Call me melancholy, but it’s truly a Saab story

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DETROIT -- All I could do was wistfully think of what could have been as I drove behind a Saab 9-3 sedan on the freeway this morning.

See, I almost bought a Saab 9-3 in 2008. I had driven a redesigned 9-3 earlier that year and I loved it. General Motors still owned the brand then. I remember discussing Saab with GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. Our mutual fondness for the brand prompted Lutz to call Saab vehicles “neat.”

Today Saab is anything but neat. Frankly, it’s a mess.

Saab teeters on the edge of existence. To make matters worse, Consumer Reports magazine today released its review of the midsized luxury brands.

It called the redesigned Saab 9-5 “disappointing” saying it fails to measure up to competitors. The magazine said, “Despite its excellent fit and finish and fairly nimble handling, it has a noisy four-cylinder turbocharged engine, a stiff ride, impaired visibility and relatively slow acceleration.” It scored too low to be recommended.

Still, I had another chance to buy a Saab this afternoon. I was chatting with a long-time Saab dealer. He told me he has two Saab vehicles left on his lot, then half-joked that one of them could be mine. I considered it for a moment. Then I declined. He sarcastically reassured me he’d sell them -- in the next 10 months.

Many consumers don’t want to buy Saab vehicles with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the brand’s future, this dealer says.

But there are still a few of us who have a twinkle in the eye for a Saab vehicle.

After all, this same dealer had five Saabs on his lot just a few months ago.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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