My two cents on Saab’s North American sales (and other stuff)

When Saab’s North American sales for November were reported last week, a discussion ensued in comments that became one of the longest threads Saabs United has ever seen outside of the time when Saab were being threatened with closure.

Emotions were expressed. A lot of opinions were shared. People contributed great suggestions and ideas as to how Saab dealers in North America can reconnect with potential buyers.

I sat out of the discussion but watched with interest. I think a lot of people had very valid ideas and I really hope that some people with decision making powers were watching as the discussion developed. I know a lot of other stakeholders were watching.

After a lot of consideration, and a fair bit of consultation, I’d like to add my two cents to the discussion.

Warning – this is another long one.

——

Background

Saab were sold to Spyker in February 2010. The sale set in motion a protracted process whereby Saab would have to separate their operations from those of General Motors. These included virtual separations by way of IT and customer support systems, as well as a physical separation to a separate location for their US offices.

Low sales were initially blamed on low stocks. It took a while for Saab to deliver vehicles to the United States and it was expected that once stocks improved, sales would follow.

That hasn’t happened.

Whilst Saab sales in the US did spike in a statistical sense back in September, with 1,127 vehicles sold, numbers have decreased in the months following and there were only 397 Saabs sold in the US in November.

Saab are struggling in the US. Dealers are struggling and a small number have either closed their doors or declined to continue their relationship with Saab.

In this post, I’d like to analyse the US situation a little more and address some of what I see as being the core problems faced there.

I’d like to begin by noting something that I think we should all acknowledge – we are all coming from a point where we have incomplete and imperfect information. I don’t know the exact processes that Saab have to go through to achieve something, nor do I know what budgets they have for various programs.

I’m probably going to step on some toes in this article, but the ideas expressed herein are offered with the best of intentions for the Saab company. Whilst I have decent background knowledge and good contacts after covering this stuff for almost six years, I freely acknowledge that some of my points will be flawed due to imperfect information.

Some of the points that follow are general in nature. Some of them are directed at the US market in particular.

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Market segment

Some people have suggested that Saab should be pitching themselves below BMW, Audi and other European marques. They say Saab should be placed just above the better competitors from Asia, as an upmarket alternative to Toyota, Honda (Acura) or Subaru.

I disagree with this, and what’s more, I don’t think Saab can possibly afford to price themselves or play in that segment of the market.

My own disagreement is based on the notion that Saab have always placed themselves in the company of their European compatriots. For decades, they more than held their own in that company, too. Some will argue that they have slipped and the market definitely seems to indicate this, but I’d like to offer an alternative argument.

I think Saab should do everything it can to retain the ground that it’s claimed over 60+ years. They have built up a premium nameplate, a premium culture and they are fast on their way to a truly premium vehicle range once again.

If you give up that ground now in terms of your own corporate culture and customer expectations, you’re not likely to get it back for well over 10 years. Saab have to hold on to this ground.

A lot of US consumers (not necessarily they type that hang out here) expect a throwaway car at a throwaway price. Saab are better than that. Their designs stand the test of time and their build quality, which suffered in the early parts of this decade, is now back on par or above the industry standard. Whilst a lot of manufacturers build with good safety in mind, Saab still have a marketable edge in real-life safety and their record in real-life data supports this.

Saab have to regain people’s awareness and trust, but they have a rightful place above what many consumers see as their competition.

What’s more, Saab have a business plan that relies on them breaking even at around 85,000 vehicles and then doing good, profitable business at 120,000 vehicles a year. The aforementioned Asian nameplates have a business case that relies on them selling low but making their profits based on high volume. At 120,000 vehicles a year, Saab is not going to survive on that sort of strategy.

Saab have an excellent, brand new vehicle in the 9-5. They have what looks to be an excellent offering in the Saab 9-4x, coming very soon. They have an older, but still enjoyable midsize vehicle in the 9-3 with three body styles (or four, depending on how you view the 9-3x), including a class-equalling convertible. These are not Toyota-grade products in terms of accommodation or drive experience.

Incentives

One of the factors that puts Saab’s claim to premium status to the sword is the high level of incentives offered to sell them. I write about offers being made because I’d like people to be able to take advantage of them, but I absolutely hate having to do so.

Incentives train the customer to wait for the next deal. They are an act of desperation and can be read as a tacit admission that a car isn’t up to standard. They kill residual values, as well as the value of CPO stock. Incentives are a friend to the customer but a poisoned proposition for the company and the dealer. They’re lazy.

The kinds of deep incentives that are available in the US at the moment run totally contrary to the notion of running a premium brand. They are a band-aid solution to a problem that needs radical surgery – the beancounter mindset.

I can barely believe it myself, but I’m going to quote Bob Lutz on this one. Back at the LA Auto Show, Lutz did a session on Autoline Detroit (who were broadcasting live from LA). He actually appeared directly before Victor Muller.

In his session, Lutz talked about how car companies need to take on less MBA students when recruiting and he spoke specifically about incentives (click that link and then click directly around the 60 minute mark)….

“…. through the whole MBA short-term-profit-maximisation model, managers are interchangeable, you can reduce any business down to a set of numerical data. Anything can be quantified. You then work around that quantification, optimise your various business elements and you’re going to come out with a good result. [However] The [real] answer is “No you’re not”.

Because what the American public forgot in all this is the need, above all, to provide a superior product or service. If you provide a superior product or service you’re going to be successful and if you don’t, you aren’t.

…..What I had to beat down was that MBA, show-me-the-numbers [mentality]. What I keep having to explain is that the auto industry exists in two [worlds] at the same time. There’s the analytical world, one that exists three or four years before the car is launched. You outline all the costs, you’ve got all the volumes, you’ve got the presumed price point… and the car lives in that analytical atmosphere, which is updated all the time.

You’ve got your price point fixed and your volume fixed, so if you work on the costs then your margin gets bigger and bigger. The volume never changes [in the modeling] so there’s a huge temptation on the part of the finance people to keep the product teams driving the cost down because analytically, the profit gets bigger and bigger.

Three years later comes the real world. The car is inadequate, it’s got poor NVH, it’s got poor ride and handling because everything was done on the cheap. It sells only with three or four thousand dollar incentives and now, all of those planned margins fail to materialise.

It took me a long time to get the finance people to recognise that this analytical world is connected to the real world. It just comes three years later.

I found this out when I said to one of them “If I put a thousand dollars into the car (in terms of improving it) and we can reduce the average incentive from four thousand dollars to two thousand dollars, then explain to me why we aren’t a thousand dollars better off.”

She said “You can’t look at it that way.”

I said “Why not?”

She said “Because you don’t know what the incentives are going to be and all we can book is the thousand dollar cost increase which reduces our future profitability”

It’s really bizarre. These people live in a weird world and until you understand that, you don’t really grasp the behaviour of a car company.

