The hockey stick and the future

One of the most notable aspects of modern Saab design has been the “hockey stick”. It’s that classic curve from the base of the rear passenger window that looks a little like a Nike swoosh. It’s loved by most and a distinctive feature on all of Saab’s vehicles (bar the 9-5 wagon and even that’s questionable) since the late 1960s.

It started with the Saab 99:

Saab 99

Gained more noteriety with the Saab 900:

Saab 900

And carried through to the Saab 900/9-3…..

Saab 900SVO

And the Saab 9-5.

Saab 9-5

Recently, though, things have changed a little and there’s been some concern voiced over it, too. It don’t remember much being said a few years ago when the Aero-X was shown. It was such a far-out concept that there wasn’t much you could do but say “wow”.

That all changed with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid. Whilst the Saab 9-4x concept retained some semblance of a hockey stick, the 9-X BioHybrid has what some have referred to as a “reverse hockey stick” – where the angle of the rear window extends out past 90 degrees instead of curving back toward the B-pillar. I guess there were so many comments because unlike the Aero-X, this is a car that could see production.

Saab Aero-X

Saab 9-X BHC

Given that there’s been a bit of conjecture about it, I thought I’d pose the question to one of Saab’s designers, Anthony Lo.

Anthony is the head of advanced design at GM Europe, he’s been working at Saab for years now and is all over everything to do with that’s going on with Saab right now.

His comments were as follows:

Design cues like the ‘Reversed Hockey Stick’ play a vital role in the design identity of the Saab brand but cues are not something one can copy/paste on every new concept. In general, we must question whether certain design cues are fitting to the overall design concept especially in 3-dimentional form. The C-pillar treatment is part of the side glass graphic or DLO (Day Light Opening).

Designers use DLO to create a visual balance between glass and body (proportion) and to define the attitude of a car. In my opinion, the reversed hockey stick simply does not work with a near upright rear end inspired by the original 9X. We decided that the Aero X inspired DLO is the best solution we can offer.

The 9-X BioHybrid rear end maybe polarizing but it is unmistakably a Saab!

So there you have it – right from the source!

Personally, I think it works and works well. This is a new era, and I’ll take all the Aero-X cues they want to dish out. The 9-1 should stay as faithful to the 9-X concept as possible. As Anthony said, it’s unmistakably a Saab.

32 thoughts on “The hockey stick and the future

  1. Once again, excellent work, Swade!!

    Mr. Lo is spot on as well. If the traditions work, so much the better. However, if the traditions dictate, you run the risk of eliminating worthy options.

  2. One of my first thoughts on the 9-X BHC was about this. But then I liked the overall design and didn’t thought of it more until someone here did a photoshop of the 9-X BHC with a hockey stick. And to me, that didn’t work at all for that car. So I agree with Mr. Lo. It’s a vital part of Saab design identity, but should be used wisely. I don’t miss it at all on the 9-X BHC.

  3. I agree with Mr. Lo also.
    And a little nitpicking. Look at a hockey stick, and you’ll see that what saabophiles have been calling a “hockey stick” on the 99/900/9-3 is actually a “reverse hockey stick”. The 9-X BHC has a normal “hockey stick” and is the first Saab I’ve ever seen with one.

  4. It works on the 9-x, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it DOESN’T work on the Aero X The Aero X has a great front and rear end, but the whole window treatment is a big weakpoint imho.

    I don’t really mind the 9-x not having the hockeystick, as it’s a body style that Saab has never offered before. If they ditch the upright back end of the concept for something more sloped, then the reverse hockey stick will be a must for the production car.

    The way I see it, the hockeystick rear window is to Saab design what the Hoffmeister kink is to BMW’s, a quintessential design cue that needs to be retained as part of the design language of the car.

    So, that said, I think it’s a must on all Saab sedans, Wagons, and 5-door hatches.

  5. saabyurk you are right – the hockey stick is better seen on the 9-x. the older versions at best resemble a field hockey club or a garden hoe or something.

  6. Yurk: All those years I thought that the “hockey stick” was oriented with the handle on the roof of the car with the blade being the “C” pillar! Only recently did I understand that people were referring to it the other way, and it IS a reverse.

    Funny how your vision and your brain work — the newer concepts look “Saab”, but they are a departure, if only in orientation.

  7. Alex, I’m with the guys here, as eggs said, the past cannot dictate the future – if it did we would never have gotten a 900 hatch from a 99 2 door sedan or indeed a 99 from a 96.
    Saab has always cherished its heritage, but never been a hostage to it – I suspect if funds hadn’t been so tight for the past 20 years, we would have seen much more radical solutions to daily transport from Saab that might have made them a more robust dynamic company than they have been able to be recently.

    Change – bring it on – the true core Saab features are safety, safety, comfort and fun.

