On Saab sales figures

Sometimes 1 is not 1, and 2 plus 2 is something different than 4. What has this got to do with Saab? Nothing but at the same time a lot to their sales figures.

We are able to monitor 30 markets from the 51 markets Saab is available. This are in no special order:

  • SWE, US, UK
  • AUS, CAN
  • SIN, JAP

As you can see, we are very European centric, and we don’t really know what is happening in South-East Asia, but I’ve heard that markets like Taiwan are on the hundreds, so not being able to monitor them should have an effect on the total registration figures.

Looking at the sales data of 2010, comparing the data gathered of official registration agencies all over the world an the official figure from Saab on retailed cars, the difference was of 1.231 cars or about 4%.

I used this 4% to forecast the total values for every month, and I wanted to use the official value from H1 2011 to correct this 4%, so my totals could be more accurate.

So for the first 3 months we have a total sum of 9.408 cars retailed on those 30 markets (still missing about 20 markets), using the 4% mistake of 2010, we sum a total of 9.780 cars.

But the official data shows lower figures. From the Q1 2011 report from Spyker Cars NV we learned that Saab retailed 9.393 cars in Q1, and the wholesale figure was 9.674.

In only 30 of the about 51 where Saab is present 15 cars got new registration plates, although they have not been sold ?? Is our data wrong?

I don’t think so, I really do think that about 9.500-9.600 new Saabs got new plates on Q1 2011. But this has to be somehow different to what Saab accounts as retailed cars. I know from one European market, the the values from Saab were lower that the official values from the official source.

Wholesale vs. retail

In 2010 there was a group of people moaning about the fact that retail value was that much lower that the wholesale value (~28.300 vs. ~31.600), about 3.300 units, and in Q1 2010 the wholesale value was 1.100 units lower that the retail value, thus in the other 3 quarters Saab retailed about 4.500 units less that what they sold to their dealer network.

Knowing how the US market works, and knowing the situation of the US stock in 2010 those figures were quite on line with the reality, as Saab had to restock the US dealership with about 5000 units. Nevertheless some tried to use them to criticize Saab for trying to use false or wrong figures to reach their sales forecast. The Q1 2011 report from Saab shows that, being a momentary situation. The Saab dealers are now retailing almost the same amount of cars Saab is selling to them (the difference if Q1 2011 was less than 3%), although the Australian + NZ market had to be filled with stock during the first 3 months in 2011, and in Canada not every dealer, as far as I know, has a full stock.

That said, on Monday we will have the April sales figures for the Swedish market and a handful of other small markets. I expect to see quite low figures, because of the production break-down. Nonetheless the figures for Q1 are quite encouraging and I expect to double the figures of 2010.

26 thoughts on “On Saab sales figures”

  1. Totally unrelated, but THAT’S how I saw Saab’s online/interactive engagement with the help of Swade:


    I do believe this kind of online engagement to be absolutely essential to foster and take advantage of the community spirit of Saab owners. For now all we get is Swade competing with the very himself with SaabsUnited 2.0 (called InsideSaab), which adds preciously little to SaabsUnited as it was, and random bot-generated Facebook status updates with silly contests with no real connection with company operations.

    Shame on you, Saab Interactive Media. I hope you start doing your homework soon!

    • Ironically that’s one of the exact sort of functions I am trying to figure out how to get to work with WordPress and SaabsUnited. Tim, Peter, and the whole crew are working overtime behind the scenes to pump up the infrastructure and really make this place even more engaging– I’m really impressed by their ideas. I’d love to see this place take on more of a user based content submission focus, more chances to link people who love their Saabs together. As IQon comes online, imagine the possibilities of firing up your SU app and being able to find out about local Saab meets, offers at your dealer, etc. But let’s not get off topic here…I never realized how irritating it is to change the subject of a thread in comments until I actually started writing here. Let’s leave this comments section for thoughts on RedJ’s article about sales figures (which was incredibly thought out, nice work).

      • That’s absolute coolness that you guys are working on it, and the more shame on Saab. I am more and more puzzled as to why Saab didn’t simply purchase SaabsUnited with the intent of it being run in a community-like way like MediaWiki sites. You might not realize that, but Wikipedia is actually being run and 100% owned by a corporation, which somehow manages to have it run and thrive by engaging millions of volunteers to expand it.

