Even as Jason Castriota was designing Ferraris and Maseratis a few years ago while working at the famed Italian studio Pininfarina, he says he never stopped thinking about Saabs.
Maybe that's because he was always around the quirky Swedish cars as a youngster growing up in White Plains, N.Y., and Greenwich, Conn.
"We were a Saab family," Castriota said.
His first car was a 1989 Saab 900, a hand-me-down from his mother.
These days, the 36-year-old Castriota thinks about Saabs for a living. He was named design director of Saab Automobile AB on June 18 -- an assignment he takes on while continuing to run his own independent firm, Jason Castriota Design.
He said his mission is "to create bold, iconic cars again in a very Swedish way -- very clean design, very pragmatic from certain aspects." But, he added, "There was always a passionate and a sporty element to Saab, almost a quirky element."
Under General Motors' ownership, Castriota said, Saab vehicles were watered down and lost their personality. In 2006, Saab's design department was integrated with GM's, and since then the brand has not had a chief designer.