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Snippets – Wrapping up the Saab Festival

July 21, 2010 in Saabology

It’s our last day in Sweden and internet access in England for the next week might be sketchy (we’re staying at a home owned by extended family and I don’t know what access they have and they won’t be there to tell me). So I figured I’d better do a summary entry on things that transpired at the Saab Festival in 2010.

Before I do that, however, perhaps I should mention that this isn’t our last Saab event for this trip. That’ll be the Saab Owners Club GB annual get together in Bath on Saturday – hurrah!

This Festival was quite a bit different to the last one. Back in 2007, no-one really knew who I was and I could move around quietly, gather some info and report on it quite quickly.

Not so in 2010. I spent the lion’s share of my time meeting people, which was absolutely fantastic, but made any real productivity that bit harder.

A couple of other people I met who probably haven’t been mentioned in an entry yet include Niklas Palm – whose design work has featured on the site from time to time, and David Blumberg – singer/songwriter of Griffin Up!

There were numerous others as well, all of whom were great to talk to.

The Spyker presentation laid out one point that I thought was quite interesting and very appropriate for Saab. The presenter stated that there are certain things that customers will always get in a Spyker. These things are non-negotiable as they’re part of the Spyker experience. Things like only leather and metal facings inside the cabin, and the exhaust note when you drive the car.

Personally, until something better comes along, I think turbocharging should be present on every Saab and certain features should be standard as well. For instance, heated seats. Why do some markets have to option-up to get something that should be a standard-bearer for a Scandinavian brand?

Vladimir Antonov wants in on the Saab deal. And I believe he’ll get there, too. This is a very driven man when it comes to Saab.

The welcome that he got at the Festival dinner on Saturday night was a notable event, which I think caught a few people by surprise with the significance it was given. Having briefly met the man both before and after the Midnight Sun rally and seen his desire for this brand first-hand, it now makes more sense.

Hi-Per Strut will come on the 4-cylinder version of the Saab 9-5….. eventually. No timeframe was given.

I had chats with various people about the Saab 9-5 launch campaigns in various countries.

Whilst some had gone well, I did speak to some people who only got invitations on the day of the launch, and others who didn’t get one at all, despite having purchased several new Saabs from dealerships and getting their cars serviced by same.

It’s not quite a well oiled machine in some countries just yet.

There’s still no set plan for Saab distribution in Australia. When I mentioned that Saab might have to do it themselves there, there was an admission that this is something that’s being considered. I’ll wager that’s how it goes, as the number of potential importers is impossibly slim and from what I hear, reluctant.

Better to have no distribution than really poor distribution.

It was great to see key players from Saab Belgium (who also run the Dutch and Lux markets, if I’m not mistaken).

These are great people, 100% fired up for the brand and kicking goals in terms of marketing activity. It’s fair to say they’re the one single marketing organisation I’ve noticed the most in the last six months. Umberto, you and your team are absolute champions in my estimation.

The heads of several prominent markets were noticeable by their absence, which I think was disappointing given the occasion.

Speaking of champions, Etienne from the Saabhuy blog must be one of the most loved guys at the festival. Every time I saw him he was in some animated conversation with someone and always with that huge grin on his face.

Golfhunter needs to drive the most elegant Saab convertible ever to the next Saab Festival. No disrespect to the other 96′s there, but it’d be a show winner, for sure, just because of the beautiful nature of it’s conversion.

I did a number of interviews for various media whilst at the Saab Festival. One live on radio, one for the local newspaper, one for a German publicist, two for different motoring writers, and one for a filmmaker looking into Saab (including a cameo by VM where he snuck up behind me and said to camera “Everything you’ve just said is absolute bull$h1t!” which was quite funny).

The Dutchies really are slightly mad, but a fantastic bunch of blokes. People like them are a great example of the heartbeat of the brand. They love it.

Everyone I spoke to about the Saab 9-4x sitting in the Saab museum absolutely loved it. Everyone. Not one complaint or misgiving about a Saab SUV.

People ask if the 9-5 is the car that will turn Saab around. I say it’s a very, very good start, but the 9-4x coming to America and the next 9-3 coming to the world markets will be the real saviours of this brand IMHO.

The 9-5 is laying the groundwork.

I do not want, or mean, to pump up the work that SU did during the sale process, but there were two moments in the last week that really brought home to me the importance of what we all did in terms of supporting this brand.

The first instance was a guy who turned up to the SU meetup last Friday night with his son. He was a Saab employee and both he and his son (around 16 or 17, I guess) both read the site quite closely during the turbulent times. They just wanted to pop down and say thanks personally for the information SU provided. I have never been so happy to hear a ‘thankyou’ as I was at that particular time.

And I think it’d be appropriate to pass that ‘thankyou’ on to everyone who drove in a convoy. You don’t quite know the full extent of what it meant to these people in Trollhattan.

The second instance involved dinner, with my wife and Dave R there as well. As we were close to finishing, the waitress brought up a glass of brandy, stating it was from a gentleman in the dining area. Again, he was a Saab employee and just wanted to say thanks. Again, I was mighty touched.

Me being close to a teetotaller, however, meant that it took a full five minutes or so for me to knock off the brandy. Man, that stuff is strong! :-)

I haven’t shown pictures from the Saab parts swap-meet-cum-car-boot-sale yet.

There were some great bargains there. My only pickup was a brand new copy of The Spirit of Saab, by Rolf Bleeker.

Right now there’s one (new) copy of this book at Amazon and it’s selling for $350.

I picked up this brand new copy for SEK50 :-)

I come away from the Saab Festival feeling pretty good about the future of the brand. The festival was smaller than the 2007 event, but I felt that the people who were there were just as enthusiastic about the future as I was.

I said it before the Festival and I’ll say it again now – if you ever, ever get the chance to go to Trollhattan for a Saab Festival the go ahead and do it.

Nothing compares.

My congratulations to Peter Backstrom on his co-ordination of this event and all the team who held it together on the ground. It was another fantastic event.

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