Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Saab Slowly Withers Away

Linus Hook | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With a court in Sweden denying Saab a lifeline as it tries a "voluntary reorganization", the struggling automaker continues to wither away. If you are a Saab fan, dealer, or owner in the U.S. watching the automaker slide closer and closer to irrelevance is troubling. As one friend in the auto industry put it, "These guys (Saab) are spiritually bankrupt. They aren't building cars on their own. Who knows if somebody would want to rescue them. It's sad."

Sad, but not surprising. For years, Saab has been adrift. Aside from a niche group of buyers, Saab has struggled to find widespread support. Under GM, it was never given the resources or vision needed to thrive. Nothing epitomized Saab being adrift more than its marketing campaign under GM. The brand tried to play on Saab's DNA being in fighter jets. When I asked a GM executive what the campaign was supposed to say to possible Saab buyers, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know."

That's long been the problem for Saab. We don't know where it's at or where it's headed. Imagine how Saab dealers must feel. Aside from the 9-4 models GM is supplying, these guys have not received new Saab models in weeks. Even worse, the new car inventory they have includes 2011 models. Not good when other dealers are rolling out 2012 cars. On top of that, nobody knows if Saab owners in Sweden can keep the company alive.

For the loyal Saab owners here in the US (yes, there are pockets of support in places like Connecticut and Massachusetts) this slow slide is agonizing to watch. Saab is a name with some brand recognition. What it says is unclear after years of struggling, but it does have some value. Saab fans are hoping some company, somewhere in the world steps in to rescue the brand. It could happen. Then again, Saab could also end up going completely out of business.

A sad latest chapter for a brand that has lost its way.

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