Magazine article Management Today

White-Coated Takeover. (Motor Month)

Magazine article Management Today

White-Coated Takeover. (Motor Month)

Article excerpt

If you told me this was a Vauxhall... my wife said with a wrinkle of distaste in her voice. At the time she was rubbing the part of the SAAB 9/5 that, in the days when tuners were called wirelesses, was a dashboard. She was not much impressed. In matters of surface effect or material substance, Vauxhall is a place you don't go.

Apart from those terrible fringe Asians, Vauxhall is the only surviving brand that has positively negative value. Prestige, sex, delight, comfort, beauty - all the pleasant things a car can deliver - get violently sucked out of the system like the vacuum flush of an Airbus lavatory as soon as you say the V-word. Sad to say, the SAAB has indeed got too much Vauxhall about it, It has the shared ownership of General Motors, the most pea-brained, lead-footed corporation in an industrial jungle well stocked with primitive life forms.

I hate writing that because I really like SAABs. And I like Sweden. How can you not admire a country where cars are called bil and beer is ol? SAAB has a great history, stuffed with image capital that is nowhere near fully realised: whacko rally cars, quirky technology, bonkers design, a proud history of judicious safety innovations, great seats, intelligent ergonomics, first mass-market turbo... all sorts of good stuff to make life more interesting. But since the GM takeover, things have been dull.

I said this when the 9/5 was launched, so I was anxious to try the heavily revised version that became available at the end of 2001. SAAB claims more than a thousand improvements, which might be commendable honesty, but it's lousy PR: Hey, guys, let's crack open an alcohol-free ol: we've only found twelve hundred things to fix!' Yet I am sorry to report that even this portfolio of remorse cannot fully compensate for fundamental shortcomings.

A part of the problem belongs to the product planners who determined a specification for the 9/5 that differentiates it only by inscrutable Heisenbergian quantums from the smaller 9/3. What it costs to manufacture two cars of similar size and specification but with different metalwork I do not know; it must be expensive. True, the 9/3 is a little cramped inside and the 9/5 is reasonably spacious, but the apparent duplication - each has four seats in similar formats - does not inspire confidence. …

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