This is something that I believe is fundamental to Saab’s experience with GM, and fundamental to what Saab is currently going through now with a group of decision makers still working in accordance with their GM-learned habits.

There is a huge reliance on incentives to draw in the US customer and I personally think it comes down to two things – a lack of awareness about Saab on the public’s part, and a reluctance by somebody to equip the car in such a manner as to make the MSRP compelling.

Equipment Levels

My counter argument to incentives is that the company should offer cars equipped in such a way that they go a long way to selling themselves.

MY2010 vehicles are currently incentivised at around $7,000 off in a mix of customer, dealer and loyalty cash. If there’s $7,000 leeway there for various parties then there has to be some space for equipping the cars better.

Equipping the cars better would improve what is already a good picture for Saab in terms of standard equipment. This could actually become a compelling USP for Saab – genuine superior levels of standard equipment.

So why isn’t it happening?

I have to believe that at the high incentive levels we’re seeing on 2010 models now (and there are already some lower incentives on 2011 models, too) that some part of the business chain is taking a major hit.

In the cutthroat market that is the US, Saab’s margins are painfully thin as it is. From what I’ve learned, the US office is mostly responsible for its product combinations but they are restricted in what they can offer to some degree by the home office in Sweden. Exactly how that plays out on the ground is a mystery to me so I won’t comment on it further here, but it’s clearly evident that something needs to change.

To my mind, no premium Saab should come with that green-screen radio (regardless of how well it might function, which I’m sure it does). To me, no Saab customer should ever have to pay for heated seats. To me, a car that comes standard with a HUD says a lot more than “you can option up a HUD”. And those are just a few examples of things that could be standard and do a lot to drive home the value equation for Saab.

——

Some other points that were raised in the discussion….

Advertising

I think it’s fair to make the assessment that Saab’s advertising in the US earlier this year failed to inspire. I think it got better as time moved on, but it was too slow and too ambiguous a beginning.

Saab are now in the unenviable position of still lacking consumer awareness, even about the basic fact that they’re still alive, let alone the features of the new vehicles they’re bringing to market.

It feels to me like the powers that be in the US have failed to scale down their operations from what they did in a massive GM operation to a smaller operation that has an absolute minimal margin for error. The thinking seems to be along the exact same lines – engage big advertising company to devise and place ads in traditional (read expensive) media, albeit with a certain degree of targeting, and hope for the best.

The ads were creative, but in the wrong way. They told the reader precious little about the actual car itself or why someone should go and take a longer look at it.

I had some advertising placed here on Saabs United (NA readers only) and whilst I was happy to place it, I worried for its effectiveness because the internet landing page that people would get to if they clicked on the ad wasn’t particularly good in terms of drawing the customer in and getting them to learn more about the new 9-5.

Saab do not have a large margin for error here. Whatever margin they had has been used in their efforts so far this year.

What seems more Saab-like to me is the use of a well written, direct campaign that places Saab as a premium offering because the cars are damn good, not the esoteric stuff around the sides. I’ve seen Curvin O’Reilly’s “adlobs” and I tend to think there’s a fair bit of meat on them for people to chew on. I think a prolonged concept campaign like that would be far more likely to engage people and tell them a story than some of the ads we’ve seen so far.

What seems more Saab-like to me is thinking through what would be the most cost-effective way to place those ads where people will see them – again and again – over a prolonged campaign period so that they have a chance to sink-in, be absorbed and acted on by viewers.

There was some talk in the discussion on US sales about a Billboard campaign and I think this suggestion has some serious merit. They appear to be very cost-effective and when well-placed in key cities, will offer up large imagery and wording to a sometimes captive audience.

Not all markets can get a TV campaign simply because of the staggering costs involved and in many ways, the internet has taken the place of TV for many people as a news and entertainment source. People still drive to work, though, and sit in traffic moving at a snail’s pace. A well worded, great looking ad could get a lot of attention.

Billboards. Targeted print. Targeted series television. And once the US website gets up to speed, targeted internet with compelling, frequent changing graphics linked to well-developed landing pages.

A one-off Superbowl campaign? No thanks. $3 million plus the cost of producing the ad in the hope that for 30 seconds it’ll a) be a hit, and b) be on while people aren’t in the bathroom? That $3.5 million could fund a deep-connecting social media effort for more than a decade and a half.

Website

Here’s one of those cases where there’s definitely a lack of knowledge amongst the crowd. I’ve asked around a bit about this one.

Yes, the SaabUSA website looks dated and the Build-Your-Own interface is in dire need of a re-write. I agree with everyone here that the refurbishing of the website should be a very high priority for Saab – and I believe that it is.

One thing you probably don’t know (I didn’t until I asked) is that the SaabUSA website isn’t just a standalone property giving information about Saab cars. If it were, any web programmer with more than a week’s experience could have built a new one for them.

The SaabUSA website is part of a global series of sites that Saab are in the process of unwinding from GM’s infrastructure. The process – which is a global one – is well underway but it’s critical that it be done the right way because if it isn’t, then a whole bunch of software interfaces behind the scenes, assets associated with customer relations management, dealer relations, etc – those links will be broken.

What this means is that Saab will continue to be hindered by what we all see as a sub-optimal web presence until that global project is completed. And before you ask…. No, I don’t know the timeline on that.

Bottom line – they’re working on it and from what I can tell, working on it pretty hard.

Halo models

In my lifetime, I’ve owned two Saab 99 Turbos (well, three, actually), one of the first 16-valve Saab 900 Turbos, a Saab 9-3 Viggen and my current Saab 9-3 Monte Carlo. All of these cars were at or very near the top of Saab’s tree in terms of performance models, when they were released to the Australian market.

Why do I say this? I want to point out that no-one likes a Saab performance model any more than I do.

I would love to see Saab do some sort of statement car as a real car for sale, not just a concept. Nothing would please me more.

But I have to curb my enthusiasm for this segment, simply for the fact that Saab have to walk before they can run. The extreme performance extension is something that can easily be done from a position of strength, which is why BMW, Audi and Mercedes do them so well – they throw caution to the wind because it doesn’t matter to the company over all if the hi-po model isn’t financially successful.

Saab just don’t have that luxury.

Special editions of the near future will most likely feature interior and exterior enhancements but BIG performance to a production standard takes a BIG investment in terms of development and compliance, and Saab just don’t have that money to pin on a few trickle-down sales.

It’s just my opinion, but I think it’s based on sound reasoning and one that Victor Muller echoed when asked about a Viggen line (see the Autoline Detroit interview linked above, at around 1:20).

——

There are a number of other things I could talk about here. Dealerships, dealer service, dealer training, experience marketing, etc. I’d love to do that but I’m over 3,000 words already and I suspect some of you have work to do today 🙂

Saab have a lot of work to do, too. They’ve worked extremely hard on the design and engineering side to bring some great cars to market. A number of national offices have done a great job in promoting them, too.