  8. I’m with Alex on this one.

    While I like the Aero-X, the rear-side glass is a weak point. Anthony said that the glass treatment on the 9-X BHC was due to the rear profile of the car. I’ll buy that 100%. However, the Aero-X doesn’t have a square-end.

    I like the side glass on the 9-X more than the Aero-X.


  9. Very neat article Swade. Inspired me to create a Wikipedia article about this styling cue seeing how there already was an entry on the Hofmeister kink. Added this page as a reference, too. ;)

    As for reversing the hockey stick, I do like it and I think it looks great on the 9-X BioHybrid. Design features are meant to evolve together with automotive styling in general, and I think reversing the stick is a nice nod towards the classic era of Saabs.

  10. Kroum, nice wiki article but it has grammar errors :) .. and a picture would be nice!

    Completely agree with Mr. Lo’s comments as well. The 9-X bio hybrid is definitely a Saab, no matter what saaby features from the past it has or does not have.

  11. Um, hockey sticks aren’t shaped like that. Nike swooshes yes, but hockey sticks…no. Hockey stick:
    It’s an obtuse angle, not acute one. Even A. Lo got messed up in his comment calling the old signature swoosh the “reverse” hockey stick. Anyhow, the 9-X BH and Aero-X have a proper hockey stick going the length of the car glass (excuse me DLO) and up as opposed to the roof of the car and down. Case closed, now you can all be happy.

  12. Maybe we should call the new one the Ice Hockey Stick?

    Here in the land of the gold-medal-winning Kookaburras (our national hockey team) a hockey stick is what you ‘Mericans would call a field hockey stick. Must have been the same with whoever coined that phrase (maybe a Dutchman?)

    Jeff, I think Anthony’s reference was due to the wording of my question, hence the first line might read as a little strange in this context.

  13. PGAERO and Alex – i agree with you.

    -If the past shouldn’t dictate the future, then why do we have ANY Saab design cues then?
    -Why is the griffin even “special”?
    -Why is it that Saab fans continue to whine and moan over GM’s handling of the the company since day one, and the way they design the cars?

    I got an idea! how about Saab just get rid of the 3 port grill, soft lines, Airplane on the grill, the griffin, interior layout, easy controls, never ending lines, wrap around hood, 3 spoke steering wheel, jet design language, and everything else “saaby” and swap it with something else since the “traditions shouldnt dictate the future”.

    f-in ridiculous

    Ronald: Do you read English? Really READ English? If so, you no doubt noticed the part about the “if traditions work, so much the better” that actually preceded the part about dictating the future. It is a matter of degree, not a either/or situation. If that’s “f-in ridiculous”, then you aren’t exactly debating the merits of the design features, you’re simply arguing for argument’s sake. EnG

  14. The Aero x Door/roof opening led to the line on the c pillar going the oposite way (easy to open and allows for a large opening). If it had a traditional (saab reverse hockey stick) it would have created some problems. As for the glass step in the door, its purpose was mainly to make it obvious that this was no normal door, make an interesting graphic and also allows a little more light in.
    There have been images of the car with a reverse hockey stick and without the step in the door, and it doesnt actually look that bad, BUT it does look a lot older/not so modern.

  15. Hockey Stick ?
    Production model should appear on TopGear (when did we see the last saab on that programm ?).
    Screenplay is already tested with less distinct cars. Like in all entertainment, they just have to adapt the dramatic plot a little:

    like here:
    or here :

    Altough with xwd on icy surfaces in the pipeline for more models & the salomon-connection, the bobcat-feature is more trendy than the old hockey thing … The stopping power and groundforce regenerated by the movable spoiler in my opinion a much hotter item. Think Bobcat instead of hockey.

    Believe it or not, we saabist have something in common with the bimmers out there, they are also discussing the infamous Hoffmeister-knik in the same way we are contemplating the hockey-stick, which is about the shape of the little curve at the C-pillar…

  16. Ronald,

    All these attributes of Saab that you mentioned are the product of Saab’s values, not the definition of it. While all of the attributes may not change, some will, and they have – but the most important thing is that Saab doesn’t…and as long as they don’t, the vehicles they make will still be undeniably Saab, no matter what attributes they have or do not have.

  17. wow, the paint-stripping on the 99 really articulates the “hockey-stick” design. (now, i can go back and read the rest of the post.)

  18. there’s no confusion in my mind that the 9-x, bh, is all saab, at least looks the part. and the profile, towards the rear, reminds me of a hockey stick at a “relaxed” angle. cool.

  19. Congratulations Mr. Lo, the 9-X BH basically works. If there was too much Aero-X in the nose of a small car it would have looked too heavy, but you got it right and it’s okay. I think it needs a clamshell hood. Please no more tooing and froing on this! It’s either a Saab styling cue or it isn’t?

    I love the curved windscreen- very Saab.
    I’m not too worried which way the ‘hockey stick’ bends but the width of the C pillar is too great at the moment. Also the shape of the hatch and it’s angle needs a little refinement especially if the pop up spoiler isn’t a production reality. I also tend to agree with Bob Sinclair’s comment about the slope of roof as well.

