Insider Insight: SAAB is once again re-Bjorn

John Armitage:

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Our former showroom stalwart explains why his SAAB tickles the spot and the re-birth of the marque is good news for the UK…

As a fan of both SAAB and Electric Vehicles (EVs) I am understandably delighted to hear that the first pre-production versions of the new generation of electric SAAB 9-3 rolled off the production line last week (18th Sept 2013). In a press release Mattias Bergman, acting President for Nevs (National Electric Vehicle Sweden) said; ‘I am pleased that today we have assembled our first car to verify all the production processes here in Trollhättan. Prior to our decision to start production of Saab cars, we need to finalize a few remaining dialogues to build partnerships with suppliers. We now know that the plant is ready for production’. It is perhaps rather unsurprising that the re-birth of this highly regarded brand is based around Electric power after all, Sweden has amongst the lowest CO2 emissions in Europe (if not the World) thanks to its development of Nuclear and Hydro-Electric power generation.

The first electric pre production SAAB has come off the line - Welcome back!
The first electric pre production SAAB has come off the line – Welcome back!

SAAB, or rather it’s present full trading name National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (Nevs)  on their website quote: “builds on the Saab Automobile AB legacy of innovative power, quality, progressive design and a firm commitment to environmental and safety issues. Our aim is to be a front runner in the automotive industry, with focus on electric vehicles’. The SAAB brand name is now owned by National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd. (NME Holdings Ltd.)NME Holdings Ltd. is the 78 % owner of Nevs. The company was founded in 2004 by main owner Kai Johan Jiang. It is registered in the British Virgin Islands and managed from Hong Kong. NME Holdings is the owner of State Power Group, a Beijing based enterprise which has pioneered development of renewable, clean energy in China. It seems that China is determined to out-do India in the acquisition of former Western Vehicle Marques.

The initial models will be based on a slightly face lifted 9-3 platform “enhanced and modified for electric drive.” But I for one will be hoping to see the stunningly svelte 9-5 Sport Wagon in production as I am desperately looking for a suitable replacement for my 250,000 mile oil burning 9-5 Estate. This is point where most people will recoil in horror, because I openly boast about the “Starship” mileage my beloved load-lugger has done, let me explain…

As a thirty plus year veteran of the motor-trade (now thankfully behind me)I have driven just about everything there is to drive from a Deux Chevuax (Citroen 2CV to you philistines out there!) to the immortal Aston Martin Lagonda and pretty much all points in between. I acquired this high-miler three years ago purely by chance. Jointly owned a Vehicle Leasing brokerage and due to circumstances beyond my control, I needed a vehicle to loan a client as his new lease car had been delayed and the supplying dealer only notified me of the delay on the day the car was due to be delivered and conveniently the day after my customer’s previous lease car had gone back, we needed to get an estate car quickly to keep my client mobile and after trawling the classifieds for suitable options, we found the SAAB complete with a genuine 216,000 miles logged on the speedo and with a price tag of only £1200.

When the client’s car eventually turned up he returned the loan car and waxed lyrical about how brilliantly it had performed and what a wonderful experience he had driving round in it. These words were still floating round in my head as I watched my Octavia estate drive off up the road at the end of its contract and since we had just sold the leasing business I decided to drive the SAAB for a couple of weeks whilst I pondered over what to get next. So just how good are/were SAABs? Well… after a lifetime’s servitude in the trade, I had had brief encounters with various part ex’s but in all honesty I can’t ever remember taking one home. Here we are three years later and somehow my average mileage has dropped from a yearly 50.000 miles to a mere 11.000 and within the next few days the speedo will show 250,000 miles (I’ll post a image of the odometer when it does) So just how well has she performed?

Aside from regular servicing by my local Garage (and by regular I mean an oil & filter change once a year) the car has cost me: A set of Wiper blades; 4 tyres; a replacement CD/Radio unit (bought from eBay after I cocked up a mod to connect my iPod directly to the stereo instead of the easy option of plugging it into my Parrot HF kit) an Exhaust back box, a replacement battery last winter and a new front fog lamp following a collision with an errant Safety Helmet on the A19 near the Nissan factory at Sunderland. All of this is really routine stuff for your average mileage used car so for of this mileage it is – quite remarkable. It doesn’t use a drop of oil in between changes, starts first time every time and looks like a five year old to the untrained eye. In fact, the first time I went to a business meeting after fitting my private plate, an old friend of mine said to me ‘your business must be doing really well if you’ve got a SAAB now’ – oh I felt good!

With the right care from the right owner, a SAAB will plough on seemingly forever.
With the right care from the right owner, a SAAB will plough on seemingly forever.

When the clutch pressure plate failed last November, I was told a replacement would be £1800 and effectively write the car off by a SAAB specialist. I decided to get my guy to fit a complete clutch for just over £500. It turns out my SAAB has a Vauxhall 2.2 litre diesel engine fitted with a dual mass flywheel and they cost an arm and a leg. Why do I love my SAAB so much, well, It’s got full leather, all the bells and whistles of  something German, looks the business and presents a solid & reliable image to my clients and business partners, after all, Jeremy Clarkson said ‘SAABs are nice cars, driven my nice people’

So whilst I continue to decide what to get next, which may be a C-class or a 5 series estate or even the beautiful Chrysler 300C estate, would I jump at the opportunity to have another SAAB 9-5, too bloody right I would!!


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