The US office has struggled, though. I don’t know the solution, but I think the things I’ve posed here are relevant.

The cars are extremely good. Just ask someone who bought one. SCNA and their dealers just need to find the magic bullet that will get people in to drive one.

Joe Saab
Guest
Joe Saab
5 years 9 months ago

Well spoken sir. I myself am guilty of waiting for incentives and still agree with you. In the US I have yet to hear BMW or Mercedes-Benz offer the same kind of incentive numbers. The product should be selling the car, not the incentive. That said, when I bought both of my 9-3 SS’s (one at a time) I had to pay significantly more for the options that you so wisely stated should be standard. Please keep doing these kinds of “rants” as I always enjoy them!

Erik D
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Erik D
5 years 9 months ago

Excellent piece as always Swade. Feels good to know that SAAB hasn’t dropped the ball but are working to do things the right way…

However, since this does seem to take a while, I would recommend a FAQ section on the official site or as a separate website explaining some of these issues, perhaps even before we start discussing it here?

aaron c
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aaron c
5 years 9 months ago
It’s worth mentioning that Volvo’s new CEO has been saying the company has lost its way in trying to pursue BMW, Mercedes and Volvo, that it’s the wrong route to try and go “premium.” Saab’s in a similar situation now, especially with everything that happened before Spyker stepped in. People who say Saab should be targeting where VW is are right, even as VW tries to shift its market focus down. I hope SCNA takes a hard look at Acura and where their price points and marketing are. I’d say in North America, aside from Volvo, their the closest in… Read more »
Quickening
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Quickening
5 years 9 months ago

I’d say about the last car company we want Saab to follow would be Acura.

2natw
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2natw
5 years 9 months ago

The problem is people try to put SAAB in different markets, when, really, it’s its own market. 🙂

spidaman
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spidaman
5 years 9 months ago
Great thoughts, Swade! I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA–a fairly Saabophilic area–and finally saw my first new 9-5 somewhere other than the dealer last week. You are correct that Saab is competing with Volvo, Audi, BMW and M-B. They are high-end products, so Saab better have a product to compete. A 2010 9-5 without a sunroof is not that product. A 2010 9-5 with some cheap plastic (interior door handle, center stack) is not that product. A 2010 9-5 with balky automatic transmission (yes, that was my test-drive experience) is not that product. Not to take away anything from… Read more »
Rune
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Rune
5 years 9 months ago

The interior door handle? What’s wrong with it?

zippy
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zippy
5 years 9 months ago

Its plastic. My 9-3 has a cool-to-the-touch aluminium door handle.

spidaman
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spidaman
5 years 9 months ago

I found the interior door handle touchpoint to be an uncomfortable hard plastic, rather than a softer touch plastic, metal or wood. A poor quality experience every time I open or close the door.

Greg Abbott
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Greg Abbott
5 years 9 months ago
The 9-5 you spotted, was it white? If so, that was almost certainly me. 🙂 Morrie’s Saab in Golden Valley is having an open house next Monday, the 13th, from 6-8pm, to introduce the 2011 9-5 – just FYI. I generally agree with your comments. I can live without a sunroof, but that is a very minority opinion in this market. People do respond to better warranties here, Hyundai did that successfully a few years ago. It would be a nice signal to the consumer that Saab is planning to be around for awhile.
spidaman
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spidaman
5 years 9 months ago

Hi, Greg! No, it was a drop-dead gorgeous Jet Black 9-5 in St. Paul–had a Schmelz placeholder at the front license plate spot.

I must say the new 9-5 is one of the cars that looks much better on the street than in the showroom. Simply stunning.

But I cannot part ways with my 06 9-3 convert just yet, nor take on payments for a new car. Maybe in a few years.

Greg Abbott
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Greg Abbott
5 years 9 months ago

I’m glad to hear that. I have yet to see another one in the Twin Cities, and was beginning to despair that any other new 9-5s had been sold here.

AGTMADCAT
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AGTMADCAT
5 years 9 months ago

I’d have to agree that a warranty would go a huge way towards getting people into the showrooms, especially if it was advertised properly. I think a standard 7-year bumper-to-bumper all-maintenance warranty would be a great start, with an option of extending it to 10 years and 100,000 miles for some sensible fee. (Maybe even make a 20 year, 200,000 mile warranty available at a high cost? I can see a lot of things the marketing people could do with that…)
-AGT

Quickening
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Quickening
5 years 9 months ago
Great write up! On the topic of billboards, I think its a must. I’m not sure of the cost, but here in San Antonio, Texas we are moving to digital billboards. Huge screens that basically have a rotation of ads. So it seems you simply have to make a nice ad in Photoshop/InDesign, create a contract with ClearChannel, pay and submit a PDF to be added to the rotation. Seems the costs would be lower all the way around. The idea is for every digital billboard placed, they must remove 5 (I believe..) old billboards. Totally agree on the cars… Read more »
Quickening
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Quickening
5 years 9 months ago

Edit: Suppose to say if the radio was a large colored screen, simply lacking navigation***

rpg
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rpg
5 years 9 months ago

Agreed. Large color screen without navigation is the only way to go with the current 9-5 stack design. The stock green screen radio is an abomination. The American market will not pay $40+K for a car with the stock radio.

I’m still kicking myself for not going with nav in my 2008 9-3 Aero. The bow tie radio is just as bad to look at on a daily basis.

Me
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Me
5 years 9 months ago
My 2 cents on large colourful displays. I don’t know if Saab is planning to change this on a early mid-life update, but the decision on the infotainment system was made 2-3 years ago, based on the part-bin available at GM. Monochrome radios are not that unusual, I see them constantly in E-series, but there may be another major problem. 1st) green displays still have an old school character. (although they are much sharper and easier to look at). 2nd) In 2010 many are too impressed by things like the “retina display”, and such people think a low res display… Read more »
ad
Guest
ad
5 years 9 months ago

I think the reason of the low US Sales also has something to do that there were less commercials in November in the US.

Probably they were saving up the marketing budget for the 9-4X.

Don’t you guys also think so ?

Jeff
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Jeff
5 years 9 months ago
Billboard advertising is cheap in the USA right now. In fact, with the economy being so bad, even small business are securing long term low cost deals on billboard advertising. I think it’s a great low cost way to advertise. The other way to reach the masses in the USA is a little more expensive but it certainly would help get the word out that Saab is alive and kicking and that is to advertise during the Superbowl. I just bought a Saab (my first) in October and when I tell people I bought a Saab most respond by telling… Read more »
Steve
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Steve
5 years 9 months ago

Saab needs to have the quality, comfort and performance of BMW & Audi (which it does) but should be priced less. This is the way Saab should be positioning themselves in the USA.

