2011 New York International Auto Show Update

In less than a month, I’ll be reporting again for SaabsUnited at the New York International Auto Show. Last year, you’ll remember Saab’s stand was next to GM in the place where Hummer would have been if GM hadn’t decided to shut them down. It was squeezed way in the back, behind Acura and Hyundai, next to Scion. In other words, it looked like a forgotten brand, with barely enough room for 4 cars.

This year, it looks like they’ve received a major upgrade.

That’s right, Saab is sandwiched between Porsche, Audi, the Exotics (Lamborghini, Spyker, Lotus), Acura, and Jaguar. If you ask me, they’re in the best spot in the entire hall– with over a million visitors to the show, it’s nice to see Saab surrounded by the right company. As a side note, GM is in a completely separate hall connected by a tunnel. This year, there will be no mistaking Saab for a GM brand.

The new 9-5 Sportcombi and PhoeniX concept will both be on hand making their North American debut, as well as the regulars from past shows. Saab’s press conference is scheduled for the second press day, Thursday April 21 from 10:30-10:50 AM, and I’ll be streaming it live on UStream directly to the front page of the site. Given that the 9-4x hits US dealers very soon after the show, this is a pivotal moment for Saab Cars North America, a reboot if you will. I’ll have interviews and news, and just like we’ve been doing all this past year, the character of the site will be transformed to reflect the New York show. More details to come.

As Tim said below, please feel free to send in your own experiences from the show and we’ll be happy to share your accounts and pictures with the entire site. The show runs the last week of April, from the April 23-May 1.

50 thoughts on “2011 New York International Auto Show Update”

  1. Jeff,
    What an upgrade from last years spot. I agree, I cant think of a better spot for Saab to be. I hope the PhoeniX will generate a lot of buzz again as it makes its North American debut. The 9-4X will be sure to turn some heads and get some excitement going. It’s shows like this that make me wish I could be there and a part of the excitement.

  2. What would make the PhoeniX really convincing is to fire it up and drive it around. We’ve been harping a bit on it being a fullconcept including engine(s), it would be nice if we could the see the thing actually move.

    • I’d like to see the PhoeniX drive through the show to the stand, while security holds spectators aside. But, you can’t drive vehicles in buildings like the Jacob Javitz Center, so at least drive it through a popular part of the city with a large “SAAB at the NYIAS” decal on the side, revving it’s turbo head off until it makes it back to the show. Now THAT would get Saab some attention!

      • There is the inner roadway which is used for camp Jeep, not sure if the PhoeniX is up to that.
        Anyway, it’s time to show that this is a working concept, not just a pretty face.

  3. Replace the rims and paint to something more nice on the PhoeniX! Then we have a new car to show, that would be great!

  4. My son and I are going – last year the stand wasn’t that bad, but it was kind of hidden. Having the Phoenix and the 94 will help quite a bit.

    Haven’t decided what day we’ll be there. The dates are a bit screwy since it falls on Easter.

    beren

  5. And Swade’s placement? WHen will he be at the show? Will he be the one to drive the PhoeniX through Times Square?

  6. NY and the whole NE of the USA are a natural market (THE natural market?) for SAAB; good to see them in a spot with such interesting neighbors! 😉

      • I don’t know how embarassing it is…how many people actually drive in Manhattan vs. the outer boroughs and suburbs? I definitely understand where you’re coming from, most dealers have representation in the city, but it’s more for status than practicality. Do you live in Manhattan?

        • CJ,
          I would not have said anything if it was getting Saab service in Antelope Oregon. But for NY people. Send in Red Adair and stop the leak now we do not need more iduA cars in the roads.
          I civilized educated areas of the US and Canada there must be a complete service and dealer network.
          CJ You just nailed an very important issue! Hope You find a nice Turbo X SEDAN…:-)

          • And to CJ…

            “Distribution and dealers, yet again. Key markets can’t be underserved.
            A good customer experience does not include a multi hour drive for service.”

            100% correct.

            When I was a SAAB GM, I ran a store 80 miles East of Manhattan. I sold quite a few cars to folks from Manhattan, who had summer/weekend homes on the “East End”…but the ALL got their cars SERVICED in Manhattan. and mostly at Zumbach’s.

            SAAB/SCNA are playing with fire “ignoring” 10 MILLION potential customers.

          • Saabdude…you must have been working for Storms then?
            Unfortunately my service experience with them wasn’t that great. I can mention them now because they’re not a Saab dealer anymore, no tears shed on my side.
            That leaves the East end of Long Island with one dealer which also sells VW and keeps a very low profile with respect to Saab, a bit lower and his Saab business is buried.
            In one of the more affluent areas of the US Saab should have a much for forthcoming presence; do you hear me SCNA?

