Charles River Saab to close at Watertown – move service to Boston Volvo

UPDATE – I’ve re-worded the headline so it’s somewhat less scary. Please note that Charles River Saab’s service personnel will be moving their Saab Service work to Boston Volvo, nearby.

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I only got to know a few dealers well during my time writing about Saab. The one that I probably got to know the best – Charles River Saab – is hosting a farewell open day this weekend to mark the closing of their Watertown business after 55 years.

I got to know Charles River Saab when the Service Manager, Pierre Belperron, invited me to Boston to attend their annual Swedish Car Day event, back in 2010. Whilst Pierre and I had exchanged a few emails prior to me getting there, I really didn’t know what to expect when I landed in Boston. What I encountered there was a dealership and staff that epitomised the heartbeat of a vibrant Saab community.

For nearly everyone at CRS, Saab wasn’t just their business, Saab was a key part of their lives. Many of them had given decades of service to the brand and forged friendships with co-workers and customers that will last a lifetime. Several of them didn’t just own current model Saab cars leased on a convenient staff deal – they owned classic, immaculate Saab cars.

I spent most of my Boston time with Pierre from CRS and Dan from State of Nine and for a guy who lives on the other side of the world, it was a fantastic introduction to the depth and intensity of the north-eastern US Saab scene. You couldn’t meet two more dedicated guys if you tried. What made it all the more amazing for me was seeing the commute that Pierre would travel each day to get to work (he lives in a neighbouring state), sometimes arriving in the wee hours in order to clear snow from the CRS lot before any of the other staff arrived during the winter. Dedication personified.

And of course, what made my time with Pierre and the folks at CRS all the more memorable is the fact that they’re not just dedicated Saab people, they were all absolutely excellent people in themselves. Warm, friendly, genuine, intelligent, capable, interesting and very hospitable.

Pierre has for some time been the author behind the Charles River Saab blog. This week, he’s penned an article looking back at the history of the dealership and profiling some of the key people involved with the outfit. It’s recommended reading.

That Saab dealers are closing is a sad, but inevitable fact of the current situation. I guess it brings things home for me a bit more when I hear about it from a dealership that involves some genuine friends of mine, people I’ve spent time with, had dinner with, etc. This is the personal side of what’s happening in the Saab family.

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This Saturday, the doors at Charles River Saab will be wide open to welcome visitors, current and former customers and staff, and anyone else who wants to drop by and say hello.

The open house will run from 5pm to 8pm on Saturday afternoon.

I know that for many Saab fans in the region, this weekend will be taken up by Saabs @ Carlisle. If you’re not heading there, however, I’d encourage you to drop in and say hello/goodbye/thankyou to the folks at Charles River Saab.

NOTE: A contingent of service staff from CRS will be moving to Boston Volvo at 75 North Beacon Street, Brighton, another of the Village Automotive Group’s dealerships

Greg Abbott
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Sad news. Like anyone who ever attended an east coast Saab event, I have some shirts and coffee mugs with the Charles River Saab logo.

And, on the topic of dealerships giving up, aren’t we due from news from the receivers?

dcpattie
Member
4 years 4 months ago

I sure hope the receivers are monitoring the dealership network collapse in the US and elsewhere. Of course we don’t want to rush the process and end up with a half-baked solution but maintaining some US-based dealerships will be critical if the new ownership group ever wants to re-launch the brand in America.

Unless someone like BMW comes to the rescue with their own distribution pipeline – this seems unlikely.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Half baked? It seems to me that even with some terrific cars, Saab’s marketing, product positioning, etc., have been half baked for two decades. Time was of the essence a couple months ago. Now I’m not so sure. I think the effort to “save Saab” (as has been pointed out here) was less an effort to save Saab and more a legal effort to move money around, which I’m not complaining about—-the law is the law—-but it hasn’t been good at all for the future of the brand.

dcpattie
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Deep fired?

Curvin ORielly
Member
4 years 4 months ago

I have wonderful memories of meeting you, Pierre and others at Swedish Car Day in 2010. So it’s sad to hear that Charles River Saab will closing. With the enthusiasm the place exuded, the dealership looked like it would be there forever.

Curvin ORielly
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Forgot to mention the terrific, very lively conversation we had in my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Boston area.

saabman
Member
4 years 4 months ago
I’m not sure if this article is entirely correct. According to the Charles River Saab website, they are actually open in Watertown through Memorial Day weekend, which is May 26-28. On May 29 they continue service and parts operation at Boston Volvo Village. But the old Charles River Saab phone number will still work. Boston Volvo is actually one of the flagship operations of the Village Automotive Group, along with Cadillac Village of Norwood (which also housed Saab of Norwood). While it is sad to see the historic Charles River Saab location go–the oldest Saab dealer in America–their customers will… Read more »
coggs
Member
4 years 4 months ago
A lot of class guys reamain and I hope are able to stick it out at the new location just across the Charles River (@ Boston Volvo) until the better days we all hope for arrive. I live fairly near CRS but I have a great Indy mechanic closer who does a lot of my work – but my hat’s off to all the hard work in promoting the Saab brand Pierre and the rest of the guys at CRS have done over the years. Oh how I wish I could have taken delivery of the IE Vert I had… Read more »
Bryan Kazes
Member
4 years 4 months ago
I just heard about this last night as well. Although my current 2009 9-3 SS Aero XWD V6 was not purchased from CRS, it is still my “home dealership”. CRS Are the only people to work on my all of my SAABs – ever. Any contraction in the dealer network is sad for miltie reasons. This one hits home and is a pinch in the gut. I liken this event to the devastation I will feel if a new parent isn’t found or if SAAB is gone for good. The first in America. An icon. A larger than life environment.… Read more »
JoPlSe
Member
4 years 4 months ago

This is sad, but unavoidable until new Saabs start rolling out of the factory in stallbacka. Last of June, Svenska Bil in Gothenburg will close down. these are are sad times. But there is still hope.