2natw
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2natw
5 years 9 months ago

I think they need to position themselves as completely different than everything else. People love to feel special, and I have to tell you, every third car I see is a Mercedes or BMW, and the rest are Lexus. Especially with younger people with some money, which there is no shortage of here in northern VA.

baas900i
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baas900i
5 years 9 months ago

current base offerings {linear spec…..} devalue the brand and the public perception, multiple editions {linear, linear sport, vector, vector sport….] then confuse the public, SAAB may want to refocus on informing the car buying public of 1] the split from GM {public knowledge generally refer to closure by GM}, 2] funding from the Swedish Treasury, 3] funding from the European Union, 4] Engine deal with BMW, 5] quality Swedish engineering and know how with a billion dollar manufacturing facility……..

Rune
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Rune
5 years 9 months ago

Given all the complaints, I can’t help but think that sacrificing a few links is a better interim solution than waiting for the one true website that will wow them all.

Swade
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

Rune, it’s not “a few links” in terms of links as they appear somewhere like here. It’s the entire capability of their front-end to talk to other systems they use for CRM, etc. From how it was explained to me, it’s basically the integrated nature of the full IT system that all has to be done at once.

As I said, not ideal at all, but it’s the way it has to be done.

Yerrun
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Yerrun
5 years 9 months ago

Nice writing Swade, and YES, keep it Premium. You simply can’t be profitable at 100’000 cars if you’re not selling/pricing in a “niche-premium segment”! I can understand the “complete system” explanation about the SAAB USA website, but they can still make an good first impression with the intermediate step towards the customer, so-called Microsites. The new Belgian Saab 9-3 microsite is quite good and to the point. USA can do the same. Then you can still redirect people, just make sure that they are enough “attracted” before seeing the GM-ish SAAB USA website.

Jenny Ryan
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Jenny Ryan
5 years 9 months ago

Volvo offers the first 60,000 miles of ALL service covered. This includes EVERYTING except for tires and wiper blades. If the brakes need to be replaced within the forst 60k it’s covered! …. Now, I’m not a Volvo owner but I am in the process of looking for a new car and to me this is VERY tempting! This is the kind of plan that Saab should be offering, not as a sales promotion but as a standard “feature” on all Saab vehicles!

Iiari
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Iiari
5 years 9 months ago

I couldn’t agree more that an improved warranty (especially given Saab’s improved reliability statistics) would be a great way to go.

Rune
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Rune
5 years 9 months ago

aaaah, so that is why Ovlov drivers brake early and so often!

That said, my dealer here in Sweden offered to cover service for the first three years. I only pay for the oil.

jchan2
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jchan2
5 years 9 months ago
As someone who ended up with an Acura but initially started out in the buying process wanting a Saab and looked at a Volvo and a Subaru, I will say this: 1. The TSX (both current and first-generation) in more ways than 1 feels like an “upgrade” from the 9-3s that I looked at 2. Volvo’s free maintenance offer for 5 yrs/60k miles- very compelling. 3. Acura sales are not that hot right now and they are doing some pretty deep discounting to move the metal, so I don’t think Saab wants to go there. However, that said… 4. The… Read more »
Alex
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Alex
5 years 9 months ago
You are a perfect example of the market Saab is actually competing with here in the US, Acura, Volvo, Subaru and I’d throw in VW. Saab needs to shoot for Audi in quality but realize the league they currently find themselves in here in the US when it comes to price. My good friend just passed up a 9-3 for a TSX because of price, he felt he got more with the Acura. He thought the interior was a step up and he loved that features such as xenon lights were standard, he walked out the door paying $26k. He… Read more »
jchan2
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jchan2
5 years 9 months ago
I didn’t look at Audi/Volkswagen simply because I’m just starting out college and I didn’t want something with as many horror stories as I’ve heard about A4s and Jettas and Passats, but I was more than willing to look at the Swedes. I ended up in a used TSX primarily because while the new TSX was such a deal, the used one handled better (bought an ’07) and was cheaper. And I do love Saabs and have always wanted one. Actually about a year ago this time I drove a 9-3 2.0T and quite liked it, but wasn’t in a… Read more »
meg haviland
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meg haviland
5 years 9 months ago
I must be an anomaly when it comes to the 9-3 vs. TSX. When our 2yr lease was up on my 07 9-3, Saab wasn’t offering much at that point. We put 5k down on a 08 TSX w 9300miles. Owned it for 6mos. and HATED it, No pick-up, poor handleing, tinny doors, clunks of the bonded leather came off the seat bolsters from buttons on my back pockets of my jeans. Really small and cheap interior, no room. The only thing I liked, the bluetooth. It was then I was onto a crusade to find another Saab 9-3 SC.… Read more »
Dan
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
Great topic and feedback Swade. A couple ideas: I think Saab should consider having a few stocked models and a few base models at dealerships and making rest of the cars built-to-order. Like the way you used to buy a Dell computer. Maybe you get a loaner while it is getting built if you need a car in between. European delivery: I’m sure this is in the works, but instead of incentive money, how about flight tickets to Sweden to pick up a Saab. That is not just a car purchase, but a once in a lifetime family vacation to… Read more »
EE
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EE
5 years 9 months ago

Excellent piece, Swade. You bring a healthy does of rationality to a very emotional subject.

For the US, I would like to see Saab do the following:
– lower the list price across their model range by 10%
– match Volvo’s current 5 years free servicing offer

Here in the Northeast, I have seen local TV advertising based around the Saab Drive to Give Event which benefits the Make a Wish Foundation. That is a very worthwhile cause and I hope it gets people in for a test drive and leads to a good flow of donations.

DCJC
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DCJC
5 years 9 months ago
Excellent thread of comments showing good awareness of many (but not all) issues facing Saab North America team. A few additional thoughts: 1 – The 9-4X is the car that should be the focus of all marketing activity going forward now that the production version is revealed. It is the biggest opportunity to “relaunch” the Saab brand in the USA to new customers. Nothing else is as critical for the US market to generate awareness among potential new buyers who are today flocking to the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and just-releasing redesigned BMW X3 among closest competitors. It’s a growing… Read more »
zippy
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zippy
5 years 9 months ago

I think this whole warranty thing is a great idea. Saab’s are well built so putting a 7year/70000mile warranty on them shouldnt be costly but just think how of an effect it would have on sales. SCNA……do it!!!!!!

Thylmuc
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Thylmuc
5 years 9 months ago

Pls give me a small green display, simple and easy to read, and leaving space on the dashboard for mounting that retina display iphone on which I so heavily rely.

signs
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signs
5 years 9 months ago

I agree whole-heartedly on this one. It’s completely nuts for car-manufacturer to try to compete with Apple and other gadget-makers. Integration is where the key is. Focus on making the integration painless and making the driving experience INTUITIVE (drive-sense was a great start, so was some Bluetooth interfaces). It’s not about display quality and the most superficial impression of electronics, it’s about intelligence, and sense. Otherwise customers will be sorely disillusioned and disappointed in a few days, whereas if it ‘just works’, they’ll remember it forever.

