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It may well be that there are forces at work to get the SAAB car brand back on their legs again, but it looks somewhat hopeless. Since 2009, when SAAB first went into receivership, the world has lost count of just how many times the gates to the factory in Trollhättan have been closed and locked, only to be reopened again with new hopeful owners. Maybe all this could have been avoided if one had been more aware of the future back in the 1980s?

In 1966, Aldo Garnero began as a designer at Pininfarina. Only three years later he switched to Bertone with the now very famous colleague; Marcello Gandini. In 1971, he began working for Lancia’s Centro Stilo, under the direction of Piero Castagnero, the leading designer behind the magnificent Lancia Beta HPE. Then in 1980, he changed to Aldo Sessano’s study, Open Design and here he meet yet another very creative force when it comes to car design; Paul Breuer.

So far so good; all this just to explain that although Aldo Garnero is not the best known name in car design, his CV is still quite significant. One can safely say that he has spent his career at the very epicenter of Italian car design throughout a vast portion of its golden age. It’s important that we acknowledge this, because in 1986 he founded his own design studio, Euro Design Engineering, along with Joël Brétécher, a Frenchman he met during his three years at Pininfarina. This is where it gets really interesting – especially if you’re among those who mourn the loss of SAAB. In order to promote the capabilities of their new design study and highlight their expertise, they presented a new concept car at the Paris Motor Show: the Fjord 9001.

The Fjord concept was both a small two-door station wagon – or a Shooting Brake as this type of vehicle can also be called – and a coupé variant. Both were based on the SAAB 9000 chassis and mechanicals, and to prove that the concept was more than just some fancy idea, the prototype was in fact fully functional and drivable with all mechanical parts in place. In other words: a real car rather than just a design concept.

This gave the SAAB Group the opportunity to add a smaller car to their program, and judging by the design it even suggests that they could have done so without compromising the brand’s DNA and traditions. Six months earlier, Volvo had revealed their new 480 model at the Geneva Motor Show, and the little SAAB looked like an obvious competitor to take up the battle with the new little Volvo. It could have been a Swedish stand-off…

Aldo Garnero’s plan looked brilliant and certainly held the potential of launching their new drawing office up in the top division. Unfortunately, SAAB did not bite the bait at that time – perhaps not surprisingly, in view of the financial difficulties which already then existed in SAAB’s accounting department. In retrospect though, the idea of a compact and modern SAAB model during the 80s certainly wasn’t a bad one. Who knows? Maybe – just maybe – it could have added just enough to the sales statistics to boost the proud Swedish car brand out of its financial trouble, and thereby avoid the sad fate that was waiting ahead?


Source: Car Design Archives

6 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Yup, I’m one of those who still experiences severe distress whenever I think of the sad demise of SAAB. Such a loss for the automotive world. It says a lot about modern cars in general, that there simply wasn’t a market for something which dared to be slightly different…
    I genuinely enjoy our SAAB 9-5 Estate (the second one we’ve owned) which gets abused as the family hack, and would love to add a classic 2-stroke Saab to the garage at some point in the future.

    Whether the Fjord could have been their saviour, I honestly don’t know? Arguably, any attempt would have been worthwhile. I quite like to too, even if it looks more like something Subaru would have considered producing during the 80’s – just think of the funky Subaru XT for example.

  2. YrHmblHst

    Depends on what you mean by ‘sad fate’ ; if you mean being bought by GM, the answer is no. Contrary to what many SAAB-istas think, GM saved SAAB and allowed it to thrive.
    If you mean its demise as a company, then the answer is still ‘no’. SAAB didnt go away or fail, it was murdered to be handed to the red chinese by the dnc as a payback to hand all the technology and engineering to them.
    Like Mr Bilidt, I too experience distress/ anger whenever I think of it. The old SAABs were neat and funky – unique machines that dared to be different. The newer ones were the finest small sedans in the world; this is not open to debate, it is fact.
    Our 9.3 was a victim of SAABicide – had parts issues not loomed large over here, we would have replaced it with another as a daily so fast it’d make your head spin…

