In some ways, the writing was on the wall a couple of weeks ago when GM vice chairman Bob Lutz assured the world that there would always be a place for Saab in the GM brand portfolio.
To many, it must have seemed a kiss of death, like when New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner said Billy Martin would be the Yankees' manager for life ... right before he fired him for the first time (Steinbrenner got to fire Martin a few more times, too).
GM's European production decision means Saab's Trollhattan assembly plant is guaranteed to have work for only five more years. After that, who knows?
I visited with Augustsson last week on the Saab stand in Geneva, just a couple of days before GM dropped the bomb on Trollhattan.
As usual, he was affable and upbeat. Saab had just pulled the wraps off the 9-3 Combi station wagon, of which Saab will sell about 4,000 copies a year in the United States and which eventually will get an all-wheel-drive version.
Considering Saab's fortunes in the GM era, it must have been a strain to always be so upbeat. Augustsson is a true Swede who worked very hard trying to be a good steward for one of Sweden's industrial assets. But despite investments by GM, Saab has struggled and incurred heavy losses.
Saab's place in the GM family looks even less secure following Augustsson's departure because he won't be directly replaced. Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, will take on the duties of chairman of the board for Saab Automobile AB and Jan-Ake Jonsson becomes managing director of the Saab brand.
With no separate CEO and maybe without its own assembly plant in Sweden, Saab would be just another GM brand - like Buick and Pontiac -- without an ancestral home.
And if Saab's new stewards can't make the Swedish brand profitable, it may suffer the same fate as Billy Martin and Oldsmobile.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]