David H
Guest
David H
5 years 9 months ago
Saab NA have been in the discount business for as lon as i remember. that hurts the re-sale value of the vehicles tremendously and as someone mentioned it gives the perception that saab isn’t as good of a car when you see them used. if there are going to be $6000 incentives why not build a better car. it’s obviouss this discount strategy hasn’t worked. the warranty is fine imo since a majority of the customers lease. the 9-3 should be able to offer a spectacular lease in the next year since the NG 9-3 is due is 2012. there… Read more »
Johan
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Johan
5 years 9 months ago

Just dont forget when all of you talk about prives is that SAAB need to make money on each sold car and you dont know there margins!

RickTe
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RickTe
5 years 9 months ago
Two word lesson for those familiar with the US market in the past decade- Audi pricing. Long time ago, they had a PR problem with unintended acceleration that almost left the US Audi market for dead. They took a long view to this problem and build better cars at lower than expected prices. I owned an A6 2.7T that I bought for $41,000 in 2001, and loved it. It had more technology than Mercedes or BMW (5 valve engine, twin turbos, Torsen AWD, etc) and cost about $5,000 less than the competition. No brainer. Does any of this sound analogous… Read more »
MarcB
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MarcB
5 years 9 months ago
I agree with the idea of looking at the resurrection of Audi. The brand was DOA due to their acceleration issues. SNA needs to take a close look at what was done once the mechanical problems were solved in new product/feature/quality improvement, advertising, pricing and promotion. My recollection is that once the problem was fixed, Audi moved upmarket in quality and down market in price. Price not only drove volume, but got the car in the hands of a broader customer base who raved about Audi, and as public awareness grew that the problem had been fixed, price was moved… Read more »
Sam Y
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Sam Y
5 years 9 months ago
History shows that you need to offer something no one did (something new) Lexus came out with quality that others tried to match for years Hyundai had the 100K mike warranty BMW had the free service agreement including the small stuff GM and Ford had the zero interest for 72 months When we leased some of our SAAB(s) they had the lowest money down on the market (since them I still love SAAB) But SAAB would need to come up with something to grab people’s imagination and hearts and maybe their wallets We should never compare SAAB to other brand,… Read more »
Börjesson
Guest
Börjesson
5 years 9 months ago
History shows that you need to offer something no one did (something new) Maybe that “something different” could be what Dan suggested further up: Built-to-order for everyone. Let the buyer specify exactly the car he wants, and give him a base model of the same car as a free loaner – or as a cheap rental, maybe – while waiting for the new car to arrive. If I’ve understood correctly, there is very little of this in the US, everybody buys what’s available. If so, then fhis kind of offer would make Saab stand out from the crowd, But maybe… Read more »
spidaman
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spidaman
5 years 9 months ago

What is really sad to this North American Saabista is the difference between the saab.com BTO site and the saabusa.com BTO site. Would love to order a Jet Black XWD Turbo4, black 19″ turbine wheels, darkened windows and debadged (to make it more mysterious!). Can do it at saab.com, but not saabusa.

C’mon, Saab! As Apple said when they were recovering from their near-death experience–Think Different!

Jim
Guest
Jim
5 years 9 months ago
Well written post. But I think the auto market in the USA is pretty well informed. ALL major magazines have covered the 9-5 sedan and, for the most part, covered it positively. That’s 2+ million readers who have seen these reviews. The cost economics of the car don’t make sense. Including depreciation, it is the most expensive car in its class. This is why it’s not selling for MSRP. By setting a relatively high MSRP, especially in light of depreciation, Saab is reducing its dealer traffic by orders of magnitude. They can’t “afford” to price so highly that their dealer… Read more »
Ronald
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Ronald
5 years 9 months ago
“Right” is and understatement describing what you just wrote. Well done. Saab will grab everyones attention if they just cut their prices ! The MSRPs are too high and having big incentives is what is making it almost financial suicidal to purchase a Saab in today’s climate (or any other high incentive vehicle). Cut the MSRPs, advertise, stop the incentives, and support the dealers as much as possible. Is this too much to ask? If we continue on this path I can guarantee Saab wont have the working capital and dealership network thats required to see us through to the… Read more »
Alex
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Alex
5 years 9 months ago

I agree with everything you said, I really hope SCNA is reading this!

tony vallar
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tony vallar
5 years 9 months ago
Hello all. Steve I want to congratulate you on this blog. Besides everything you went through during the sale. This to me hits home more then others. Saab is hurting in the States. Most people have no idea they are still around. I went to a local dealer to see the new 9-5. The car is a great looking car. But I knew more about this car then the so called Saab expert. It hurt that this is what is repersenting Saab. The dealer that was in my hometown is now a service only. He still sells used Saabs but… Read more »
lala
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lala
5 years 9 months ago

@Swade (sorry for the off-topicness)
Here is a google trans from a chinese article:
http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=nl&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=auto&tl=nl&u=http%3A%2F%2Fdrive.xcar.com.cn%2F201012%2Fnews_169164_1.html
It looks like the first (java 2.0T vector) 9-5 arrived in Taiwan!

Bill Holbert
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
I work at a dealer selling Saabs.I have owned 12 saabs in my life.I know it is hard for many reasons that were stated.In essence a lot of our base has moved on to other models.We find ourselves really discounting the 9-3’s,which still are moving slowly.It is hard to advertise when there is no money to do it. I think maybe we hoped that all the saab people would come in and look at the new products.The 9-5 is a fine car,which is really a statement car.There will be more product,but to succede we need to get the saab people… Read more »
maanders
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maanders
5 years 9 months ago
Swade, I agree with much of what you said and won’t rehash a lot of other comments made above. As you say, there are many factors involved, but the ones that seem the most key to me currently, based on conversations I have had with people about Saab are: 1) Due to the economy here in the US, there are many people who are holding off on any large purchases, so that reduces the pool of potential buyers already. For those that are willing to buy a new car, and who might consider a Saab (e.g., former Saab owners, etc.),… Read more »
Nicola
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Nicola
5 years 9 months ago

+1

Johan
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Johan
5 years 9 months ago

Please stop saying to cut the prices! SAAB dont have the funds to do that!! And to the person that asked why you should drive a while to get a car! Because you love SAAB!!