          • Saabdude…
            you must have been working for Storms then?
            Unfortunately my service experience with them wasn’t that great. I can mention them now because they’re not a Saab dealer anymore, no tears shed on my side.
            That leaves the East end of Long Island with one dealer which also sells VW and keeps a very low profile with respect to Saab, a bit lower and his Saab business is buried.
            In one of the more affluent areas of the US Saab should have a much for forthcoming presence; do you hear me SCNA?

          • Jorgen, Dude, Gerrit, Alex:

            SCNA does a great job, …with what they have. Top notch people who love and stuck with Saab. Gosh, there has been so much turnover at the top.

            As said two years ago, it is, was, and always has been about distribution and dealers…leading to a customer experience that is great and simple…Saab. If the customer experience isn’t there, the customer will find it elsewhere. The family experience is the way for me, the dealer and the people there have to care – most do, passionately.

            I live in a great Saab market (snow/mountains) but nearest service is 5 hours away. Seems every third car here is an Audi.

          • CJ, I value your opinion, but it seems that you are making excuses for SCNA. I totally agree with you that the best way to keep owners and prospective owners happy with Saab (apart from building great cars) is make them feel at home and welcome. I had that feeling when I was a Charles River Saab customer in Watertown, MA. I bought my first Saab there and even though it was just a used 900S they made me feel like family. I never had that feeling again after moving to Long Island.
            So, many of us are unhappy with some of the existing dealers or with the lack of dealers. Who else than SCNA can we blame for this?
            Maybe dealers that frequent SU can explain what they feel SCNA is doing to ‘fix’ the situation?

        • “…how many people actually drive in Manhattan vs. the outer boroughs and suburbs?”

          LOTS.

          SAAB used to sell a lot of cars to folks in NYC, and the other boroughs..and SAAB needs to get back into Manhattan if it wants to survive in the NY Metro area.

          As “hughw” states below…Zumbach used to be a SAAB dealer…now Audi. When they were SAAB, they sold a boat load of cars in Manhattan.

          And Audi are cleaning up in the NY Metro area for one very good reason…they have a HUGE presence here with dealerships. Just like SAAB used to have.

          As stated previously here by me…ad nauseum…I’ve been a SAAB owner for over 33 years…was a SAAB General Manager for three years…and still own three older SAABs, but with no “reputable” SAAB dealer within 60 miles (100km) of where I live on Long Island, Audi are getting my business until I move to New Hampshire…which is hopefully later this year.

          SCNA has to wake up fast, if they want to succeed here.

          • P.S.

            “My wife is getting to the point of saying why do we have to have a Saab if we have to drive to New Jersey for service.”

            +1.

            My wife has already MADE that decision. It’s an Audi for her, if she gets another car while we are still living on L.I.

          • Dude:

            Distribution and dealers, yet again. Key markets can’t be underserved.

            A good customer experience does not include a multi hour drive for service.

            CJ

      • This same problem exists in other markets, I live in San Francisco and there isn’t a dealer on the peninsula, driving across the bay bridge and out to the suburbs for service is a huge inconvenience and cost. I hope SCNA takes a really close look at dealers soon.

  7. yes. i do live in the city. As you say most people who live in Manhattan don’t do a lot of driving IN THE CITY. But a lot of people in the city own automobiles and use them to drive OUT OF THE CITY for work, or to country homes. There are hundreds of thousands of Saab type demographic potential owners in Manhattan. As far as the outer boroughs are concerned, there are 4 boroughs, and yes, there may be more driving with them, but only one, Brooklyn, has a dealer. And there is probably far more potential Saab buyers in Manhattan, than the other boroughs combined.

    My old NYC Saab dealer, Zumbach, is now an Audi dealer and believe me they are there for sales, not for status. If your picture of New York representation is the few dealers like Mercedes and Ferrari that have showrooms on Park Avenue, you’re right, that’s about status. But Audi, BMW, VW, Mercedes, Volvo, etc. all have dealers over near 10th Avenue that are definitely there for sales and service, not status. My wife is getting to the point of saying why do we have to have a Saab if we have to drive to New Jersey for service. My good friend is buying an Audi A6, because there’s no Saab dealer in Manhattan. So, it’s not only embarrassing, it’s losing sales for Saab. But you might counter, Saab does have a Manhattan dealer, Potamkin, and you just checked it out on the dealer search on the new website. Wrong!!! They may, and i repeat, may, be an authorized service center, but they haven’t been a dealer for over a year. So that should be embarrasing also, that SCNA can’t even get there website corrected.

    • Having just visited NYC, it impressed me that a lot of 9-3 sedans and a good number of 9-5 wagons were being driven in some very high rent areas (expensive parking etc).

      This kind of visibility in the real world is crucial to the brand.

