A pre-emptive strike on US sales data

The single most commented post last month was the one concerned with US sales data, filled to the brim with opinions from people on what Saab Cars North America need to do to turn them around.

Many of them were well considered and appropriate. Many others weren’t. Such is life when you open up comments to the public.

Sales data for December should come out in the next day or so and I wanted to mention a few things prior to that happening.

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Expectations for December

I don’t expect December sales numbers to be particularly strong in the US in December. Everything I hear tells me that dealers are still struggling to gain traction with the buying public.

There were quite a few 2010 Saab 9-5s sold at firesale prices. I heard of two selling at a dealership in Colorado on the same weekend, both around $16K off MSRP.

The end of year sales event being hosted by New Salem Saab produced some mized results. Despite having a list of around 70 vehicles on offer, Darryl only expected to sell three or four for the week (most were stock held by nearby dealers) and it looks like he’ll meet that objective. Other dealers participating in the event moved some stock, too. One of the other dealers sold at least 5 of the cars on their list.

One of the positives for the event was the increased awareness that it produced for those markets. Darryl fielded calls from far and wide, even from Canada, and he reported that the local interest level was higher than it’s been in the past. A smaller percentage of people are asking if Saab is still alive and are asking more about the actual cars.

Those are positive side effects, but the challenge of actually selling vehicles remains.

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Marketing

Before you jump into comments and say that you haven’t seen any Saab marketing in your area, please consider the fact that your area might not be a priority area for Saab right now (despite how much of a nice neighborhood it is and how much you like living there).

Quite a few people have dropped notes in comments relating to the fact that they’ve seen an increase in local marketing, including ads during football games, etc.

Saab have limited resources and despite a shaky start to the marketing campaign (She really wasn’t for ….. many people), I believe they’re doing the best they can with a limited budget.

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Website

I don’t know when the change to the US website is going to happen, but I don’t believe it’s far away.

We’ve just seen evidence that Saab are on the move with regard to their IT resources. Remember, these were very much integrated with GM’s back-end IT systems and untangling them, whilst undesireably slow, has been a Herculean task.

It’s a key area, though, and everyone that I’ve talked to at Saab acknowledges this. The impression I’ve got from them is that it’s writ large at the top of their to-do lists.

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Pricing

Volkswagen are said by many to be aiming to be the largest car company in the world and as such, they’ve got the volume to price their cars competitively in the US market. You can now get a Jetta for under $16K in the US.

The unfortunate side-effect is that many people think you should be able to get a Saab for that price, too. Reasons why I don’t think we’ll see a Saab anywhere near that price:

1) Saab don’t have the volume to price the 9-3 anywhere near that pricepoint.

2) The 2011 Jetta on sale in the US market has been panned from pillar to post for being one of the most bland, content-devoid vehicles ever. Dan Neil wrote one of the most scathing reviews for the WSJ. And Pete DeLorenzo had another crack at the Jetta in today’s 2011 kickstarter:

I was driving down the street the other day and I witnessed the manifestation of everything wrong with the Future of VW running right along next to me: it was a black, bone-stock, price-leader version of the new VW Jetta. As bland as any product ever regurgitated by Toyota – maybe even more so, in fact – and as forgettable and more frightening than I even imagined it could be, this thing was a rolling monument to tedium, a singular automotive atrocity of the highest order.

The Saab 9-3 is a vehicle that can still make a compelling case for itself. The Convertible is still an icon. The SportCombi is still very sharp and for those who like the standard 3-box shape, the Sport Sedan is well priced and a great driver. Whilst the range lacks a few of the most modern of mod-cons, it’s still well equipped and a great car that offers excellent driving dynamics no matter the season.

To hammer down the price of the Saab 9-3, they’d have to hammer down the equipment and character of the vehicle just as Volkswagen’s done with the Jetta. It’s not only undesireable, it’s just plain unwarranted.

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The market

US sales are slow, but I’m getting a growing feeling that that’s more of a symptom of problems with the US economy and habits of the US consumer than it is problems with Saab’s vehicle offering there.

It’s true that Saab NA and the powers that be in Sweden can do more – warranties, competitive leasing, standard equipment and especially service levels from some dealerships. I’m still hearing from dissatisfied prospective customers who haven’t heard back from dealers or the company for things as simple as the delivery of a brochure.

The US market is still a very tough environment, however. Economic conditions are still very difficult for many, which compounds Saab’s problems in terms of lack of awareness and the loss of customers in the lease cycle.

I think the economic conditions could be accentuating the conservative nature of the US consumer. Whilst some European customers have been happy to consider Saab’s newer model offerings, it’s been a slower uptake in the US – where you have to be very noisy to get noticed and somewhat more secure to lure those on the borderline. A number of US consumers have been almost like pioneers for the new Saab in a crucial market, however, and I’m grateful that they’ve jumped on board.

I think Saab are going to have to build momentum slowly in the US. Either that or do something extraordinary to generate some serious buzz.

——

Saab’s product offering is suffiently varied that it should attract sales in the vicinity of 2,500 or more per month in the US in normal conditions. We might only see 20-25% of that in December and if so, it’ll be a vast improvement over November sales. Such is the challenge facing Saab in North America right now.

I know that they’re working on it and the nature of that work has been covered many times here before.

I also know that many of you are going to have something to say when sales data comes out. I just hope you consider the big picture, what’s being done and the resources it’s being done with.

106 thoughts on “A pre-emptive strike on US sales data”

  1. I’ve heard, unofficially, that December should be up there with September as one of the best months of the year for the US market. As for our store, it was a very good month with relatively strong 9-5 sales.
    AJ
    Just Saab

    • AJ,

      Thanks for taking time out of your schedule last week, and just before a closing, to give me a run in the 9-5 Turbo6. Glad we do a Make-A-Wish donation out of an impromptu visit.

