What Would Bob Sinclair Have Said About All Of This?

Posted on 21. Dec, 2009 by in 2000-2009

What would Bob Sinclair have said about all of this situation with Saab & GM over the last 20 years? This is what automotive news has recently written as a focus on the ongoing situation with Saab with reference to Bob Sinclair, Saab’s former chief in the United States for many years.

Here’s the article referenced below:

If this truly is the end of Saab, maybe it’s just as well Bob Sinclair isn’t around to see it.

Sinclair, who died in May at age 77, made Saab a success in the United States. As head of U.S. operations in the 1980s, he pushed his reluctant Swedish bosses to add content and luxury to their cars.

We forget just how well Saab was doing in this country a couple of decades ago, nearly hitting sales of 50,000 units before the October 1987 stock market crash. Saab was quirky, but also cool.

Think how hard it is these days to take a brand upmarket. You have to marvel at Sinclair, who retired in 1991. In fact, Saab may be the last brand to make a successful transition from downmarket to upmarket — here or anywhere.

In December 1989, General Motors was cash-flush and distressed that it had lost out to Ford in bidding for Jaguar. So GM acquired half of Saab. Several years later, it bought the rest.

You can trace the beginning of the end of Saab to the January 1990 press conference in Trollhattan at which GM was introduced as Saab’s 50 percent shareholder. David Herman, an American GM executive installed as CEO, was perplexed when a Swedish journalist asked him what the Saab brand stood for. I remember that the reporters and Saab employees kept remarking about that.

GM kept getting it wrong in Trollhattan. At first, the U.S. company was too hands-off. So what you got were years of indecision. It took almost 15 years for GM to become serious about leveraging its economies of scale to help slow-growing Saab. Early in this decade, Rick Wagoner finally decided that in trying to safeguard Saab’s brand character, GM had been overly deferential.

So six years ago, GM folded Saab’s independent product development and manufacturing operations into Opel’s. But that didn’t work, either. It seemed as if Saab was never more than an afterthought at GM.

I can’t help thinking that an independent Saab, led by independent thinkers like Bob Sinclair, would have done much better these past 20 years.

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4 Responses to “What Would Bob Sinclair Have Said About All Of This?”

  1. etienne

    21. Dec, 2009

    Late Uncle Bob would be very sad indeed !
    But this story is so true !

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ryan

    21. Dec, 2009


    Thank you!


    Reply to this comment
  3. Kurt W. Krauss

    22. Dec, 2009

    He would have used a few choice words for sure.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Greg Abbott

    22. Dec, 2009

    Bob Sinclair was a consummate gentleman, and while the negotiations were pending I’m sure he would have made only a simple, positive statement in favor of Saab’s continuation via a sale.

    Having said that, you only has to ask what Bob Sinclair would think about Saab’s current predicament in order to imagine, accurately, what his opinion would be.

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