RMinNJ
Guest
RMinNJ
5 years 9 months ago
I think Saab should up their warranty. Both Hyundai and Chrysler did this successfully in the past. I should know…my first new car was a Chrysler sundance. The valve cover seal leaked and under warranty I had it fixed 12 times. Clearly they slapped a long warranty on an poor quality product but it worked… I think Saabs quality is much better and can stand up to an increased warranty time. Really…the 50K warranty may be industry standard but to me its says “we follow the industry” and “we only stand behind it for 50K miles”. After that your on… Read more »
Erich
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Erich
5 years 9 months ago
A few random thoughts: Volvo is now saying that going after the premium players (BMW, MB) is a mistake. They also tend to discount their cars heavily toward the end of the year (S80 as an example). VW is courting a lower price point with what has to be the absolute worst Jetta I have ever seen. Yet, very little mention is made of the new Touareg which is price on par with the BMW X5. VW’s strategy is very confusing and makes me wonder what kind of price point their new mid size from TN is going to be… Read more »
Ray Kopczynski
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
Here in the Oregon-Washington area, we now have 3 Saab dealers. Only one left in Oregon, one just south of Seattle in the Tacoma/Fife area and now one up in Seattle. However, as for marketing, I regularly check craigslist for Saab items. The new folks in Seattle are starting to get a terrible reputation for unadulterated spamming of craigslist with the vast majority of cars they list NOT being Saabs. Several posters have flagged them for doing so. It’s not a good way to garner new folks looking for new Saabs if they have to wade through 95% of the… Read more »
Mike
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Mike
5 years 9 months ago
I think it is a mistake to lock yourself into a mindset where Saab is compared *only* against Audi or *only* against Acura. I believe Saab can compete in the US against the German premium brands AND Acura, Subaru, etc. using different marketing, models and equipment levels. But that will take time. Currently, however, the US market perceives Saab (where it is aware of its existence) as an “entry level luxury brand” (similar to Acura) that sits between the top-level Japanese offerings and below the premium Euro brands + Lexus. As others have pointed out, Saab is in many ways… Read more »
Alex
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Alex
5 years 9 months ago

I had the exact same feeling about the 9-4x/9-3x. I love the 9-3x and given the chance I htink it could be successful for Saab, it’s a such a hot market here and the outback line saved Subaru here, but the car is completely handicapped by it’s price and now even more so with the 9-4x.

mr_ebbot
Guest
mr_ebbot
5 years 9 months ago
It has been some time since I commented in the site. But the subject is too interesting! I agree with Swade on the incentives program. They should stop and only come back when you are changing models. Let the dealers have a price that they can work with. They can give a little rebate if the customer is haggling. I also agree that they instead of incentives should gear up the cars. All cars in the ads have some alterations. Why not pack them full of good packages that are so cheap you can’t resist. The more you sell of… Read more »
mr_ebbot
Guest
mr_ebbot
5 years 9 months ago

Oh I forgott…

I think that Saab should skip all the talk about competitors and labels like premium.
They want to attract all buyers. Labels and pointing out who your main competitior is not a good way. You should act like this is the only cool car. Driven buy people who are smarter than the average joe…

Ralph
Guest
Ralph
5 years 9 months ago

Yep, Saab should be marketing those groups you named (academics, dentists, gay community and comedians). Add to that: architects, industrial designers, fashion designers, graphics desingners….the whole avant-garde 🙂
Those groups also wouldn’t be so chicken about whether the brand will still exists in a few years.

Troels, Denmark
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

add also; authors and artists.
A short description of the marcet-segment: people who insist in thinking, sensing and feeling themselves… – not letting it over to a coloured magazine, a shortlasting trend or their neighbour…

Ralph
Guest
Ralph
5 years 9 months ago

True. And of course there are the people working in medical professions: besides the already mentioned dentists, there are the doctors and surgeons….whose safety-conscious mindsets will be attracted by a car like Saab.

Me
Guest
Me
5 years 9 months ago

And some engineers that know why a Saab is worth what they ask for, and don’t keep asking for rebates and incentives. 🙂

mr_ebbot
Guest
mr_ebbot
5 years 9 months ago

The good thing is that if you get them to buy. I think others will follow. You can market the car as the one that the smart people choose. And who does not want to be the smart kid on the block?

Jking
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Jking
5 years 9 months ago
Its an obvious sign if a manufacturer has to do deep discounts on their cars. The fact is SAAB has to earn that “premium” mark and it isnt there yet. The demand or lack of says it all. Meanwhile Audi’s are flying off the lots. Here in the US the 9-3 is just really too much money for what is offered compared to the competition. Nobody is paying $35k for a 4cyl turbo with nothing in it. The 9-3 Aero used to be around $30k and really shouldnt be any higher until the resdesign. The new 9-5 Aero is a… Read more »
EK
Guest
EK
5 years 9 months ago
I agree on most points. There is nothing premium about 9-3 anymore (since V6 is history) and MSRP pricing is just way over reality. 9-3x 40K plus pricing is pure insanity. No wonder every year there are rebates in 6K-7K range to move these cars. The new 9-5 in Turbo 4 should find 40 – 50 missing horses and lower the price to close to 40K for the Premium (with all options) and get rid of the base trim. The Aero should not go over 45K (with all options). Add to it free service (3 years) and things would start… Read more »
Tom Tor
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Tom Tor
5 years 9 months ago
Life does go in cycles! Was a Saab dealer for 40 yrs. till GM forced me out in 2006. GM added Saab to two Cadillac stores within 50 miles north & south of me with a cust. base of approx. 250.000 prospeects. Anyway, it’s the same old song. A few points; 1) The damage caused by GM over these many years will not go away overnight. People love bad news and prefer to remember it over good news. 2) My customer base felt let down by what GM did to me. The general consensus was that they would never buy… Read more »
signs
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signs
5 years 9 months ago
While the independence of SaabsUnited is what makes it worth the trouble, it would really be nice with a link to it from the main Saab page. And, to borrow a theme from ‘teh Apple saga’, for the umpteenth time, the Apple site has pretty great discussion forums, where lots of issues get discovered, discussed and ‘escalated’ when necessary. Of course there are not as many Saab drivers that would be in a forum discussing issues as there are Apple users – but on the other hand, if the design and the details are done right, it will inspire passion,… Read more »
signs
Guest
signs
5 years 9 months ago
Oh, and to spare us, and Saab, from focus groups – one thing I would really like is a better way for user feedback. How is it that on almost every single computer program – many of them almost free – there’s a ‘Give Feedback on x’ menu item, but on cars for more than 20k, your opinion is not supposed to really be needed? I don’t see what stops Saab from something akin to ‘bug tracking’ in the software world. While I wouldn’t want Saab to have as a slogan ‘the car company that listens’, I think they had… Read more »
Wes Harris
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

Hi Tom, Glad to see you still around. We are still trying to survive this Saab mess. Hopefully we can hold on until the new stuff starts to happen.

