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A Requiem For Saab 438

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that auto enthusiasts across the country are dismayed by the news that General Motors is planning to shut down Saab, the Swedish carmaker it bought two decades ago, after a deal to sell it fell apart. Even with its modest and steadily declining sales, Saab, an acronym for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, or Swedish Airplane Company, long stood out as a powerful brand in spite of itself. 'It wasn't designed to be a fashion statement,' says Ron Pinelli, president of Autodata, which tracks industry statistics. 'It was designed to provide transportation under miserable weather conditions.' Many Saab owners consider the brand's glory days to be the 1980s, when Americans began buying cars again after a recession and energy crisis. 'The cars were communicative,' says Pinelli. 'They didn't try to numb the experience like cars do today.' The cars had odd touches and appealed to those who appreciate the unconventional. Swedish engineers assumed drivers would be wearing gloves, so they designed big buttons for the dashboard. Though the cars were compact, with long hoods and short rear ends, there was plenty of headroom inside. Now Saab, a brand that once had one of the clearest identities in the industry, seems headed for extinction just as automakers are searching for more distinctive designs to help set them apart. 'It's a shame that Saab is a victim,' adds Pinelli."

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