There’s been some terrible, terrible news coming out of Sweden this week. Swedish tax authorities had three former Saab executives arrested, kept in cells overnight, and all because they wanted to ask them some questions? Sounds like jackboot jante law to me.
They were kept separate, as if somehow three people could establish a credible cover story for elaborate tax fraud whilst indulging in a little officer-supervised fika.
What an absurd situation.
I can’t speak for Saab’s former financial controller because I never met the man, but anyone who’d had anything to do with either Kristina Geers or Jan-Ake Jonsson (and I’m not JAJ’s biggest fan, by the way) will have a hard time believing accusations of their deliberate involvement in manipulating the books or creating convoluted business relationships designed to hoodwink the state’s pinheads. With everything Saab went through from 2009 to 2011, I can barely believe they’d have the time, let alone the intention.
All this mud got me thinking about The Real Saab. The Saab that caught my eye in the first place. The Saab that had a brief chance to live again before its final demise in December 2011.
The Real Saab was a company that did things different, not to be different for the sake of it, but because they had conviction based on experience and an engineering and design ethos based on local necessity.
The Real Saab started with simple, tough, but lightweight cars that met a harsh market. The company implemented new technologies and surprised the market time and again with turbochargers, convertibles and safety technology long before any substantial safety regulations ever existed (conviction, again).
The Real Saab did things that were so crazy that they ended up making sense.
They entered their tiny motorsport team into a Monte Carlo rally and nearly took a podium spot – with a 2-stroke, 2-door, 7-seater station wagon. I still find it amazing that they actually made a 2-door, 7-seat station wagon but they did, for nearly 20 years.
The Real Saab made a small fibreglass 2-seater that had no real performance credentials, a freewheel transmission and no real place in their lineup. It’s quite possibly my personal most-desired Saab right now.
The Real Saab engineered a sub-120g emission vehicle that their former parent company – with all its global wisdom and resources – said was impossible. And they were on the cusp of delivering even more in that respect, too.
The Real Saab brought turbocharging to mass-market vehicles 30 years before the mass-market made it more normal than abnormal. They made a 9000 Turbo that could accelerate through overtaking speeds faster than a Ferrari and a 9000 Aero that might just be the best car they ever made.
“When you see it in your mirrors you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what is about to happen” – or words to that effect.
The Real Saab had an unbreakable and undeniable link to the region in which it was built. Saab was Trollhattan and Trollhattan was Saab. Saab took Sweden to the world in a way that few other companies or artists were able to do.
The Real Saab fought tooth and nail to stay alive in 2009, to the point of entering reconstruction in a move that surprised the parent company that was trying to wind it down. The Real Saab involved a spirit that was innovative, mischievous, full of integrity and purpose. It was a spirit that got things done when people thought those things were reserved for much bigger companies. It was a spirit that gave the cars a soul, a life force that owners connected with and loved.
That’s the Saab I came to adore. That’s the Saab that I truly believe had a chance to live again under Spyker’s ownership. I 100% believe that Victor Muller got it when it came to Saab and the company was doing innovative things once again. They just didn’t have the money to keep it going.
All this crap from the Swedish Government? It’ll blow over in good time.
The Spirit of Saab, the Real Saab, will remain long after the current crop of cretins in the Riksdag have left public life, long after their minions at the tax office have given up what I’m sure will be proven to be a puerile chase.