      A couple things we discussed while on the test drive: Resetting the ECU in the OG 9-5 is as simple as pulling fuse 17 for 3 seconds. It’s in the MapTun instructions 😉 . It may help with sleepy ECU syndrome resulting from too many sedate test drives through Mariemont. Also, it’s not only Saab with the lower-resolution dash displays, especially in the center stack. It’s a GM era thing apparently. The atrocious Caddy SRX with the 3.0 engine and guess-o-matic transmission also has a low resolution display where the Nav is in my Caddy 2.8T SRX. I had the lower end SRX as a loaner while Cadillac replaced the exploded engine in my 2.8T SRX.

      On topic: Saab USA needs to update the iPhone app. Please. I went looking for NG 9-5 specs and got only OG 9-5 info and saw the 9-7x listed. That test drive with AJ got me considering what I’d like to spec out in a NG 9-5. Unfortunately 😉 , my OG 2009 9-5 Combi Griffin Edition (with accessory roof crossrails, Thule box, and rubber mats) just saved Christmas by being there when my blowed up Caddy SRX wasn’t.

      Brian M. aka MitchbSC

      • Correction. Not the iPhone app. I meant the Saabusa.com website you route to when using an iPhone.

  2. I bought a 2010 9-5 Aero XWD (carbon grey) on Dec 30 so I’ve done my part! It was time to put up or shut up…0% for 36 months was too good to pass up. What an awesome machine…it’s on a totally different level than the 2005 9-5 Aero I traded in. Mine is only the 3rd one sold by Larson Cadillac Saab (Seattle-Tacoma, WA). We need more of these on the roads…it’s the ultimate advertisement.

    • So great of you, and welcome! Please share photos with Swade on your new beauty if you want all of us here to have look at it.

      And yes, I do support you when you say that we need more of those on the roads. Even if I live in Sweden i haven’t seen a NG 9-5 here in my home town yet, and when I spent the last week of 2010 in Stockholm I did only see 1 NG 9-5 at all. So from now on you are a moving advertisment for Saab, as it is through you the awareness of Saab is going to spread even more!

      Once more – thank you!

    • Oh – one more thing I forgot about: It would be wonderful if you want to share peoples reaction to your new car. Do you notice people looking one more time when you drive pass them? What are your friends impression after riding with you in the car? These are questions I’m rather curious about, so please share with us if you want.

      • It makes a big impression on the road…the styling is surprisingly aggressive at certain angles and it can’t be mistaken for anything else, IMO. I’ve only been driving it a few days but I’ve already noticed on 4 occasions where a BMW, Audi, or Merc was “lingering” in my blind spot to get a closer look. I’m told there were only 600 2010 9-5s imported to the U.S. so it’s definitely a rare vehicle.

        Some notes on my purchase: I did not get a “fire sale” deal on this car. Saab gave $1000 for loyalty credit and I was able to talk the dealer down a few thousand more. The sticker was $48,390. I am not embarrassed at what I paid since its comparable to cars easily in the 53-55k range. The dealers and Saab need to make money to survive…selling 9-5 Aeros for 10-15k below MSRP cannot be sustained and does little for the brand in the long term.

        I normally lease cars and was disappointed in what the dealer and Saab could offer. There is low residual value predicted (39%) for a 3 year lease which translates into very high monthly payment. I’m not sure what it takes to get higher residual values but it basically killed the leasing option for me. Maybe they need to get another leasing financier other than GMAC? In the end I’m glad I bought it outright instead…you can’t beat 0% financing.

        • Etuaz,
          We need more enthusiasts like you out there. Great to see how much you love your new 9-5. Sincere thank you on behalf of all the dealers in the US!
          Kurt
          International Saab Falls Church VA

          • It is good to see that someone at International Saab is checking in. I have an office in DC and have heard your Saab advertisements on WTOP numerous times. “Two Thumbs Up”!

        • So great of you to take time to share your impressions with us. Now I can’t help to wait for the pictures. Or just tell us.. color? interior? rims? 😉
          And how is the weather conditions where you’re living? Is it winter or “almost summer”? 😉

          • Carl-Henrik – mine is carbon gray with the jet black leather interior; 18×8 wheels (14 spoke “Rotor”) and came with 245/45 Continental ContiProContacts (all-season). No nav, hud, or ventilated seats…the standard Aero XWD package w/o options. The standard stereo sounds great, has 9 speakers, and controls my ipod nano via USB cable perfectly.

            Seattle winter weather is relatively mild, generally above freezing, and very wet; however we do get occasional (and now infamous, thanks to youtube) “black ice” conditions and maybe 1 or 2 snowfalls/year that might last 2-3 days. We mostly get heavy downpours and hydroplaning conditions on freeways which necessitate all-season tires, so I did not want the 19″ Turbine rims with summer rubber. The 18’s have enough clearance for cable chains (according to the manual). XWD is tailor made for this place! 🙂

  3. That’s fantastic news, AJ. Really good to hear.

    And etuaz, congratulations on the purchase. You’ll be loving the XWD during th WA winter. I love your part of the world.

  4. I’m in Chicago, an area that seems to have been targeted for more advertising. I noticed both TV and radio spots on a number of stations promoting both cars as well as a offer that donated $50 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation if you took a test drive.

    I’m not in the market to replace my 9-3 anytime soon and was very upfront with the salesman but did take the opportunity to take my first drive in the 9-5 and I did have a couple of folks give me a thumbs up while I was driving.

    Saab did not reach its low point overnight nor will it get fixed overnight. I’m looking forward to the Chicago Auto Show next month to see what kind of foot traffic the Saab display gets.

  5. If Saab were to offer a warranty that was the best in the business for the next two or three years until sales got back to normal levels sales would increase dramatically. It could help residuals too.

  6. In all honesty I have not seen a Advertising blitz, word of mouth will only do so much. I am trying to shove Saab Down everyone throat I know who is in the market for a new car telling them you can buy a luxury esk vehicle for the same price you would pay for a honda accord. How ever besides a flyer or 2 in the snail mail I have not seen anything else telling people of the massive discounts.

    I imagine a tv commercial by a local saab dealer listen features of a honda accord and then a 9-3 for around the same price then saying we have free maintenance etc. I think that kind of advertising and marketing will bring people in cause word of mouth again, can only go so far.

