Thoughts From Dealer World

October 29, 2011 in Editorial

The past six months or so have been trying to say the least for those of us in Saabs dealer world. We can look back to when this all started and the first shut down at the plant that was started when one supplier stopped deliveries, the start up shut down that happened shortly after. We can see how just as things were looking up and volumes were starting to be realized, the rug was pulled out from under us. For the first three months of 2011 Saab had sold just shy of 10,000 cars worldwide and were poised to release the 9-4X and 9-5 sport combi that was sure to add to sales volume. As dealers, management and sales staff, we can look back on all of this and be frustrated or we can look forward to the rebirth or whatever symbolism you would like to use for this great brand of ours. We still have a lot to be proud of and we now have partners that are ready to invest the money needed for us to all enjoy good times once again.

I have been asked many times by too many people to count, “how do you feel about Chinese owners”? To be honest, it makes no difference to me of the nationality of ownership, what matters to me is the commitment of ownership to investing into this company and keeping Saab, Saab. Do I fear that down the road the factories being moved to China? Yes and no. I fear that break even costs and making more affordable cars seams to make sense that to build in China would be more cost effective. That being said, I don’t see the factory in Trollhattan being idled by Youngman/Pang Da as the factory in Sweden is as much a part of Saab as the cars themselves and I feel there is perceived value in a car being built in Sweden and the attention to detail.

I think I can speak for most dealers in saying that we are very happy to see that a new agreement has been reached. We are all very thankful for Victor and his never give up or never quit attitude that he has shown throughout the last year. Without Victor, this deal surely would not have happened. It is safe to say that the dealer body looks forward to being able to offer you all the exciting present products and future products as well as having the parts supply chain free flowing again so as to better serve you. We also would like to thank our customers that have been so patient and understanding with us as we all went through this together. I truly believe that the absolute worst is behind us no matter what twists and turns can still be ahead of us and like so many have said, I look forward to more conversations about product and promotions rather then the conversations of the last six months.

From this point forward we can look at things with optimism and some excitement. Soon production lines will be moving again and the 11,000+ orders sitting in the order books will be built and customers who have had the patience of saints, will finally get their cars that they ordered months ago. For some of us, we will be able to finally order the 9-4X and build some excitement around this beautiful vehicle. Will things get back to normal over night? Of course not, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and things are looking brighter then they did for the last six months.

 

As with any of my posts that have something to do with the dealers or how we feel, I invite every other dealer to share their thoughts as well. 

42 responses to Thoughts From Dealer World

  1. 11,000+ cars on order, in the books? Ehrm, I’m very sure that A LOT of those orders were cancelled, during the last 6 month! Wonder how many are left? 4,000? 5,000?

    Cheers!

  2. Hear,hear!. Let`s inject some positivity into these posts. Admittedly, the deal is not done, but it appears SAAB is on the road to being rescued in the best deal possible in this world`s shaky economic climate. If the Eurozone looks set to ask the Chinese for financial help, why not SAAB. Let`s hope the deal is done before China shuts its gates on foreigners with begging bowls.
    VM has done his best in this worst of times.
    Let`s look forward to the best of times.

  3. I’m not so sure if this deal will go through… GM sold SAAB to weakest bidder – Spyker, while there were many financially stronger ones. Why would they do that if they wouldn’t want SAAB to die? They thought that SAAB will die under Spyker, which means – no possible competition between the makers in the future. Now, when Spyker want to sell SAAB to financially strong companies, i don’t believe they will accept it. Especially to the Chinese ones (because of the GM technology). I believe this optimism is too rushed.

    • .
      Saab would have been shut down, but for Spyker’s purchase

    • I’m not quite sure about this competition thing. Saab is in a niche where GM has no products. Saab is an European global premium brand, what is the equivalent GM product?
      Not Opel,
      Not Buick,
      and not even Cadillac.

      • Sad to say but I think Cadillac has leapfrogged Saab by a wide margin. It remains to be seen whether GM finally got serious about safety and mpg, but if it has, I don’t think Saab will be in the same league, if it ever was.

        Cadillacs sold in the US are seriously good folks. I don’t know what they sell in Europe, but here they are seriously good.

        • david,
          I don’t know who has leapfrogged who, I was just saying that Saab and Cadillac are not pursuing the same customer base.
          I don’t like Cadillac, but it is only because I don’t like the looks of their cars.

          • I have seen virtually no Cadillac uptake in the UK Saab has sold more cars when they had a factory shutdown than Cadillac did in the first 3Q/2011.

            Not sure why I’m sure the cars are good for the US,

            All I can think is in the UK there marketing is non existant (a bit like Saab) and they are percieved as big engined less economic cars.

            I have to admit I’m not a fan of many American cars (I was when I was a small boy) over hear they just seem to be a triumph of style over content…if that, the Chrysler 300CRD being a prime example-looking like a Bentley but on investigation it really isn’t anywhere near.

            There are a few of them on the roads and at around £26K they are good value but they still mss any mass appeal in the sector they are in. (also like Saab).