    • I think NYC is a great market for Saab, no doubt. I had to get service for my 9-3 recently, and I didn’t really mind the drive to JMK (an extra 20 mins for me from downtown through the Holland tunnel than up to the Audi/BMW/Merc dealers in midtown. As I recall, Zumbach used to charge $149 for an oil change, so I don’t really miss them that much either. SCNA is way behind the ball with update changes, for sure. They need to get Potamkin off of there. It’s actually an interesting issue, and I wonder what the sales in the NJ, Westchester, and Greenwich area dealers are compared to Manhattan sales locations. I’m not sure how I can get a hold of those numbers for say, Audi, but I’ll look into it, because it’s at the core of the matter.

  8. Gerrit

    I don’t like to blame anyone and don’t think this the right approach. Like it or not, Saab really suffered over the last several years – it isn’t the good people – it ws GM, the sale, etc. Turnarounds are tough and messy and this one is as well.

    I’m pretty sure SCNA is redefining what a Saab dealer is, and what the customer experience is. I wish they could “clone” the Daryl, A.J., or Ken types – they are the soul of the brand here, no? They are out there – It may take time to find them. Maybe they are on SU right now and don’t even know it. It sounds like there are opportunities in alot of places!

    • BUT!…..SOME dealers sometimes don’t help themselves.

      I have a story about what happened yesterday at a local Saab dealer that will make blood boil to most Saabers. I have forwarded to to the staff at SU for review to see if it’s worthy of a complete thread to air some dirty laundry.

      • As long as no names are mentioned, always leave the door cracked open a bit to give the sinner a chance to repent.
        Dirty laundry should go to SCNA, they should deal with it.

        • Wasn’t Storms.

          …and the SAAB/VW dealer I also worked for briefly…and let’s just say that SAAB made a huge mistake with them…and found out the hard way at the time…but couldn’t do anything after the fact.

    • I don’t like to blame individuals either but I think we can expect SCNA as an organization to accept responsibility and take action, the clock is ticking.

      “I’m pretty sure SCNA is redefining what a Saab dealer is, and what the customer experience is.”

      That’s why I invited dealers to share their experience what they feel that SCNA is doing to improve the dealer ‘experience’, both for dealers and customers.
      Until we hear those opinions I think we have pretty much exhausted this thread.

      • Agreed Gerrit. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity in the future for SCNA dealership experience threads, trust me.

  9. Stingray

    Multi brand or stand alone dealer?

    I agree with G, the folks at SCNA would want to know…after the owner of the dealer was informed.

    • CJ, They called themselves “stand alone” but share name of a multi car conglomerate…. odd.

      @ GerritN, I did mention the name of the dealership and leave it to the SU staff to decide whether or not to go with it using the name, taking name out or not using the article at all.

  10. Look CJ, we all know you can’t have a new dealer unless there is someone with the finances, the knowhow, and the will, to take the risk. I’m sure you would love to have a dealer in Jackson, but although the demographics are probably good, is there enough population density to support one? I suspect not, but how is there an Audi dealer?

    On the other hand, there are millions of people on the San Francisco peninsula and in New York City. Why isn’t SCNA beating the bushes to find someone to set up dealerships in there and in other similar markets? And while it may take time to redefine what a dealer is, can it be so difficult to in some small way give guidance and help to the dealers they have, And if there is really bad dealer, get rid of them if they can’t or won’t step up? A rotten dealer is (excuse the obvious analogy) like a bad apple and likely to spoil others.

    And there’s absolutely no reason that they shouldn’t get their own house in order. It doesn’t take a dime to correct the dealer list on the website, It doesn’t take much to get out brochures to people that request them. And certainly, it wouldn’t take much to improve their Internet response system, which is still run by GM and has GM fingerprints all over it, and very little knowledge of Saab. If someone is going to the trouble of making an internet inquiry, that’s a potential customer who needs to be coddled, provided with accurate answers to their questions, followed up with, and deserve more than a tag line to the email response which says:

    “You have received this e-mail advertising GM products and services in response to your recent request for vehicle information. Please visit http://www.gmcontactpreferences.com to opt out of receiving future e-mail messages from General Motors.

    General Motors Corporation, 100 Renaissance Center, 482-MAR-100, Detroit, MI 48265”

  11. hughw:

    That is a great post! Seriously, that shows the passion! I agree with you!

    If there is a market, there should be a dealer. JH is plenty big for a dealership and the Audi dealer is an hour and a half away. San Francisco? Seriously?

    Distribution and dealers. Customer experience. Name of the game.

