By on January 24, 2012

Saab owners receive two pieces of bad news today: Their allegedly “iconic” and “quirky” brand that supposedly embodies everything that is good in Sweden, turns out to be a dud. It landed with a thud at the very bottom of the Consumer Reports 2012 Car-Brand Perception Survey.

Probably more disconcerting to a Saab owner: Repairs that are more complex than the exchange of wear parts have become next to impossible, because someone at Saab literally pulled the plug.

“Currently, workshops can only perform very limited repairs, because online access necessary for work on on-board computers has been switched off.”

So says the usually reliable and well-informed Kfz-Betrieb, the German magazine for professional automobile workshops.  Without such online access, anything that is more complex than changing a brake pad will become either an ordeal, or impossible.

In a modern car, even something as simple as replacing a lost key becomes unmanageable when the electronic umbilical cord to the factory is cut.

 

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55 Comments on “Saab Pulls The Plug On Repairs...”


  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Well, in a modern European car replacing a key is NOT a simple proceedure. you can blame the European insurance companies and the Eastern European theft rings for that one, NOT necessarily the automakers. Saabs don’t even really have keys in the traditional sense, just a transponder. The actual key can’t even start the car.

    But this is what I personally was most afraid of, and THE biggest reason I sold my ’08 Saab 9-3 SportCombi. While a very reliable and wonderful to drive car, you can’t fix anything electronic on the car without digital access to the Mothership. And with such a small market, there has been no incentive for anyone to crack the system and bring out an aftermarket alternative.

    At least with my BMW, I can buy software that allows me to do pretty much everything the dealer can do with a laptop and a cable for <$500.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      This is also the chief reason that I’m not driving a 9-5 today. I love the way the car rides, it’s spacious as all get out on the inside, and I think that it’s one of the best-styled lower-luxury rides out there right now; but the bankruptcy was basically the death of my interest in spending $40k on a complicated Swedish machine from a near-defunct company. Self-fulfilling prophecies are a bummer.

      • 0 avatar

        The 93s up to about ’08 are probably going to be OK as you can get TIS (security access) on DVD, but after that, and especially new 95s, it might get tough. Those cars havent been out long enough for even the dealers to figure them out. Will A-whole GM allow an engine made in Tonawanda NY to be fixed here? Time will tell.

        There is a ton of needed parts available from many after-market suppliers, even RockAuto. Its going to take a while to get the bad GM taste out, but it WILL happen.

    • 0 avatar
      felchi80

      you know what… i sold my BMW to get a saab… at the same time, I sourced a tech2 with saab software and downloaded WIS and TIS2000 of the web… total cost a little more than 500…. but well worth it… I can do all kinds of programming and I have 4 saabs at home now!

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    There goes what’s left of your Saab’s resale value… They’ll be sold by the kilos from now on…

  • avatar
    brettc

    Wow, that’s pretty severe. There was actually a new (well, as new as you can get since new Saabs haven’t been made for a while) Saab behind me with a Portland Saab dealer logo plate on the front indicating that it was likely a test drive. I was confused as to why anyone would want to buy a “new” Saab now. I’d probably pay about a dollar for a Saab since the brand is dead and now apparently service is dead too.

    Does anyone know the status of factory replacement parts for Saab? Especially newer models that might not have much in the way of aftermarket parts available?

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      Brett, last week I bought a genuine Saab part from a well-known indy parts store for my ’04 9-5 Aero. Had it within two days. Prices have gone up some due to constricted supply, but parts are available.

      My understanding is that bespoke parts for the new gen 9-5 and 9-4x will be hard to come by as so few were built. Otherwise, I don’t see any impediments to keeping my 9-5 running well for years to come. I am fortunate to live in the Boston area, which has a lot of Saabs on the road and plenty of Saab indy mechanics to keep them running.

      • 0 avatar
        MCL187

        Can you please recommend some good indy Saab mechanics in the Boston area? I appreicate your help.

        • 0 avatar
          PartsUnknown

          I have been taking my Saabs to RPM Automotive on Comm. Ave in Boston for years, but about a year ago, the owner/head wrench died and they went under. I haven’t tried them yet, but the consensus is that ABJ Auto in Somerville is a great shop. I would also recommend West Quincy Motors in Quincy. If you’re south of Boston, Minot Motors in Marshfield is supposed to be a decent shop as well.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    When times were (relatively) good weren’t re-keyings costing $800? God knows how much they will charge now. Supposedly the rumor mill says keys-soon.

    If I was stuck with one of these things and didn’t want to dump it, I think I would spend the big bucks on a extra key even if I didn’t need one now. Lose or break something the size of your index finger and the car is useless. Great.

