Daily Podcast: Quintessence

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
daily podcast quintessence

I remember when every liberal Northeast college professor worth his Cyprian latakia drove a Saab. The question is… why? Normally, I live by the Al Reisseian dictate that a brand must stand for one thing, and one thing only. It’s easy enough to identify the USP for most successful car brands. Mercedes = engineering. BWM = driving. Toyota = reliability. Lexus = comfort. Hyundai = cheap. But I can’t for the life of me remember what characteristic typified Saab. Practicality? Handling? No…. Quirky! Huh? WTH does “quirky” mean? Never mind that key between the seats thing. No wait, maybe that IS it. How much satisfaction did a Saab owner get from telling the valet parking attendant “Oh, the ignition’s between the seats.” Knowing (but not saying) that the key positioning was a safety-related “quirk.” Oh wait; college professors don’t use valet parking. But I reckon that somewhere in Saab customers’ collective subconscious they imagined they told a barely post-pubescent car parker where to fit the key. Yes, that’s some complicated shit right there. Which is why no one outside of Sweden could have possibly made the Saab brand a success. GM? Don’t make me laugh. Actually, do. I am genuinely sad to see Saab go. Only thing is, I went through the five stages of grief for Saab more than twenty years ago.

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  • Rudiger Rudiger on Feb 21, 2009

    In years past, SAAB seemed like the sort of vehicle Toytoa might build if they let the engineering department dictate everything, all other considerations (cost, marketing, etc.) be damned. The type of vehicle that engineers would buy when all they were concerned about was getting from point A to point B with the least amount of drama (be it safety, reliability, etc.). A case in point is the ignition switch between the seats thing. Although it sounds logical due to the transmission lock/safety aspect, Toyota would never do it because it would increase the cost and most buyers wouldn't like it since it's so unconventional after a century of the ignition switch being on the dash in nearly all other vehicles.

  • ChuckR ChuckR on Feb 21, 2009

    My brother still has a crescent shaped scar on his knee from 40 years back as a result of said knee meeting the key in the dash. He was in the middle seat. I knew right away what the key location was for in my 99S. The seats were my favorites, probably of all the cars I've had. The hatch and trunk were tremendously practical. The body was designed to not trap winter salt and water and it came from the factory pretty well rustproofed. The dealer was, well, quirky - Wigwam SAAB, wigwam because they started in business selling Indian motorcycles. OTOH I certainly don't miss the 9000CD I bought years later.... I did know a college professor who owned one - I sold him the 99S. An engineering professor, not terribly tweedy, same as could be said of the SAAB owning engineers like me. Thoughtfully designed practical safe cars and economical as long as you didn't spin the turbo up too often.

  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Feb 21, 2009

    Brian E : A really good answer. But you missed the tongue and cheek, the irony, and perhaps my own implicit acknowledgment of branding. Either that or I seriously need more writing lessons. . . . . . "Everyone's a little snobby. Really. Even frugal folks like me are snobby about their frugality. That's why I always shop at Last Chance Thrift Store. It's a great place to buy tires and exercise equipment."

  • Shabster Shabster on Feb 22, 2009

    My guess is that a huge percentage of the faculty identify with Swedish socialism. Thererfore, many, many Volvos and Saabs on campuses.