It doesn’t seem that long since the Phoenix Four, led ably by John Towers, swept in to save Rover from the clutches of those evil venture capitalists at Alchemy. Rover was dead in the water without BMW and, even though the sexy new 75 had been launched, it was taking time to come up to speed. That was over ten years ago now and we all know the outcome – MG Rover died through a combination of funding starvation and mis-management – five years after its formation, the company’s carcass was being picked over by the Chinese for a reinvention that we’re beginning to see tangible signs of only now.
A couple of years ago, Saab went through the same trauma. Placed on the open market by a disinterested GM, the once-proud Swedish executive carmaker – tiny in world terms – looked like it was going to die. However, then Spyker stepped in. A miniscule Dutch supercar manufacturer backed by wealthy businessmen, who passionately cared about the future of the Swedish carmaker. Its most impressive product – the new 9-5 – had just been announced, although it was taking time to become established.
Two years on and the mainstay – the 9-3 – is about to receive a light facelift, and Saab’s first all-new product – the 9-5 SportCombi (estate to you and me) is also about to go on sale.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between Birmingham and Trollhättan’s finest manufacturers. That’s because MG Rover’s first all-new product was the 75 Tourer (estate to you and me), and lightly revised 25s and 45s, known as the MG ZR and ZS quickly followed. There’s plenty of talk coming from industry observers about a new small Saab – think RDX60 – which will be the spiritual successor of the 96, as well as a new small car – think CityRover – based on, possibly, the MINI, which the company would like to see positioned as the new 92.
However, they’re just vapourware at the moment, and still a couple of years away at the very least.
Does AROnline therefore predict an MG Rover-like future for Saab? Well, there is, at least, one interesting difference: whereas MG Rover picked up a supercar manufacturer (Qvale) to build a new high performance flagship, Saab’s owner, Spyker Cars N.V., has agreed to sell its interest in the Spyker sportscar marque. It’s too early to say right now, but we’re very much hoping that history isn’t about to repeat itself.