It was 10 AM on a Saturday morning (September 6th, 2014 to be exact), at the center of a usual quiet weekend in the Santa Clara high-tech office park that was not even disturbed by the newly constructed football stadium. Yes, it was a quiet morning indeed. But, that was about to change: more on that later. The first item on our itinerary was a visit to the European Auto Factory. We observed various models: including 9-3s, 900s and of course the venerable Sonett. After nearly an hour of mingling, the quite air was filled with pistons firing and Turbochargers whistling: the 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Saab Club Meet and Drive was now on the move!
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It’s precisely eight past noon. Normally any resident of the lecture hall would be submerged in complete darkness, surrounded by rows upon rows of empty seats. Of course, as one would expect, the auditorium’s regular occupants are hard at work preparing for their upcoming mid-terms. But tonight: is a special night. For a room that is typically bathed in sunlight, has found itself illuminated by the soft glow of several banks of fluorescent lights.
Lets take a little break for a moment if we can on the discussions on NEVS and what it means to the future of the Saab brand. Everyone has their own opinion of what this means and a lot of predictions good and bad. I want to discus for a moment here the newly formed Saab Automobile Parts North America.
With all the comments about whats going on right now and some of the people who are lets say less then thrilled, I find it important to state that regardless of some predictions of what any of this means for future cars, your present car is still worth driving and parts will be easy to once again attain. Weather you’re happy or sad about the buyer of Saab, your Saab is still just as much fun to drive today as it was yesterday and dare I say it maybe even more. I only mention this because I’ve heard crazy comments about “well I guess I’ll get rid of my Saab now” and I think that would be a shame.
As noted in Tim’s post on the press release on SPNA, they were formed June 5 and will be responsible to provide genuine Saab parts to North America including the USA and Canada. This newly formed company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saab Automobile Parts AB in Sweden. As we have seen in a couple of posts from RedJ, Saab Parts AB has been taken over by the NDO which some see as a bad thing, I personally see this as a great thing as the NDO will bring Saab Parts AB back to where it once was as they have no real option, they need to get it making money again to get their money back. We also saw from the press conference today that NEVS have an option to buy Saab Parts for 200 million Euro in 3 years allowing the government time to rebuild Saab Parts and the Network.
Back to the North American Saab Parts piece of the puzzle, I received a very welcomed email from Tim Colbeck. If you remember, he came on as the head of Saab Cars North America just as everything fell apart. I know a lot of people in his shoes would have packed up and walked, scratch that, ran away from the issues he had to deal with in his first few months at a new job. None of the issues Saab was facing were issues he at that time could have changed or fixed but this man has been there through every step of the process with us all. He attended two of the We Are Many, We Are Saab events and to me has proven to be everything that Saab is meant to be. The important parts of the email are as follows:
With the sale of the parts, the wind down of SCNA is near complete. I have agreed to support SCNA as needed going forward. Now that there is a new company for Parts Distribution I have signed on to be the CEO for the initial period to help bring that company up to speed. Hopefully the new company can make life infinitely easier for Saab owners and Saab retailers going forward. I am happy to be working to that new goal, versus winding down operations.
So again, Tim is with us all through this and I see this as great news that someone who knows inside and out what to do and how to do it is at the helm. I have spoken to people that worked for him under SCNA and everyone has had great things to say about him and his commitment to the brand, the customers and the dealers. I think we are fortunate to still have him there to help get things back on track. He has also told me they will be contacting Saab owners shortly too, so we will continue to monitor.
I know some will ask the big warranty question here and before you do, I have to tell you that I right now know the same as you which is nothing in regards to warranty. Saab Parts is its own company run by the NDO so I think it’s safe to say that they will not be the ones to get those answers from.
With the recent events of the We Are Many, We Are Saab, some people may reflect on things and wonder, can I make a difference by attending something like that? After receiving an email over the weekend from Michel Theriault, I would say yes and that all we do matters. Michel organized the We Are Many event in Montreal, Canada and from that has decided to take things to the next level.
Montreal has not had an active Saab club for some time now and at the urging of some of the participants, Michel has started a webpage with a forum to connect with Saab fan’s and an ultimate goal of restarting the Montreal Saab club. Judging by the photo below, there are plenty of Saab fan’s in Montreal and I am sure the re-launch of the Saab Club will be a success.
Saab clubs are a very cool thing to be a part of and witnessing some of these clubs come together is something in itself. We have a club out here in BC and when they have met at our dealership in the past, it has been like watching family arrive for a celebration. Everyone getting out of their Saab’s with grins on their faces being met by other members happy to see each other again. I don’t think there is a better way to explain it other then a family coming together.
I wish all the success in the world to Michel and the soon to be relaunched Saab Club from Montreal. If you are in the Montreal area, please visit the website link and show your support.
There are two types of news out there right now regarding Saab: the very positive and upbeat, and then you have the very negative. What can be perceived as negative is sometimes just stating the reality of the situation, and what must happen in order for Saab to make a comeback. Saab is in deep trouble, we must not ignore that. However, we need to remember all the positives and that where there’s a will, there will always be a Saab!
