Grab your tissues – it’s time for a bit of a Saab story.
In 1938, just a few years before World War II, the Swedish government founded Saab for the purpose of the manufacturing of bomber and fighter aircrafts for the Royal Swedish Air Force. They grew to be a very successful production company during the war. Post-war, the company started manufacturing civilian aircraft as well, but they were still looking for completely new products to start manufacturing. Saab considered branching out into building prefabricated housing, washing machines, cars, and boats. Naturally, they settled on cars!
Why is it (or was it) called Saab?
SAAB is an acronym that stands for Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag, meaning Swedish Aeroplane Company, Ltd. Basically, Saab is called Saab because Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. The style “Saab” replaced “SAAB” in around 1950.
Saab assigned 16 designers, engineers, and craftspeople to the work on the first Saab automobile. They weren’t exactly a crew of automobile experts – not one of them had ever designed a car before, and only one of them even had a driver’s license! They figured out how cars were built and designed by purchasing a few from a junkyard (including a Volkswagen Beetle and an Audi DKW) and taking them apart. It was that not-so-precise process that helped them build their first prototype: the Ursaab, meaning “first Saab.” The Ursaab was designed a bit like an airplane wing – the rear end of the car tended to lift off at high speeds.
Image credit: www.thecoolist.com
Though there haven’t been any reports of Saabs lifting off at high speeds since, Saab has faced other troubles in the many years following the production of its first automobile. Saab’s unique and easily recognizable design, stable engineering and emphasis on safety did help the company capture a loyal niche market. However, though Saabs were dearly beloved by some, they still only appealed to a rather small number of car buyers. Most years, Saab lost money.
The Saab 900, Saab’s most recognizable model.
Image source: www.saabplanet.com
In 2000 General Motors bought Saab Automobile AB. Unfortunately, GM wasn’t the capable rescuer Saab was desperately hoping for in its time of need. GM changed Saab’s iconic styling for the worse, simultaneously securing the disdain of previous Saab aficionados while also failing to attract new buyers. GM eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
SEE ALSO: Why is FIAT Called FIAT?
Saab then changed hands to Dutch automobile manufacturer Spyker Cars N.V., then to a newly formed company National Electric Vehicle Sweden. Full production of Saabs restarted in December of 2013. In June 2016, NEVS announced that they would no longer use the Saab trademark – effectively meaning that Saab cars aren’t actually called Saab any longer. So, Saab ISN’T called Saab anymore. I told you it was going to be a sad story.
Though the Saab Automobile Company is now a thing of the past, Saab is still alive and well as an aerospace and defense company. Nowadays, if you’d like to get behind the wheel of a brand-new Saab, you might need to get your pilot’s license first.
Emma Roberts is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about learning, traveling, and language. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Brigham Young University.