On owning a Saab and getting Saab owners back to dealerships

Last night I asked US readers to talk about why they love their Saabs and answer the question: What do Saab need to do in the US to get someone like you back in the showroom?
Melissa A was concerned about the length of here answer so she mailed it in. I think it’s just fine. It probably tells the Saab story of many people on here.
Here it is.

Hi, Swade–
I am responding to today’s request for thoughts on developing Saab’s market in the US. I live in a suburb of Washington D.C. This is long, so I didn’t want to submit as a comment. Once I get talking about my Saab, I can’t help but get carried away, for which I apologize.
I bought my first Saab in January 2008–a 2008 9-3 2.0T SportCombi. After 23 years of driving a much-loved 1985 Honda Prelude that succumbed to rust, I needed a smallish wagon, but not a (sub)compact wagon. I had four nonnegotiable requirements–stick shift, sunroof, electronic stability/traction control, and fun to drive. Bonus if the car was red. Double bonus if red with a black interior.

I never considered a Saab–figured they were way too expensive. But there were very few cars for me to choose from. Subaru was the only Asian wagon available with a stick shift, and the few American wagons were much too big. I was expecting to buy a Subaru Outback, but the trim level with a stick shift and stability control took me over $30,000. So I started looking at Volvos and Audis. But a stick shift was no longer available on Volvo wagons, the Audi A3 was too small and the A4 too expensive. Then I pulled up the Saab website, and went….”hmmm, what’s not to like???” So, I was down to an Outback, a VW Jetta wagon and a Saab 9-3.
I test drove a Saab. That was it. I didn’t even bother to test drive the others. I ordered my fabulous Saab in laser red with a black interior with a moon roof and stick shift. I LOVE this car! It has greatly exceeded my expectations, and every time I drive it, I am just beside myself with joy!
I am a middle-aged woman who loves, loves, loves to drive, but it didn’t take long before I realized that I had bought much more than a fabulous car–I had, in fact, bought a community, a history, a story. I bought into the “Saabiness” of Saab within weeks–days, actually! I bought into the quirkiness, the Swedishness, the design, the history, the trolls….I went to the Aero Academy, I bought accessories, Saab hats, Saab clothing, and Saab model cars. I wear a Saab lanyard at work. Emma Elk and Nallis Bear accompany me on long trips. I read the SaabsUnited and SaabHistory blogs and joined Saabnet.com, the North America Saab Club and the local Washington Area Saab Club. My laser red SportCombi was in the Washington DC Saab Support Convoy in January 2010. (So please don’t tell me that my “GM Saab” isn’t a “real” Saab…..)
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN to drive!
Show people the excitement of driving a Saab. I drive my Saab as much as I can. Is there a “back way” to get to the golf course? I take it! Should we go to the course that’s 10 miles away or the one that’s 50 miles away? The 50 miles, of course! That business meeting in Pittsburgh, Columbus, New York? I drive instead of fly! People need to see how awesome Saabs are (I love this video of the Saab Performance Team!).
Huge, functional, easy-to-use cargo area.
The car is useful and practical, and wagons (er, “crossovers”) are coming back. The cargo area of my SportCombi is huge, and brilliantly designed (puts the Volvo V50 and V70 clumsy cargo areas to shame), meaning it’s very easy to configure and convert as needed. With the back seats UP, I can easily fit four golf bags and all the extras for a round of golf. When assisting a disabled family member, I discovered that there is more than enough room for an adult wheel chair–probably two, and certainly for a child’s wheelchair, strollers etc, without having to put the back seats down. The capacity with the back seats DOWN is even more astonishing! There’s actually a bit more cargo area than the Outback!
Great mileage.
My gas mileage is terrific–even keeping golf bags and pull carts in the back– averaging 26 mph in local driving and 33 mph on highway trips.
Fabulous safety.
I found out first hand about the safety construction of the car when I was rear-ended. The front-end and hood of the car that hit me was partially crushed, but my Saab only had scratches and dents on the bumper. The rear crash absorption pad did its job. The active head restraints also did their job–I’ve been rear ended a number of times and know all about the sore necks, sore shoulders, sore backs and headaches that come with the experience–except for this one. There was nothing. Not an ache. Nothing. Other Saab owners have truly extraordinary tales of walking away from crashes.
Who doesn’t like that elegant Swedish design? Those curved lines? That sleek, minimalist driver’s console where the controls are intuitive and accessible? (I get a headache just looking at all the knobs and settings and “stuff” on the driver’s console in my friend’s VW…). And, yes, I love the feeling that you are in a cockpit, which conveys speed and performance.
Sure, Saabs are known for their “quirkiness.” But “quirkiness” now doesn’t mean having to mix oil with the gas. It means that they are unique, beautifully designed, high performing, have an ignition in the center console, and a cooling vent in the glove box to keep your chocolate from melting… (plus, they’re built by trolls….)
Roomy back seats, great family car.
Saabs aren’t just for “free spirits”–they are great family cars–with comfortable back seats and plenty of room to make it easy to load children into child seats.
I still cannot believe that I got all this car for the money (with moonroof, winter and premium packages, and a dealer incentive, I paid $30,000 for the 9-3. It was $3,000 less than the Subaru Outback and the Volvo V50). I believe that, for the money, you cannot buy a better car. Even for an additional $10,000, you cannot get a better car. I hear people complain that Saab doesn’t have as high-end interior finishes as other European luxury cars–well, I live in an apartment with outdoor parking, and the last thing I want is a leather or walnut veneer dashboard to be sitting in the sun everyday. The interior of my Saab is perfect for me, functional and unfussy, with easy maintenance. I think it’s interior is gorgeous.
As a current Saab owner, I want to keep buying Saabs.
Having just bought my first Saab two years ago, it’s not time for me to buy another car. If I had an old Saab, I would happily run out and buy a new one. However, for the first time in my life, I am considering that I will try to buy a second car in a few years to support Saab. Make me a car that I just HAVE to have in addition to my 9-3 SportCombi–a little two-seater, a bio-fueled car, maybe the all-wheel drive or something else fun (I’d get that lynx-yellow convertible, but, alas, I have no garage).
Get some free press.
Get a new 9-5 to Warren Brown, the car critic for the Washington Post, to test. Saab needs to get in his weekly car column–he hasn’t reviewed a Saab in probably 7 or 8 years or longer. He is also influential in his weekly live chat/discussion on the Washington Post website. He makes lots of recommendations for cars, which a lot of people pay attention to, but Saab has been off of his radar. We need to get it back on! The past few weeks people have been asking for his recommendations for sporty wagons with a stick shift–and he lists everything except a Saab 9-3. We try to remind him to mention the Saab. He likes Saabs; he just doesn’t think about them. I’m sure there is a reviewer like this in every major market.
Get a new 9-5 to Golf Digest, a monthly magazine, which often writes up golf road trips for two in a luxury car (or even lend a Saab SportCombi that can easily transport a foursome and their bags).
Get people to test drive them!
There is no better sales pitch for a Saab than actually driving one. That was all I needed. My idea for a video or print ad? A series of photos/video from the Saab Support Convoys– happy music in the background, with narration: “When GM decided to close down Saab in 2009, thousands of Saab owners in 50 countries rallied to save Saab. What do they know that you don’t? Test drive a Saab and find out!” Close with a Saab zipping along in full, high-performance mode on a curving road!
I hope some of these thoughts will be helpful and trigger some ideas.
Best regards–
Melissa A

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