Accusations have been voiced that I passed over Saab’s US sales data for February because numbers were lower that desired.
Actually, it had more to do with numbers coming out on the same day that the PhoeniX concept was released (we did around a dozen entries that day related to Geneva events and the US sales numbers came late on that day). They weren’t picked up later as a front page item because they were mentioned and discussed a little in comments already.
Lest I continue to have to wear darts being fired in my direction, I’ll share the numbers and some other ‘hard stuff’ here on the front page.
LOTS to come after the jump…..
Sales data for the US in February was as follows:
Saab 9-3 – there were 494 vehicles from the Saab 9-3 range sold in February 2011. This is up from the 71 vehicles sold in February 2010, but we all know that’s a rather meaningless statistic.
Saab 9-5 – there were 52 Saab 9-5s sold in February 2011.
Total – there were 546 Saab vehicles sold in February 2011 in the US market. So far in 2011, there have been 1,204 vehicles sold in the US.
One would have hoped that sales would continue to grow month-on-month, even in a shorter month like February, but the 546 vehicles sold in February are actually a fall from the 658 sold in January 2011.
There is absolutely no doubt that the US market remains as a major concern. Stamping one’s feet and writing in allcaps will not sell any more cars, however. It’s up to those in charge of the US market, new manager James Sweeting and global manager Matthias Siedl, to come up with the solution.
What we have seen as better advertising is now happening. Something as basic as better weather in some key areas wouldn’t hurt, either.
MotorTrend blogger, Todd Lassa, has suggested that Saab become Audi, but not the Audi that Saab are currently chasing, but Audi circa 1995.
Now that Audi has gone upmarket after BMW and Mercedes, and with some success, there’s lots of room where Audi was about 15 years ago. In 1996, the first A4 replaced the Audi 90. If you bought one then with the base 1.8 turbo four, and maybe front-wheel-drive instead of quattro, your monthly payment was not much more than for a well equipped Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. What a no-brainer for buyers bored with their third or fourth Accord or Camry, cars they could not kill.
That’s where the 9-3, especially its replacement promised for 2012, should go. If Saab dropped the price by a couple thousand, it would become a Buick Regal competitor, and that’s a good thing these days. It could be cheaper than Ford’s next-generation Fusion Titanium.
It’s a nice thought, but lease pricing isn’t determined by bloggers or customers. Leases are determined by finance companies taking into account the sale price and depreciation on a vehicle over the lifetime of the lease.
Saab can influence that in a number of ways – lowering the MSRP or guaranteeing a buy-back value (as is done in Sweden) but they come with very serious consequences. That’s not to say that a loss of potential sales isn’t a serious consequence, it’s just one that might be addressed in other ways. I’m on the record already, saying that I’m loathe to advocate dropping the price in what is already, by far, the cheapest automotive market in the world, especially when their currency is in the toilet. I still maintain that a better equipped product offering is the best way to justify the pricing strategy.
Saab’s global sales manager, Matthias Siedl, did an interview with Swedish news service, DN.se, where he discussed the sales network in the US.
It’s a controversial piece, to say the least. Arild was kind enough to provide a translation….
Saab director of sales wants to repeat success
Saab Automobile’s new sales manager Matthias Seidl, does not fear the heavy burden. 20 years ago, he was involved in building up the Audi sales organization that made the brand a success story.
Now he hopes to repeat that journey with Saab, but on a smaller scale.
The strategy includes, in the important U.S. market, to create a tighter network of dealers that focus more on Saab. Seidl expects that the number of dealers in the United States may be halved in 3-5 years time.
– We believe in more exclusivity at the dealers. It’s better to have dealers who are truly motivated to sell and that they are located in the right places than having many dealers, Matthias Seidl says.
In Saab’s first year as an independent company, around 20 U.S. dealers, who didn’t believed in the brand’s future, have stopped selling Saab. Some others have put most of their efforts into other brands. But now Saab will demand more from the approximately 200 remaining dealers.
– We really only demand basic things, like that the cars get exhibition space, sales personnel, and that there are service personnel who know Saab, says Matthias Seidl.
– But now that we have more confidence we have another basis to start the discussion, he notes.
He believes that the optimal number in the United States is 90-120 dealers.
The U.S. is the market where sales haven’t picked up for Saab. On the other two major markets, Sweden and the UK, Seidl, who started his new job on January 1st, thinks that it’s moving in the right direction.
– We see a light in the tunnel and I am confident that Saab will be a success story. I hope sooner rather than later, he says.
He believes in 120000-150000 cars in two to three years.
– It sounds like a lot now, but in the premium world it’s not that much, he says.
But Saab will not challenge the Germans on sales volumes.
– We must find our niche, and be clear. Saab is the car for independent thinkers, for people who dare to stand up for their views, says Matthias Seidl.
Matthias Seidl is 47 years and had a hard consideration before he took the sales manager job at Saab. It was not easy to leave his own automobile consultancy company in Detroit, which he starting in 2009.
– But I felt that I’m too young not to dare take the chance. Saab has a huge potential with the new products. There is the possibility of building something new, not dissimilar to what we did with Audi, he says.
Throughout his career, he has devoted himself to the automotive industry. Immediately after university he joined the Volkswagen Group to make an international career. And he succeeded. The job at Audi took him all over the world. He has lived in Australia and the USA. His ex-wife and the two children, twelve and ten years, still lives in Australia.
In the U.S., he was the second in command of Volkswagen North America, with only the new Volvo CEO, Stefan Jacoby, above him.
This weekend he and his girlfriend are moving into a house in Torslanda.
– Funnily enough, I end up just fifteen minutes from Jacoby, the tall German says.
He is 1.96 metres – just as tall as Saab’s chairman Victor Muller.
– Here, no one under 1.90 metres gets in. I do not understand what Castriota is doing here, says Matthias Seidl, laughing and pointing at Saab’s chief designer Jason Castriota.
He likes Saab’s new sporty concept car. On the wish list is a sports car among the Saab models.
– See what Audi TT did for the Audi brand, he says.