  7. Saab is offering crazy lease deals on the 9-5… I’ve seen $399/month with $3k down (plus fees…) and $429/month with little down. And I too have seen $12-$15k off 9-5s as well.

    If Saab can’t move 9-5s with these great deals, it may be a sign of bigger problems at bay. I wish I could get into one of these deals, they truly are incredible value. In the meantime, my girl is looking to replace her aging 2004 328. Surely, it hasn’t aged as nicely as my Viggen, hence the need to replace the BMW with a 9-5. I’ll surely try my best! =)

    Congrats etaz!!! Please share some pics of your new baby.

  8. The other shoe with VW is depreciation. VW’s and Audi’s value bleed is heartstopping, and that cheap stripper Jetta will be even wors – after all, who’d want to buy it??? Unless you bring a huge down payment, that car will be upside down until you’re nearly finished paying off the loan, and they you’ll get peanuts if you sell it or 1/2 a peanut if you trade it in. From what I’ve seen, at least used Saabs are fairly retaining their value, especially compared with the ‘competition’. Getting into a price war with VW (and Audi) is like getting into an arguement with an idiot – they won’t win.

  9. There is also some REALLY brutal competition out there. The Hyundai Sonata (esp the Turbo), Kia Optima, Kia Sportage (vs the 93x) are all really superb cars with incredible fuel milage. The 9-3 uses to much gas for a car it’s size. VW sells EVERY SINGLE TDI it imports with very little discount. SAAB really needs to get it’s TDI here pronto.

    • Yes, I do think that it would be an advantage for Saab to get the TTiD’s approved for the US/CA-market. Perhaps we can see some changes in that with the NG 9-3 when it is launched – but the sooner the better.

      People say it is an expensive thing to get engines approved for the US/CA-market, but as I do not know of this I would be very happy if someone could explain the costs and why it has to be approved in this way? How does the US/CA-market see on emissions and so on? Please enlighten me as I’m living in Sweden.

    • I do agree! Everyone says that diesels arent selling in the U.S but almost no lyxury brand have diesels in their lineup. Volkswagen have some (but they aren’t luxury) and mercedes with their SUV:s. Why not try to marketing the 9-3 TTID 180 hp for those americans who loves to drive fast but still thinks of the enviroment? I think the TTID engine would help the sales a lot!
      Just a thought 🙂

      • Knape,

        The diesels used in European Saabs would not pass the environmental testing needed to have them certified for sale in the US. I don’t know all the technicall stuff about this, but in Europe, cars are certified primarily with CO2 emissions in mind. It’s different in the US, where it’s NoX emissions that count most.

        Diesels sold by the Germans in the US all have various ways of treating emissions before they hit the tailpipe (urea injection, etc), technology which Saab either doesn’t have, or wouldn’t help sufficiently anyway without significant alteration to the engine.

        This has been an ongoing issue that we pursued with SaabUSA starting back around 2006. It took a while to get an answer out of them, but basically they just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make an economic case for the investment required.

        It seems to be the same under Spyker ownership as it was under GM.

        I’m not saying I like the decision, but these are the reasons we’ve been given. VW, BMW and MB are all very big companies that can justify the expense for the marketing advantage they receive by offering them there. Saab just don’t have the resources.

        • Knowing personally nothing about NOx emission testing, one would still think the vastly improved TTiD consumption would be favorable in every way, not just CO2?
          A 180hp 50MPG diesel could turn the tide big time in US for Saab (taking a bit of pressure off the JC 9-3). VW would go home crying with their low priced Jetta’s.

          • RS,

            Keep in mind that when you read about “50 MPG” in European reviews, they are using Imperial (a.k.a. British) gallons, which are 4.5 litres. US gallons are 3.8 litres, so their 50 mpg is our 42 mpg.

            European fuel mileage tests are also a lot less demanding, so a car that’s rated 42 will only get in the mid 30s in real life. US EPA numbers used to be just as optimistic until they fixed them a few years back.

        • Bernard, actually it’s 50 MPG U.S. 119g CO2 = 4.5 l/100km mixed consumption.
          62MPG (UK). U.S. Highway: 60MPG.

          I’ve managed to drive my old 2.2 TID 50MPG (US) highway (usually 37MPG (US) mixed in real life). So I reckon the numbers can be that low for the new TTiD.

          PS. hope the converter I used is accurate

          • So I reckon the numbers can be that low for the new TTiD.

            Low, as in 3.9 l/100km highway. (will better keep the Swedish mile out of the conversation 😉 )

      • Mercedes has BIG plans for diesel in the US. At the moment they only have the ML, R- and GL Class with diesel engines. But within a few years the GLK, C- and E-Class will follow.

        The auto maker is pleased with the take rate on its Bluetec engines, which ranges from 12% to 20%, depending on the model.

        “Overall, our goal is to be somewhere in the range of 15% to 20%,” he says. “And we’re slowly growing this.”

        http://wardsauto.com/home/diesel_glk_set_101117/

      • US gas prices are projected to rise to $4.25 – $5.00 per gallon in 2011. That is not enough time to get the diesel to the US, but that is what will make it happen sooner rather than later.

        • I think Euro 6 emissions will be the same or lower then US NOX so european certified cars will be able to pass without modification. At that point I think we will see a lot of diesels crossing the pond.

  10. First of all, I would say thanks to all of you Saab enthusiasts. This site is relative new for me, however I`m familiar with Saab. (Within my fathers immediate family there`s about 15 Saabs of different models). I`m very impressed how much you people cares about this unique brand.
    Congratulations to all new owner of the new 9-5. You`re doing the best advertisment Saab can have. I think the most important thing is to get the new veichles on the roads. Here in Oslo, Norway I still haven`t seen many new cars for a while. That`s bother me, since Norway used to be a good market for Saab in Scandinavia.

  11. I love this site – but the following post:

    US sales are slow, but I’m getting a growing feeling that that’s more of a symptom of problems with the US economy and habits of the US consumer than it is problems with Saab’s vehicle offering there.

    That may be a growing feeling, but it couldn’t be more wrong. Sales are down in the US, but when a brands sales are down 50% or 75% – blaming the economy just escapes all reality.

