Lance Cole: Selling Saabs and the whole ‘Aero’ thing

Lance Cole is a writer living in England and has penned several books on automobiles and aviation. Saab enthusiasts would know him best for the book Saab 99 and 900: The Complete Story, which is an excellent and essential volume and available for sale at the SU Bookshop.


Recent posts about how to get Saab sales going set me thinking. How does Saab re-establish itself in the market place?

Some of you will argue that this is to deny Saab’s existing profile, but you will miss the point. Yes we the cognoscenti may know all about Saab and its survival, but believe me, there are plenty of people out there who gave up on Saab under GM and neither know nor care that Saab is reborn: We need to get them back.

Earlier this year under a post entitled, ‘Ok Victor, so what do you do now?‘ I rashly set out some of my, and your, thoughts – and it is good to see, entirely by coincidence, that some of those ideas have actually become reality in Saab’s own corporate language.

Getting the new cars and the re-born brand out there, reframing it and representing it to private buyers and business customers, is key to Saab’s survival: No sales – no Saab. It is simple…

In that earlier article I suggested that Saab should place cars with the police, coast guard, rescue services and outdoor activity clubs – and not just cyclists or skiers. And that the business / fleet buyers need to be motivated into taking a fresh look at Saab – and specifically the 93 TTID – it being a weapon they really ought to try, because it is brilliant. Shout that louder someone!

Which is all very well, but are the mainstream car buying public – that is them – not you – who are the Saab enthusiasts, still happy to be on the receiving end of the message about Saab and aircraft?

Are the ‘Born from Jets’ and ‘Aero’ Saab hallmarking, not just a little jaded after the years of make do and GM genetic modification? I mean, how far can Saab take this whole, aircraft derived thing?

This subject has been well aired here at Saabs United and loads of opinions offered.

For me, there is still mileage in the aircraft linkage, but not if it is false, old-hat, done to death and frankly, a con. Yet I still love the idea of a trim called ‘Aero’ and adverts and imagery that refer to flying. After all the very beating heart of Saab design, the genisis of Saab, is indeed aircraft inspired.

If Volvo can pump millions of marketing money into yachting and the whole ocean race branding – and make millions out of flogging cars in big numbers to the yachting fraternity, why cannot Saab throw less money at some sort of flying theme and get profile and exposure from it? The joke is that Volvo engines are found in power boats not just yachts, and Saab jet aircrafft use Volvo flight engines (Flygmotor) as well…

I have written here before about how my fellow glider pilot community used to buy Saabs, but how they seem to have moved on to Audi, Subaru, VW, et al. As you can see from the attached heading image, Saab used to feature gliders in marketing and advertising output. But then it went to fighter jets and got all fuelled up on hype, fumes, and re-invented its brand pillars.

We do not really want to go back to fuel thirsty Co2 producing jet fighters that remind of us war, do we…

Instead, we want to be green, serene, clean and sustainable, sleek and silent – just like gliding then. Gliding by the way is not elitist, not defined by middle class rules and appeals to a diverse social demographic- oh and if you avoid carbon fibre star ships, the costs are akin to being a motorcylist.

I am glad to report – as you can see from the photos – I have just spotted some Saabs down at the famous Bristol and Gloucestershire Gliding Club. But, out on the runway, there was a new Jaguar XF towing a glider in, which was quite a shock, and a squadron of Audis and VWs doing same thing.

I thought – where is the new 9-5, wouldn’t a 9-4x be suited to this, and how many of these people would buy Saabs if the brand name of Saab was put back in their mind?

Then I heard that Swedish Day UK ‘s own Robin Morley and his crowd down in Somerset and Devon, are due next month at the Devon and Somerset Gliding club with a South West Saab club owners gliding taster / trial evening. Someone is agreeing with me!

Such a series of events – but tuned to selling new Saabs – with dealer support where private and business customers are taken for a glide in a glider and a Saab, would surely be a relatively cheap and exciting way for Saab to get back to its roots in a new context and to tell potential buyers about the new Saab.

So never mind dealer days at the golf course with the Lexus boys and girls, what about dealer days at the altar of efficient, clean, green, sustainable flight that transcends social barriers and is socailly and ethically relevant?

Aligning Saab to gliding and re-forging Saab’s old links with the sport, is one idea – but why not include paragliding and hang gliding, both easy to access, diverse, relatively cheap sports where Saab branding could yield profile and sales.

Paragliding is a global sport with many younger, ‘cool’ members and, like gliding, holds its own world series and is a massive movement, ripe for tapping. The general aviation, and private aviation field is also one where Saab once excelled. Those of you who did not see my article on the Saab Safir light aircraft here a while back, need only to know that Erik Carlsson flew himself around in a Saab Safir.

So maybe flight – green flight, light flight, and the huge marketing opportunity that general and private aviation offers world wide, is one place where Saab should be landing. One thing is for sure, Saab needs something to hang its profile on and ‘Aero’ has to be a consideration- does it not?

Sticking with wings, but reframing the motifs, could give the term. ‘Saab Aero’ a whole new meaning…

Displayed alongside this article are some of my photos – designed to show you what it is all about. Oh and yes, fighter pilots do still love Saabs and included is a shot of an RAF Harrier re-fuelling at high altitude right in front of my camera.

As the old Saab advert used to say, ‘FLY SAAB’

With thanks to Bristol and Gloucestershire Gliding Club and others…

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