It has been 25 years since Saab delivered the first batch of Saab 900 Convertibles to the United States. That year, 1986, marked the entry of the Saab Convertible in the US. Since then, three generations and nearly 300,000 units of Saab Convertible have been transferred to the hands of satisfied customers around the world, establishing itself as a global icon for the Saab brand. Indeed, Saab did not start the convertible segment, but its offering played a key role in leading a small and declining market niche.
The Saab Convertible changed how people see four-seater open top motoring by infusing flair and real-world credibility. Likewise, the Convertible's mystique was further boosted by the fact that this car was designed to let occupants embrace the warm weather but it is being assembled in a land covered with snow and ice.
The charm of the Saab Convertible has been its all-season adaptability – which allows it to be driven no matter what the conditions are, whether during rain or shine, any day and any time. In fact, this capability has been a hit in markets in Europe where the weather is not that conducive for top down driving like United Kingdom, Sweden and Holland. In these markets, the Saab Convertible has accounted for up to 50 percent of overall segment sales.
The astounding success of the Saab Convertible for more than 25 years is one of the factors that helped shaped the automotive industry. It provided an inspiration for many carmakers to produce and offer more convertible models. To pay tribute to this two-and-a-half decades of success, Saab is introducing the new Independence Edition Convertible, which is also celebrating the carmaker’s rebirth as independent company. Saab first unveiled the Saab Convertible at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1983 as a 900 concept car featuring a powered soft-top. At the time, most convertibles on the road featured awkward lines, no thanks to the requirements of having to adapt a sedan body shape. On the other hand, the Saab Convertible was beautifully different.
Saab did not have to sacrifice styling just to provide the Convertible with a distinct bespoke design. Its stowed hood didn’t prevent the Convertible from having enough room in the back to comfortably accommodate two adults. The concept was so well-received by the public, press and dealers that taking it into production was the next logical thing to do. However, Saab was thinking twice about committing resources to producing a car that is quite distinct from its other production models.
There was also the need to make sure that a production version has a good build and is made from quality materials. Saab eventually decided to green-light the project, commissioning Finland-based Valmet Automotive, the same coachbuilder that assembled the concept car. The assembly lines went rolling and the first 400 Saab Convertibles were already earmarked for the US. Demand for the Saab Convertible was so overwhelming that orders were placed even without doing a test drive, and dealers had a difficulty in securing demonstrator cars.
Later in 1986, Saab commenced sales of the Saab Convertible in Europe, and at the time, demand was exceeding production capacity. In fact, Saab had a 12-month waiting list. As standard, the Saab 900 Convertible featured a powered roof and leather upholstery. Its four-season soft-top -- featuring three layers – proved to be very durable and weatherproof.
Unlike its segment rivals that have a plastic substitute that is susceptible to cracking and fogging, the Saab Convertible featured a heated, glass rear screen. Moreover, the heater for the Saab Convertible is powerful enough to allow top down motoring even in cold weather.
At launch, the Saab Convertible was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that develops up to 175 hp. Saab then expanded the Convertible range to include full and light-pressure turbo engines as well as more model specifications. Likewise, the range included top-of-the-line Aero variants. In 1992, Saab introduced a new finish for the Convertible – the Monte Carlo Yellow color. In 1993, Saab launched an all-new, 900 range. A year after, Saab introduced the second generation of the Convertible under the banner: “We didn't invent the Convertible, but we made a Saab of it.” The second-generation Convertible as well as its Saab 9-3 evolution (1998) was designed in parallel with its hard-top siblings.
For this generation, the Convertible featured a completely flat rear deck and the soft-top, which was soon to be hydraulically powered instead of electrically powered.
When folded, the soft-top was housed under a flush-fitting 'tonneau' cover. Users could hitch up a soft-top storage well in the trunk to secure more trunk room. Likewise, Saab has made is easier to lock the soft top to the windshield header rail. Almost a decade since the launch of the second-generation Convertible, Saab introduced the current generation soft-top in 2003. This generation features the fastest soft-top operation in the segment and has a self-raising, soft-top storage well – CargoSET. It also features a distinct 'two phase' automatic tonneau movement for faster roof deployment as well as automatic climate control adjustment for a 'top-down' heating mode.
In addition, the third-generation Saab Convertible is endowed with color-keyed interior headlining, distinct Hydroblox water repellent textile seat upholstery. In terms of safety, the present-generation Saab Convertible was the first soft-top car to earn a maximum, five-star EuroNCAP rating, thanks to its 'DynaCage' rollover protection that includes pop-up rear roll bars and integrated front seatbelts. For this generation, power is provided by gasoline, diesel or Saab BioPower turbo engines. Production of the third-generation Saab Convertible is done at the carmaker’s Trollhättan facility.