Bob Sinclair, Former President of Saab USA, Dies at 77

'Son of Danger' Raced Cars and Powerboats, Helped Make Brand Known for Performance

By Published on .

DETROIT ( -- Bob Sinclair, the 77-year-old retired president of Saab USA, passed away from cancer May 10.

Mr. Sinclair was the second field sales rep hired in 1958 to recruit dealers for Saab Motors. The Philadelphia native was based in Manhattan as the Swedish automaker prepared for its U.S. rollout. He moved up the ladder to public-relations manager, advertising manager and sales manager before leaving in 1962 to join Volvo as advertising manager. Volvo promoted Mr. Sinclair to VP-marketing in 1978.

He rejoined Saab in 1979 as president of what was then called Saab-Scania of America at a time when it was a shambles, losing money and lacking a brand image. Mr. Sinclair managed to buoy both perceptions of Saab and sales while leading Saab in America from 1979 to his retirement in 1991. In 1990, he oversaw the hiring of Angotti Hedge for Saab's account, which yielded the brand's famed "Find your own road" advertising.

Mr. Sinclair counted as one of his biggest accomplishments persuading Saab management in Sweden to produce a turbocharged convertible in 1982. The car, which made its debut at the Frankfurt auto show in 1986, changed Saab's global image from an econo-box maker to a performance-vehicle manufacturer.

Collecting motorcycles and cars
After his retirement, Mr. Sinclair kept busy as a consultant and member of several boards of directors. He was a longtime amateur car and powerboat racer, and at the age of 75 bought a motorcycle from an owner in Virginia and rode it solo back to his home in Santa Barbara. At one point he had 15 motorcycles and a slew of vintage cars. He also joked that when he retired it was his turn in the kitchen, and he made his own jellies, salsas and pasta sauces, which he shared with friends.

Bill Baker, a longtime friend, said Mr. Sinclair had "a work-hard, play-hard attitude" and was years ahead in adopting casual-dress days. "A racer of a Volvo-powered Baja buggy, off-shore powerboat racer, motorcycle collector, son of danger, freshwater-fish aficionado ... former president of Saab, who presided over more year-over-year sales increases than anyone in that job before or since, has finally crossed the final finish line," Mr. Baker said. "Cancer waved the black flag on Sunday evening, May 10, 2009."

Mr. Sinclair is survived by his wife, Anne, and six children.

Most Popular
In this article: