Saab’s 20 years under GM control has been one long war of attrition. The first 10 years saw a stand-off between GM and co-owner Investor (a Swedish investment company). Neither side would commit serious development funds to the company.
Saab was forced to build the 1993 900 on an ancient GM platform, which badly compromised its premium position. It took seven years of GM control to replace the 9000 with the 9-5, although that was more uniquely Saab and much better engineered.
But the investment famine prevented the re-engineered 1998 9-3 being re-styled and delayed the introduction of the 9-5 estate.
In truth, GM’s parts bin was still not up to underpinning a premium brand. Saab suffered from a lack of modern diesels and petrol engines as well as a lack of four-wheel drive.
GM took full control in 2000, but still Saab survived on rations. It’s heightened sense of independence caused serious ructions while the new 9-3 was being developed. Ostensibly based on the 2003 Vectra, Saab made major and costly changes to the GM architecture to ensure the 9-3 was more ‘uniquely’ Saab.
GM’s revenge for these cost overruns was to delay the 9-3 estate – surely a self-defeating move. GM also cancelled three proposed SUVs – a model desperately need by US Saab dealers. Saab completed prototypes based on the Buick Rendezvous, Caddy SRX and Subaru Tribeca. GM canned them all at the 11th hour.