GENERAL MOTORS is rapidly folding Saab into its European operations. First it combined Opel and Saab product development functions and now it's integrating their national sales companies.
There is also talk of building Saabs at GM plants in North America.
Why did it take so long to do these things? It's not as though Saab just arrived in the General Motors family. GM took management control in 1988.
The American company says it was too hands-off, but is now getting serious about leveraging its vast economy of scale to help slow-growing Saab.
We thought that had been done. Soon after GM took over it began dispatching US executives to Trollhattan. The first 9-3 developed under GM was based on a Vectra.
But GM President Rick Wagoner believes that in trying to safeguard Saab's brand character the corporation has been overly deferential.
"In the end it's got to be a business," says Wagoner. "In choosing between selling more cars and making money today and brand purity we overtrained on brand purity. What we'll find is that we don't have a brand unless we find a reasonable business model.
"Saabs have to be Saabs," he says, "but does that mean they all have to be ground-up engineered in Sweden and produced in Sweden? We don't think so and increasingly nobody else does either."
The trick is to be brand-sensitive while exerting GM's size and strength to get Saab upright.
Almost every big group in the world faces this dilemma. It's the same one that Ford is trying to solve with its own Swedish unit, Volvo, and with its UK luxury marques. But the industry is beginning to change the way it manages this process.
Carmakers always talk about sharing "everything the customer doesn't see" and making everything they touch and feel brand exclusive.
That's easier said than done. But it can be done.
Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman and chief car guy, says the best example may be Fiat's nurturing of Alfa Romeo.
And of course, Lutz is right again.
Alfa wasn't exactly pampered after Fiat bought the company in 1987. In fact you can't really differentiate between Alfa and Fiat in terms of management or industrial infrastructure. Alfa is purely a brand, a state of mind.
Until recently there was no specific executive in charge of Alfa Romeo. It had less executive autonomy within Fiat Auto than Riley has within BMW.
Yet despite its lack of "independence," Alfa has flourished as a distinctive automotive trade name in recent years.
"Alfa Romeo is a great example of how to go about it," says Lutz. "I like to see cars that are aesthetically different and have an entirely different vehicle character, so that the customer experience is entirely different. But the parts the customer doesn't see, such as shared safety engineering or climate control, should be common."
Brand protectorates such as Ford's Premier Automotive Group have formed. But Lutz thinks it's more important to be brand builders than brand conservationists.
Alfa was revived with great packaging and gorgeous design - not with brand bibles, retro styling and total immersion courses on Alfa's heritage. The 146 and 156 created a new generation of Alfisti.
Saab is a test for GM and indeed for the entire industry. Can Saabs of distinction be produced while maintaining a level of commonality with Opels that in former days would be dismissed as badge engineering?
Bob Lutz says yes and that should be good enough for anyone.