    Griffin Up!!!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Someone cracked the tail light lens on my ’02 9-5 wagon. When I checked with the biggest Saab dealer in Metro DC, they told me the entire parts supply system was offline, and they didn’t have one in stock. Eventually, I found one in stock on the Internet through an independent supplier.

    So much for the recommendation of one of the B&B that smart people might check out a Boston area dealership which was liquidating its new Saab inventory for prices starting at $25,000.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      I was one (maybe the one) who suggested that. No way in hell would I do it though. The person in question put a ton of miles on per year (45K?)and would blow through a warranty very quickly. The lack of warranty for that person wouldn’t mean all that much.
      I do believe I had a concern over the emissions warranty.

      Lack of parts is a different story.

      At the end of the day, a car is just a thing.
      I’ve had things rule my life and it sucks.

      All you needed red cellophane (like they use for Christmas popcorn balls) and duct tape. Good to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I saw one in the Boston area with new SAABs for $17K…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    They can’t fix their cars because the internet won’t work?

    Yeesh, todays cars are too dependent are computers.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Yes, it’s basically DRM for the dealer computers, and a perfect example of why DRM stinks.

      My recollection is that Volvo’s software phones home before it will perform any type of software download to a car, but Saab’s must be even worse than that.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    This is a great place to toss out the question:
    Mandatory parts supply availability for 7 years – Myth or fantasy?

    Having said that I DID see a Daewoo on the street, moving!, yesterday.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      My friend used to have a Daewoo Leganza. I’d always say ‘Legaaaaaaanzaaaah!’ when I got in. It was fully loaded. Automatic a/c, hard deep grained leather… It was trouble free though until she traded it. I wish I could have bought it and locked away just so I could take it out in 20-30 years.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ….mandatory availability……..one of the oldest car biz myths around, a totally unenforceable pipedream…….. but dealers and indies will source out parts as long as they keep selling. Diagnostics and internet resets are a whole new ballgame, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        There is some truth to the parts availability thing, if the company is around. Fiat had a parts warehouse and distribution center in darkest New Jersey until at least the early 1990s. Similarly my local Chevy dealer trumpets its authorized Saturn service facility.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    So the fact that the 9-5 was virtually a GM car doesn’t help any? If GM is covering pre sale warranties wouldn’t they have their own database?

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Makes me wonder about the government-backed warranties–what happens when the car can’t be repaired?

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      It gets tricky. I use to own a Ford Probe, which was really a Mazda MX-6 with different body panels. After Ford dumped the Probe, the local Ford dealer discouraged people from trying to buy parts for it…he would quote some outrageous price even for the most common of parts. I started to go to the Mazda dealer instead, the prices were good, just like the prices for all the other Mazda stuff. I once made the mistake of telling the dude behind the parts counter at the Mazda dealer that I was working on a Probe, instead of a MX-6. He looked away from the computer monitor and told me they didn’t have any Ford parts there, and I should go to the Ford dealer, before he turned and walked away.

      Soon after the interwebs came into their own, and that’s how I kept the car running for 250K miles.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …..Mazda parts prices…..I’ve actually found quite the opposite. In my limited experience, Mazda parts prices are among the highest in the industry. As to why any Ford dealer would discourage interchangeable parts sales, what motive could he possibly have?

      • 0 avatar
        87CE 95PV Type Я

        I remember one of my relatives going to the Ford dealer to get Mazda MX-6 parts, but perhaps being in Upstate New York had something to do with that.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        Local Ford dealers did not want to deal with Probe parts only a few years after the car went out of production. Unless you were bringing the car in for repairs, they didn’t want to see you.

        I didn’t mean to imply that the Mazda parts were cheap, only that the local Ford dealer was asking so much for Probe parts, they pretty much stopped anyone for trying to buy such from them.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        I buy parts for the Sidekicks at whatever dealer is handiest – Chevrolet or Suzuki. Some of the parts guys don’t bat an eye, and others damned near make be sign a blood oath that it’s my problem if they aren’t the right item. Which is really funny, because if there is a vehicle MORE badge-engineered than the Sidekick/Tracker/Vitara/Escudo/Sunrunner/Santana/Nomade I can’t think of it. Literally EVERYTHING is cross compatible, although there of course are appearance differences.

  • avatar
    Marko

    I assume that someone will buy the rights to this software – Saab mechanics will need it for their business, and someone could make money off the licensing fees.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So are those cheap SAABs left on dealer lots looking as good as they did yesterday?

