Looking at 2011 – hoping for 2012

About five years ago we moved to a new house. We liked it from the first time we saw it and were pretty happy when we were chosen among a few other contenders and could move in. It’s our landlord’s parents’ house and we were the first to rent it after his father had died. We take god care of the house and even improved it in some aspects. Our landlord recenly said he likes to have us because we treat his parents’ home with respect.

You may wonder why I write about this. But in the end this is similar to what I always wanted to see for Saab: an owner who respects Saab’s heritage and improves the brand even further. No longer than two years ago I was very happy to see Victor succeed in acquiring Saab. I still think Spyker was a good fit when it comes to the mindset even though the financial side was too weak. They had a vision for Saab and worked hard to make it come true. We all know where this lead for now and I won’t get into all those details again.

What I still would like best for Saab is a solution like Jaguar/LandRover found it with Tata. A big owner with the nessesary financial background to get things up and running again, while not interfering in the daily business decisions. The JLR story in general contains some more points like pricing policy that would fit Saab pretty well.

But this is only the second step. The first thing we’d need now is a new owner, someone who is willing to invest a serious amount of money. As I write this the news about that Indian company the recievers refuse to talk to start to spread on the interweb. This is just another example how individual decisions have a big influence on Saab’s fate. Like with many oher things I don’t get this but this time I think the company is big enough to make itself heared despite this first refusal. Would be interesting to see how GM would act if they were approached by someone who is bigger than them.

This post will go online on new year’s day so let’s take a look into the future. If Saab is to get a future any potential investor must act fast. Every day the company is in bankrupcy it is getting more difficult to start again. Employees are leaving, cusomers are moving to other brands. The other thing a potential buyer needs are deep pockets. With enough money on the table Saab can be revived and go into a bright future. All who are in line to buy Saab as a whole now know about that. They’re still there.

Some people may still wonder why so many companies are looking at Saab now. The simple explaination is that Saab is one of the last brands in the western world that are for sale and not already owned by big manufacturers. So for car companies from China or India this is a rare opportunity to get hold of a heritaged brand and in addition some technology and know how. Just like Tata did with JLR they can enter a new segment of automotive business by making one brave investment.

This is a core reason that lets me stay optimistic. Saab has a certain value and there are companies out there who know that and are willing to take the chance. It’s even possible that 2012 blesses us with an owner that really fits Saab, maybe better than anyone we have seen before. And yes, there are even interested parties who could finance the Saab until new, GM-free products are ready.

The first big event this year will be the WeAreSaab events on January 14th/15th. If you can, please attend or even organize an event on that weekend to show the world and the potential buyers that the community is still strong. I said it before and I’ll say it again, please let those events be ruled by love and passion for Saab rather than negativity towards GM or anyone else. We want to set a positive sign. Likethe convoys did two years ago.

In that spirit I wish you a a happy new year. May it finally be the year of Saab’s rebirth.

48 thoughts on “Looking at 2011 – hoping for 2012

  1. Happy New Year Year to all at Saab, to all that are trying to keep Saab alive, and to all the people at SaabsUnited for their insight into the travails of Saab in 2011.

  2. It really will be a HAPPY NEW YEAR if Saab is alive and kicking in 2012 and beyond! I think the real courage a new owner must show is a change of direction—-or at least new places on the map. I’m referring to the need—-the absolute need for a future Saab (if there is a future for Saab) that is priced at a true entry level. I am concerned that if someone—-even a company with deep pockets—-buys Saab and does “business as usual,” it will be a short term joy followed by more disappointment. Saab cannot go on offering cars that start at entry level LUXURY car prices and go up from there. The results are in: The strategy for this maker has failed. It’s time to revisit Saab Automobile roots—-a good, relatively inexpensive car with unique features—-a design that will draw buyers from the bottom up. Build it and they will come.

  3. Angelo, I strongly suggest you shop for a KIA because your thoughts are ridiculous! Saab can produce a small car to compete with BMW 1 series and Audi’s A1 but that’s it. They have always produced this type of car and has to continue to do so, with heavy financial backing they can market it properly and have great success.

