Saab, the Swedish carmaker has declared bankruptcy after a long and enduring battle for financial sustainability. The number of Saab fans may be modest but the passion that binds them is unparalleled. After discussing the sad news with a few colleagues I realised that although most of us know of Saab, very few know anything about the product itself, seeing the maker as a quirky niche oddity with no distinctive features of any kind, whether aesthetic or technical.
So, Saab slipped into a coma with a very slim chance of recovery. What’s the big deal? It is always sad to see a niche player lose to mass market conformity. Imagine if Apple lost to Dell and went bankrupt in the late nineties. Imagine all the beautiful and efficient things we would not have in our lives, all the love we would have to channel elsewhere. When I think about it, may be it is a good thing Saab is no more – the world could certainly do with more love in the air.
The Saab/Apple parallel points out what the car manufacturer was lacking. A passionate, strong-willed man obsessed with the product. One who could not only perfect it but also explain to the rest of the mankind why it should be craved. The potential is (I refuse to use the past tense) there – according to the research of Rüdiger Hossiep, a psychologist at the University of Ruhr, the Saab drivers were over 10 times as “psychologically involved” with their cars as those of Volkswagen. Quirky niche products need fanatical leaders. Apple realised it just in time to avoid going bust, it is a bloody shame Saab did not.