Originally an aircraft and defence company, Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, Saab diversified into car manufacture in the 1940s. The first model, the Saab 92, had clear aircraft inspiration, launching in 1949. It had a very low drag coefficient of 0,30, a figure that only began being commonplace in the 1980s.
In 1990, with financial difficulties, GM purchased 50 per cent of Saab, with the remainder falling under the ownership of the American company in 2000.
Continued difficulties saw GM introduce non-Swedish Saab models such as the Subaru-based 9-2X and the 9-7X SUV, built in Japan and the US respectively. R&D was moved to Opel in Rüsselsheim, while Trollhättan, the traditional home of Saab, made Cadillacs for the European market.
With GM facing bankruptcy in the US in 2008, Saab was put up for sale. Koenigsegg, which had been prepared to buy the company, pulled out of the deal, and Spyker and Beijing Automotive (BAIC), also bidders, found the proposition unappealing. (BAIC, however, bought the intellectual property rights to two Saab models, and some powertrain technology and tooling.) At the end of 2009, GM announced it would wind up the company, but a last-minute revised offer from Spyker was ultimately successful. Spyker took control of Saab in February 2010.
In 2011, with financial problems mounting, including an inability to pay its staff, and Chinese investment delayed, Saab production dwindled, then ceased. Promises of a purchase from two Chinese firms emerged in October, but they, in turn, vanished as GM, still the owner of certain Saab technologies, vetoed any potential sale.