    • They’re bankrupt. Whatever they did, it didn’t work. A new approach is needed. Going back to the same things that lead to going out of business seems more ridiculous than trying my suggestion. They won’t take many buyers from BMW or Audi. And by the way, Kia is one of the fastest growing car brands today.

      • So buy a Kia then, I intend to continue to drive a Saab! GM never knew what to do with this fine brand all they did was rape it of it’s technology and put it out to dry! Why do you think that Buick’s and Cadillac’s are better cars today? Victor just didn’t have the financial backing he needed or else he would of obtained his 100,000 sales goal. So Angelo why don’t you be like all the rest of your fellow Americans and drive a Kia or maybe a Hyundai!!!!

          • A good image and an expensive image are not necessarily the same thing. The legendary and many times emulated success of the Mazda MX-5 proves you can be affordable, desirable, extremely popular and still characterful.

            Saab’s roots are not, as most enthusiasts well know, as a luxury manufacturer. It was not until c.1980 that Saab really moved upmarket by foregrounding the 900 Turbo in ad campaigns aimed at execs, and of course developing the 9000. Before that, as everyone should know, they made their name with affordable, rugged, quirky small and medium cars. Sure, the 99 had been considered a ‘big car’ when it was brought in in the late 60s but so far as I can see (and I admit I was not around then, having been born after the 99 Turbo came out, so have just gleaned this from reading the books and articles, and talking to family who worked for Saab in the old days) it was not squarely aimed at the luxury/executive market through the 70s the way that all Saabs since the 9000 have been.

            Why do I repeat the history that most here know so well? Because I think Angelo has a good point. Saab can return to the premium sector in time, but just as other brands have done following a crisis – Audi in the early 1990s, for instance – it is not a bad idea to reposition at a lower price point and build back up from there. I certainly think when it comes to selling new cars (and alas I think a lot of the enthusiasts with their 10-year-old, 3rd-hand Hirsched 9-5 Aeros are not really representative of this) Saab needs to reconnect with the family car buyer and the budget that entails, and those seeking a smaller more affordable new purchase. You could say this is an area where VM made a big mistake with the ng9-5, but on the other hand the car was already conceived and produced as a luxury/exec competitor to the A6 and there was perhaps too much momentum behind that assumed positioning to have deviated during 2010 and 2011. Now, however, there really is – we hope – an opportunity for a completely fresh start.

            Excellent post, Till. Happy New Year to all, and here’s hoping.

            • I’d argue that to go downmarket was exactly where GM took Saab and it backfired big time.

              To make a Saab that is deliberately worse than the Germans would be an absolutely horrible decision, if the company rises from the dead. Who in the world would buy a car like that when ”reasonably priced” makes from Asia would be you competition? I don’t think it matters where crap comes from Sweden or China. I will only ever buy premium which Saabs thankfully still had plenty off under the surface.

              A 9-1/91 that drives better than a A1 or a 1-series but has a very wide options range is what’s needed. That way those who want to save some money can do it but never without compromising the driving characteristics. Also the interior materials used must be of high quality or we’ll never get out of the situation where Saabs loose value quickly. Remember, nothing depreciates like cheap or cheap looking stuff that has a questionable image.