            I know the saab probvlem is just down to marketing and “perception” that is is nearly dead, it will take serious efforts to re-kindle the interest of the buying public…again.

      • I think GM will not allow SAAB producing ng 9-5, 9-3, 9-4x in china. Phoenix will ok. it’s almost GM free.

        we will see whole new range based on phoenix platform. and according to the sells target 200,000 ~ 300,000 cars in 2016, SAAB will need it’s own engine factory.

        after the deal done, production restart and the NG 9-5/9-4x finally landing in china. Please send performance team to china, all car fans will crazy for them!

        人车合一 贴地飞行

  4. We have been a Saab dealer since 1984. A Volvo dealer since 2006. Volvo is in good hands with Geely, a Chinese company. Things did not change for Volvo immediately, but now we are seeing very good change. The key for Saab now is to hire the right person to be CEO. we have been selling a few Saabs every month, when ownership stabilizes and production begins, sales will begin to go up again.

  5. Many thanks to all the dealers who have stuck it out. You are where the Saab rubber meets the road. For those who suffered, I hope there is a place for you in the resurrected Saab. God bless Victor and all those who toughed it out… I will be lookimg for a CPO’d 93 or 95 or maybe a 94 next year. The consequences of being retired on a fixed income ;) .

    • Thanks to you and others like you Ian. CPO’d cars mean just as much to the dealers as a new car, the more Saab’s on the road the better it is for all of us. It’s all about exposure and I can tell from your message that you would love for someone to ask you about your car and in effect you become a salesman for our customers and help in bringing that customer back into a dealer, so thank you.

  6. Jason Powell said: “I have been asked many times by too many people to count, “how do you feel about Chinese owners”? To be honest, it makes no difference to me of the nationality of ownership, what matters to me is the commitment of ownership to investing into this company and keeping Saab, Saab.”

    I agree with that, but as long as the Chinese owners (when it’s all said and done) have the broader vision to allow Saab to be SAAB. What I know (and seen) of Jaguar and Land Rover and their products these days excite me, a sign that the TATA Group is keeping an arm’s length from product research & development and marketing but ensuring the two companies have the right amounts of resources to be good at what they’re good at. I hope PangDa and Youngman will do the same for SAAB.

  7. I hope leasing returns to US dealers soon. A strong push with 9-3 Griffin leases could get quite a few of them on the road and give Saab dealers some life until the next 9-3 is ready. Maybe undercut the Subaru Outback with a good lease on 9-3x and other XWD models this winter? It would be great to have a bunch of XWD Sportcombis available to choose from at just under Outback prices.

    Although I don’t see them achieving good numbers with current equipment choices, I would take a 9-5 or a 9-4x for $399 with $1000 down for 36 months. Get the interior up to par on the 9-5 (all green screens gone forever, please) and the new 3.6 engine in the 9-4x for that price and I think they would really take off.

  8. Would like to know as a current convertible owner when the next 93 vert is likely and any advance reports on the design.

  9. I agree with Ken that Saab must remain Saab – and let’s face it the company HQ and European factory in Trollhättan is an essential element of that. But if say 10 years down the line certain Saab models that are designed in Trollhättan get made in China and are imported to Europe, and prove their worth, then I think in time we might grow to like them.

    I disagree with Ken about the Volvo You concept. You don’t like it Ken, and of course that’s your preference. I have talked to few folk who are not keen on it either. But the design itself is in fact very Volvo, and clearly harks back to the classic PV Volvos of the 1940s. And personally I think it’s great. I prefer its exterior styling to the Castriota Saab concept actually (though the boldness of the latter is to be applauded). I just wish they could have put the beautiful Aero X into production as a halo car!

    Speaking of roots … I actually believe the Chinese connection has some significant roots in the past which are rather nice. After all, the connection between Swedish design and manufacture and Chinese has its origins in the 18th century, I believe, with the establishment of the Swedish East India Company. It was importing Chinese crockery, furniture and textiles via Gothenburg that inspired the floral, minimalist themes of what became classic Scandinavian interior design. Something to think about the next time you examine a pair of curtains in Ikea.

    AB

  10. We can see how just as things were looking up and volumes were starting to be realized, the rug was pulled out from under us.

    As seen in table at http://www.bmsg.se/saab_sales.pdf

  11. Interesting story from Robert Collin.

    Victor(y) och de andra hjältarna på Saab. Men GM spräcker affären!

    According to him Youngman is almost history because of GM, but VM has already a plan B. But to me it looks like VM is using GM to get rid of plan B and continue with plan A.

    • …and a solid kick in the nuts to those Swedish politicians who have been pushing for Chinese ownership for the last two years now (to such a degree that they have sabotaged all of Victor’s efforts).

      Noteworthy is that GM said recently that they would refuse to give a decision before other stakeholders had said their piece. That means that swegov no longer can pass the buck like they did with Antonov.

      But this means unfortunately that we are still living in interesting times.