        I also remain puzzled as to why we get to see, opine on and later name the new Saab colour @ SaabsUnited, but read Swade’s personal rumblings @ InsideSaab. I love both and couldn’t care less where they are published as long as I get to read and comment them, but Saab Automobile’s logics, or lack thereof, leaves me dazzled. There was humongous potential of running the colour story on Facebook, and generating buzz with “progressive” media over how Saab lets their fans decide on colours and names for them!

        PS. I needed to discuss this somewhere, so better here than start another off-topic in yet another comments section. Perhaps you could devote a post to SU’s readers ideas for Saab’s Interactive Media and Inside Saab?

        • Will do. I’ll consult with Swade first. He’s doing the best he can without trying to step on too many toes over there. While he now has incredible access, he also has an enormous amount of responsibility. I think he’s doing a great job already of showing what insider activities are going on within the company already, if you haven’t read his post on lightness (I’m sure you have, you’re one of the most well read commenters around, this is more directed at others), go check it out.

          We’ll all find our place soon. SaabsUnited is the independent site on the outside looking in, InsideSaab is, well, inside.

          • Thanks for being open for discussion. Please note that my position is the absolute awe for Swade for doing all he has been doing providing “inside” access to Saab all the way, even from the outside, and yourselves picking it up from there, giving us the most inside view we could get so far.

            My point is that Saab hopelessly underutilizes the great assets they have in Swade on the inside and SaabsUnited on the quasi-outside, just like many other assets they have. Their current liquidity problems are not due to the “bad and ugly” Maud Oloffson, they should be tracked solely back to insufficiently effective sales and marketing. The product is great, product development is doing miracles, manufacturing is reportedly also very efficient. For a company known for thinking outside the box, they have shown hopeless lack of creativity on the most crucial (for now) front.

          • You’re right. The amount they’re using Swade to his full potential is about 3%. It’s a shame. I almost think our next campaign shouldn’t be Save Saab, it should be Free Swade. Give him some real creative control over there and watch the community get more involved with Saab. Perhaps once they unveil their new global website they’ll have time to give Swade some freedom. If they don’t get to it soon after that, I will definitely be revisiting this subject.

  2. I agree with your analysis. We had no stock in the US. Now we have stock on the lot. We are building momentum every month. We just received 6 9-3’s from the port to replace sold stock. In April we delivered 5 Saabs, 3 9-3’s and 2 9-5’s. Stock on 9-5’s is to high and 9-3 is just right. The brand is gaining traction. As soon as we get things rolling again we will begin the journey back to where we were. We are also a Cadillac dealer and SRX are in very short supply. I am sure the 9-4X will be very well received. We need that car as soon as possible. Our dealer meeting scheduled in May in Washington DC has been postponed until June. The notice came to dealers today. We need good news, and when it comes we will see pent up demand.

  3. Back to the sales numbers – starting with 9500 Saabs sold in Q1 2011, Saab would need a +50% increase every quarter over the previous one to reach a number close to the magical 80 000 unit breakeven, i.e.

    Q1 = 9500
    Q2 = 14250
    Q3 = 21375
    Q4 = 32063
    TOTAL = 77188

    Is it possible? I still believe it is.

    Q2 = great March performance can be repeated by riding on the enthusiasm wave following Saab’s rescue from the liquidity trap and perhaps following it, a sales, marketing and product management reorg – e.g. only building selected option combos to accomodate supplier issues.

    Q3 = 9-5SC and 9-4X go on sale in selected markets, Saab establishes solid reputation with fleet buyers again by becoming the most transparent automotive company with regular updates on financials, funding and development progress.

    Q4 = 9-5SC and 9-4X launched in other markets, expanding sales network, good performance in previous quarters starting snowball effect in rising consumer confidence and positive PR. Enhanced owner engagement via social media generates industry-leading referral potential, dealers work hand-in-hand with Saab’s Interactive Media to leverage that resource.

    • That’s an epic proposal you have and very smart. I agree that they need a serious break with their past PR/marketing efforts to give a truthful look at who they are, who drives Saabs, why you can trust them going forward, the whole shebang. One of my very next posts is going to be about marketing ideas and campaigns, how to start fresh. Your goalposts are a pretty great best case scenario, and I hope they can get anywhere remotely close. I sincerely hope they don’t announce a figure over 55,000 though for total sales for 2011. The best way to be successful is to outperform expectations, so far Saab has done a great job of doing the opposite. Time to change it up.

      • Well, to sell +50% cars is not a “very smart” proposal, any other guy out there will tell you Saab needs to sell more cars.

