The SAAB Odyssey: from Trollhattan to Talladega

12 March 1998


Saab, maker of  "distinctively" designed passenger cars and sports cars
has been around for over 60 years and we like to think that most car
buffs know something of the Saab story...but theirs is not really a sob
story but and odyssey of a series of successes...from fighter aircraft,
2 cycle engines, fantastic international rally/racing titles,
groundbreaking technological innovations and sales in the U.s. alone of
800,000 vehicles.

Not bad when you consider their first year in the United States sales
amounted to a whopping 1,400 units.

As the Swedish auto maker celebrates its 5oth "car making" anniversary
we thought it might be a good time to take a quick look at what makes
this company click and most importantly their unflinching commitment to
automotive safety design and construction.
...And look at a couple of new models.

Starting life as airplane maker Saab...which means Swedish Aircraft
Company decided in 1947 that it was time and that they now had the
resources to build automobiles.  Thus a handful of aircraft designers
adapted aeromotive technology and aerodynamics to construct the swoopy
Saab 92...a bit of an audacious design which while it was interesting it
debuted to mixed reviews that showed the new automotive manufacturer
still had something to learn about automobile motors as the Saab 92 had
a 2 stroke engine that put out an anemic 25 horsepower.

But Saab engineers kept developing new models and Saab management
decided motorsports in the form of international high speed rally’s
would call attention the durability, front wheel drive high performance
characteristics of the cars they sold to the public.  And win they did
with dominating victories over the biggest automakers in the world.

Probably no car manufacturer in the world invests as much time and money
into safety research as does Saab. Their engineers have actually
dissected over 5000 Saab crashes looking for answers that have resulted
in making Saab autos just about the safest in the world.  They pioneered
heavy duty side impact door beams, initiated research on crumple zones
and originated a variety of automotive innovations such as
turbo-charging, wagon back styling, asbestos free brake linings,
headlight wiper washers, 5 mile per hour self repairing bumpers and
distributorless direct ignition and engine management systems.

With the era of the modern Saab...the 9000 turbo, 900 sedan and
convertible sales of the cars made in Trollhattan Sweden soared and to
further demonstrate the basic foundation of Saab's 50 year battle
cry...reliability, safety and performance a team of journalists drove
Saab 9000 turbos to a variety of world records at the fastest closed
course race track in the world...Talledega, Alabama going 50,000 mils
flat out with nary a
problem.

Two years ago Saab appointed charismatic automotive executive Joel Manby
to head up its North American operation and exciting things happened.
The latest Saab foray into the luxury car market is the 1999 95
four-door which has received extremely favorable press reviews for
performance...V6 turbo, comfort...heated seats, roominess and safety.
This model, with the weird name even boasts right side outside mirror
that moves electronically when you are in reverse and focuses on the
curb so you can park in one fell swoop.

Saab means business.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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