Saab accelerates towards the scrapheap

Can Saab be saved? It's looking unlikely. The once highly-respected Swedish car brand is again parked on death row despite Saab boss Victor Muller claiming he "will never give up" for Saab's future. But Saab's administrator Guy Lofalk is applying, via Swedish courts, for a formal death sentence after two Chinese investors reversed plans to invest in the troubled car brand.

Faithful following

Actually Saab is not a car maker at all - production halted some time ago when money for wages ran out. Pang Da Automobile Trade and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile had planned a combined 53.9% stake in Saab parent company Swedish Automobile NV. But the Chinese got the jitters.

Engineering integrity, safety and aesthetics were all once by-words for the car company. Middle-class consumers - designers, architects, doctors - loved them. Saab also had a terrific rallying and aeronautical heritage.

Passed around

But over time a lack of investment and plenty of interference - Saab has been passed around by General Motors (Vauxhall), BAE Systems, and more recently Dutch boutique car company Spyker and other investors - saw its values steadily degraded. Low volumes made a bad situation worse - and a global recession was the final straw.

If Saab is put out of its misery then the motor industry, reliant on the power of branding, platform sharing and a lack of idiosyncrasy, especially in the premium segment, will lose, as will consumers.

The irony is that Saab, not so long ago, almost had it all: loyal customers; a distinct philosophy and identity; real presence; tough products. All gone. Or nearly gone.

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