    As Bob said, this can all be fixed up for production. At the moment there is a tad too much “AMC Gremlin” in the shape of the rear, and that’s not a good good thing.

    All in all there’s the basis for a very good car in the 9-X BH. Please can we see a 9-1 prototype by the end of the year?

  20. That C-pillar looks to me like the pillar of the Peugeot 207 Sw , Peugeot 407 SW, Kia Cee’d sw, Sangyong Rexton or Citroen C2.

  21. Swade ,

    Are you sure that the hockey stick started with the 99?

    I ask because if you look at the revised 96 that rear side window shape (which was new and different to teh 92/93 shape) has a run through and curve up that really hints at the 99s rear side window shape- doesn’t it?

  22. I have to say I don’t have anything wrong with the reverse hockey stick personally, as it looks cool, it wouldn’t have been a method which I would have have used when designing the 9-X, but it really works and advances the Saab brand, which is what we need, because if they don’t then we’ll end up with 2 or 3 generations of cars which have all the same rear cornerstone design, which could get a bit stale after a while.
    Anthony Lo and Saab Design need to advance the brand forward, and I think that this feature does that, its evolution of a trait, not getting rid of one althogether. Coming up with ideas like that is one of the reasons he’s a designer and we’re not…. well yet :D

  23. Eggs:
    Reread post. comment still valid.

    “If the traditions work, so much the better. However, if the traditions dictate, you run the risk of eliminating worthy options.”

    Who are YOU to judge and dictate if the traditions work. Are you an industrial designer? are you a specific CAR designer?
    All you and I are, are consumers, either you buy it or you dont, there is no fence sitting in this game, and no time to drive something you dont like.
    And it absolutely IS “f-in ridiculous”. Saab is in the business to sell cars. if you can’t work out “worthy options” while having your “traditions” then we certainly have a problem. Perfect example- BMW and Volvo. Volvo does a terrible job of the above. In the Ford years, the box shape has been gone since forever, and now they seem like an entirely new car company, there is BARELY ANYTHING original left of them.
    BMW on the other hand, kept their ugly bland gauges since the beginning of time, and the motor press praises them like it is the best think to come out since vehicles themselves.

    Point being: BMW moves forward with their design cues and history, yet they still coincide with the way technology and new design technology evolve. with Saab, it seems as if we have a set number of design cues we can have or something, as if we cant add any on. This is not the case with BMW, or even Mercedes to an extent.

    And yes, i can read. REALLY READ! I just wish you could do the same. You asking and getting all bent out of shape was really rude, to say the least. At least i kept my post related to cars, you talking about me reading and xanax and everything inbetween has nothing to do with cars, and this CAR BLOG in general.

    not being at all mean or disrespectful, just pointing out whats on my mind.

  24. Ronald:

    Once and for all: My post pointed out that Mr. Lo was right: keep all the traditions that you can, but don’t let them dictate a path that doesn’t allow for all worthy options.

    That is, Mr. Lo and I see that traditions are good, but shouldn’t be overriding.

    You, on the other hand, called my post “f-in ridiculous” while spewing about how my post advocated iconoclasty, which it didn’t.

    You call ME rude? You drop the f-bomb on me and it’s my fault? I don’t think so. I think that you got as you gave. If you call someone out, be prepared to take the backlash.

  25. Maybe Mr Lo is clever and has some good grades, but is he so damned right with the DLO (I love this term) which can be seen on such a high number of production cars today? Kias, Toyotas, Peugeots, Suzukis…. they all got it. And now Saab follows suit.

  26. no, no, no,
    I never called your post “f-in ridiculous”, I was stating that losing all of Saabs (little) individuality and taking all those things that i stated away from Saab would be “f-in ridiculous”. And I certainly stand by that.
    Perhaps you should have inquired to what was “f-in ridiculous” instead of assuming. because you know what they say about people who assume… :)

    but I digress, I do apologize to you if you felt at all offended, and to anyone at TS, just for the sake of the atmosphere in this place, and Saab hopefuls out there.

  27. no, no, no,
    I never called your post “f-in ridiculous”, I was stating that losing all of Saabs (little) individuality and taking all those things that i stated away from Saab would be “f-in ridiculous”. And I certainly stand by that.
    Perhaps you should have inquired to what was “f-in ridiculous” instead of assuming. because you know what they say about people who assume… :)

    but I digress, I do apologize to you if you felt at all offended, and to anyone at TS, just for the sake of the atmosphere in this place, and Saab hopefuls out there.

    besides, f stands for…fishing :)

  28. Have any of you noticed that the hockey stick shape is actually a reverse hockey stick? I would certainly hate to play with a hockey stick shaped like the one on any 99. It’s shaped like a “7″. That would be awkward.

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