In the great premium car boom of the last decade, Sweden's car brands have somehow failed to catch the passing wave. Volvo's base of 400,000 sales has not have grown much; without the XC90, it probably would have gone into reverse. Saab is in a much worse position though, having hardly broken through the 140,000 units barrier. It has spent much of its time under full General Motors ownership in the red, in fact, and stumbled badly when it comes to homegrown product.


GM took 50 per cent ownership of Saab in 1990. Swedish company Investor held the other half. The upshot was a standoff, with neither side willing to sink serious money into new products.


Saab has also been long hamstrung by the GM parts bin. Believe it or not, the rushed 1993 900 model was based on the Vauxhall Cavalier. Despite a massively beefed-up upper structure, unique interior and some of its own engines, the 900 was badly hobbled by its understructure. It was massively improved for the 1998 model year,­ and renamed the 9-3,­ but Saab was refused the funds for a facelift that would have given the car a fresh start.