Saab is like a plant. It will flourish when it is out of its constraining pot, has deep roots, and can grow broad and green. For many years it has stayed in a small pot, not being able to grow and has slowly turned brown. Victor Muller came along and tried to revive it by taking it out of its pot, putting it shallow soil, and tried to get it to grow using a restricted amount of funds, hoping the dirt would appear and grow deep around it while the plant would continue to grow. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and the plant was left dried up, brown and drooping. It is not Victor’s fault, it was just going to take a lot more than he had expected and could offer, to revive Saab. But we have a great opportunity for this plant now, with the right owner! The right owner will firmly plant the Saab plant into the ground with deep rich soil, and with proper attention, love, and nutrients, this plant will broaden its roots and grow into a very beautiful green plant. I have no doubts this can happen, and we can be there to witness it. There is no need to think Saab is dead, and no reason to spread negativity. Saab has a strong history of survival against the odds, and they may once again come out on top!
With that being said, the biggest struggle for a Saab comeback will be its reputation. Through the last couple of years alone, Saab has really taken some hard blows, and now the company is in bankruptcy. It has done its damage. The soft core Saab fans are slowly leaving the family, and there will be fewer and fewer people willing to take the risk of buying a new Saab (or even the current ones out there).
But why should that stop us? We can help get Saab their image back. For every Saab we drive, we are representing the brand in a small way already. Do we show our love for our cars? I’m sure we do! How do we talk to other car owners about Saab? We need to keep positive and upbeat, and also keep it realistic. By accepting what got Saab in trouble is step one, but its step two- how they get out of the problems- is most important. People are very interested in hearing there are investors out there wanting to buy Saab and revive it. They do care. Its cheering for the small people in the crowd of big people. People love that sort of thing.
This is just the start. We need to liven up our culture and really take it out there on the road! One suggestion would be to use our clubs. We need more clubs, and we need better attendance to the clubs already in place. We need to announce the fact that these clubs exist, and we need to gain new members continuously. Saab clubs give you a chance to connect with other Saab owners in a relaxed atmosphere where you can engage in good conversation. They can help host events! Through these events, we can show the public that Saab is very much still a viable brand, no matter what is going on right now with the parent company. Please stay tuned for more information about clubs and events in the near future!
We can keep our cars in great shape inside and out, and that will really impress people. For instance, I was driving a beautiful but older car several years back. A lady approached me while I was refueling at a gas station, because my car caught her eye and she wanted to see it up close. I told her the age and her jaw dropped. I almost had to show her proof! After talking about what a wonderful car its been for me, she was set to go out and buy one! (Unfortunately for her the model was no longer in production). But it will definitely work with our Saabs. They can be traveling advertisements for the brand’s survival. I know some of us already practice this, but I’d love to see more!
A second thought is to start giving Saab a name in our communities. As an example, the club I’m part of, the Minnesota Saab Club, sponsors a stretch of road that we keep clean. In exchange for our time, we get our name on a sign. Now, when people drive that stretch of road, they can see that Saab does good will in the community. They’re not going to think of us at stuck up wannabe BMW drivers any more. It helps get the name out there to those who don’t really know what a Saab is (and yes, there are still many people that will go, “that’s a car brand?!”). The more exposure Saab has, the better. And right now taking part in the community and showing goodwill are on the top of people’s lists. With all the bad out there, why not do some good?
Third, we can use the internet to help the Saab image. I wanted to take this short break to ask everyone to stay off the GM Facebook page, please do not post anything there. Instead, we would be more than happy to see your positive Saab posts on the Saab Cars Facebook page, and also on the Saabs United Facebook page. Its interesting when I’ve visited other car makers Facebook pages, I’ve seen a variety of complaints on their wall. Sure, people post their photos and all, but its the negative comments that really stand out. Social media is such a powerful tool, that it can help make or break a company, regardless of what the company is doing/not doing. But, that is the cool thing about Saab’s social media. We love our new models as well as our old models, and each car tells its own unique story. We share these stories everyday with thousands of people. And we need to continue it. But please keep it to the Saab pages.
Finally, we can welcome people to the family when they do something as small as join a Saab group online, or a Saab club, or as big as buying a new/used Saab. Whatever it is, let’s welcome them in! Its going to take as many people as we can get, to help Saab get a positive image in the future. This is our job now. The administrators have their job, and us fans have ours. Let’s get to it, and see what we can do for Saab’s image!
I ended up taking a little break from writing about Saab recently, because there were some things going on in the Saab community that I didn’t quite understand, and didn’t want to be part of. Saab blogs were attacking one another, and there were also a lot of accusations going regarding possible incorrectly reported news.
Why was this going on? My thoughts are that people are feeling quite emotional and vulnerable right now, and they’re just venting their frustration. The administrators aren’t talking much about the bids or bidders, and we’re only finding interesting bits of information here and there to report on. We’d all love to give you more news, but we’re not about to make anything up in order to satisfy a need. Instead, we wait like everyone else. While we wait for bigger news to report, we’re working hard to keep the Saab community focused, positive and peaceful.