    I am not claiming to know what Saab should do to increase sales, or that I have some brilliant marketing plan that Saab should know. I don’t know. If sales were down 10 or 20% you can blame the economy. But this is way different than that. It isn’t the economy. Other brands are selling cars… many with 2010 sales up from 2009. Apple is selling premium computer products at a record pace.

    Saab sales in the US are wayyyy down. Blaming external forces outside of Saab is neither right nor helpful.

    • Wow, Keith. Sorry if I offended you.

      I’m not saying it’s the one reason why things are down. There are a plethora of reasons that have been covered in depth already in previous posts on this topic – product shortage, marketing issues, brand perception, etc, etc. The state of the US economy is one factor amongst these but it’s one that has been acknowledged much here because it’s not my place to put any of this on the consumer (lest they get their nose out of joint).

      Plenty of people have come on to this site in the last few months to say that they’re nervous about a possible Saab purchase at this point in time. Economic factors effecting them personally, as well as concerns over Saab’s survival have been cited.

      Premium computers are still a simpler and less demanding purchase than any motor vehicle.

      • No offense – my sincere apologies if I came off too strongly (I shouldn’t comment before coffee in the morning). We all look at this a bit differently. I know another business (non auto related) that has sales off by 75% – and they blame the economy. Their competitors are off about 10 or 20% (due to the economy). Obviously, when you are down 75% there are factors much more than the economy at play.

        This seems very similar.

        What I should have said more elegantly – is that Saab can blame some sales issues on the economy – but not most of their numbers problem. Simple math and a look at other auto sales numbers tells us that.

        Saab survival is an issue when people consider a purchase – agreed. I don’t know what the specifics answers are for Saab, but it can be solved by Saab through marketing and product without the car market returning to levels of 5 years ago. Other car companies are doing it.

        • One thing that is being overlooked. The USA is a pretty large country and the dire economic news has been felt more in the middle of the country, especially the manufacturing heavy states, than on the coastlines. I realize Cali is having it’s own issues, but Saabs have traditionally sold in a more lumpy way. Example of this is here in Boston and New England in general, while there has been a slow down, it’s no where near what it’s like in Michigan or Ohio and this has always been a very strong Saab area. IMHO the amount of marketing is the issue. There are tons of TV ads for all car makers, and Saab has had some, but no where near enough. If there is one overriding issue it’s lack of exposure. When you see how many ads Toyota, Hyundai, Lexus , Audi etc,. etc are overwhelming the airwaves, Saab is not really noticed yet. The only people I think that are considering the brand are pretty much loyalists. I wonder of the few new Saabs sold how many are first time buyers? In this country marketing rules. It’s hard enough to capture market share under normal conditions, but when the general public thinks you died, you better work extra hard to convince them you’re alive. I mean you need to be consistent and use all the new media out there to convince them you’re worth a look. That’s the only way Saab get’s back in business here in the US. I am patient, I think many hear are premature in their disappointment, but realistically with the amount of marketing support the dealers are getting the sales numbers make sense.
          Just my $.02
          p.s. I love my 2010 9-5 Aero, best Saab of the five I have owned.
          JTMav

      • Swade…the perception that SAAB are no longer in business is STILL very pervasive here in the US…even though I have been seeing a LOT of advertising recently in print, and especially on TV. At least here in the NY Metro area anyway. Very welcome indeed.

        However, over the past holidays, my wife and I traveled over 1800 miles, visiting relatives in upstate New York, and in central Maine. Places where SAAB have been huge in the past.

        In BOTH places, the subject of SAAB came up, as we have been nothing but SAAB owners for over 33 years. Virtually ALL of our relatives were sure SAAB was long gone, and were surprised to hear me say quite the contrary. Sad…but true.

        I don’t know what the answer is, but it is going to take quite a while longer, before SAAB are back to where they were pre-2009 in the eyes of the public.

        In the area where I live, SAAB dealers are few and far between. The closest one I refuse to deal with…they are liars & cheats, the one I had been using for service, 35 miles (56km) away (the Sales Dept. screwed me in ’09 when I wanted to turn in my ’08 9-5 SC Aero off lease, and will NEVER get any of my money) recently fired their Service Manager (someone I have been dealing with for over 20 years) in order to hire someone with less experience, so they could PAY HIM LESS MONEY than they paid the former person, has now lost me as a customer for ALL business.

        That now leaves me with the closest SAAB dealer over 55 miles (90+km) away. NOT a good situation for the future of SAAB and me. My only saving grace is that I intend to move to New Hampshire within the next 12 months, so that is my only hope of continuing with SAAB…and I am really looking forward to the new 9-5 SC Aero. 🙂

        So yes…SAAB have a big uphill battle ahead. I hope they can make it.

    • It is a combination, Keith, but I think Saab is impacted even more by the economy than some brands because the pool of potential customers who even look at and consider purchasing a Saab is so much smaller to begin with. So, you take an initially smaller customer base and then if a majority of those folks gave up on Saab during the sale process (and even missed the fact that Saab was actually sold and not closed), then the remaining pool of potential customers is very small indeed. Now, if the majority of people in that small pool are holding off on a new car purchase due to the economy, then that can easily explain a larger than average drop in sales this last year.

      To get sale back up in this economy in the US right now means first getting the awareness of Saab back “on the map” among the former Saab owners (something VM is constantly mentioning) and then also drawing in new customers based on the features of the new 9-5 and upcoming 9-5 sport combi and 9-4X. The efforts of certain dealers to raise awareness, if not initially sales, will pay off.

      Even though I talk up Saab a lot, I still get asked by numerous people if I intend to keep my 9-3 “now that Saab is out of business”. For those that pay attention to car news, Saab was in the news around the time of the sale, but is not much in the news now. If people missed the sale news, they likely have not thought about Saab unless they drive by a dealer.

      • Sounds to me like fleet sales (selling Saabs to people driving for their living) will be the only way to start the sales moving quickly. How do you guys reach those?
        I’d suspect a superior product with a lower price than the German competition could interest more than a few companies or are they only buying American these days?

