In Defense of "In Defense of Saab"

in defense of in defense of saab

Before I respond to Steven Wade’s article “In Defense of Saab” and the resulting comments, I want to say a few words about the medium of discourse: the automotive blog. A few years ago, when automotive blogs first appeared, I was thrilled that I could comment on objectionable opinions. The ability to lodge instant feedback instantly rendered car magazines an anachronism. Or so I thought. After a month of commenting, I reread my previous posts. I was shocked by what I found. My comments were filled with hearsay evidence, unfounded opinions, attacks on cars I had never owned and a general prevalence of bullshit.

Most dictionaries define the word “bullshit” as a lie. Bullshit is not a lie. A liar is a person who misrepresents the truth in an effort to convince another person of a falsehood. A bullshitter can be stating a truth or falsity; it is not the statement but their intentions which they misrepresent. Bullshitters are not concerned with what is true or false. They’re concerned with how convincing their statement appears. A bullshitter will say anything if it will help them to achieve their goal.

One of the more prevalent forms of bullshit in our modern society is a statement or series of statements in which a person misrepresents themselves so as to be perceived in a more knowledgeable light. Automotive blogs are suffused with this kind of bullshit. Not to put too fine a point on it, The Truth About Cars is a website in which the editors and commentators are locked in a never ending cycle of unsubstantiated opinions and predictions presented as fact.

I read one automotive blog daily: Trollhattansaab.net . It’s written, moderated and published by Steven Wade, author of the Saab article that brought me to this site. In many ways, Trollhattansaab.net is no better than any other automotive blog in its output of bullshit. Mr. Wade is neither an engineer nor a member of the automotive industry. His information is often second hand. And although he is quick to point out the flaws he finds with Saab cars and the company, his opinions in regard to other brands are biased and largely unfounded.

I read Trollhattansaab.net in order to explore the main question that Mr. Wade often contemplates on his site. How does a brand that currently sells under 160k vehicles a year attract enough passionate owners that Trollhattansaab.net receives well over 5k unique visitors per day? Why is it that Saab drivers are so passionate about being Saab drivers?

I do not have the answer, and neither does Mr. Wade. However, on his site you will find thousands of comments from Saab owners describing why they love and occasionally dislike their cars. These statements are fact. They are real. They are based on years of owning Saab products. And these are the comments which should make up the majority of automotive blogs. Comments from owners about their experiences with their vehicles– and their vehicles only– are the only comments of value.

If I were asked to write an article on Saab for The Truth About Cars, I would not fill it with predictions, hopeful opinions or a detailed look at the company’s historical innovations. If this website is really The Truth About Cars, I would write the following:

The truth about the 1999 Saab 9-5 Wagon is that in eight years mine has never needed a single repair. I’ve never encountered a couch it could not carry, nor experienced weather too dangerous to drive through. In my 1999 Saab 9-5 Wagon, I feel confident and safe. And best of all, when there is no one on the road and I jam the accelerator into the floor and hear that turbocharger spool up as it flings me around the bend, I smile.

It is a Saab but also heavily influenced by its parent company GM. Does that make it a worse car? No. Does it matter to people who evaluate cars not on performance or design but based on biases about a company? Yes. To summarize: if automotive blogs are to be of any value to consumers or manufacturers then their editors and commentators have to reconsider why they are writing. Is it to present an unfounded opinion about a car they took for a quick test drive? Would it not be better if the reviewer presented just the empirical facts about the car, and left the first impressions for the consumer to form on his own?

Consumer Reports’ recent announcement that bias had influenced the reliability ratings of certain vehicles may trigger a change in that publication, from opinionated and biased car reviews, to the principles the publication was founded on: providing scientific testing of consumer products. I urge the editors and readers of this blog to follow suit.

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  • Sammy Hagar Sammy Hagar on Oct 31, 2007

    "I couldn’t even find a damned K&N drop in intake for it." My thoughts exactly: No K&N, no Tornado, no decent deer whistles, no Ebay chip mods, nothing. What's the point of buying a car if you can't pimp it out w/aftermarket junk?

  • Chronoguy Chronoguy on Nov 02, 2007

    stimpy on October 24th, 2007 at 4:02 on wrote" I defy anyone to drive a 9-3 and an A4 back to back, for example, and come away thinking the Saab the better car. " Well, we just bought a 07 SPORTCOMBI wagon so I'll comment on this thread.. I tested all the cars. Passat, a4, a3 wagons. The a4 may be a better driver car but the Saab was the best deal out there. It had the biggest cargo volume, highest MPG, and highest safety scores. This was terribly important for my wife who is several months pregnant. Cargo volume alone was the deciding factor. At $25K (after rebates/discounts), nonething touched it. You can't get an Accord or Camry that had all the luxury trimmings - xeons, leather, real wood, real aluminum trim (some cheap plastics), powered seats, 17" alloy wheels, 210 HP engine for that price. Our dealer took in our old Saab for what we practically paid for. The old car was banged up and needed body work damages yet they were so desperate for sale that they took it in. I never had a resale experience like that before. Imagine driving a car for 1 1/2 years with 12K miles and $2,000 worth of body damage. The dealer offers you $1,000 less than what you originally paid for. That is freaking insane. GM ownership is a good thing. If we drive this car for 2-3 years and can get $16K for it in 2009, I'm all for it and will pick up another Saab. I'm not keen on its styling or looks but I now understand the "sabbness" The drive is acceptable. But hey, I will have my 1st child and the IHS top rating for Saab is more important to me than feel, soul or whatever. I'd pick the Audi if I was single and childless.

  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
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