A positive and peaceful community is what we can do to help the administrators, and the future for Saab. What we say and do online is watched by many people. Many more than we give credit for. Saab is in a very sensitive position right now, and we as a community, could play a potentially major role in making or breaking the deal, even now. The world paid great attention to our rallies in January, and they’re watching us now. Be assured things are moving positively behind the scenes, and trust that Saab is in good hands. We need to keep the focus amongst ourselves, we’ve done what we could to show that Saab was worth saving. The world indeed listened to our voice, there’s no doubt about that!
We did really well too. Saab doesn’t only just have one interested party, it has up to fourteen different interested parties! Many have teamed up to make a more efficient bid for Saab, so there is a potential of 6-7 bids that the administrators will be looking at. I don’t believe a comeback as big as this, has ever happened in the automotive industry. We’re about to show the world a brand new future of Saab. Its history in the making right now.
And guess what kind of parties will be thrown once Saab’s new future is sealed? Let’s keep our focus and get ready to party soon! Its coming.
Fast forward to January 13th when Tim called me to ask if I enjoyed flying. “Tim, I love flying, but can’t stand the airports”. He explained his idea and I agreed it was a good one. It would be my first attempt at ground photography, but gotta start somewhere, right? “Be there bright and early!”.
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Our friends at Just Saab had a rally/meet at both of their Just Saab locations over the weekend and saw a great turnout. For those that don’t know Just Saab or AJ Murphy, I have to say that in the US, AJ has been a great contact for me personally and is one of those guys that can talk you off the ledge or bring you up when you’re down. From what I have seen in the Just Saab group, these folks are 100% Saab and are all about their customers. Below is a letter from AJ to all that attended their rally:
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We received an email earlier today from James McGuire and Julie Gardner with a great read on their combined events that came together on January 14th. This is too good not to share with everyone.
When I (Julie) first heard there were to be worldwide rallies to support SAAB in January I must admit it did not immediately occur to me to host one. Mostly because I knew my dealer principal was set to lose quite a chunk of money on his new car inventory and that the brand was a bit of a sore subject here- quite understandably from his point-of-view. But also because I never did anything like this before. Then the phone rang and my friend, James McGuire, he wanted to know what I was doing to show support. He wanted to host an event because the nearest one at that point seemed to be in Boston. He felt he could get the support of his local dealer, SAAB of Willow Grove (a.k.a.The Great Britains), and I said I would talk to the wife of my dealer principal about the idea. Fortunately, she saw the value to holding such a rally and gave me her stamp of approval. Jim was quite excited about the prospect of doing something in his area too but we were concerned two events on the same day and so close to one another would only take away from us individually. He then came up with the genius idea of meeting individually, but convoying to a third, neutral point by both our groups and a real plan was born.
As we began planning and I spoke to my own club (Central Penn SAAB Club) about support, I was able to find a local supplier for the stickers to show solidarity and pick up a couple of classics from our group to place in the showroom for conversation and general “eye-candy”. I found that we had a few folks who would be happy to attend and got advice on a route for the convoy to avoid traffic and provide a more scenic route. I got the OK to order donuts and coffee for the attendees and made up a flyer to post around the dealership to make our customers aware of our commitment to supporting SAAB post-bankruptcy. Over the next couple weeks I received many emails and had more than a few conversations with service and parts customers regarding the “state-of-SAAB” and where Kelly SAAB stood in the grand scheme of things. The list of RSVP’s continued to grow and soon I had a list of over 50 attendees and 35 cars planning to show on January 14 and show the world what the SAAB brand is all about.
On Friday, January 6, the excitement was bumped a notch when I received an email that Tim Colbeck, President and COO of SAAB Cars North America, wanted to join us at Longwood Gardens, our neutral meeting spot for the two convoys! I actually had to read it twice to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. Would it be OK if he arrived at 2:15? Are you kidding? It would have been OK if he wanted to come at 3am! LOL! I replied that we would be pleased to have him join us and that we would adjust our departure time from the dealerships to accommodate his scheduled arrival. I contacted Jim at once and he was as enthusiastic and excited as me at the honor of having Mr. Colbeck join us. We wanted to alert the press of course but did not want to put him in a situation where GM haters or folks only looking to give him a hard time would attend the event, so decided to keep it under wraps. We advertised a “VERY Special Surprise Guest” to join us and it wasn’t until the morning of the rally that we announced just who the guest would be to our respective attendees.
January 14 arrived and was a cold, windy day with only intermittent sun in Lancaster. Thankfully, no snow was on the ground or forecasted, so even the classics would be sure to make the event. We had a 1974 Sonnett III courtesy of Theresa and Ryan Gamber and a 1978 99T courtesy of John Webber in our showroom as well as the most recent 2011 SAAB 9-5 sedan in Java and a Laser Red 2011 9-3 to show just how the cars have developed over the years. The selection of vehicles that arrived over the next 2 hours showcased all that is amazing about SAAB- from the “Klassisks” like my own 87 900Turbo Convertible, to the 900 3 and 5 door models, to the NG 900, the 9-3, 9-7x and finally the newest 9-5 and 9-4x models, we had them all covered from the last 3 decades. What an awesome sight indeed!