The final years of Saab were pretty grim. General Motors, owner of the beloved Swedish carmaker since 2000, was hit hard by the Great Recession, began making noises about selling Saab in 2008, then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Saab sales in the United States cratered, but it was still possible for brave car shoppers here to buy new 9-3s and 9-5s for the 2010 and 2011 model years. Here’s one of those cars, which was purchased after everyone knew Saab was doomed, found in an appropriately gloomy, frostbitten Denver-area self-service boneyard.
The memories of what happened to buyers of new Lanoses, Nubiras and Leganzas after Daewoo Motor America went bankrupt and was not bought by GM (they ended having Manny, Moe and Jack designated to handle their warranty claims and the resale values of their cars plunged to near-scrap figures) were still vivid in 2010/2011 and Saab models of the immediate past had included hastily rebadged Subaru Imprezas and Chevy Trailblazers, but the Saab name remained sufficiently beloved to get a few thousand buyers to sign on the line which is dotted.
I still find plenty of Saabs during my junkyard travels, including some dating back to the quirky early days, but a decline-and-fall-era 9-3 or 9-5 had remained elusive until now. In theory, some 2012 models were titled in the United States (including the near-mythical 9-4X) but I was happy enough to find this ultra-rare ’11. Some 2012 models were assembled for Swedish sale from stockpiled components in 2014, believe it or not.
There was talk in 2009 of Koenigsegg buying Saab, but that fell through. Spyker ended up buying the company from GM in 2010, then failed to arrange a joint venture with a Chinese partner. In December of 2011, Saab filed for bankruptcy. The Saab story continues after that, but all of it is as depressing as a Swedish goth-metal cover of an ABBA song and we won’t get into the details here.
The second-generation (2003-up) 9-3 was based on GM’s Epsilon Platform, with the Opel/Vauxhall/Holden Vectra its closest corporate relative. Its US-market platform-mates included the Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS.
Here’s the radio that went into vehicles throughout the far-flung GM Empire around the end of the 2000s. That AUX jack came in handy during the early iPhone era.
This one has a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec straight-four, rated at 210 horsepower and 221 pound-feet.
A six-on-the-floor manual transmission was available in some 9-3s for 2011, but not in the all-wheel-drive versions. This one has a six-speed automatic.
The MSRP for this car was $32,395 ($45,123 in 2024 money), but desperate Saab dealers were eager to deal as the guillotine blade whooshed ever closer to their necks and it’s nearly certain that this car sold new at a substantial discount.
Did its owner or owners get the last laugh? We can’t know.
Never stop believing.
Saab was indeed born from jets… jets such as the Saab 29 “Flying Barrel” and the Saab 21R.