              • The plan of developing a smart little entry level car doesn’t negate the idea of continuing to sell a larger premium sedan. We’re at a point in time where Saab can (and I’ll argue that they MUST) do both, assuming they survive. I could very easily see the the successful executive who buys the loaded 9-5—-also buying the entry level car for the son or daughter going away to college. More importantly, I can see the young person who can afford the stylish and unique little runabout stay in the Saab family—-buying the bigger, more expensive car when they are older and making enough money to afford one. In the U.S., Saab has run into the same issue Peugeot had—-no stepping stone vehicle to get new buyers in the family. Allan B. said it better than I did—-you can have a less expensive, smaller vehicle that enhances your image rather than damaging it. He’s right—-look what the MX-5 Miata did for Mazda. I’m not suggesting a Yugo here—-think of something like the Mazda 3 hatch with some Saab touches. Would anyone here who wants a loaded
                9-5 abandon the idea if Saab also offered a smaller vehicle that appealed to a different demographic? In other words, would you suddenly not want a more expensive Saab because their image would somehow becompromised? If Saab drivers really are different (and I think they are) they will buy what works for them and not worry about anything else. “Look at me” image hasn’t really been the catalyst for Saab sales, at least not among the people I know. Oh, and to address another point made by RS: In the 1980s, Jaguar used the finest materials of any mass production luxury car maker—-burl walnut, premium hides, soft touch vinyl surfaces, heavy chromed knobs/switches—-and their cars depreciated like a brick dropping off the Burj Khalifa. Meanwhile, cars from Acura held nearly all of their value over the same time period. Much more goes into resale value than interior materials. Finally, I did recently buy a (used) Kia minivan. Traded a GM (Buick) station wagon for it. It’s used and high mileage (a 2007). So far, I’m impressed. No, it doesn’t handle like my 9-5 wagon or my BMW 3 Series—-but it serves a different purpose in my line-up. Kia is doing quite well offering a lot of car for the money.

                • “Jaguar used the finest materials of any mass production luxury car maker—-burl walnut, premium hides, soft touch vinyl surfaces, heavy chromed knobs/switches—-and their cars depreciated like a brick dropping off the Burj Khalifa”.

                  Come on 🙂 I have been calling for smart high quality materials not something you’ll only find in a Rolls Royce. Just compare a base MY07-09 OG 9-5 interior with a 9000 Aero or OG 9-3 SE and the quality difference is shocking in the old cars favor. This is also the reason why people don’t rush to pick up those second hand Saabs like they used to. The base 9-3 SS fell like a rock in value over here for the same reason. Not ‘premium enough’ on the inside and then GM even cut the button dash…

                • RS: We agree on that point. The older Saabs (pre-GM and even early GMs) had wonderful interior quality that diminished. Look—-I love my ’04 9-5 wagon and I think the interior is done well—-but compared to, let’s say a mid-80s Saab? It falls short—-I’m the first to admit it.

            • Allan, I think exactly like you, and I think your thoughts on the older Saabs are spot on. Virtually all of the Saab fanatics I know drive second-hand Saabs because they can’t afford new, I really think a quality entry level model would sell well. I love my 9-3 Arc and all of its luxury features, but when I think Saab, it’s always my old 96’s and 99’s that come to mind, truly wonderful cars at an affordable price.

        • Concurring that something went wrong, though I am not sure that it is about the price of the cars. Iirc, I once read that Saab drivers have the highest average income of all brands.

          Your point is very valid. Any buyer of Saab should first find out what went wrong, and why. Evidently, the 9-3 I hatchback concept (quirky? utile?), though apealing to long-time Saab owners (?) did not fulfil GM’s expectations. But the shift to the Audi copycat concept with both 9-5 and 9-3 II also did not work out.

          Owner-wise, we are in a mess. There are those that want practical cars, like they used to be. Then there are those who want a good driving experience, nice functional interieur, good haptics, good suspension etc. There are also those who want to buy a Saab as a statement, be that image-wise, to express their individuality, or some political statement. All of this resulted from GM shifting the brand’s focus several times in the last two decades.

          • Thyl, I think it’s quite easy to make a car that can do all the above. The C900/9000 were exactly like that. You could ether buy a lower priced base model or a Hi-Po version. They both had the Saab DNA (driving, practicality, safety, quality) in them that simply got people hooked.
            The 900 became outdated by late 80’s when Saab-Scania didn’t have the capital or didn’t want to make the necessary investments to keep up with the changing times. And when GM entered the scene decision making regarding Saab just got totally out of wack.

            Aren’t hatchbacks the hottest thing in motoring today? So why couldn’t Saab succeed making ‘smart’ cars again.

            • Personally, I think that we share common car preferences 😉

              But overall, why then was the 900/9-3 I less of a success than the 900? It was an improved version, but still in the same tradition as the 900, being a hatchback. And it wasn’t more expensive than its competitors, like the VW Passat, or the Renault Laguna, with comparable equipment (A4 was a bit more expensive, and Mercedes and BMW were evidently more expensive, but I didn’t check their prices, since they are RWD and fell of my list).

