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Saab owners stage protests

The "Save Saab" campaign was part of a global initiative to protest plans by General Motors to axe the Swedish company.

But Victorian Saab enthusiast Steve Bunton was one of 35 Melbourne owners who rallied at the weekend to show their support for the embattled brand.  There were also similar sized protests in Queensland and South Australia.

The Australian "Save Saab" campaign was part of a global initiative by 30 Saab clubs around the world to protest plans by General Motors to axe the Swedish company if a buyer cannot be found.

In Trollhattan, Sweden, where the 9-3 and 9-5 are built, more than 2000 Saab owners converged on the factory to rally.  Other protests were held in Russia, Britain, North America and Holland.

Bunton says the Melbourne rally was "very positive".  "It was great to be a part of it and the mood was very upbeat.  We'd like to see Saab stay in business."

Bunton, who owns a classic 900 Aero, is a life member of the Victorian Saab club and edits the club magazine.  He believes if the brand can be sold "there's a good chance its future will be secure".

One of the co-ordinators of the global event, Steven Wade, who runs a Saab enthusiast website out of Hobart, said the protest was not one about resentment towards GM.

"There is a lot of passion about Saab so this event is about showing solidarity, not protest," he said.  "But I'm cautiously optimistic a buyer can be found."  Wade says GM "didn't have a clue about Saab".  "It's very frustrating that a board of old people in Detroit will close it rather than sell it," he says. 

GM has been trying to sell Saab for more than a year.A deal with Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg collapsed last month.  Both Bunton and Wade are now hopeful an 11th hour bid by Dutch sports car maker Spyker could save Saab.  They say that if the brand is seen to have support of thousands around the world, a potential buyer may see the value in keeping it alive.

More than 35,000 Saabs have been sold here since 1971.Last year it only sold 663 cars locally because of the global speculation about the brand's future.  The company employs 3400 people in Sweden and about 8000 globally.  It has failed to return a profit since 2001.

However, the brand is on the verge of a big product offensive, with the new 9-5 sedan and wagon due out this year.  A four-wheel drive is also planned and work on the next-generation 9-3 is also believed to be under way.

Saab firsts

  • Pioneered mainstream turbocharging (1977)
  • Ignition in the centre console (1967
  • Headlight washers/wipers (1970)
  • Energy-absorbing bumpers (1971)
  • Heated front driver's seat (1971)
  • Cabin air filter (1978)