I was just reading an article in the Swedish paper Dagens Industri about the design director of Saab, Bryan Nesbitt. Or not really the official design director, he holds the title Executive Director GM Europe design and through that he gets the responsibility for both Saab and Opel (and American car brand Saturn for some reason).
The design director talks about Scandinavian design values. We should know that he once designed a not that smart and good looking car, the Chrysler PT Cruiser. According to me it is everything but design based on subtle Scandinavian traditions and design trends. It’s design based on vulgarity. Like something out of a cartoon.
This fact makes me a little nervous. Because I like Saab. I’m actually driving a Saab myself. It is one of the few car brands that still hasn’t ended up in the undistinctive swamp of streamlined standardisation. More or less all cars look the same today. When I was small an Audi was an Audi and a BMW was a BMW. Even Opel had an identity back then… What’s good with Saab today is that they still have a recognisable shape.
Design has always been important for Saab. To me it is a mystery why Saab doesn’t try to grab and own the category of “design” in the car industry. The design category is still vacant and would give Saab a strong identity side by side with those of “safety” for Volvo, “driving” for BMW, “luxury” for Lexus and “reliable” for Toyota. Today Saab as a brand is somewhat suffering inside the GM family and a stronger identity based on Scandinavian aesthetics could verify the position of Saab in the premium segment. To be able to survive in the noise of the market it is all about narrowing the category. Saab has an history of being a challenger and provocateur. They should definitely continue down that lane.
Time will tell if Bryan Nesbitt will be able to develop the unique Saab design DNA and help the brand into a new and prosperous era.