Mark Rutte’s Enthusiasm for Saab Cars and Advocacy for Thriftiness

Mark Rutte: Leading with Simplicity and Saab cars Enthusiasm

Mark Rutte's car adorned with bird droppings—a symbol of his unpretentiousness and commitment to a modest lifestyle. (Photo by © ANP Rutte's car adorned with bird droppings—a symbol of his unpretentiousness and commitment to a modest lifestyle. (Photo by © ANP

Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, is not your typical politician when it comes to his choice of transportation. While many world leaders opt for luxurious cars or private jets, Rutte has shown his enthusiasm for Saab cars and his commitment to a modest lifestyle. He is known for his frugality and non-luxurious preferences, which have earned him the nickname “Mr. Normal” in the Netherlands and international recognition for his down-to-earth approach.

In a recent viral incident, Rutte was spotted arriving at a meeting on the agricultural agreement at Villa Ockenburgh in The Hague in his 16-year-old Saab 9-3 Sport Estate, covered in bird droppings. The images of the country’s leader driving a car covered in bird poop circulated in various media outlets, presenting a rather endearing scene. It’s not every day that you see a world leader in such a situation. Rutte’s simple lifestyle has gained attention both domestically and internationally.

Mark Rutte and his Saab 9-3 OG
Mark Rutte and his Saab 9-3 OG

Rutte’s modesty extends beyond his choice of car. For many years, he used a basic Nokia phone, only upgrading to an iPhone to keep up with the news. He finally made the switch when he found himself in New York, where his old Nokia couldn’t access 4G, and there was no 2G or 3G available. However, his old phone’s limited storage capacity led to the “SMS-gate” scandal in 2022 when it was revealed that he had to regularly delete text messages due to lack of space. Correspondence related to his official duties should not be deleted arbitrarily, leading to criticism and public scrutiny.

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Rutte’s preference for simplicity also reflects in his choice of restaurants. The Indonesian restaurant Soeboer in The Hague was a long-time favorite of Rutte’s. It is not a high-end establishment but offers affordable meals like four skewers of satay chicken for just €7.95. Even when hosting foreign leaders, Rutte takes them to modest restaurants. When French President Emmanuel Macron visited The Hague, their intended restaurant was closed, so they ended up dining at Poentjak, where they could enjoy a Sumatra rice table with twenty dishes for €32.50 per person—a departure from the typical French cuisine.

Mark Rutte in his Saab 9-3 Wagon
Mark Rutte in his Saab 9-3 Wagon

René Bom, a close friend of Rutte and former night mayor of The Hague, attests to Rutte’s unpretentious nature. The two often meet for coffee on the Grote Markt in The Hague’s city center, where Rutte enjoys a yogurt with fruit—a healthy start to the day for a busy leader. Bom describes Rutte as someone who isn’t interested in luxury and compares him to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, emphasizing Rutte’s lack of flamboyance.

Rutte’s unassuming demeanor has been well-documented and even admired internationally. The New York Times profiled Rutte in 2020, noting his ability to stand in line like any other person and his willingness to dance among festivalgoers. They highlighted an incident where he did not visit his 96-year-old mother in her nursing home during the weeks preceding her death, in adherence to the then-imposed Dutch rules regarding COVID-19. Rutte’s behavior did not surprise the public, as they were accustomed to his modesty.

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Gerdi Verbeet of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) remarked that Rutte would never want to be seen as someone trying to gain political advantage from a situation. Diederik Samsom, former member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the PvdA, described Rutte as the most down-to-earth among all European national leaders. Samsom emphasized that Rutte owns only a few personal possessions, has no interest in material possessions, and dedicates himself tirelessly to his work.

Rutte’s choice of an old Saab model, the 9-3 Sport Estate, as his preferred vehicle aligns with his overall lifestyle. Rather than residing in the Catshuis, the official residence of the Dutch Prime Minister, Rutte lives in a modest apartment in The Hague’s Benoordenhout neighborhood. While he occasionally uses a chauffeur-driven official car, Rutte is not hesitant to step out of the vehicle to press a traffic button himself—an act that garnered media attention.

In addition to his love for Saab cars, Rutte has a deep affection for The Hague and its local culture. According to his friend René Bom, Rutte prefers spending time on the Grote Markt, as it reflects the city’s vibrant atmosphere. While there is also a popular square called Plein, Rutte believes that the Grote Markt is for everyone and encourages politicians and new mayors to experience its charm.

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Mark Rutte’s enthusiasm for Saab cars and his dedication to a modest lifestyle have made him stand out among world leaders. His choice to drive an old Saab and embrace thriftiness has become a symbol of his down-to-earth approach. Rutte’s simplicity resonates with the Dutch public and has earned him respect both at home and abroad. In an era of political grandeur, Rutte’s example reminds us of the value of modesty and personal frugality in leadership.

Goran Aničić
the authorGoran Aničić
For over 10 years, Goran Aničić has been passionately focused on Saab automobiles and everything related to them. His initial encounter with Saab cars took place back in 2003 when the first Saab 9-3 and sedan version were introduced. At that moment, he was captivated by the car's Scandinavian design logic and top-notch engineering, and everything that followed stemmed from that first encounter. Later on, through his work at the editorial team of the Serbian automotive magazines "Autostart" and later "AutoBild," he had the opportunity to engage more closely with Saab vehicles. In 2008, he tested the latest Saab cars of that time, such as the Saab 9-3 TTiD Aero and Saab 9-3 Turbo X. In 2010, as the sole blogger from the region, he participated in the Saab 9-5ng presentation in Trollhättan, Sweden. Alongside journalists from around the world, he got a firsthand experience of the pinnacle of technological offerings from Saab at that time. Currently, Goran owns two Saabs: a 2008 Saab 9-3 Vector Sportcombi with a manual transmission, and a Saab 9-3 Aero Griffin Sport Sedan from the last generation, which rolled off the production line in Trollhättan in December 2011.

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