  • avatar
    Bobby Peru

    Saab Parts AB will cover the parts supplies, they are not affected by the bancruptcy and in pretty good shape. They just have to switch the processes in the back-end over to Saab Parts – which can be tricky, as we could see when GM and Saab had to seperate their IT-infrastructures… it took more than half a year to re-provide stable access for the partners to the order-system.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I fully expect this to be a temporary state of affairs. The parts business was a most seperate entity from the car-making business, and it was quite profitable. This is a consequense of the bankruptcy proceedings and will probably be sorted out eventually. Too much money to be made to not, there are a LOT of Saabs on the road in the US. After all, I have no problem getting parts for my old Alfa Romeos, and there is NO factory backing for those in the US either.

    So it will suck in the short term, but will eventually get sorted out.

    I agree though, those last new cars are not cheap enough. Especially the 9-5s which are not nearly as closely related to other GM cars as the 9-3s are, and are very thin on the ground.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    A former roommate bought an Isuzu truck, maybe a year and a half after they’d pulled out of the US. Truck was 2 years old, 75K miles, but had what turned out to be MAJOR engine issues. No dealer in the area–even dealers that had previously carried the brand, could access the onboard computers, even though engines were supplied by GM and matched the Chevy/GMC small trucks. According to dealers, “when they pulled out, they took the software with ‘em, and there are differences, so our GM software won’t connect”. Every GM dealer within 50 miles told the same story.
    Nearest authorized “dealer” support was 150 miles away. For a non-driveable vehicle, towing would be covered–but only if the repair were covered by the powertrain warranty; otherwise, it’s owner’s expense. And with no way to diagnose, no way to determine in advance.
    Total nightmare…and a reason to beware of brands that disappear in the night–or that die a long, public death.

  • avatar
    THE_F0nz

    Those 9-5′s are sharp too… I’m going to see if there are any available near me and offer 10K. Potentially Inviting a world of hurt, but when the parts supplies get back in the swing of things it would be a smokin deal… I would probably get my money’s worth if the car lasted 50,000 miles and I parted it out! haha.

  • avatar
    denisk

    Someone at TTAC (or, is it everyone?) enjoys SAAB bashing their skulls are hurting. Not cool! Further, not cool to report erroneous info. Saab did not pull any plugs on anything, it is in bankruptcy proceedings, its receivers busy talking to potential buyers (still). As far as software is concerned, just like any modern car, same applies to SAAB cars as well. Tech 2 computer is required, it is a standalone unit, AND, to access some of the features, like country-specific options, such as DRL, a live license is required as well, only for post-2002 cars though. Now, you guessed it correctly that these licenses are sold and managed by GM, at about $900 per year. So, if anything happened to these licenses, direct your questions to GM! As far as I know, there were no issues whatsoever using Tech 2 as recently as last week. Get a grip, TTAC!

  • avatar
    rem83

    Hrmm, how long until someone figures out how to jailbreak a Saab ecu?

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Don’t know if GM has any credibility here, but if they want to try and play the off-white knight here, the could take over the service parts business and operate it out of Cadillac dealers in USA and Opel dealers elsewhere.

    Today is not too far separated from the time that GM dumped the business, and there probably have not been too many changes to the designs released by GM. So with a supply base that is probably mostly GM, tools that probably still belong to GM, and 99.9% familiarity with the details and design, and ability to firewall themselves from most liability, this would seem like a slam dunk.

    If the don’t totally fukk it up, they might be able to regain some goodwill from former Saab customers, generate a little service revenue for their dealers, and maybe earn consideration from the saabistas when their trusty steeds come due for replacement.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    Same issue again, is European cars unreliable? Here in Sweden even the Saabs are working just fine.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Given how few Saabs are in circulation – particularly from this past year – it doesn’t really matter.

    I’m not sympathetic toward anyone who bought a Saab in 2011. You should at least have assurance that the small manufacturer of your $40k+ car will be solvent after you buy it. This isn’t like Fiat-USA ca. 1983 or GM ca. 2009. Fiat remained in business, albeit not in the US, and GM’s bankruptcy lasted about 15 minutes, which everyone predicted. In this case, you may as well own a Packard.

    Magically, the megadealer near me is down to only 2 new Saabs; they had over 30 just a month ago. I don’t know if they dealer-traded them or just gave them away for a song. Here is their carefully-worded warranty statement: http://www.cochran.com/valued-saab-owners

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      Cochrans wording makes sense.

      You got a warranty issue for a car that was built when GM owned it?
      No problem, (other than parts).

      You got a warranty issue for a car that built when Spyker owned it?
      Pay us for the repair (if we have the parts), save your receipt, and maybe someday you might possibly be reimbursed by Saab NA (which is in the process of locking the doors). Or not.