        Btw those who spend 2-6 hours in the car daily will be the ones who appreciate a good car the most and start putting their family into Saabs after a while.

        • I am sure SCNA would like to have fleet sales of Saabs here in the USA, but I am not sure how many companies purchase that type of car (e.g., BMW 5 series, Audi A6, etc.) here for fleet sales. With the economy, there is a little bit of backlash against companies giving lots of lavish “perks” to their employees, so I would expect fleet sales would tend more toward American cars and/or Acura, Lexus, etc.

  12. Loaner cars sold to Saab dealers (Not retailed) will carry the day for US sales again in December. It’s a big game to delay the inevitable which is large scale advertising to re-introduce Saab to the American market. I posted this fact in October and was quickly rebutted by Kurt Schirm of International Motors (who happens to sit on the Saab Dealer Council,) I let that go by but what I posted was factual then and is factual now. I wish it was not the case that Saab NA was fudging sales but the quicker Sweden comes to grips with the obvious facts that Saab NA is not getting the job done the better. There is a new sales incentive program or changes to them almost daily, in fact just yesterday they extended the loaner car program after pleading with the dealers on December 31st that it was the “Last Day” Let me just state one more obvious fact . The US market needs change, changes in management, changes on the dealer council, changes to their marketing plan. Afterall, only an idiot could expect different results from doing the same thing over and over. Victor, it’s time to man up and face that whats going on in the US isn’t working, it time to do someting, counting wholesale sales to dealers isn’t going to save Saab, selling them to consumers will. Get it?

  13. Max, You couldn’t be more correct…..the sales numbers are the same illusion that gm used….they also include Fleet Sales for Dec. Swade, it is time to also include SCNA as part of the problem, the leadership doesn’t know anything other then the gm model. VM should also take note of the inventory that sits at the US port that Saab has produced but been unable to sell to dealers……in part because their inventory has not been decreased, like the sales data would indicate……not the way to rebuild the brand !

    • Over and over, many of us have been knocking SCNA for, you name it, inepitude, slothfulness, stupidity, wrong-headedness, and plain having their head up the wrong end of their body. And by and large, I think in one way or the other, most of us have been fairly spot on. By this time, it’s must be obvious to VM what’s going on, or not going on, here. Hell, I even wrote him a personal letter about it. We all know that it is not likely that VM or anyone else is going to say “we screwed up, we’re doing this and that, and here are our revamped plans.” But I’m curious, does anyone know (Swade?), if behind the scenes, there is a recognition of the problem and any plans to address.

      PS And my favorite small tidbit of stupidity is that there are still two dealers listed for New York City on the website dealer locater page that are long gone. I’ve written to Saab about this, spoken to them, and discussed it with Eric Toth the NA Sales Manager, and they’re still there.

  14. Guys; one thing is certain…people here in the American Mid-west (and all over the US for that matter), are spending again. Big ticket items, including new cars, are selling. Here in the Kansas City area (which has a long history of being a pro-SAAB area), I have only seen a few adds on TV – mostly while watching the Food Network. I get the demographic thing, but clearly more needs to be done. I’m thinking that too many folks here in the US still need to hear some good news from Sweden/SCNA.

  15. I think the attitude towards SCNA reminds of the one towards JC before he started to communicate with us. They don’t seem willing to elaborate on what’s going on and what’s in the planning – do they? There could be some discrepancy.

  16. Well, I just passed a new 9-5 out in the wild for the first time in Connecticut this morning!! VERY exciting.

  17. Marketing, interested salemen and “thinking outside the box” would solve the US problem.
    There are still those dealers I guess that has staff that cares more about moving the “done deal” instead of showing the more expensive but oooh so much better Saab.

    Cheers/Tom

  18. Does any of you know how many Saab dealers there are in the US? I read a lot of stories about dealers that close their doors and some stories of new dealers.

    I was just wondering how many dealers there are at the moment and maybe how many there were a year ago? It would be nice to have a map of the US with some dots on it so you can see where the dealers are.

  19. I took my 2005 9-3 in for service here in Austin last week, and was talking to one of the service folks. I was a little surprised when he said that they had not sold any 9-5 yet since there are a lot of 9-3/9-5 around town. Didn’t ask about 9-3 sales.

    The only one I’ve seen in the wild was a dealer car in a restaurant car park.

    Related topic – Beasley in Austin now look to have a small dedicated portion of the showroom set aside for Spyker, with Saab and Maserati in the remainder. Fisker to come I believe.

  20. I am not a naysayer. I believe in the people of SAAB. I would like to make a point without being thought of as a naysayer. That point is that many in the US do not trust their banker, their employer, their mortgage company, etc…. For years the US consumer was told to live off of credit and throw caution to the wind and a good deal were happy to oblige.

    The US consumers got caught with their pants down and they are cautious about going back to the habits that got them there. Now all of our newscasts and advertisements are telling us that everything is OK and to go back to “normal” but the people are not doing it. Many consumers want to pay down debt and save money, which is antithetical to what SAAB or any other car manufacturer want them to do. People of means that need to buy a car: That is a segment that SAAB should concentrate on if you ask me. Well, nobody’s asking, but I’ll say it any way.

    • That is a very good point, Nate. I find that many people I know are now managing their money the way I have always done…borrow as little as possible, keep debt low, and don’t overspend. But, as you say, that does mean people are more selective about large purchases. But it is that good value, safety, and driving fun that has kept me very happy with my 2000 9-3….and I look forward to the new 9-3. 🙂

  21. Marketing as said so many times before is so important. It´s a big cost ofcourse, but still..

    TV-series is one channel where Saab has had some nice exposure. Sad that so few would see that Leonard in “The Big Bang Theory” now has traded his Prius for an OG 9-5.
    And would it not be wonderful if the caracter “Patric Jane in “The Mentalist” traded his old Citroen DS for a 900 turbo? 😉

    Cheers/Tom

    • Yep, I agree. Short of inundating the roads with hugely discounted 9-3’s, product placement in well watched shows gives a huge exposure. Saab was doing this pretty well a couple of years ago, but lately everything has been taken over by Hyundai and Ford. The only show I can think of which still has a Saab in it is ‘Royal Pains’, the main character drives a 900S convertible. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets replaced by a #%$^%$ Prius when the new season starts in a few weeks.

