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Jason Castriota at work – Click above for high-res image gallery of the Bertone Mantide

Intriguing news comes by way of BusinessWeek this afternoon indicating that Saab has hired American designer Jason Castriota to serve as its head designer. Surely you remember Castriota, the man responsible for such memorable designs as James Glickenhaus' one-off Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina and the somewhat controversial but striking Bertone Mantide.

It seems that the 36-year-old Castriota's first assignment at the reborn Swedish automaker will be redesigning the firm's bread-and-butter 9-3 range into something a bit more unique and upscale. Expect to see the first fruits of his labor sometime in 2012, which, incidentally, is the year that the quirky company hopes to regain profitability.

We have no idea what the designer has in store for the 9-3, but it had better be good to take on the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. For what it's worth, company CEO Victor Muller said, "The 9-3 design as made by him is basically done, and I can tell you it is spectacular. It is truly aircraft-inspired and Swedish-clean."

Sounds promising... but what else would Muller say? In any case, we're anxiously looking forward to our first glimpse at Castriota's first mainstream project to date. While we're waiting, weigh in on whether Saab's hiring move was a good one or not with our poll below.

*UPDATE: Official Saab announcement added after the jump.

Is Saab's hiring of Jason Castriota as head designer a good move?
Yes, absolutely 3313 (64.7%)
No, absolutely not 626 (12.2%)
Unsure 1178 (23.0%)

  • Bertone Mantide
  • Bertone Mantide

[Source: BusinessWeek]

Show full PR text

New Design Director at Saab Automobile

TROLLHATTAN, Sweden, June 18 /PRNewswire/ --
-- Former Pininfarina and Bertone designer joins Saab leadership team
-- Will lead design for Saab's product expansion program

Saab Automobile today announced the appointment of former Bertone and Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota as its new Design Director.

Castriota, 36, now takes the lead role in design at Saab, reporting directly to Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson. He and his design company will be responsible for exterior and interior design and will lead the design activities at Saab as the brand renews and broadens its product range.

Announcing the appointment, Jan Ake Jonsson said: "We're delighted to welcome Jason to our leadership team. He has an outstanding track record in automotive design and will help us take the brand forward. He will play a key role in expressing all that's best in the innovative tradition of Saab design as we carry our brand's roots into the future."

"I'm greatly looking forward to joining such an iconic brand," said Castriota. "Saab has a very strong and distinctive heritage which gives it great potential to develop. This is an exciting opportunity for me to help shape its future products."

Victor Muller, Saab Automobile's Chairman, added: "Bringing a young, highly-talented designer to Saab underlines the company's determination to produce cars which stand out because of their unique aircraft inspired, Swedish identity. With Jason heading up Saab design, we will be making landmark cars for the foreseeable future."

Castriota hails from New York and graduated from Emerson College in Boston before attending the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 2001, he left the college to join Pininfarina's design studio in Turin, Italy. He took up the position of Director of Design at Stile Bertone in 2008 and then opened a design consultancy with offices in New York and Turin.

His recruitment is an important strategic step by Saab in its renaissance as a newly-independent carmaker.

Source: Saab Cars North America

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Woah, this is awesome news! He is definitely one of the best in the business right now. Saab had to have paid a pretty penny for him. I can't wait to see what he produces.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wait a minute, I though Castriota got hired by SSC (Shelby Super Cars).
        • 4 Years Ago
        yes he was freelance hired to design one off model type deal not a full time SCC employee...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not that I think he's a bad designer, I just don't think he's a good fit for Saab....

      He does have a quirky design sense though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have to disagree. I think too many people look at the Mantide and think "damn, and I thought Bangle did weird s***." But look at his works when it concerned keeping up a legacy; the Maserati Birdcage and Gran Turismo; Ferrari P4/5, 612 Kappa and 599 GTB Fiorano; the Rolls Royce Hyperion. Whether you like the designs or not, they are dripping with their marque's styling elements.

        Saab is a company that has a very strong design history but is also constantly pushing the bounds of what is next. I think he is the perfect fit. Understands and utilizes history and also capable of that next generation quirk that we have come to expect and love from Saab's concept and production cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is my thinking exactly. It feels more like they hired him for his name because I just don't see how his style meshes with Saab, at least from a historical perspective.

