What's Next for the Swedes

#Saab, #S60

It made its Swedish charge share platforms with its American and German divisions, along with its short-lived partners at Subaru. In the most heinous betrayal of brand values known to modern man, GM rebadged the wildly un-Saab-like Chevrolet TrailBlazer and sold it as the Saab 9-7X. And then, around the time it declared its own bankruptcy and its newfound reliance on the U.S. taxpayer, GM pulled the plug entirely. With the near-implosion of the world financial system, all attempts to sell Saab failed until the twenty-third hour, when a single hand went up. Tiny Dutch supercar maker Spyker was willing, with significant assistance from the Swedish government, to carry Saab from the bar. Saab's model lineup for the next few years was guaranteed from GM's development pipeline, and against all odds, the first of these, the new 9-5, is with us now.

Volvo had a less bumpy ride when it was bought by Ford -- inarguably, a more sensitive parent -- for $6.45 billion, but wrenching change was also inevitable. The American giant's investment helped bankroll a new generation of modern Volvos, and while the Swedish company managed to lose bags of money on paper, it enabled Ford to make some of its own best current models (the Taurus and the Flex, for instance, both have large amounts of Volvo S80 DNA). But as Ford shed extraneous brands during its Mulally makeover, Volvo was inevitably put on the block. China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd., was the winning bidder. With Volvo's excellent engineering and design capability still intact -- the S60 we're sampling now is one of the Ford gifts that will keep on giving -- its challenges are perhaps less daunting than smaller Saab's. But how will its new Chinese overlords manage its portfolio and considerable talent?

It's been a long, sometimes ugly night. But Saab and Volvo can still be counted among the living. We'll drink to that. Skål!

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