      Btw, offering large discounts for the 9-3 seems to work as presence on the road is concerned. I noticed a lot more Saabs driving around in the last months of 2010. Could be that these are just reasonable young pre-owned cars though, I can’t tell the different models apart anymore.

      • Royal Pains started with two NG 900 convertibles. The one owned by Jill, the hospital administrator, was switched to a Prius. Given that the show’s setting is the Hampton’s, there has been neat cars to be seen on this show both in use and in the background. When the last season started, the new Porshce Panamera made an appearance with one of the major characters. The new season starts Jan 20th as I recall.

        • Yes, there supposedly were two, practically identical, NG 900’s, but you never saw them together. I strongly suspect that there was just one car.
          The Hampton’s is a great place for car spotting. I’m pretty close and love to sip my expresso in Southampton and see the all the exotics cruising on Main Street. Darn, can’t wait until Winter is over.

    • Saabs still manage to appear on TV shows fairly frequently. I too noticed Leornard’s OG 9-5 in a recent episode. Good eye!

  22. I’m going to touch upon something, that’s probably going to draw a few critisisms. So be it. Anyway, concerning the pricing of Saabs: Whatever happened to the mindset of learning to earn more to have more? Appreciation. Years ago, when you saw something you wanted to have that was out of your range, your price, you’d simply save up or earned more money for it. Then, you’d be able to afford to buy it, appreciate it. Why, because of the VALUE. Now, alot of people expect a manufacturer to give in to THEIR demands, while they remain fickle-minded, disloyal, spoiled, rotten consumers (and there is a difference between a customer and consumer, BTW). Consumer, comes from consume, to use up, Saab never needed nor do they EVER NEED to lower their prices. Maybe, some of us need to become better Customers ……..

    Pardon the rant; but I had to get it out…….. Happy New Year! BTW…….

    Neil

    • Behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated. In tough economic times and very competitive environment, there are always companies that will try and undercut prices just to try and survive. The auto industry in the US, especially, has resorted to “fire sales” the last few years to just try and move product. As a result, customers have learned to expect those sales, unless they want a specific model for certain features/value.

      • Not sure what you are trying to say here. Should Saab go-with-the-flow and sell cheap or hope for customers to recognize the exceptional features/value and plunk down the cash without thinking?

        Imho, it is important for Saab to rebuild their customer base. The only way of doing this is to get them to drive/buy a Saab and love/like it for the duration of the ownership. Again, imho, the best way of doing this is to sell the 2010-2011 9-3 models at rock bottom prices and offer exceptional service and warranty. Make the new owners as comfy as possible. Hopefully with the economy picking up again and interesting new models appearing in 2012-2013 they will happy enough with their ride to buy another, more expensive, Saab.

        • I am not saying Saab should “go with the flow” and sell cheap. I was just trying to highlight some of the reasons that explain why Neil is observing more people willing to act as consumers instead of “customers” as he defines it. Saab is having to rebuild its brand in midst of a “perfect storm” of economic and cultural conditions in the USA that make it hard to get people to purchase/pay for value if they do not see the brand as offering more value for the money, or customers are concerned about the future viability of the company even if they see the value.

          No matter how you slice it, a car purchase of the class of car Saab sells is a large purchase for most people and folks in the USA are being very careful now with large purchases.

  23. I think one thing that may be holding back some sales is concern over warranty, i.e., what happens is SAAB does not survive and the owner is stuck with an orphaned car. Migth SAAB consider a third party warranty coverage?

    • You just dropped the bomb everybody was waiting for. Really interesting. I would love to no the division into each model if it is possible.. 🙂 Great work of SaabUSA.

      • It will also be interesting to see the discounts involved. GM is claiming a substantial increase in sales without offering much incentives!

    • This is indeed some good news. The stock price closed up almost 7.5% today, which was a very good 1 day move.

      • That increase was caused by one single transaction of 750.000 shares at ones. On a normal day only 30k shares are trades.

        Today there was one order of 750k shares and as a result of that also another 250k shares were traded (multiple transactions).

        The who, what and why of the 750k transaction is unknown at the moment. But is an “abormal” transaction.

  24. It’s definitely slow in the States. I live in Boston and have yet to see a 9-3X or NG9-5 on the road and believe me I am looking. If they are not selling in numbers in the Boston area, they are not selling well anywhere. No finger pointing, just an observation.

  25. December (’10 vs ’09)
    Total 1.074 vs 868 (+23,73%)

    2010 vs 2009
    Total 5.445 vs 8.680 (-37,27%)

  26. Saab has pretty good advertising. At least, I see Saab ads a lot (maybe due to Google cookies). The inclusion in publications (television auto shows, blogs, mags, NYT) has been exceptional. That review ran in the Minneapolis paper as well. The MSRP for the test car was $54,000 (!)

    The same week, the household purchased a showroom new zero-mile AWD BMW 3 for around $34k. In reality, the transaction price of Saabs is quite low. To publicly acknowledge the low price in the MSRP would be dynamite advertising. Today, the MSRP is pretense not reality. If they can get a critical sales mass, the lovely 9-5 in well-to-do parking lots is going to advertise itself wherever it goes. That is exactly how the Lexus RX300 became a hit. Its rear end looks good when parked.

    Higher sales volumes also beget lower unit production cost, lowering the break-even price, potentially such that the company can sustain it. I think Saab can succeed by being smaller, but smarter than other mega-automakers. But the size of 100,000 is going to provide the necessary scale. They need to be bold to get there.

    rpg: “I live in Boston and have yet to see a 9-3X or NG9-5 on the road” Same in Minneapolis.

    • rpg & Jim: “ ‘I live in Boston and have yet to see a 9-3X or NG9-5 on the road’ Same in Minneapolis.” Same in New York.