Geoff Heim
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
I don’t know much about price structure economics and advertising, but I know this: my family has owned 9 Saabs. We love the everything about the brand and each particular car we’ve owned. I also can’t speak for other people about why they aren’t rushing in to buy a new Saab, but for I can speak for myself. All five of my family members that currently have Saabs love our cars and have no reason to buy a new Saab (with the exception of my brother, who needs to get rid of the Trollblazer he bought when he needed a… Read more »
eadams
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eadams
5 years 9 months ago

Agreed. The new products are, frankly, uninspiring. The 9-5 is too slow and the 9-4x looks about as Swedish as George Lopez. Combine this with all of the other challenges (brand awareness, advertising, dealer issues,etc) and it’s easy to see why U.S. sales are virtually nil. Saab management knows this, too, and have just put on their marketing hats in a bid to convince consumers worldwide that these are true Saabs. VM, JAJ, and the rest know this and are just trying to survive until the real stuff debuts in 2012.

peppie
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peppie
5 years 9 months ago
Hi Swade and saab fans, I agree that Saab has to remain premium, but last Sunday, I heard my dad ( who is at his 14th saab now ) say that he wants to buy a new saab ( from a current 9³ convertible to a 9-5 XWD ), but when he saw the price, he is not really willing to stick to the brand anymore and that is very worrying. A new 9-5 diesel XWD is around 50000 € here and for this price, you can get really nice cars ( XC 90, ML, 5 series, … ), so… Read more »
SAAB_andee
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SAAB_andee
5 years 9 months ago

hy peppie

if you say you get really nice cars …. (xc90,Ml,5series) then game is over . what´s the 9-5 no nice car ????
i think the 9 5 is really worth it´s money. (for me a hatch or a SC would be nicer). well equiped. excellent to drive. it has more basic equipment than the german competitors…

whats on. driving a car from an company which want to sell only 120000 (this year 30000) cars a year is for me premium.

Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 9 months ago

Your dad can spend 50k euro on a german car, or he can spend it on a 9-5 and get
* more options
* more ooomph
* …a car that a million other people don’t have

At least take it out for a test drive and see which ride purrs the best.

Me
Guest
Me
5 years 9 months ago
Sorry, but this is another I want a 9-5 for the price of the 9-3 comment. I’m simply sorry for your father, and I’m not trying to get personal, but if he had a 9-3 convertible and wants to upgrade to a 9-5 XWD then he has to put a little bit more money on the desk. And for the extra money, he will get an extra amount of car. Here in germany you can get a TTiD XWD vector for 43.900 € or a TTiD XWD Aero for 50.200 € The dated XC90 will cost you about the same,… Read more »
zippy
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zippy
5 years 9 months ago
All this “9-5 costs the same as a BMW or MB” stuff is beginning to p*** me off. We (well those who actually look beyond a single number do) all know that the 9-5 Aero is a good $10-13000 CHEAPER than a comparable product from Germany but far too many people here just see a number and think “its the same price as a BMW……yadda yadda!”. If Saab were to start the selling price of the 9-5 with either engine at the same price level ie $37000 and allow the consumer to spec out the cars they wanted I bet… Read more »
David Robert
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David Robert
5 years 9 months ago

+1

Jason Petho
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Jason Petho
5 years 9 months ago

+1

Saabsessing
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Saabsessing
5 years 9 months ago

“Too bad we can’t make SAABSUNITED.com mandatory reading for every SAAB owner or prospect on this planet. That would definitely help sales!”

I second that, Tom Tor!

David.Baxter
Guest
David.Baxter
5 years 9 months ago

Saab could not catch up the USA as a whole, too big, especially with a lack of Dealers. Saab has to focuse on Dealers who are strong and strengthen them with all help. Start local! Pick up the Eastcoast, maybe NY City (18 million people, more than in Netherlands or Sweden) and regain market. Takeover the USA step by step, city by city. Organic grow!
This is what Infinity does in Germany, build a Infinity-temple, 100 % selfowned, and sell cars in the big cities (Hamburg, Munich).

Tomas TL1000R
Guest
Tomas TL1000R
5 years 9 months ago

You are so right David. Thats the way but even some UPS is important like extended varanty and slightly lower prices. Now we takling about re built all US sales from scratch.

fred@dzlsabe.com
Guest

Just saw a new 95 4cyl. The window sticker said engine…USA. That makes the 95 more “American” than a competing BuICK. Id assume its made in Tonawanda NY.

My question: Do you all think an ad campaign, maybe for only New England or Ontario would make sense? The German Ecotec engine has proven to be excellent and Id have to believe the US one wouldnt disappoint.

Darryl - New Salem Saab
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
Over the weekend I reread the comments again (in the Saab NA post) and then this morning I read what Swade posted. I’ve changed my mind to a degree about the market segment we should compete in. In part, two customers that came in on Saturday to look at our Saabs both mentioned the premium segment cars they were shopping against Saab. Between the two customers MB, BMW, Audi and Volvo were on their list. Another reason why I’ve started to alter my mindset is due to a small amount of research I did in the archives of the dealership.… Read more »
Jeff
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Jeff
5 years 9 months ago
You’re so right, as is Swade on every point. Everything said here is right, and I think time can only help Saab get its act together in regards to the web presence, these things take time. That said, we have been waiting almost a year now, they should have something to show for it by now, right? I’ll go somewhere I haven’t heard suggested yet on here in regards to marketing. I agree with Swade and others on targeted web and billboards, but I also think that targeted collaborations with high profile luxury brands in an overt, very public way,… Read more »
Börjesson
Guest
Börjesson
5 years 9 months ago

Better yet, sponsor some big name Swedish acts

Detroit Red Wings has six Swedes in the lineup this season. And hockey, being a winter sport, would be a good match for Saab’s image. Maybe a high profile sponsorship or something might be worthwhile? Somehow, the fact that it’s Detroit of all places seems extra fitting… 🙂

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
5 years 9 months ago

That’s a no brainer Börjesson. We should nominate brands/teams/singers Saab should be sponsoring as much as possible, and maybe they’ll figure it out. The red wings, no matter how much you like or dislike them, have been a ridiculously good team for a while. That’d be a great sponsorship. They should go after more hockey audiences. You’d expect Saab banners at most ice rinks by now, right?

Börjesson
Guest
Börjesson
5 years 9 months ago

Here’s another big name Swedish act in the US (founded by the Queen, it doesn’t get much bigger!) that Saab should perhaps think of associating themselves with. It would also go very nicely with the Make-A-Wish campaign.
http://www.childhood-usa.org/pages.asp?r_id=76254
Princess Madeleine apparently works with the Childhood foundation more or less full-time, based in New York. This seems like a high profile charity that would be a good fit for Saab. If some of the ad money that Saab needs to spend anyway can do some good along the way, then so much the better.