    • But I fail to get this! Maybe the SAAB child brand is history with this old-opel-saic-brand but I don’t get how SAAB on improved former GM platforms can compete with a child brand solely aimed at the chinese market. Someone thinking of buying a rebadged old opel with a chinese name isn’t probably financially able to buy a semiluxuty vehicle such as SAAB. I really fail to se the competition. That would be SAAB selling things based on the same tech as a half priced chinese old opel vehicle that’sprobably aiming at a whole different market. To me that’s SAAB having problems not GM/SAIC/OLD OPEL!

      And I really thought that the phoenix platform was something else than 50 % previous generation GM stuff!

      • And a second thing is that, as I recall it, this deal was forwarded to Guy Lofalk at a meeting with NDRC high officials and the chinese buyers. I guess GM/SAIC need to keep a good relation with the NDRC as well. This is future Saab IP that will be chinese owned. What’s the weight on that relation?

    • Don´t You violate the holy SU rules for comments with this “BTW”? ;)
      However, I enjoy it immensely when there are occasional interesting BTWs. :)

    • I can’t find any other confirmation that Gunnar Brunius has gone / is going to Volvo (and, if i understand Robert Collin’s article correctly, Gunnar’s second-in-command is going, too). Can anyone else? If true, it is a bad day for Saab. Brunius was tipped by some for the CEO’s job; in the short term, his knowledge, and that of his second, is fairly important to getting production going once again.

    • Robert Collin is a loose canon. He mixes the best journalism with the worst (but he is always entertaining :-)). I think this belongs to the latter. I mean, How could Saab even have tried to sell the IP for Phoenix to Youngman if they were not allowed to?

      • Presumably they intended to license off the parts of the Phoenix that was Saab’s IP. (This was a licensing deal as I recall — not an outright sale of all rights to the technology)

      • I think if GM can prohibit SAAB to build cars on phoenix platform in China, and VM known it, that will be a very big problem.
        because VM use phoenix platform to talk with various manufacturers in china, including Youngman, Huatai, Greatwall, and other unknown manufacturers.

  12. One thing that strikes me, is the constant flow of negative comments everytime i read something regarding SAAB in the Swedish media. How come that a lot of Swedes are so negative towards SAAB? Is it the same story everytime a Swedish company is in trouble?
    Perhaps a little off topic, but…

    • Swegov set the tone early on. The minister of enterprise was quick to point out that Saab has never turned a profit (see http://www.saabsunited.com/2009/03/dagens-insdustri-gm-accounting-practices-with-saab.html for why she was wrong) and emphasized the importance of not gambling with the tax-payers money.

      That image forever stuck in the brain of many Swedes, conveniently forgetting that thousands of unemployed Saab workers means a loss of tax revenue as well as having to spend money supporting those unable to immediately find a new job.

      As for Swegov, there are many explanations. They seem to think that the automobile industry belongs in the 20th century. Or maybe they are concerned with AGW and not pleased with Saab’s progress towards more CO2-neutral engine designs?

      Swegov’s eagerness to sell out to the Chinese is striking. This seems to have been the only acceptable solution for Volvo and Saab.

      I think they are being somewhat short-sighted and I would be surprised if swegov’s handling of Antonov has not raised some eyebrows among investors world-wide. What investor would want to risk the amount of scrutiny that Swegov has put Muller and Antonov through? And that is perhaps the real secret of Chinese ownership: They are conveniently located very far away, so their visibility is kept to an absolute minimum.

  13. As a UK dealer also I echo the sentiments of Jason Powell. Yes we have lost a couple of orders, mainly Motability orders where they just could not wait any longer. Other orders we have managed to convert into existing UK spare stock with a special deal.
    But the shining star amongst our remaining orders is a customer who is the outgoing president of the MCC, (any cricket fans will know the significance of this position), and who placed his order with us back in March! He did actually cancel his original order only to upgrade it to a White Aero version with even more extras, including the 19″ Edge Alloys! This customer is completely new to the Saab brand and so had no previous loyalty just a wish for such a good brand to remain in existance, Now that is support and committment! He has had many tempting offers to ditch his order, as due to his position the likes of Jaguar have done their best to lure him to their product, but without success! These are the customers that will get the Saab image and profile back up and running. With the right care and attention we can nurture these these customers to be excellent advocates of both our dealers and the brand image.

  14. To be honest, it makes no difference to me of the nationality of ownership, what matters to me is the commitment of ownership to investing into this company and keeping Saab, Saab.

    I disagree with the statement. It does make a difference to me the nationality of ownership but the new owners can overcome the disadvantage by using quality parts and design. Saab did that when it was Swedish owned. If I had to pick, I wouldn’t mind Saab to be a Canadian company making cars in Canada.

    • Derek, the most important thing right now is survival and to continue as a company. It would be great to see Canadian or American ownership, but when someone needed to step up it was the Chinese and we need to embrace this lifeline that has been given to us. What matters to me is survival of Saab and cars being built again.

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