  27. I live in NW NJ and have seen only 1 NG 9-5 on the road. A stunner of a car, but disappointing that’s all I’ve seen.

    • I Iive in Graz Austria – (2500000 pop) I have seen 2 NG 9-5 in real life 🙂 the last time in my town. 2 last time in vienna . could also be better. but there were new saabs on the roads

  28. Anything else would be a crime!

    By the way I see more and more 9-5s around Gothenburg, today I saw 4, two on the little island Tjörn (!), but that´s close to THN. (I drive alot.)

  29. For the US market the 94x is key, not because every soccer mom in the US will get one (maybe some will), but because it really shows Saab has a full line of cars and is serious. Just having a new 9-5 is not enough to convince people here. You need a full line.

  30. Swade,

    I love this blog and I love SAAB. I currently drive an ’07 9-5 CPO vehicle that I paid 20k for in ’09 which was an incredible deal. I love the car but if I had to buy it new I would look elsewhere.The only regret I have is the terrible service I get from the local GM dealer in town.

    As an IT person myself (25+ years in the biz) I know it does not take that much effort (or this long) to have SAAB NA develop at least a beta version of a website and get on air.

    I am sorry Swade but I just cannot believe that it should take a year to roll-out and ramp-up a new site. All the excuses such as “we’ve just seen evidence that Saab are on the move with regard to their IT resources. Remember, these were very much integrated with GM’s back-end IT systems and untangling them, whilst undesireably slow, has been a Herculean task.”

    No offense Swade but using that excuse as a main reason for SAAB not getting a comptetitive and alluring website up is not going to cut it. The company I work for (shall remain nameless)has help developed websites and networks for companies (in similar circumstances as GM and SAAB) bigger and more complex than GM and SAAB and trust me it does not take 8-10 months. I could see suppliers having issues with parts on the 2010 9-5 but the marketing and web development heck no!

    SAAB sales are off because to put it simply and bluntly:

    SAAB does not CURRENTLY (this will change hopefully) manufacture a product that is competitive or good enough at their current price-point as compared to other manufacturers. Their is no compelling argument for a potential new SAAB customer to go out and spend 45-55k on a 2011 SAAB 9-5 Aero when they know it has lots of GM bits. They would rather save the money and buy the Buick.

    Who is going to buy a large sedan with a 4 cylinder 210 hp 4 cylinder engine even if it is cheaper? They would rather spring for the Hyundai Genesis V6, Nissan Maxima, or an off lease Infinit G series 37 because they know it is cheaper with a better dealer network and in the long run that is what matters these days.

    The current 9-5 offering is too expensive and reminds people of too much of the Buick offerings. The current 9-3 is not competitive with anything at it’s price point (in this country).

    SAAB’s current dealer network and poor service history is another reason people are scared off.

    It is not too difficult to figure this one out.

    • Why is it that whenever someone starts a comment with “I love this blog but…..”, I start to feel like someone’s about to hand me my own derriere on a plate? Forgive me if I come across a little defensive here, but I care about the cars and the company you’re panning and I’m getting tired of arrows being fired at me from several directions on a daily basis.

      So, in response…..

      Website

      I have got stuck into Saab plenty of times about the state of their web properties. Perhaps you’re a recent arrival here and haven’t seen that. Being a blogger who does all his own site development (from a supplied framework) I know that things can be formatted reasonably quickly. But that’s just formatting.

      I can’t speak with any authority on when they started this project. All I can tell you is that from the people I’ve been talking to, they’ve been hard at it. And that it’s a major process due to the backend being completely tied in with GM’s assets and having to be carved out from that in a way that preserves their ability to maintain other systems that are connected behind the scenes.

      Personally speaking, I’d prefer them to get it right and go to market with a customer site that’s something other than a Beta release.

      I’m not saying what they’ve done is ideal. It’s slow and they’re paying for it both figuratively and literally. But it is what it is (and that includes it being a genuinely Herculean task for a very small team) and stamping ones feet isn’t going to get it done any faster.

      ——

      Cars

      Their is no compelling argument for a potential new SAAB customer to go out and spend 45-55k on a 2011 SAAB 9-5 Aero when they know it has lots of GM bits.

      If that’s your reasoning then we all may as well go home and shut the factory right now. Seriously.

      Saabs are going to have a significant quantity of GM parts for years to come. It’s what they do with them that matters.

      The current 9-3 is not competitive with anything at it’s price point (in this country).

      I think the people who are actually out there buying a 9-3 would disagree with that, and I know I would. Personally, I think what you’ve written there (which has been written by a number of people who are similarly keen to share their insight) is a slap in the face to any owner of a recent model 9-3, who I’m pretty confident (based on plenty of email received) will be very happy with their purchase.

      I am yet to receive a single email from a 9-3 or 9-5 buyer saying “Holy cow, I feel like an idiot”.

      ——

      Stuff does need to improve on a lot of fronts. Dealership experiences, vehicle content and plenty of other areas. I know a guy who couldn’t get a freaking 9-5 brochure sent to him from Saab via the website – for 2.5 months. That service stuff is still handled by GM through a service agreement. Thankfully it’s been handled directly by an attentive dealer this week.

      But…..

      Don’t let your belief that some things need to change, however correct on some fronts, override the fact that Saab are alive and have great vehicles out there right now. Because they do. The Saab 9-3 is still a great vehicle to drive and will get better before it’s replaced. The Buick Contention is a phrase aptly suited to be a Ludlum novel title, because it’s fiction.

      Once again – there are no fingersnap solutions in the car industry. It’s a progressive business and the progress Saab has made in 10 months since the sale to Spyker is amazing. It will continue.

  31. Swade,

    Thank you for your reply.

    The Buick contention is not bunk it is true no matter how you spin it.

    They share the same platform, some similar switchgear and componentry with the Buick. Maybe not enough to call it a Saabuick but enough to dissuade customers from buying (and saving lots of money in the process) and purchasing a 2011 9-5. I have driven both vehicles (the 2011 Lacrosse and the 2010 SAAB 9-5 Aero) and I can tell you that there are subtle differences (a little better grip and tighter handling with a tad more torque from the Aero) but in this economy the differences are not substantial enough for a consumer (in this economy) to fork out $$$ for the Aero or even a 9-5 with the 4 banger and AWD. The very subtle interior and driving improvements on the 9-5 is not enough to convince a consumer in 2011 to to spend $16-18k more for the SAAB.