Alex
Guest
Alex
5 years 9 months ago
Very good read! I don’t think anyone disagrees that people who look at Saabs also look at Audi/Volvo/BMW, the problem is that the product just isn’t at the same levels right now and they maybe looking but they aren’t buying. Saab shouldn’t “lower” it’s self out of the premium segment but it has to be realistic about what the price point is of the cars that actually sell and as you pointed out it’s lower than where they are now at standard MSRP. So the question becomes how does Saab lower prices to reflect how US consumer’s view the quality… Read more »
Dreadnought
Guest
Dreadnought
5 years 9 months ago
I think the problem for Saab mainly comes down the business mess caused by the separation from GM, the awareness (or lack thereof) of the where the brand is now, the fact that the public is going to be skittish of buying a premium vehicle from a company that was close to going out of business….. The only way that can be overcome is by producing an outstanding product at a good price. I suppose these observations make me a master of the obvious, but really I think the marketing is secondary. The new 9-5…..I was a little skeptical, but… Read more »
mr_ebbot
Guest
mr_ebbot
5 years 9 months ago

Good post!
Do you have some sort of forum for retailers selling Saabs? To me it sounds that you need to have extensive talks to get that extra edge.

If I understand it correctly you don’t have Hirsch upgrade in US. But wouldn’t their interior upgrade be good on the customer complaining about the interior look?

My thoughts about rebate is in the long time scale. Probably Saab needs to cut them slowly. Otherwise people will just wait and see and no cars is sold. IF rebate this year is 7000 then the next year it should be 5000 and continue down.

Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 9 months ago
Darryl, you mention soft top vs hard top, and a thought struck me: Do you show your customers any of the Saab performance team videos? E.g. there is a clip of them driving a 9-3 soft top around on two wheels (you can even see the rollover protection has deployed). What better demonstration of the 9-3’s safety is there? In the old days, Erik Carlsson would drive a 900 or 9000 over some special knives to cut the tyres. That way he demonstrated how remarkably stable the cars were. Are such demonstrations passé? Those sort of videos have at least… Read more »
Darryl - New Salem Saab
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

Rune –
As you know I am a huge motorsports fan, driver and builder. One of the commercials I really like from the 1994 era was the one where the five big guys get out of the NG900 and roll it over and get back in and drive away!

We do play rolling footage of everything we get from Saab and some stuff we made on our own.

DC

Troels, Denmark
Guest
5 years 9 months ago
Saab is saab! A much more interesting brand and car then the socalled competitors. Saab is the upposite off Toyota – the latter being among the biggest and less innovative car-manufactures. Saab should – an will, I´m sure – stick to that heritage with innovative, intelligent and sensible – but often unusual (and not neccesarily expensive) – solutions to common problems – and in that sense being (among) the most user-friendly cars() with a lot of real qualityes – not just trendyness or prestige. To me Saab is very different to all other car-manufactures. A comparisation to Toyotas, Subarus, Hondas… Read more »
Kirk
Guest
Kirk
5 years 9 months ago

The most important thing Saab needs to focus on right now is the next generation 9-3.
Make sure it’s desired by many and make sure it doesn’t look too odd.
Do what Audi did in the mid 90’s, bring out a sexy product that everyone wants and you will come back to life. I have high hopes, i’m sure Castriota knows what he’s doing.

Alex L
Guest
Alex L
5 years 9 months ago
Honestly I think it all comes down to one point – fix the interiors. I prefer a “clean” look a hundred times over Merc/Lexus/whatever, but the quality of the materials just doesn’t match the competition. If for example the 9-5 had the über-cool acrylic dash from the start, people would’ve pointed out how freaking amazing it looks, instead of complaining over the grey plastic we get now. It’s a shame when the instrumentation, steering wheel, seats etc. look great but there’s one thing missing. If the 9-3 had the Hirsch interior or similar as standard, and if Saab had spent… Read more »
Alex L
Guest
Alex L
5 years 9 months ago

More about interiors: just look at how amazing the 9-5 and 9-4x interiors look in these photos. In the 9-5:s case, it’s a really, really small change, but I bet no reviewer (nor Saab fan) would say this looks boring: http://saabsunited.saabklubben.se/2009/09/2010-saab-9-5-detail-gallery.html

http://www.trollhattansaab.net/archives/2008/02/saab-9-4x-your-saab-interior-of-the-future.html

Quickening
Guest
Quickening
5 years 9 months ago

+1

So much of the perceived inferior product comes from the interior materials.

Alex
Guest
Alex
5 years 9 months ago

+1. Interior quality/design is a huge selling point for consumers in the premium segment. The 9-3 & 9=5 would benefit greatly from upgraded interiors, luckily Saab seems to understand this and changes are coming.

100%Saab
Guest
100%Saab
5 years 9 months ago

I agree. I like my current 9-3 interior and currently don’t want less in my next Saab.

vagabond
Guest
vagabond
5 years 9 months ago

“$50 donation to Make a Wish Foundation” if you come in and test drive a Saab. That makes me sick! I wonder how many ladies took them up on this! Maybe some Prius women . Do they have a bunch of sissy feminist women marketing people working for them who came up with this idea. This kind of thing worries me about Saab. Couldn’t they give away a Swiss army knife or something. A car dealer in Florida gave away Kalashnikovs to people and the whole place was inundated!

Polaris
Guest
Polaris
5 years 9 months ago

The paint work of the new Saab 9-5 is really something if you would compare it to the new Mercedes E-class. This was obvious to me the other week, when I was able to come close to both a Mercedes and a Saab 9-5 during a test drive. The MB paint had heavy traces of orange peeling.

A premium car must be perfect in this respect!

I have never had anything else but MB´s. Can´t really understand why I haven´t noticed this before? For how long has Saab had this extraordinary finish?

Dreadnought
Guest
Dreadnought
5 years 9 months ago

This is a very good point that doesn’t get talked about much–the paint quality on Saabs (in my experience) is very high. My previous car was an Infiniti, and while the paint on that car looked very nice, the paint on my 2005 Saab 9-3 is of much higher quality, both in terms of looks, as well as durability (very resistant to marring, scratches, stone chips).

gerald
Guest
gerald
5 years 9 months ago
Perhaps this is the most uniquest market in the world (sarcasm), but I gotta tell ya at the moment, in the US it’s all about the TV ads screaming out deals. And for those who think some car companies are above that, may I point out that in Southern California BMW has been running zero down lease deals for many months now, AND 0.9 percent financing on CPOs, AND they’ll often make your first two or three payments. And that’s on the Ultimate Driving Machine, as they say. At certain times of the year you will see one TV ad… Read more »
hughw
Guest
hughw
5 years 9 months ago
I think we all have our own definition of what premium and near premium means to us. Frankly, for the last 25 years, I’ve thought of my saabs as near-premium but giving me everything I wanted in a car without perhaps a name like Mercedes or Jag and a highly polished fancy wood dash. People used to ask me why I liked Saabs. I always said because they gave me everything a BMW or Audi would give me without frills, and at the end of the day, they were 10-15% less expensive. Perhaps the 9-5 Aero is actually premium, but… Read more »
Curvin O'Rielly
Guest
Curvin O'Rielly
5 years 9 months ago

They have my phone number and email address. 🙂

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