        What I’d like to underline though, is the absolute NECESSITY for Saab to attain this goal. Saab simply can’t scale down sales targets. That would mean they’d burn through any cash they get in this round of financing, and what next? There is only so much you can sell out, and only so many times the financial and business community will trust you you will make it through this yet again.

        All in all, Saab has not been serious about doing all they can to stay in business. The original sales targets were absolutely attainable, and attaining them was crucial for Saab’s survival as a going concern. Not attaining them was a HUGE FAIL and should be admitted as such and treated as something that should never happen again.

        It’s a sink or swim situation now – Saab has to fight to rapidly increase sales at sufficient margins. That’s their only chance for survival. We like to see Saab as the car company with nine lives, and we shall forgive them everything just to see them staying in business, but they should not look for that kind of preferential treatment.

        There is a STRONG business case for Saab, there is a strong business case for small, nimble, independent premium car manufacturing in general. The Saab business plan might have been treated as a pie-in-the-sky thingy by VM, who had a go at it with a “let’s see” attitude, but the general viability of Saab, building 100-120K cars per annum, is unquestionable and should be fought for in every way.

        All in all, the way to go is not to lower sales targets to “make sure they reach it”. The way to go is to keep the targets where the company needs them to survive and do everything to ensure their attainability.

        And they are attainable – the sheer amount of inertia on the sales, marketing, after-sales service and product management side shows how much potential still lies untapped.

      • I’m looking forward to that post!

        IMO, the “sales failure” is indeed mostly due a complete failure in the marketing. Not only have they not utilized the power of SU, Swade, interactive media etc., but the traditional advertising has also been very sub standard. There have been no TV commercials for Saab in Sweden, since the launch of the NG9-5. None! I know it’s expensive, but when Volvo, VW, Kia, Skoda etc. are visible every day, the absence of Saab really sends a message. There have been a few ads in the papers and magazines, but they look like crap and the slogan “Anything but ordinary” translated to Swedish has become “Allt annat än vanlig”. A correct translation, but it also means “anything but common” which is dangerously easy to interpret as “anything but successful”. I’ve heard people react that way to the ads – “Anything but common? Isn’t that the problem?”

        The cars look fantastic and the 9-5 is a real head turner, even in Sweden. That should be enough to create some fantastic ads.

        • Thank God there have been no traditional TV ads in Sweden. TV is very expensive and doesn’t really work with cars. Saab already spends over EUR 5K in sales costs per every vehicle sold, 80% of which is marketing costs. We don’t need no more ad spending here!

          We do need Saab to turn to cost-effective marketing. I am a Saab enthusiast and a new Saab (MY 2011) owner, and a local (and vocal!) Saab fan club member. Not once have I been asked for a sales referral by anybody at Saab or the dealer, or to help participate in any sales or marketing excercise. I actually feel a bit stupid bringing in referrals and “selling” Saabs to everybody and their grandma in my vicinity.

          SaabsUnited reportedly had 750,000 visitors (I hope it’s “unique visitors”, not “visits”). Saab Cars have 84,101 fans on Facebook. There are around 200K drivers of Saabs bought in recent years, ~40K of them only since Saab’s “independence”, so they most probably still hold to their recent purchase / company car. Those are enormously valuable assets. What effort was made to reach out to them (us!), apart from asking for an occasional photo or a weekend story???

          • I agree that there’s an untapped resource here, but still think traditional marketing serves a purpose. Maybe not in the traditional “sell cars” sense, but Saab needs to sell so much more. Confident existence.

          • “Thank God there have been no traditional TV ads in Sweden. TV is very expensive and doesn’t really work with cars.”

            TV is actually one of the best ways to market cars in its biggest market, the US, but only if the campaign works

          • Not with this target group. It is very hard to target advertising effectively using TV, and the costs per actual action undertaken is rather high. TV is good for general brand awareness, not for generating sales, unless you’re on QVC. Having said which, perhaps Saab can get Joan Rivers to plug the 9-5 on her show 😀

    • The factory has been closed almost all of April – so almost no cars produced and delivered, so Q2 will suffer a MAJOR blow there. And peoples confidience in the brand has been hurt very much, so it will be a much harder struggle now if I may say so.

      • Still, cars are being sold and ordered, and in many markets the blow has been felt much less than in Sweden. The lack of one month of production will also help reduce excess inventory – Saab kept producing more than they sold under the pretense of “restocking”. This is very inappropriate for a company with a cash problem, especially that we now see the 9-5 inventory in the only major market where it makes sense to build-to-stock is far over a reasonable level.