GerritN
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Crap, crap, crap….Sorry but this one really hurts. My Saab adventure started at Charles River Saab a couple of months after I moved to the US. Great dealer, always treated you nicely. Got all my Saab servicing done at CRS until I left Watertown for Long Island in 1999. Oh boy, it will be a strange feeling driving through Arsenal Street and seeing an empty spot where CRS used to be.

xelav
Member
4 years 4 months ago

And that’s why it IS important to bring sellable cars on the market as soon as possible. I read in other posts that time is not an issue in the process, but here is another example that it sure is. Sad for those people having to shut down their life work .

dezzer
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Very sad to hear such news…for any Saab dealer to close down. very best of British to them all. Surely its time now to announce something….anything to keep the Saab community sane, i bet i’m not the only one be almost stuck on this site and TTELS.SE for info

luke.d.lewis
Member
4 years 4 months ago

This is very sad news. I am going to try and get up there today, as I am leaving for Carlisle, PA tomorrow morning and will not be able to make it to the Open House.

Bryan Kazes
Member
4 years 4 months ago
@SaabMan Yes, you’re correct. From all that I have read, heard and talked about, in regards to CRS, they will officially be leaving the CRS location in Watertown, on Arsenal St, as of May 29th, 2012. Until them it will be business as usual (or unusual sine December 19th 2011) The open house is thisn Saturday as swade reports. Truely a devastating loss to SAAB, to the SAAB family and the community. They were and always will be very special. I for one will miss them being at this location no matter what “extra” or “premium” services, experiences, add-ons or… Read more »
pierre
Member
4 years 4 months ago
Thank you, Steven, as always, for your kind words. Just so everyone is clear, we are losing our building, and while that has substantial meaning on many levels, for Saab driver’s in the Boston area the important thing is that the personnel–virtually everyone–is making the jump to the new location, and our Parts Department will benefit from substantially more space to operate. In speaking to Ray Ciccolo, the owner of CRS, yesterday he told me that what he’s most excited about isn’t what we can bring to the bottom line at Boston Volvo; rather, it is the good humor and… Read more »
No 9
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Glad to hear that Pierre! I very much enjoyed meeting you at the SOC11.
Keep on SAABING! From Pierre de Québec.

SNJ
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Glad to hear that part of the news anyway Pierre! I enjoyed our time together at the In Control Session and at SCD 2010.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Some very good news out of the Washington, DC area: Internatonal Motors is actually EXPANDING! Well, it’s the service department that is expanding—-they are becoming a full service repair facility with the capacity to work on all vehicle makes and models. They’ve been selling and servicing Saabs since 1971. Their labor rates will actually DECREASE 20% and they will offer OEM and aftermarket parts. I’m also hopeful that if Saab ever returns to North America, maybe International can sell them again.

Peter Gilbert
Member
4 years 4 months ago

This is really sad and shows how soon we need to have SAAB back on the road again. I will never forget how well I was treated at this fine dealership last year. I was at the New Jersey Convention then I when up to New Hampshire for the Week before Swedish Car Days which I had never been able to previously attend.

When the news of the impending hurricane forced the postponement I drove down from NH to visit them before evacuating back home to Wisconsin. I will always treasure the Swedish Day T-Shirt that they gave me.

Kyle Merrihew
Member
4 years 4 months ago

This is really too bad….i had a great time at the we are many we are saab even in january, and was looking forward to more events in the future.
will swedish car day still be held in boston?

pierre
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Yes! Swedish Car Day 13 is on for 26 August 2013!

Kyle Merrihew
Member
4 years 3 months ago

excellent! are there going to be any other events…maybe this summer?

Saabman900
Member
4 years 4 months ago

As a CRS employee up until a month ago before being moved to Volvo it really is too bad they couldn’t hold on a little longer. I enjoyed my time there even though it took close to an hour most days to get there from my home. Best of luck..

Quijote
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Unfortunate indeed. Its also concerning that a storied Saab dealership like CRS is closing when “apparently” a buyer is about to step in an assume Saab, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe here.

Honestly, if anyone knows of a hell mary savior, it would be the oldest Saab dealership in the country, right? They wouldn’t be able to stay open a couple of more months until the “new owner” reveals production plans for the brand.

This all looks very murky to me, and frankly I’m not getting my hopes up at all.

pierre
Member
4 years 4 months ago
Don’t read anything into this other than it being good business practice. Appreciate that our revenue in parts and service is off 60% from where it was a decade ago, and with no cars in the pipeline to fill our service bays in 2012, and very few in the preceding years, even if Saab were to have product for sale in 2013 (and we know that is not possible) it would have been impossible for us to afford the overhead on such small service and parts revenue. Converesly, by moving into an existing working facility where we add virtually no… Read more »
kanundrum
Member
4 years 4 months ago
I have recently been in talk more and more with CRS as the Saab Specialists of the USA. Pierre is a great person and I hope to be in touch with him more and more regardless of what happens with the dealership/brand. Him and his team of experts are some of the best I have ever met and will hopefully continue to go with them for all my major Saab work (Even though its a 8 hour 1 way commute for me). You folks are the best and I think the dealership will pull thru. Its not a sad event… Read more »
Harriet
Member
4 years 4 months ago

I just hope that Reinertsen Saab in Denville, NJ is not the next one; they seem to be a used car dealership these days. Someone has to support our dealers, or there won’t be a way to buy a new Saab when it does come out.

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