Saab Automobile AB is automobile manufacturing company in Sweden, and is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of the General Motors Corporation. Saab is the exclusive automobile Royal Warrant Holder appointed by H.M. the King of Sweden. Saab directly competes with products from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.
Until 1990, the company was owned by SAAB, an acronym for "Svenska Aeroplan Aktie(B)olaget" (The Swedish Aeroplane Company), and was part of a conglomerate which included SAAB Aerospace and the truck manufacturer Scania.
Saab can be traced back to its origin of Scandinavia. The original Svenska Aeroplan Aktie(B)olaget was established in 1937 with the express purpose of building aircraft for the Swedish Air Force. As World War II was ending, it was apparent that the company's market for military aircraft would decline and after considering other options, SAAB decided to move into the passenger car market, appointing Gunnar Ljungström in charge of design. The company's first car, the Saab 92 was a streamlined steel-bodied 2 door saloon with a two cylinder 2 stroke engine driving the front wheels and with independent suspension all round. The company's aviation roots were evident in the car with the best drag coefficient of any production car in the world (CD= 0.32) at the time. The car's name was simply the 92nd Saab design project and all previous 91 designs had been aircraft. One of the engineers working on the SAAB 92 prototype, Hans Osquar Gustavsson, also took part in the development of the JAS Gripen.
Three cylinders replaced two with the introduction of the Saab 93 in 1955, and, until the Saab 95 and 96 in 1966, which used a 60 degree V4 4 stroke engine made by Ford, the company was renowned for its 2 stroke motors, which continued until emissions regulations ended production in 1973.
In February 1970, Saab built their 500,000th car.
The company moved to larger cars with the Saab 99 of 1967, which featured an 1709cc inline four cylinder 4 stroke engine designed by Riccardo in the UK, initially shared with the Triumph. Produced by Saab from 1970, the engine grew to 2 litres in 1972 and gained an optional turbocharger in 1977.
The turbocharger installation in the Saab 99 differed from other manufacturers by also incorporating a wastegate for regulating the boost level. With a relatively small turbocharger and a wastegate, the resulting engine would appear to the driver as a larger capacity engine (without the corresponding increase in fuel consumption), thus improving driveability as opposed to just increasing peak power and having a large lag such as in the BMW 2002 turbo.
In 1978, Saab signed an agreement with Fiat to sell Lancia A112 and rebadged Lancia Delta as Saab 600 and jointly develop a new car platform which saw the light of day in 1984 with the Saab 9000. The 9000 shared its structure with the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and Alfa Romeo 164 under the Type Four chassis.
Although turbocharged cars had given Saab a big boost from the end of the 70's, especially with the introduction of the Saab 900, by the late 80's Saab was producing more cars than they were selling and in 1989 had 40,000 units in stock. The Arlöv plant was closed, but heavy financial losses continued. Talks were opened with Volvo, Fiat, Mazda and Ford and in January 1990 Saab-Scania moved their passenger vehicle operation to a new company Saab Automobile AB.
General Motors Corporation bought 50% of Saab Automobile on 15th March 1990 for USD600 million, with an option to acquire the entire company within a decade. David J Herman became President of the new entity with Stig Göran Larsson as Vice President. Before exercising its option to buy the entire company, GM shared its ownership of Saab Automobile with Investor AB, the main owner of Saab.
Losses continued and the Malmö plant was closed in 1991. The 'New Generation' Saab 900 using the same platform as the Opel Vectra was launched in 1993 and in 1995, Saab declared a profit for the first time since 1988.
GM purchased Investor AB's remaining shares in 2000, making Saab a wholly owned subsidiary.
In March 2005, it was announced that GM would move the production of the next-generation Saab 9-3 from Trollhättan to the Opel plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany. The Trollhättan factory will produce European Cadillacs.
Current models are the 9-3 and 9-5, both of which are manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden and the Saab 9-7X SUV, manufactured in Moraine, Ohio. The Saab 9-2X, a rebadged Subaru Impreza that was manufactured in Japan, was discontinued after the 2006 model year.
A new crossover SUV, dubbed the 9-4X will share a platform with a new Cadillac BRX is on its way for 2009.
While Saab is in fact an acronym and, as with many other manufacturers, the word "SAAB" appears in all-capitals within the corporate emblem and in on-vehicle badging, the current correct capitalization of Saab when in print is "Saab," and not "SAAB." Other manufacturers such as Volvo, Toyota, Lexus, Acura, and Chevrolet all employ the use of all-capitalized vehicle badging, but this does not change the fact that these brands are proper names and should be capitalized as such when written. Likewise, Saab is treated as a proper name and not an acronym, despite its origins.
Furthermore, all current Saab vehicles are badged with a large 9 and a smaller 2, 3, 5, or 7x following the 9, such as "93." However, the digits are considered separate, and are spoken as, for example, "nine three," and written as "9-3." Nearly every Saab model ever produced has begun with the number 9, and Saab's two models became 9-3 and 9-5 in the late 1990's, which was likely a marketing attempt at positioning the vehicles as direct competitors to the BMW 3-series and 5-series, respectively.
• 1958: The GT 750 is the first car fitted with headrests as standard.
• 1963: Saab becomes the first volume maker to offer diagonally-split dual brake circuits.
• 1969: Saab creates an ignition system near the gearbox, instead behind the steering wheel on like ordinary cars.
• 1970: Saab introduces a 'world-first' - headlamp wipers and washers.
• 1971: Heated front seats are introduced, the first time in the world they are fitted as standard.
• 1971: Saab develops the impact-absorbing, self-repairing bumper.
• 1972: Saab introduces the concept of side-impact protection bars.
• 1976: Saab was the first manufacturer to produce a turbo engine with wastegate to control boost.
• 1978: Saab introduces another 'world-first,' the passenger compartment air filter (pollen filter).
• 1980: Saab introduces Automatic Performance Control (APC), and an anti-knock sensor that allowed higher fuel economy and the use of lower grade fuel without engine damage.
• 1981: Saab introduces the split-field side mirror. This eliminates the drivers blind spot.
• 1982: Saab introduces asbestos-free brake pads.
• 1983: Saab introduces the 16-valve turbocharged engine and asbestos-free brake pads.
• 1985: Saab pioneers direct ignition, eliminating the distributor and spark plug wires.
• 1991: Saab introduces a 'light-pressure' turbo.
• 1991: Saab is the first manufacturer to offer CFC-free air-conditioning.
• 1991: Saab develops its 'Trionic' engine management system, equipped with a 32-bit micro-processor.
• 1993: Saab introduces the 'Sensonic clutch' and the 'Black Panel', later to be called the 'Night Panel'.
• 1993: Saab develops the 'Safeseat' rear passenger protection system.
• 1995: Saab presents an asymmetrically turbocharged V6 at the Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.
• 1996: Saab introduces active head restraints, which help minimize the risk of whiplash.
• 1997: Saab fits ventilated front seats to their new 9-5.