      These folks are saying the same thing about keeping receipts.
      http://www.fathers-sonssaab.com/saab-bankruptcy-warranty-latest-news.htm

      These clowns have this:
      http://www.mitchellsaab.com/blog/post-list.htm

  • avatar

    From what I have heard it does not affect diagnostics or actual servicing of cars, it means the system isn’t “live” anymore so no further tweaks or updates like the network GM uses since there is still a manufacturer behind it.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……hate to shatter the dreams of anybody reluctantly offering $10k for leftover NEW Saabs, but a quick scan of recent wholesale transactions shows 4 year old 50,000 mile USED 9-5′s trading for $13,000+. Ultra low mile 2011′s fetched 27,000 wholesale as recently as Christmas. Not saying I’d pony up that kind of money, but it’s a huge market out there, and not everybody reads TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      Dvp

      You might take a look at the SAABs United website . A dealer (Shaw, in Mass) is selling off their loaners (generally about 7500 miles) for 50% off msrp or about 15-17k with the highest being a 9-5 for 22k.

  • avatar
    NorthwestT

    I don’t think that’s right Bertel. Did you fact check this? I don’t think the Tech II requires internet access.

    Aside from this, I get the sense you don’t really like SAAB…or is it just saabsunited?

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      The DVD-based part of the system still seems to be in operation, since it apparently doesn’t require online access. Whether this has anything to do with “on board computer” work I don’t know about firsthand. But then knowing things “firsthand” isn’t a requirement for blogging, is it.

      [also noticed that one other bit of news related to the brand, that the Saab Museum has been preserved through a sale and will stay in Trollhattan hasn\'t gotten a bit of mention here yet, even as a followup to the posting of a few days ago--draw your own conclusions from that].

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Your right. Tech-ll is stand alone but needs online access for updates and patches. I can take my 2000 9-5 to the local indy and have my foglights programmed to come on with high beams. No sw patches for this.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      SaabsUnited explains it. Basically, the Internet-based system was redundant, and the necessary information is on CD/DVD.

      http://www.saabsunited.com/2012/01/maintenance-and-parts-not-a-problem.html

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Sadly, this Saab story never seems to end. Okay, “anonymous”, crack those computer codes for the hapless owners of these formerly great cars!

  • avatar
    cfclark

    As I was pulling out of the National Emerald Club a couple weeks ago on my last business trip (in a 2011 Crown Vic, mind you), I noticed a Saab being pulled in to be made available as a rental. I started to park the Vic back in its spot and grab the Saab, having never driven one and thinking this might be my last chance, but I was already in line to leave by that point. So, clearly fleet buyers are snapping these up (along with orphaned CVs and Grand Marquis)and planning to, I don’t know, run the wheels off them with nothing but oil changes. The economics must be working out. I just know that if I see a Saab and a Vic on a rental sales lot sometime next year, I’m far more likely to take a chance on Panther Luuvv than on a Saab.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Ah the internet. Anyone can say anything on it, correct or not.

    Everyone knows that SAAB dealers in N.A. and even SAAB indies and owners all use WIS. CD based system. Buy them on Ebay. Internet service? Why? No ECU/TCM software updates will be available since SAAB was run out of business.

    Sky isn’t falling in this case.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    This was a big reason I sold my Saab, even though my car was really just a Subaru (Saab 9-2x)

    I saw the writing on the wall in 2008 when GM was bailed out, and I knew the masses would not understand that it was a unique case, I didn’t want to take a massive hit on the resale with a brand people would be justifiably scared of. I remember when they “almost” went under and dealers were selling new loaded 9-3 for around $17k in 2008.

    I doubt the aftermarket will find much of a solution for the newer models, there’s just not enough to make a whole lot of money. I could maybe see a few “garage website” type businesses spring up rebuilding and reconditioning Saab parts.

    Just drive it until it doesn’t move anymore.

  • avatar
    jeff_vader

    This thread has caused immense smugness & hypocrisy over at The Church Of The One True Saab. They claim that it is total rubbish and that there is no issue with servicing. They add that as usual this site is full of bitter freelancers who have a grudge against the greatest car brand in the world.
    They are also warning about new members joining their board just to troll in support of TTAC & have banned new membership for a while. THEN, they suggest that people do exactly the same thing on here.

    Note to SaabsUnited.
    Hello. You banned me for making doubting comments about North Street Capital and his ‘attempts’ to buy the company. Remind us, how did that work out? Or like the story which you posted on your site about the leaked SWAN memo of 09 December which claimed Lofalk was out of his depth in juvenile and offensive language, has NSC & all the other Muller appointed would-be saviours been erased from the history of your brand?


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