              And isn’t the 900 a good proof that the financial concept didn’t work? Despite having sold more than 900000 samples, the car evidently did not make enough profit to allow developing a successor, according to my sources (a German language book), since Saab had several failed attempts in developing a new 900 based on the 9000 platform, before finally deciding that they needed a partner with an existing platform (GM).

              Imho, the 900 is also an argument in favor of my asspumption that the user base is disrupted. You state that the 900 combined it all (and personally, I would agree). But do you think that one of the newer Saab owners of a 9-3 II sedan would agree either, image-wise? At least in the US, a hatchback apears to be associated with “cheap”, and also in Europe, there was a strong movement away from this body style. I concede though that this is changing again (evidencing that car buying is all about image, not about facts based decisions, since otherwise, most cars would be hatchbacks by now).

              • You make good points but I honestly thing the NG900 was a severe downgrade from the classic one. With this model Saab turned simply from HOT to not. Like someone said; black bumpers on an otherwise red, green or blue car made it look somewhat uninspiring to say the least. The same theme continued on the inside and at the time the base versions became cars only ”old fogies” would buy even though it drove good and with the turbo smoked all the trendy Germans.

                As of today we’ve had the pleasure of owning all cars ever made under the 900 and 9-3 name and IMHO the c900 T16 has been the classiest and most versatile by far.
                Saab/GM should have built a clear Beamer killer with four different variants (hatch, sedan, wagon and vert) in the early 90’s in order to stay in the race but instead GM put them on them in bed with Opel and without even having a wagon or a sedan like every single competitor on the planet. Same thing with the 9k. The rest is history.

                • Forgot to say:
                  I think the biggest problem with the c900 was the fact it was very expensive to build and that’s where GM could really have made a positive impact to Saabs profitability with it’s advanced factory technology.
                  Not to let THN build they’re own new platform and give the engineers the freedom to make the best car in the class was a big mistake IMHO.

        • It is always good to think in new ways, to re-think, evaluate and come up with new solutions.
          That is a wery SAAB thing to do. There is a paradigm shift knocking on the door. Especially the Americans will be affected by it.
          It is not practical to drive around a 2+ ton vehicle to move just one person. In many families there is a need for a second car that is smaller, still very safe and capable of doing more mpg.
          At least doing more miles/kilometers with less energy consumption. “Per Gallon” is perhaps not the way we should talk about the cost of driving our wheels forward in the future.
          Making a smaller “Saab” is perhaps not the first priority but it is not an idea to be discarded either.
          AC coined the term “rightsizing” for engines but the term can probably be extended to more than that.

  4. SAAB can produce a car to match BMW and Audi I agree, but it is something they need to build to in about 3 model cycles. They need to start at a 25-30% discount, and then work their way up. Either that or they can offer a lot more standard equipment for the same price…free NAV for example, which is very cheap to offer, and has a high value perception. Perhaps build the telematics around a high end Android phone and even have a slot for a sim card if you want an on board phone…..

    • On the phone side I think that a good way of interfacing to your carried phone is preferable to have a sim in the car for phoning. Nowadays you have a lot of content in your phone besides your contacts and you might want to use it when appropriate (read safe).
      That said a modern car will probably have wireless abilites for different purposes (and probably with a lot of different air i/f). Both for inside compartment and for outside car.

      • Which will mean not interfacing at all with quite a number of phones. There is a protocol for this, but it is not supported by many phones; the most notable example being the iPhone.

        In fact, I have yet to see what I would consider a full car integration of an iPhone (or any other smartphone), including full steering wheel control of the phone app and the iPod app, including info on the SID, handsfree, speech control, audio output (for all apps), video output, simultaneous access to other apps, charging, and GPS input from external built-in GPS receiver. And more…

        • So since when is the availablity of a high-end connection to a smartphone the yardstick for the merits of an automobile? I would think that would be the car’s performance, comfort, roadholding, fuel consumption, exterior and exterior aspects and perhaps the environmental impact. Everything else is immaterial AFAIC and also potentially dangerous since it requires the driver to divide his/her attention which he/she sorely needs to drive safely in today’s road jungle that we still call traffic.

