are interchangeable. Where the problem lies, she added, is Saab-specific parts such as fenders and hoods, which will eventually be harder and more expensive to find.

But, she added, Saab owners are a loyal bunch and will do what they can to keep their babies running.

“They don’t want the brand to disappear,” she said. The secret of the Saab’s allure, she noted, was the manufacturer originally made airplanes and thus the design inside was similar to a cockpit. The Swedish design was “clean, crisp and precise.”

Finding parts in the future doesn’t worry Saab enthusiast Peter Hughes, a bass player in the Rochester, N.Y., band Mountain Goats, who owns a 1980 Saab 900 Turbo, which he bought a couple of years ago for $2,000.

“My mechanic down in Ithaca has a graveyard of Saab parts,” he said.