    I priced out a Buick Lacrosse CXL AWD (top of the line with the VVTI V-6) with dealer incentives for $33980 fully loaded (including sunroof). The 2011 9-5 similarly equipped: approx: $51,935. With dealer incentives and SAAB loyalty: approx: $47,900.

    These are real world numbers. I really want to love SAAB again but how can I when I just can’t afford or rationalize the stiff price differential to my wife or family?

    • It’s great to hear that you’ve actually driven both of them. Many people haven’t before they start making such claims.

      At risk of appearing even more argumentative, what does “fully loaded” mean to you? Everything checked, or just everything you want, personally?

      As I write this, I’ve got another tab in my browser that’s hanging on the Build-Your-Own section of the Buick website. I’m building a LaCrosse CXL and right now I’m up for $41K+ and I still have a few options to check (finished up at $42,540, which is a fair bit more than $34K).

      We had a very similar conversation a number of days ago with another guy making the same arguments you’re making here, hence my reluctance to get into it again. Sorry, but I just don’t want to go through monitoring the same argument twice in a week online.

      If you can’t justify it to yourself, then you can’t. Simple. I’m no salesman so I’m not going to try and talk you into it, esp as you seem to have made up your mind. I think some of your conclusions are interesting, though. It’s curious to me how when people compare a Saab to, say, an Audi and the Saab is seen to be left wanting in some area (e.g. power) that the comparison is therefore over. When the Saab comes off better, it’s just a little bit better …. and there are other reasons why the Saab being better in that area doesn’t really matter. It’s just an observation – we make things appear how we want them to appear sometimes. I’m as guilty as the next guy.

      Ultimately, I think there’s probably a reason why the Buick’s that much cheaper. You might find it after a year or so.

    • I just can’t afford or rationalize the stiff price differential to my wife or family?

      Dude, in my experience (and an old saying around here) is that it’s very expensive to buy cheap…

      Give the low priced product some time and costs start piling up. In the end you have to buy two of the same crap. Not only did you lose the money but all that time you where using/driving the inferior product (without the smile on your face), so basically buying ‘a bargain’ you’re just fooling yourself.
      Until the last few years we’ve always had an other brand as a second car and every time that car ended up costing much much more (cost/mile), though it was cheaper to begin with.

      A Buick is an Opel (pure GM), not a SAAB.
      You know what to do.

      PS. same thing goes for the rest of you 😉

  32. Swade,

    Thank you for your quick reply. Trust me if I did not have family or other financial obligations that I would spring for a 2011 9-5 in a New York minute. Yes in many respects the driving experience is subjective, a.k.a. “in the eye of the beholder.” I fell in love with the lines and design of the 2011 9-5. I wanted it the first instance I saw it at the dealer. However reality set in after computing the #’s for both the SAAB and Buick.

    The 42k price you computed for the Buick was with nav and 18 inch tread. The options with the CXL that I priced out was: leather, AWD, 17 inch tread, sunroof, NO nav before dealer incentives came out to around 38k, MSRP. With dealer incentives, etc 34k is the number that the dealer was able to agree on with me.

    I am a SAAB guy at heart. Always have been since ’93. I have been through it all, peeling interiors, DI cassettes, SID malfunction, coolant bypass valves, etc.

    I was thinking of taking a look at the 2011 9-4 with the 4 banger but again I cannot justify driving a full size car bigger than the A6 powered by a 4 cylinder turbo. When was the last time any manufacturer built a car bigger than a 5 series and put a 4 cylinder turbo in it? The only car I can think of is the Passat or Passat CC but my guess is that the 9-5 is bigger than both vehicles.

    Driving a heavy 4 door sedan with a 4 cylinder is counter intuitive to me. Call me shallow but I guess you can say that there is something emasculating about driving a large 4 door sedan with a 4 cylinder engine powering it’s wheels.

    • My suggestion would be stop thinking it over, and just go drive the 2.0T version.

      It was my preferred drive (I also drove the Aero) because it’s quite a bit lighter than the V6. Doesn’t feel like such a big car at all. And when Hirsch get into the US you can buck it up from 220hp to 260hp and it’ll be an even better drive.

      The 9-5 isn’t going to suit everyone’s taste/needs/budget. But before you write it off, go take a drive of that 2.0T.

      And about the A6 – I know it’s only 6-cyl in the USA, but it sells with a 4-banger here in Australia and many other markets, too. You think the 220hp in the Saab sounds light? The A6 4-cylinder only has 170hp!

  33. Swade,

    Wow… The A6 with a 4 banger? I test drove the A6 (2009) and I was not impressed at all save for the quattro but the interior was too much bling for me. Believe it or not the spartan, minimalist nature of the SAAB interior was always a selling point for me. I cannot put my finger on why I love these cars so much…

    I will keep you posted. I sent an email to my SAAB dealer here in Fort Lauderdale to arrange for a test drive of the 4 cylinder version on Friday during lunch. Will keep you posted and will photograph my experience and send it to you. It would be nice usher in the new year with a SAAB!!

    All the Best from South Florida.

    SAAABDude

  34. Ok, I’m going to start off with telling you guys why people love SAABs in the first place, or at least why I do. They’re different from every car, in a fun and interesting way. I finally managed to pick up a 9000 CSE turbo recently, which has been my dream car since I was a kid. I love driving this car more than any other car I’ve driven, and am finally about to finish getting the last bit of it replaced (the transmission).

    I think the worst move you guys have made as a company is slowly shifting your designs more towards what is considered “normal” or the current industry standard. For example, the 9-5 now looks like a cooler honda, nissan, mercedes, etc. People in the USA want things that are flashy, that stand out and give them more attention than anyone else.

    What makes your cars amazing and what makes people buy them is the fact they’re different and unique, and honestly, if you guys put out that AeroX, I would buy it immediately, and a lot of other people probably would as well. Because its design and everything about it reminds me of what got me into your brand in the first place.

    Anyways, good luck with everything guys, and don’t worry, it’s a new decade.

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