          That communication, entertainment and whatever else stuff can either get added as an option for those who cannot live without it or just be left off, the latter being my personal preference. When I want to telephone, I either stop at the roadside (preferred action) or use a handsfree unit if stopping isn’t an option. If I want to go online, I park the car in a safe spot and go online. No-one should be in such a hurry that he/she endangers his/her and other people’s life by just driving on while, at the same time, inquiring after his pet’s well-being, making a dinner reservation or ordering a pair of shoes online? These contemporary in-car playthings cost thousand of lives each month.

          I have a car to drive it, not to use it as my mobile living room or office. Yeah, I know I’m a dinosaur. But still, if you think about it…


  5. Everyone, Have A Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year!
    Let this be a year of hope for a renewed spirit that will allow SAAB to once again thrive!
    A special Thank you to TEAM SAAB, Victor and everyone in Trollhatten! Your hard work will pay off, just keep believing!

  6. What??? SAAB can’t compete with BMW and Audi???

    It’s snowing heavily outside and later this day I am going to a new year’s dinner. I´m sooo looking forward to this. Not so much to the dinner as to the drive! Knowing that no BMWs nor Audis will even try to keep up with my 9-5 in this kind of weather!

    Happy new year everyone!

    • Klypp: 1960s era Saab 96 would make it through the snow better than most other cars of that era too—-and it cost around $2000 (a little more than a VW Beetle?). Unique and with advantages doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  7. I’m waiting with baited breath now that January 2012 has begun. The next few weeks for SAAB are truly make or break. Come on negotiators, sort out a great GM approved deal! Best Wishes to all the SAAB community in the whole world!

  8. I can’t talk for others but this is why I like Saab. I am relatively new Saab’s driver. I got my first one in 2001 and I bought my fourth Saab in last June, a 9-3 Aero 2.0T. All new cars. For me, the first quality for a Saab is simple, it must be fun to drive! Do not talk about driving a low cost entry car. I like to get some technology, a practical and reliable car. For sure, when the production will restart in 2012, the price will have to be lower to attract new customers. I hope Saab’s fan will make a move and buy a new one too. I looking forward to buy a MY 2014/2015 Saab. I don’t want to drive a car, I want to drive a Saab!

    P.S. It’s amazing to see so many poeple to read SaabsUnited on 1st january!

  9. Wow! All these marketing experts! I say, if the brand gets another chance: Victor Muller in the marketing seat….he “feels the brand”, but he’s maybe not the best CEO-type.
    Why do you think he went after it in the first place? Cause he comes from the country that had the highest Saab-sales per capita!! Holland. He feels targetgroups and competition, he can do it. Now let’s get the money first. I want a 13th Saab after this one. Rene

  10. From N. America: I’m looking at the TV and seeing a nice cool ad for Jaguar cars. I ask myself,”how come I never saw that from Saab “. all these years . No ads with Saabs in the snow or Arctic. No ads about safety awards. No ads about turbos and performance, fun to drive etc. I saw these ads for Lexus, bmw and audi. No SaabAll I saw was some stuff in Wall Street Journal (and I heard there were some in lgbt mags). No ads that excited the customer base. So goes N. America…so goes Saab……Yes but Vagabond…blah, blah, blah

    • Go to You Tube and watch Saab commercials from the 1960s. Traction in snow, practicality, value—-and done in a really cool way. Somewhere along the way, they started to take themselves way to seriously—-the ad agency and the marketing people at Saab. Those 1960s commercials made it seem fun to own one. “Born From Jets” was ridiculous—-didn’t invite anyone to the Saab family in a creative or welcoming way.

      • To clarify—-“Born From Jets” was a professionally done campaign—-the people who developed it were talented—-but IMO, I think it was too much about the image of the ad spots and not enough about the virtues of the cars.

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