Saab: The Bumble Bee

Following is a nice article from TTELA.

It was dropped into comments by Arild and I though it was worthwhile reproducing here.

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The automotive world’s bumble bee flies on

Like a bumble bee, Saab doesn’t understand that it is impossible for it to fly and therefore keeps on flying. For nearly two decades the flight has been clumsy and last winter a crash landing was extremely close. But Matts Carlsson thinks that it is possible for Saab to get out of the turbulence.

Last Saturday Matts Carlsson, Doctor of work organization, who often comments on the automotive industry in various media, held a lecture at the People’s University in Trollhättan under the heading “Saab – the automotive world’s bumble bee”. He noted that everybody knows that the bumble bee can fly and that science has finally managed to figure out how.

The question is how can Saab stay in the air.

A common view is that it is not possible to be successful with only 3000-4000 people producing 100000-150000 cars. The naysayers will bring up the last 20 troubled years.

– I have always been of a different view. In December last year I felt lonely. Then it was really only Jan Åke Jonsson and I who said that this might work, says Matts Carlsson.

He continues to believe in Saab’s future.

But you can’t disregard that the company is a small player in the vehicle world, where each year 50-60 million cars are built.

– How do you argue to manufacture cars in Trollhättan, or in western Sweden in the first place? Brand is everything, says Matts Carlsson.

And on that point, he says, Saab has been too sloppy.

– Customers have been confused, is Saab a luxury car, a sports car or a car for the people.

With the new 9-5 it’s the luxury car class that applies.

– Many people say that a Saab is too expensive. But that is necessary for a premium car. It is not aimed at ordinary people with ordinary wallets.

So you do not fight the entire automotive world but competitors like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and Lexus. Then we’re talking about maybe four to five million cars sold each year.

But it’s not enough to focus on the premium segment, you must be even more precise. The customer who is just looking for an expensive car might as well choose an Audi or a Jaguar. And even in this segment Matts Carlsson believes that Saab can get a niche.

– Car buying isn’t a rational process. Anyone who buys Saab should want to stand out, be different.

Matts Carlsson think it is possible for the Saab bumble bee to fly further and to find 100000-200000 car buyers worldwide each year. But then the company’s marketing has to highlight its innovative capacity, its Scandinavian link to environment and safety, and its origin in the aerospace industry.

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