        In Sweden, which is the market where the Saab news had the most major impact on sales, Saab could go out of their way to reignite interest in Saab after stabilizing the business position. The media seem to have already swung their stance more Saab’s favour. Plus don’t forget that Saab has started taking orders for the 9-5 SC.

        I fully believe it is absolutely reasonable to expect good sales performance from Saab in Q2. There are no excuses to be made. Saab NEEDS to have strong sales to survive. There is no other option, and no other option should be accepted.

        • Bravada but for example the sales in europe it is hard. Most cars were customordered and sold. They have a delay in the orders from one month …

          I cannot understand this hysterical hard play from the suppliers with cash on delivery.
          saab also sees money after delivery to the customer.. 8 weeks later

          • For what I know, there have been significant stocks in many European countries, there were also dealer demos to sell (if my calculations are right, most dealers should actually be selling their demos in April). I don’t know of any delays in the markets I know of, do you know if any orders were delayed or dealers were unable to order from T-hattan?

            As concerns the discussions with suppliers, we don’t know the details. Saab has been rather recklessly running on very low cash, underperforming their own goals and building more cars than they sold. Suppliers surely saw that and I am sure there was growing tension. Those kinds of issues between suppliers and the final OEM rarely see the light of day, so it had to be rather grave if it escalated that way.

  4. That’s a good analysis, but I really think/hope you are wrong about aprils sales. In my head, the sales shouldn’t be affected by this bump. Delivery nomaly take 6-8 weeks, and that indicates that there was built cars on the roads heading for customers.
    If the factory stops, I belive customers will get deliverys at least 3 more weeks.

    But the may sales might be scary. No production and less ordered cars during end of mars and begining of april will affect may figures.

    But that might just be me…

  5. I am trying to make sense of the Q1 financial and sales figures to figure out how much Saab earns on each vehicle and how much they have to pay to parts suppliers and subcontractors. Does anybody know the monthly remuneration costs of Saab Automobile / Spyker Cars? I am sure it can be figured out from the Q1 report, but apparently I got a brain fart.

    Also, if you’re in Sweden, what would be the average gross (incl. taxes and social security) remuneration of a shop floor worker in Trollhattan? Do we know how many people work in the shop floor vs. other functions?

  6. There are stats and stats !

    Some very small markets do not publish any stats.

    Some markets issue preliminary stats that are only finalised up to 1 month later.

    Some markets exclude franchise company cars and demonstrators. They may appear as a sale in the registration data without having found a retail buyer.

    Some markets publish official stats on the net – e.g. http://www.ccfa.fr , http://www.acea.be, http://www.smmt.co.uk

    Some specialist press publish data e.g. http://wardsauto.com/keydata , http://www.motortrader.com/ , http://www.argusauto.com

    Note that in many markets, Saab is bundled into “others”. Saab accounts for less than 0.1% of world car sales.

    This information is delivered to the desk of SWARD. Maybe he can get clearance to release it ?



  7. If i may write my thoughts. Saab should take their cars to the public, take a press car to town centres,shopping malls,offer a ‘no strings’ test drive, get non saab owners behind the wheel they cannot afford to wait for the customer to come to them. My local supermarket often has new cars right at the entrance as you walk in to shop, it is cheap or even no cost, it must work or dealers would not keep doing it on a regular basis?
    Take Saab to the people,dont wait for them to come to you!

    • I am sitting at a busy cafe now in a reasonably well-off neighbourhood where I live. By “reasonably well off” I mean that there are new and near-new Saabs galore, plus many more Audis, BMWs, Mercs and the like. This is urban environment (apartment blocks rather than houses), so the foot, bike and motorized traffic around the cafe is really dense.

      Sometime ago, there were BMWs standing right in front of the cafe (public parking spaces, somebody just drove and parked them in the night) advertising their sales. This was actually a rogue retailer advertising lower-than-official prices, but I could just as well imagine Saab doing the same with nice info on the Griffin packages.

  8. RedJ terrific job! Many thanks also for the other comments and thoughts. It is very inspiring. Would like to add two details about the Swiss Market for the 1st Q 2011: Totally 128 9.3 models and 45 9.5 models were sold. The figures for April are not yet available, but hopefully in one or two days.

  9. SAAB sales way up in the US for April? Automotive News is reporting 220% increase year over year–not sure what that means (could just mean 221 cars, I suppose, if last year was zero).

    But sounds good! Looking forward to the actual figures

    #USAprilSales: Saab Cars N.A. sales up 224% in April, advances 700% YTD

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