A sign of more trouble ahead?

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I still want one.....

I have always been a fan of what could be classed as the ‘less mainstream’ European and particularly French cars – while my colleagues all rush to drive something Teutonic I have always had a soft spot for French or Italian flair and weirdness. Yes the average German car has a ‘bomb proof’ nature and has always been perceived as being far more reliable than other manufacturers (not perhaps so true nowadays) – but often they are soleless and just lack a certain ‘something else’. Interestingly the most reliable car I have had was an Alfa Romeo….. and yes, I have had German cars as well. The most fun….. a Peugeot.

So it is sad to see this week that Saab, a car manufacturer with a massive history (particularly in rallying) and a producer of very ‘individual’ cars has finally succumbed to its financial problems and filed for bankruptcy. This was a company that made very different cars in an age of ‘formula’ cars – VW group being the worst example of this. Is it a VW, Seat, Skoda or even an Audi – they are all the same – but different – just not different enough!

On the back of the Saab news comes news that Renault are to stop selling a variety of models in the UK including the Laguna, Modus, Espace and Grand Espace (there are others but they are van based ‘cars’). The last two are a great loss to the UK – I accept they are not selling currently, but the Espace invented the people carrier. Business moves on and without doubt it is down to the survival of the fittest like in the animal world. But, if smaller ‘niche’ brands aren’t kept alive we lose the magic from the automotive world.

Since I was a child we have lost so many car marks over the last 30 years – many with huge history behind them;

  • Morris – one of the UK’s biggest brands at one time
  • Austin – an equal of Morris
  • Triumph – I always wanted a Stag or a TR6 (in fact I still do)
  • Riley – remember their wierd mini with the big grill?
  • Singer – my Dad had two Singer Vogue estates
  • Hillman – the Hunter estate was the same as the Singer version (and we had one of those as well)
  • Wolseley – as a family we had a few of these
  • Rover – brilliant cars (up to and including the SD1 – we had one of those as well)
  • Mini – I don’t count the BMW one as a true mini!
  • NSU – invented the rotary engine (and had car of the year with it)
  • MG – always a classic ( and the new chinese MG’s don’t count)
  • Lancia – once rally world champions, now badged Chrysler – how to kill a brand!

There are more – but that is just a sample of what we have lost. Lets hope that Saab can be saved in some form and that this isn’t the start of something more sinister in the automotive world.

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4 thoughts on “A sign of more trouble ahead?

    Richard Baker said:
    December 20, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Saab got caught in a Catch-22: its individuality made it stand out, but stand-out cars generally make most car buyers feel a bit uncomfortable. Under General Motors’ ownership it maintained its distinctive but lost some of its individuality with chassis’ based on old Vauxhalls and little in the way of distinguishing features that would make you pay more than a Ford or less than an Audi. Its sale to a Dutch conglomerate left it in the hands of a business which didn’t have the muscle to invest in the new models it despertely needed. Like you, Simon, I hark back to the days when Stig Blomqvist would hurl a 99 Turbo through the forests on the RAC Rally (itself a shadow of what it used to be). There must be someon, somewhere who can make something of that heritage. But would they do it in this financial climate?

      Simon Dare responded:
      December 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Richard
      It’s a sign of getting old! I am sure your values change and you realise that actually you don’t have to have a BMW to succeed!
      Most modern cars are characterless boxes – only the Italians and may be the French have the guts to push the envelope in my opinion. Does it sell cars? Yes, in the right market. Saab are a bad example as they were screwed by GM decades ago and are now paying the price. Scarely the Chinese may well be the saviours of the motor trade – GM are definately running scared at the moment.

    Tim GARRATT said:
    December 24, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    We had an NSU RO80 once, awesome car! We it was when it went! My current BMW Mini Cooper Works is a mini surely?
    Saab lost the plot when they stuck to re-inventing the same car over and over again. People change and their tastes do too. Saab lost their way when they forgot to make a new car?

      Simon Dare responded:
      December 25, 2011 at 12:49 am

      The new mini is a nice car – and yours is the best version. But it’s not a ‘real’ mini – that was a brilliant example of packaging and design. The BMW version just isn’t in the same league!

      We almost lost Jaguar in the same way as Saab – luckily they have started to design new cars again rather than copying the old car – the new XJ is amazing.

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