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Sell Saab Rally in Detroit – Click above for high-res gallery

Popular wisdom would hold that about the only people willing to show up in sub-zero, slate-gray Detroit for a last-minute rally to advocate for Saab's sale would be stereotypical brand diehards – grizzled old-timers with air-cooled two-strokes and elderly three-doors, not folks piloting General Motors-era models. Interestingly, those in attendance at today's "Sell Saab/Save Saab" demonstration ranged broadly in age from their early twenties on through retirement age, and with the exception of a couple of 1980s 900 models, most of the Saabs were remarkably contemporary (although a good portion of those who showed up professed to owning numerous classic examples at home).

To be fair, we turned up to the meeting point in the shadow of GM's Renaissance Center headquarters this afternoon not expecting a big turnout of either cars or press, as the event was organized just a couple of days earlier by Ryan Enge of SaabHistory.com – and the weather wasn't exactly hospitable, either. As it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised to see a rather small but vibrant group of both. Over a couple of hours, we counted around 50 demonstrators in about 30 Saabs (full disclosure: one of which was AB's own 2001 9-3 Viggen convertible), with devotees venturing in from as far away as Maine, Iowa and Wisconsin, along with plenty of print, radio and television media – both local and international – in attendance. As a demonstration for a brand, the atmosphere was more one of conviviality than consternation and bitterness, a gathering of first-time friends more than an acrimonious protest.

Make the jump for more of the story and check out our high-res gallery below.

Photos by Chris Paukert/Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

Owners and dealer representatives we talked with spoke of preserving Saab's traditional touchstones – fun-to-drive, unique looks and character, foul-weather performance and history of innovation as all things worth saving. As one might expect, most didn't have the kindest things to say about GM's stewardship of the brand over the last 20 years, but most expressed optimism in its fortunes (should it be saved) thanks to new models like the 2010 9-5, 9-4X and the 9-3X. Many spoke of a desire to see their tax dollars (that were used to keep bankrupt GM afloat) go toward building new cars rather than shutting down brands. Regardless of how they felt about GM's involvement in 'their Saab,' to a person, everyone we spoke with simply expressed a desire to move on, hoping that this show of solidarity will somehow aid in the push to sell Saab to Spyker Cars or Merbanco.

It is perhaps a bittersweet irony that the very first person we met this afternoon was Peter Gilbert in his 9-5 Sportcombi – a car that General Motors gifted to him for his loyalty. Marque aficionados may remember that Gilbert was the owner who surpassed one million miles in his 1989 Saab 900 SPG back in 2006. That car is now in a museum in Hartford, but he's got his 9-5 and a 9-3 Viggen back home. Like seemingly everyone else in attendance, Gilbert would at least like the chance to put a new Griffin in his garage at some point.

GM's board of directors is slated to convene on Thursday to determine whether it will sell the Swedish brand or continue its 'wind-down' process. In the meantime, it's clear that dedicated Saab owners both in the States and abroad are doing everything they can to be heard, from protesting with "Save Saab" signs to writing letters to their government representatives and pledging never to buy a GM product if Saab is killed off. Will it be enough? We should know more soon.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why no outcry to save Pontiac?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Saab, Pontiac, heck I still miss Plymouth and Oldsmobile.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Character huh?

      Well youtube it and you'll see that a stock 9-5 engine can crank up all the way to 850HP without blowing up.
      I've seen the 650HP ones too.

      Even riding 9-5 on the airstrip which Saab dealer set up for us in Toronto was extremely enjoyable. They did it for second time owners and some new ones.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well at least something was done by Saab owner to show support for their brand, as opposed to say, Pontiac.
        • 5 Years Ago

        The writing was on the wall for at least the last year or so that Pontiac would close down.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No one cared because you could still get their cars as chevys (badge-engineered) at least pontiac ended on a high note with the G8 and Soltice. I hope saab can make the 9-5 before it goes bust
        • 5 Years Ago
        Pontiac owners didn't give up without a fight, in fact, some are still fighting. The situations are different. GM kept telling Pontiac owners that everything was fine, until the day they said "Closed!". Saab owners have known for a while that they are for sale, it's just the realization that nobody wants them that's getting them mobilized.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sadly they organizers had a few things going against it. The weather which was mentioned, the day which was during the week so hence a lot of whom who may have been willing to go couldn't due to day jobs, and most importantly the fact it was quickly tossed together.

      I'm sure if there was more time and more importantly on a weekend day there would of been more.

      Myself I believe GM should just sell to Spyker and be done with it. Take the money whateva they are offering call it a day and pay back some of the government loans they owe all of us.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I hope they realize that the problem is not GM trying to sell Saab, the problem is no one wants to buy it. GM has desperately tried to offload the money losing brand, but no one wants to buy it because there is no scenario where Saab will be profitable for anyone. Period. If all the people who claim to love Saab (or any other brand that has failed in the last 70 years) actually bought them new, corporations would be lined up to buy the brand.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Then what happened to the Koenigsegg deal?

