除此之外，萨博还背负着另一个“不可承受之重”——它得养活一大帮高薪低能的瑞典工人。据《汽车新闻》（Automotive News）报道，在上世纪90年代执掌过萨博的戴夫•赫尔曼曾经说道：“健康漂亮的小伙子们都可以从医生那里弄来一份证明，然后骑着摩托，载着女朋友去湖边或什么地方。日常旷工率高达18%。”另外公司的生产率也十分低下，质量也惨不忍睹。在咨询公司J.D. Power历年发布的汽车初始质量排名中，萨博历来排名接近垫底。
The news that Saab Automobiles filed for bankruptcy has spurred the usual round of breast-beating, finger-pointing, and name calling.
Automotive traditionalists are understandably upset that a brand with a long and storied history like Saab has wound up on the financial chopping block. The disappearance of a boutique automaker is like the extinction of a species -- its like will never be seen again. Saab will be as dead as the dodo.
Most of the blame for Saab's failure is being laid at the feet of General Motors, which bought a half-interest in Saab in 1990 and then the rest of it a decade ago.
GM, the critics say, didn't understand Saab. They weren't properly appreciative of its history and heritage, diluted its brand integrity by merging it into GM's production system, and failed to support it financially or managerially.
In fact, I would argue that Saab would have expired years ago had not GM taken it under its wing two decades ago. The reason is simple: Saab was simply too small to survive in its current configuration. At a time when German luxury makers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW make more than one million cars a year, Saab never sold more than 140,000 cars a year. Even Volvo made two or three times that many cars. Low production is fatal, because the auto industry is all about economies of scale. Trying to amortize the expenses of new model engineering, not to mention increasingly stringent safety and emissions technology, requires accounting gymnastics that are all but impossible unless volumes reach the hundreds of thousands.
The future was bleak. Saab was destined to remain small because its appeal was so narrow. While its owners may have reveled in being described as "quirky," their image never extended much beyond that of the corduroy jacket, Earth shoe wearing English professor -- not a broad base from which to build. Other European brands -- notably Audi -- did a better job of expanding their appeal.
Saab bore another burden that was unbearably heavy: its base in high-wage, low output Sweden. As Dave Herman, who ran Saab in the 1990s, was quoted as saying, most recently in Automotive News: "Beautiful, healthy young people could get a doctor's certificate and then hop on their motorcycle with their gal and go off to a lake somewhere. The daily absenteeism rate was 18%." On days when Saab employees came to work, productivity was poor and quality abysmal. Saabs historically ranked near the bottom of J.D. Power's initial quality ratings.
The combination of factors would have soon made it difficult for Saab to remain a viable proposition without GM's help. GM tried to ameliorate its problems by installing American managers, moving some production to Germany, and integrating its parts buying and engineering with Opel. It had some notable successes. It developed what was probably the best 9-3 ever.