Bob Sinclair, the American marketing executive who pushed Saab to design more luxurious cars and created one of the Swedish automakers most iconic vehicles -- the 900 Convertible -- died Sunday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 77 years old.
In the 33-year span that ended in 1991, Sinclair worked for either of Swedens automakers -- Saab or Volvo -- in the United States. Sinclair started with Saab in1958 as a field representative. He jumped to Volvo in 1961, unhappy with Saabs plan to move its U.S. headquarters to Connecticut. Sinclair returned to Saab in 1979 to lead the U.S. operation, Saab-Scania of America.
In the early 1980s, Sinclair was pushing Saab to add more content and luxury to its cars so he could move the brand upmarket in the United States and boost profits. But Saab execs in Sweden were focused on building more-affordable cars.
It was a clash of those goals that provided the spark for the 900 Convertible. As recounted in an AutoWeek article in 2006, Saab pushed Sinclair to take 1,000 units a year of the two-door 900. Sinclair could equip the cars as he wanted -- and his list of demands included a convertible top.