My Favorite Car

Black Saab Car

As I drove home from the Saab dealer that day, I couldn’t believe the beautiful machine at whose controls I was sitting was really mine.

I’d dreamed about owning a Saab for a while. While my buddies would fantasize about ‘hot’ fast cars, I was somehow taken by the quirky lines and strange shape of this mysterious import from Sweden.

Yes, its unusual lines were antithetical to the sleek lines of the American muscle cars of the early-2000s. And, yes, the people you saw driving Saabs were often sort of dorky, with horn-rimmed glasses and tousled hair (whether male or female). But I didn’t care.

I loved that car from the first time I saw it. It pulled into the 7-11 parking lot where I was standing while enjoying a slurpy…and I was bowled over. To me, those weird, curvy slopes and angles were eye-catching and very, very cool.

So I eventually bought one. Jet-black. And I still believe it was the coolest car I’ve ever had, strange exterior (and interior) features notwithstanding.

When I turned the key and the engine emitted that low, throaty roar, I loved it! When I cruised at (absurdly) high speeds, I was thrilled. When I rubbed my hands on the quirky wooden dashboard, I was thrilled. When I handled winding country roads as if the car was attached to them, I was thrilled. And when I looked at the dashboard – which was the closest thing to a jet cockpit I’d ever seen in a car – I was thrilled. (Saab actually started out as an aircraft company in 1937. And still makes planes for the Swedish air force.)

In what other car did your radio automatically reset to the stations in the area where you were driving? In what other car could you have a station pre-set to the local National Weather Service station in whatever region you were in? And in what other car was the ignition key located on the console between the driver and passenger seats, instead of the dashboard?

But it turned out that not many other people loved the Saab. Sales dropped precipitously in the early-2,000s. At one point, U.S. car dealers were selling less than a thousand a month.

So the automobile division of Saab closed up shop in 2014, orphaned by the Swedish government and by its Ford corporate parent.

As a communications professional, I always wondered a bit about Saab’s PR approaches. Why, in the later years, they constantly seemed to be appealing to a “hip” audience that loved sleek cars, rather than the core audience that loved Saab’s quirkiness and “funky” factor.

The Vail, Colorado Police Department actually drove Saabs. And an officer once told me, “That thing takes a mountain like it was born to run. Incredible speed. And it hugs those curves. On these roads, nobody can outrun us.”

Would pitching more to the choir instead of commoditizing Saab have ultimately saved it? I doubt it. Increasingly, in today’s world, niche products often don’t sell. But at least the car would have stayed true to its principles.

I’ve since had another Swedish car. But I still miss my Saab.