The Land Rover Writer

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tata Staring at Saab?

I've picked up hints that Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns Jaguar Land Rover, has studied the possibility of purchasing Saab, the bankrupt Swedish manufacturer of interesting cars.

Tata benefited from the development work already underway at both firms through Ford's parentage; GM did not appear to be as generous with Saab and the company would need some real capital to develop new products. That said, Tata has been a good corporate parent to date and it certainly has the energy and focus to become a major player in the automotive world. 

Surely there's a place in this automotive universe for Saab. The company went front-wheel drive for traction in snowy conditions and interior packaging long before the Mini elevated it to cult status in 1959. 

Starting in 1957 they developed a strong niche market for themselves in New England as the "bad weather car of choice," first with their quirky 2-cycle engines, and then cemented by their Monte Carlo Rally wins with small V-4 engines against far more powerful cars and better-financed teams. 

In central Maine a former Saab dealer has an extensive collection of classic Saab models housed in his barn; a salesmen at a southern Maine Chevy dealership still owns and drives a 2-cycle model to Saab events all over New England. 

The 1980's saw Saab move upscale and revive the use of the turbocharger in small 4-cylinder engines; they took the 2.0 liter Triumph 4 and made it into a reliable, long-lived performer. After GM bought Saab it seemed to devolve into a mini-Buick and lose some of the sharp engineering that always made it an engaging car to own and drive.  

GM still seems eager to kill the brand as it still seems to have a veto on financing schemes to revive manufacturing of the car. Let's hope that this marque does not disappear into history.

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