    • I’m sure there are lots of cities in the US and Canada and the world for that matter that are big enough to in our minds support a dealer. The problem as I see it, is that it costs a lot to be a dealer. You need land, which in Canada, BC specifically is very expensive, you need a building which is imaged to show you are a dealer, again, very expensive. You also need a service department, which you would hope is always busy to pay your bills and you need staff. With a lack of abundance of Saabs on the roads in some of these areas, the service department needs to be busy with all makes servicing and with no big sales volume, you need to sell alot of pre owned cars. People need to remember that Saab was pretty much a complete restart and to see more dealers, we need to see more sales. I know some will think that we would see more sales if we had more dealers, but I just don’t see it that way. You need good dealers servicing the customer and exceeding their expectations and then add dealers as the request from potential owners come in. If Saab had a number of potential dealers waiting, they would be quick to get them going. I expect you will see more dealers over time.

    • CJ, couldn’t agree with you more, although even though I’m Jewish, I would add one more and make it a holy trinity: “Distribution and dealers” and PRODUCT. You’ve got to have all three. Sadly, I think Saab is lacking on the first two in the US. Over the last year, there have been several threads with people offering suggestions on how to improve the dealer experience. The one that stuck in my mind was related to Apple’s strategy of flagship Apple owned stores although they actually call them “Significant stores” and they “put a premium on high-traffic locations and eye-catching architecture.” Perhaps, this is what Saab should do, not necessarily across the country, but certainly in places like New York City and San Francisco which are wholly unserved at present. In other areas meriting a Significant Store that has a decent dealer worth keeping, perhaps the dealer partners with Saab to create a Significant Store. The store itself is an advertisement and will help create demand for Saab.

      • hughw

        Yep. The trinity – good lenten visual! The product is there. Now its the distribution, delears and the customer experience.

        I love your ideas! A flagship in SF and NY would make a statement.

        It can’t be hard to buy a Saab. It can’t be hard to get a Saab serviced.

        It doesn’t have to be fancy, just good. The loyalists will be loyal if you treat em, and do em, good.

      • I brought up this idea last year to the executives and they kind of laughed at me. It’s so capital intensive and really involves a lot of resources they don’t have. But then I countered with the idea of a pop-up retail location that coordinated with local dealers and traveled around to high profile locations in major metropolitan areas. You could put one on park avenue or 6th ave in Manhattan, join up with a Swedish restaurant like Smorgas chef, and have a 3 month air conditioned space with Saab models and generate tons of foot traffic– cater to the lunch and tourist crowds. Then once September rolls around, it moves to LA or Miami…you get the picture. Pop up stores are nothing new and they’re usually very effective.

  12. WOOOOOOOOOOW, begfore i even clicked i said “man would it be great to be near the hottest brand in the world right now” and then not only are they there but they’re next to one (acura) who is struggling for dear life and the 9-5 is going to be a great car for TL and RL (the remaining two living souls) buyers….Audi is going to bring SAAB maximum foot traffic.
    my apologies to any ladies here but if SAAB can hear me, if you want people to stay in your booth and for your booth to be talked about then you Must have long legged womenwearing pure white and 4″ heels.

  13. Great thread and contributions, gents. Makes for great reading.

    Will see you there in NY. Am planning on some sort of meeting activity. Just need to nail down the parameters with the powers that be, and find somewhere suitable. Will post details as soon as they’re available.

    • Hi Steven,

      Any chance you will be in New York On April 22nd or 23rd? Would love to meet up with everyone.

      Regards,
      Saxel N.

      • I vote for the 30th because Easter weekend is a very poor weekend for many people when it comes to weaseling a full day for an auto show in. I’ll be there the 30th.

    • I suspect many have yet to see this bit of exciting news. 🙂

      It’s going to be a fun show I think, even more so because you’re coming, Steven.

  14. I have been in Saab sales for 32 years.One dealer for 25 years and the other dealer for 8 years ( we were sold to that dealer).I agree that dealers should be in the major cities .The problem is that we are the largest selling dealer in Pa USA and in the top 10 in the USA and at the present rate of sale unless it was a company supported store the sales would not suppot the millions of dollars needed to start and keep running a store in a large city.I love Saab have 2007 9-5 Aero WGN and a 2001 9-3 SE VERT with only 22000 Miles on it.Saab in some way has to make people know that we are still here and that we are not going out.I have a lot of people that (have read) that Saab does not have enough money to last a year.So now we have to sell us, the dealer, the car ,and that the brand will still be there ,Messy, ( as CJ said) this is going to take a long time to undo the past MESS. SAAB ON, keep the word out with all your friends that Saab is still up and running and there are good dealers out in Saab Land!

  15. Agreed. That’s why maybe we Saab flagship stores in major cities. On the other hand, as Saab Dude mentioned “Zumbach used to be a SAAB dealer…now Audi. When they were SAAB, they sold a boat load of cars in Manhattan.” I’m not a sales person or really a business person, just an architect, but it would seem to me that the following equations might be equivilant:

    Saab Dealer in Small Market = lower potential sales – lower capital costs and overhead = reasonable profit

    Saab Dealer in Large Market = bigger potential sales – higher capital costs and overhead = reasonable profit

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