        I was seriously underwhelmed by the Mantard or whatever it's called.
      • 4 Years Ago
      He is a great designer when left alone. Like most designers if they are given free time to create what they do best the outcome will be nice. The Mantide only sucked because I think the guy that wanted it done threw in all his own wants and needs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I can see why they chose him -
      Victor Muller has the design and brand vision for Spyker and has crap taste -
      so why not bring in that same thinking to Saab?
      Both of these guys make gaudy over-designed jerk-off products.
      No restraint whatsoever............is that a Sweedish idea? No.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Davin Black
        the Aero X is a show car.
        the new 9-5 is on the mark with Sweedish simplicity.
        I just don't think he is capable of anything with as much thoughtful good taste and restraint as the new 9-5.
        And that is just because everything I have seen attributed to him is over the top gonzo Barris-esque crazyness.
        And we are talking about him doing the new 9-3, which will probably be Saabs volume leader, not a show car with wings.
        • 4 Years Ago
        He designed the Maserati GranTurismo - a complete departure from the P4/5 and (admittedly horrible) Mantide, yet arguably one of the most beautiful exotics despite its simplicity. He's more than capable of the task.

        If Muller already approved of Castriota's 9-3, and his vision for Saab matches the renders created from his 9-2 sketches (which were quite nice), then I think that Saab made a keen decision. That fact that he can, and most likely will, provide his extra flavor to any future concepts or halo cars (Sonnet, or perhaps another Quantum) is icing on the cake.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think Castrionta has the skill to put the Saabiness back in to Saab, as long as they let him do his work.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "...but it had better be good to take on the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class..."

      BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Infiniti G, even Volvo...or any of the myriad of better and viable alternatives.

      Good Luck.
      • 4 Years Ago
      IMO it was a bad idea.
      He got away with the looks on those two cars based on the fact that the underpinnings were awesome to begin with. I'd drive a enzo or zr1 based car pretty much no matter what it look liked.

      Put those bodies on a wrx chassis and nobody would pay a dime for them.
      • 4 Years Ago
      To be honest, I don't really care if a Saab looks pretty. The more interesting and wacky the better.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's a risky decision. The way the new 9-3 would look, may have a serious influence on saab's later develepmont and in fact may mean wether it will survive or not. There's a chance that Castriota's design will be just as saabs should look like: a bit eccentric, a bit pretentious and in general original, but not odd like his previous designs. That could be Saabs big chance.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Until his 9-3 design is made public, hard to say whether the hire was good or bad. The up side of the hire is he definitely thinks outside styling lines. The bad side is he may be so set in his avant garde styling that he ignores the styling history of the 9-3 and makes something too off-putting.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Birdcage 75th was a bit of a break, but truly visionary.

        His follow-up P4/5 was an excellent update of the classic P3/4.

        IMO, Spyker hired Castriota to do Spykers, and has him doing Saabs to help them pay the bills.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Castriota might be able inject some life into the saab line like Bangle did to bmw, and thats a good thing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        this is rediculous - it takes 4 years to bring a new car to market, IF Castriota has had any impact on the new 9-3, it certainly won't be out until at least late 2013. If the car comes out in 2012, he will not have had any impact on it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like designers with a minimalist design language. Thats why Apple products are so attractive. I'm no Apple fanboy. I don't even a own and Apple product, just saying they make aesthetically pleasing products. If a car designer would adhere to the principle of "less is more" then that would be great. Maybe Jason can pen some great minimalist vehicles
        • 4 Years Ago
        A 'mother' comeback? Really. Oh SimpleCar...

        Well, at least the mystery as to if you're an angry pre-pubescent teen can now be closed.

        And your "shtick" is one of pushing a ridiculous agenda on topics that aren't pertinent to your silly little diatribes. No normal person feels the need to continuously beat an agenda so profoundly into the ground on a daily basis as you. It's quite sad really.

        Are you medicated, or have mom and dad not accepted the problem yet?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your mothers old and tiring.

        And what "shtick" are you talking about?
        • 4 Years Ago
        So what you're saying is...you espouse a preference but opt not to purchase products that reflect that preference?

        Yes, I'm sure that will send the designers and advertisers running to the drawing board.

        Your schtick is old and tiring.
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