Whilst Saab enthusiasts here at SU seem to be pretty pleased with the new Saab 9-5 – and rightly so – there are only a handful of us who are likely to go out and actually pick one up. That tells me that we’re a demographic that either a) isn’t in the financial position to do so, and/or b) likes the 9-5 but doesn’t consider it the type of car that we’d necessarily buy for ourselves.
The 9-5 carries with it a lot of Saab DNA. This is not an issue at play for the vast majority of people. But it does play in a segment that’s new for Saab – the large executive-size car market. Even if we account for the size of what might be regarded as Saab’s largest cars to date, the 9000 hatch and 9-5 wagon, this is a bigger car and therefore, a new segment for Saab.
And that might be one reason as to why the uptake amongst Saab enthusiasts could be regarded as slower than what some might expect.
And if you take a look at Saab’s print advertising so far, it certainly looks like it’s tailored to a non-traditional Saab viewer. It’s certainly been poorly received amongst traditional Saaby types, accustomed as we are to seeing certain things in the ads we like.
I heard an interesting story from a dealer earlier this week. In his opinion, the new Saab 9-5 is going to sell mostly to either new or returning owners to the brand. That is, people who will trade in a car from a different brand. He thinks it’ll only be a relatively minor number of buyers who come in trading an earlier 9-5.
That’s how his test drives so far have been panning out, too. Customers coming in to try the car out for themselves are parking Audis and Peugeots in the carpark (yes, he’s in Europe). There was a high degree of interest from Saab owners at the launch they held for the Saab 9-5, but the majority of people who have come in since don’t currently own a Saab. They might have before, but they don’t own one now.
He even related a story where an Audi driver gave it a good look over at a stop light and decided to linger a little longer. The driver, in an Audi A6, changed from a turning lane at an intersection to the straight lane in order to follow the 9-5 our friend was driving.
I’m pleased to know that we have some new 9-5 owners amongst our ranks already and that more are waiting for the car to be delivered. But I also acknowledge that the tradition for Saab has been smaller cars, and others might be waiting for those to come along.
The new Saab 9-5 was designed under GM’s watch and I have a feeling it was intended as an expansionist model all along. I know Victor Muller has placed a verbal emphasis on getting old Saab customers back, but I’m not sure that was the aim of this car – and I hasten to add that I’m not sure it should be the primary aim, either.
Saab do need to engage the interest of new potential customers and the 9-5 car is a very worthwhile car to do it with. Having new product does engage people, most times simply because it’s new. Having a new non-traditional product can bring in some new blood and a return to tradition for subsequent models can retain the old guard. Saab’s future product line looks like it’s aimed that way.
I’m not trying to discourage people from considering the 9-5, by the way. It’s a cracker of a car and is well worth your time and attention.
This is just an acknowledgement of a set of circumstances and the trends seen by one dealer so far. Maybe some other dealers have some commentary they can contribute as to what they’ve seen so far? (You can use a nom-de-blog if you wish).