A Swedish aerospace company founded in 1937, Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag (SAAB) launched its first automobile in late 1949, at about the same time the company swapped its acronym for the brand name “Saab.” That first model was the Saab 92, setting into motion naming conventions that would define the automaker’s vehicles until the brand was discontinued.
By the mid-1980s, Saabs were increasingly popular in the United States, considered to be offbeat, practical, safe, innovative, and performance-oriented alternatives to the Yuppie-mobiles peddled by BMW and Mercedes. Saabs had personality. Saabs had panache. So naturally, the biggest automaker on the planet swallowed it up and changed all that.
General Motors bought a 51% stake in Saab in 1990, and a decade later bought the Swedish automaker outright. That’s about the time that Autobytel began gathering Saab pictures, and while GM made some effort to retain traditional Saab styling cues, interior materials and design, and turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, it also starved Saab of new and credible products until it was too late.
The first picture in our collection of Saab photos is the 9-2X. This is actually a Subaru Impreza with Saab styling, and the 9-2X Aero would be the right one to buy as it has the guts of a Subaru WRX. The Saab 9-3 was the best-seller of the lineup, offered in sedan, station wagon, and convertible formats. The Saab 9-5 was the flagship model, but saddled with a design dating back to the mid-1990s.
GM gave Saab a couple of SUVs to sell. The first, as can be seen in our Saab images, was the 9-7X, a clumsily camouflaged GMC Envoy. The second was the Saab 9-4X, a credible version of the second-generation Cadillac SRX. What never made it to market was the 9-6X, which had been planned to share a platform and powertrains with the Subaru Tribeca.
By the time General Motors declared bankruptcy in 2009, Saab was on the verge of resurgence. The aged 9-5 had just been redesigned, and looked spectacular. The 9-4X had just arrived. And the critically important 9-3 was about to be completely re-done. Instead, Saab as we knew it faded into the history books, and now a Chinese company seeks to resurrect it as a maker of electric vehicles.