  3. YrHmblHst

    Yes Mr Ebberfield, w/o getting into too much detail and turning the site into one of political commentary, lets just say this…
    General Motors is effectively china motors now. Both Oldsmobile and Pontiac outsold buick by [at minimum] 2 to 1. However when ‘rationalisation’ came along. buick was spared and 2 better and better selling brands were axed. Hmmmm, one must wonder why. Well, like most communists, mao was a huge hypocrite and had 9 or 10 cars; his favourite [s] were buicks. So, the red chinese told GM brass that if they wanted to assemble/get parts made in /do business in red china, they must have a car with the buick nameplate in honour of the immortal leader or some such crap. So we’re stuck with buick.
    Fast forward to 2008. We all know what happened top the US in novembre of that year. Again, w/o going too deep inro it, the red chinese ‘participation’ and financing certain ‘peoples’ is well documented. So the first thing hussein obongo does – quite w/o precedence, authority or legality – is waltz in to GM and tell them that their ceo/certain mngmt has to be fired. And Gm complied…
    SAAB did not make money on paper, but what most folk miss is that SAAB was doing all the front drive architecture for GM world wide. Why? well, first, they were darn good at it. Secondly, sweden has such a horrendous tax rate, that all that engineering work could be charged off to SAAB and GM could save some money in that operation by showing a paper loss… BUT! SAAB was a great engineering company – especially with chassis – and there were certain interests that really wanted to have that knowledge, and certainly possessed NO abilities themselves. So SAAB was rationalised out, with all new cars designs finalised even… Remember when the news that SAAB was closing up hit? Several firms, from private investor Russians showing up with literally briefcases full of hundred dollar bills to FIAT and even BMW looked into buying the brand and the designs. Funny thing tho…GM didnt want to deal with them, but sold the company to a red chinese firm that 10 days prior to the sale had no website, had no corporate headquarters and produced nothing. AND…it sold for about 10 cents on the dollar…
    Move along, nothing to see here…
    While we’re talking about these things, i might mention that GM murdered Saturn as another payback to their other master, the UAW. the uaw HATED Saturn, because saturns were built in a state that had ‘right to work’ laws. [plus some of the later Saturns were actually Belgian built Opels, another middle finger to the uaw] So, the bloodlust of the dnc’s third largest supporter was satiated also by the recently installed ‘administrations’ direction as payback to the uaw.
    I’ll not get started…

  4. Anders Bilidt

    @yrhmblhst, certainly a very insightful and interesting perspective on the sad closure of SAAB. If nothing else, you have just achieved instilling a deep hatred for GM within me…

  5. YrHmblHst

    Yes Mr Bilidt, i have little but disrespect for GM now myself. And this from a guy who had a Chevrolet bowtie tattooed on his forehead. [figuratively! FIGURATIVELY – not literally…cant tell anymore with all these moronic freaks running around…] Cannot ever see myself owning anything post 2008 GM.
    One addendum that I forgot – and I forgot a couple of things I see, but as I type at a blazing maximum speed of nearly 3 wpm, sometimes my thoughts wander by the time I get around to typing them… SAAB DID have a small car in the planning stages/actually the architecture was done when they were murdered. Like the SAAB 9.4 crossover was debuted as a Cadillac, the new SAAB “9.1′ was debuted as a Chevrolet; the Chevy Cruze was the basic car. Its a nice little car actually, and by the time SAAB would have uprated the suspension, interior and just generally SAAB-ised it, I imagine it would have been great. Alas, such was not to be… :(

    One can “almost’ buy a SAAB currently, it just has Chevrolet, buick or Cadillac written on it. [the new ‘malibu’ is the 9.3 they had ready when sacrificed, as is one of the buicks and the 9.5 appears in all three lineups]. I was tempted when it was time to get the Mrs a daily, but just couldnt pull the trigger, out of respect for our SAAB if nothing else…


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