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.