A Possible Future Direction for Saab

by J Kraus

1947 Saab 92. Form following function

Saab could find a ready market today by becoming what German cars used to be. The upscale German cars of today are more like the American cars of yore rather than the German cars of just a few decades ago. Too often overly styled, overweight and overwrought, they are in many ways the polar opposite of the handsome, understated and functional German machinery of days past.

Mercedes-Benz W124, The pinnacle of Mercedes’ stark functionality phase undertaken in the 1980’s by design chief Bruno Sacco

After becoming ascetic to near-monasticity with cars like the W201 190 and W124 E-Klasse with their Wehrmacht-grey window mouldings and trim and starkly elegant simplistic interiors, the Germans have firmly reversed course, heartily embracing glitz and flamboyance.

W212 with superfluous L-shaped LED clusters, more lines than a shattered windscreen and circa-1985 lower-body aero addenda

I do not mean to single out Mercedes. I recall a few years ago when Porsche debuted the Carrera GT. On display next to it was a vintage 550 Spyder. The contrast between the two was disheartening. On the handsome 550, there was nothing superfluous. The whole car, inside and out, spoke of design; design for a purpose. The new Carrera GT on the other hand shouted out styling for the sake of style: the decoratively fluted exhaust outlets, the interior with its overuse of glare-inducing brightwork and the front lamp clusters with their strange turbine-look headlamp rings.

Porsche Carrera GT decorative headlamp trim. The inspiration here is something to ponder. Afterburners? Retro rockets?

With the capitulation of the Germans, more and more cars are seemingly meant to resemble fighter aircraft, spaceships, robots… anything but automobiles.

1968 Saab 99

Saab, with their history of straightforward Nordic practicality and sober styling are well positioned to step into this void. There is a dearth of simple, functionally handsome and practical vehicles at the moment, and this is a gap in the market that Saab would do well to target.

3 thoughts on “A Possible Future Direction for Saab

  1. Porsche is perhaps the most guilty especially with the latest 997 with all the wings and vents.
    BMW with their latest 7 and 5 series at least on the exterior (ignoring iDrive and flame surfacing) is slowly regaining their subtle elegance.

  2. This would be a great idea. Unfortunately, Saab do not appear headed in the direction of design functionality at present, as I see that their latest 9-5 suffers from the unnecessary and already cliché oversize rectangular vacuum sweeper-style exhaust outlets.

  3. It’s refreshing to see critique of MB’s slide down the design hole. They are a mess of ‘swage’ (or is it ‘sewage’?) lines, disconnected trim and gorp. I think the MINI Clubman (and its kin) shouldn’t be overlooked either. The first MINI and even the second were concise, gimmick free. That Clubman is so adherent to the ‘inspiration’ that it’s burdened with two rear wipers, stripes with no place to go, fake ‘mesh’ plastic inserts, doors galore yet limited access and the cacophony of rattles to accompany with every bump of the suspension. It’s a pigpen of style cliches- most of which add weight, muting the performance and look delicate and gauche. I’d love to see Saab grab the Germanic or -dare say, iconic Scandinavian architecture style for its cars. We’ll see…

    (ps- just found your site. Excellent. Thanks.)

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