        From what I've read GM was too greedy with the IP of the newer products, and didn't want to give it away for firesale prices. Koenigsegg then walked away from a deal which likely would give him him crap other than the brand badging.

        If GM had capitalized Saab anywhere near the levels Jaguar/LR enjoyed from Ford, then there would likely be greater interest from buyers. Ratan Tata knows he got some great engineering and design expertise for a pretty sweet deal. GM on the other hand seems to have never put enough money into Saab to at least get it to a saleable point to a major player, let alone competitive enough to justify the retail prices they were charging consumers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        GM pumped a lot of money into Saab, so much so that they lost $5100 on each sale. How can a company stay in business when you are losing $5100 on every unit? Had they pumped even more money into Saab, the loss per sale would have been even greater and the end would have come sooner. It's not like consumers say 'Wow, GM's investing x more millions in Saab than they already have. I must go buy one.' GM invested a lot of money in a brand very few people had an interest in.

        The IP still has some value to GM, as it can be applied to other brands, such as the report of Buick getting the 9-5 as its' own. If they're going to sell it, they have to price it at a point greater than the return they would get utilizing it in house. If that price is too much for prospective buyers, so be it.

        How many companies would continue to operate a business that had lost money for 8 years running, never showing anything close to a profit? Maybe, just maybe, that is why the companies who had interest in purchasing it, decided not to after looking at the books. Saab would have been gone a long time ago had GM not stepped in.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Also keep in mind this is just the attendees from a single website, sure it got some attention but it wasn't like it was promoted on a national level (ie national or local saab clubs) I heard about a few days ago on a forum i frequent and wanted to go but it was too short of notice to get away from work, not to mention i live in PA so if i wanted to do it in 1 day it would be about 16 hours of driving.... Had it been this weekend or last i would have made the drive, my current DD is a 2005 Saab 9-5 Aero, and as soon as something refreshing comes out (a new 9-5 for example if it ever makes it to production) I'll buy another new Saab, the 2006-09 9-5 is hideous IMO, and the 9-3 is too small for my needs. Also a lot of Saab owners keep their cars for a while because they last, don't rust out or blow up in 6 years, so even though the intervals are higher people will buy them, unfortunately not all enthusiasts have the budget to buy one new so they have to resort to second hand ones or just aren't buying now because the products aren't motivating.

      The whole point of the sale is to bring back some life into the brand and make it special again, get people to WANT to buy them, not stick with their older ones like i am currently (although 5 years isn't that old)
        • 5 Years Ago
        btw, i meant to say the whole point of the enthusiasts hoping for a sale, and the reason why it could be a good thing. I wasn't implying that GM possibly cares about Saab and its employees.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not gonna happen. I'm sure there's a bigger financial benefit from killing the brand, rather than selling it. Any tax lawyers want to chime in?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Surprisingly, the tax implications are minimal because relative to the rest of GM it is a small brand. However, there will be legacy and wind down costs, supposedly in the realm of $500 million. While some would be earned back through the sale of machinery and items, it would not even approach the approximated costs. Factor in the expected $400 million in proceeds from the sale, plus some additional revenue over time while items like the 9-4x continue to come off the Cadillac manufacturing line, and we're looking at nearly $500 million in revenue/proceeds from a sale.

        Take taxes into account, lets say 1/3, and the opportunity cost of not selling and winding down the brand is nearly $800 million, give or take $100 million (without knowing details). The only benefit would appear to be retention of technologies, which are all shared among the GM brands now anyhow.
      • 5 Years Ago
      SAAB hasn't sold more cars in the last few years for obvious reasons:
      - The 9-5 has been around in it just-sold-to-china form for 11 years! Had the new 9-5 come out after 7, a normal lifecycle, we would see plenty of them on the road
      - The 9-3 isn't exactly new, either, although it freshening two years ago was a big step forward. We own a Turbo X sportback and it's a stonker; sounds great (factory sports exhaust), is fast, distinctive (love the looks of this wagon) and the new AWD works like a charm. Got caught in a blizzard recently and X5s were struggling to keep up.
      - GM obviously never had a clear idea of what to do with SAAB and it shows. While VW pumped millions in aluminum A8 and A2s (both money losers, yet they kept doing them), rebadged Golfs (A3) and the like and finally made them truly premium and profitable.
      - I was hoping for the 9-1, a redesigned (and improved, I have no doubt of that) Astra which would have brought the necessary volume to the brand, especially here in Europe.
      SAVE SAAB!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Saving Saab like they "saved" Volvo would be worse than losing the brand. Do you really want another venerable name to go down the Chinese-made toilet?
      • 5 Years Ago
      well thats more than the mopar guys did
      • 5 Years Ago
      I saw some of the guys down in the cafeteria around 1pm with their signs. At the same time Ed Whitacre was eating at a table maybe 50 feet away. I didn’t see anyone approach him, maybe they were just being polite.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was a mistake - if Ed is right there, then why not introduce yourself?

        You travel hundreds of miles "to be heard", and don't speak with the man at the top when you get the chance?
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