Inside The Ally Auction Process By Julie Gardner

I just received an email from our sales superstar Julie Gardner from Kelly Cadillac Saab. She has been so kind to write out for all of us to read, her inside take on the auction process and provided us with real results. For anyone who thinks they can just buy a Saab from the Auction, read this and you will see why a dealer still has to mark up the car you’re buying. Auctions like this are anything but easy when there are so many variables to watch for and still a lot of work to get the car to the final destination. Thanks again Julie, I can’t say enough how much you are appreciated for all you do with Saab.

For those that do not know me, my name is Julie Gardner and I have been a fan of SAAB since 1989 when I got my first “real job” at as a Sales Consultant at a (now long-gone) rural York County, PA, USA Ford/SAAB dealership. I am currently employed by Kelly Cadillac SAAB in Lancaster, PA and am known as the resident SAAB Specialist. As such I convinced our store’s owner, Geoff Kelly, to participate in the Smart Auction (SA) sale of 2011 inventory being made available to GM/SAAB only dealers as a way to make money to satisfy the debt of SAAB Cars North America (SCNA) to ALLY after December’s bankruptcy filing.

Through forums like Facebook, SAABsUnited,, and others my name became available as a contact for bidding. An official plan was formed to charge a flat $2200 fee over the final bid amount. This would include auction fees, transportation from NJ (where the first round of vehicles were all located) to our facility in Lancaster, PA, and PA state inspection or safety inspection as was applicable.

Though we knew there was a possibility of flat-spotted tires, rodent damage to electrical systems, dead batteries, and paint issues, we hoped for the very best and generally did OK in these regards. What I did not expect was to have inaccurate descriptions provided- but more on that later.

June 28 was a day filled with anticipation. I awoke with butterflies in my belly that never left until our final bid was placed, accepted, and won. I began the day with 6 potential bidders though we found that the pricing was higher than expected early on and 5 of the 6 were out by soon after lunch.

The sale is to run from 9am until 2:30pm; however, if a bid is made at the last moment, the auction end can be extended to as late as 3pm in 4 minute increments with each bid made after 2:30. When at 2:25pm the 9-3x Tom wanted was already higher than his initial planned purchase amount, I expected to bow out. But Tom decided he wanted this car so we pushed on making a few more bids between 2:30 and 3pm, with the final one made literally at 2:59:45. After 35 minutes of heart-pounding stress we had a winner! Tom got his 2011 red SAAB 30 years after his first, a 1971 SAAB 99 also in red. It was clearly meant to be.

Arrangements were quickly made with our drivers to pick up the 9-3x the next day at Newark. I had them take a picture and call me upon arrival there to confirm the car’s overall condition which all seemed 100%.

When they got back to Lancaster I was waiting with the video camera to film its arrival and forward to Tom to resume his excitement of the day prior. Unfortunately that excitement was short-lived as the inspection report for the car included satellite radio and telematics system, neither of which was installed on this car. $1845 worth of equipment was missing!

We opened an arbitration case with SA hoping to receive compensation for the loss of options. After several days, a physical inspection by a SA employee, and a few phone calls they said we could either return the car with full reimbursement of all expenses including fees for the sale and transportation, or we could accept it as is with 0 compensation for their mistake. I unsuccessfully attempted negotiation with an SA supervisor as did Mr. Kelly, but all to no avail. In the end we were fortunate neither missing feature was important to Tom so he did not hold us responsible for the errors made by SA.

But the trials of this first sale experience were not yet over! In completing the inspection of the 9-3x it was discovered this car fell within the VIN# range for a potentially faulty fuel pump. The tank and rear end needed to be dropped in order to inspect the pump’s lot # for inclusion in the recall. $275 in labor costs later it was determined a new pump was required. Another $900 off the profit to install the new one. Back to arbitration with SA again for yet another unsatisfactory conclusion.

Wanting to try to save any profit left in the deal I contact Warrantech to see if their extended service contract, the same one SCNA endorsed as replacement to the now-canceled factory coverage, would provide benefit for the pump replacement. Two calls later I get the positive answer I’d hoped for, but now needed to get Tom to purchase the coverage which he’d still been “on the fence” about. Thankfully, he decided it was good investment protection since nearly ½ his initial investment was already being covered by this repair.

The adventure of Tom’s 9-3x purchase would have just one other hiccup when the 1st transporter arrived with an open flatbed and I questioned how that qualified as the covered transport Tom had hired. Sure enough with a few phone calls to the carrier and Tom the dropped ball was found. Tom now had to make a new transport request and wait some more, but a couple weeks later the enclosed trailer we expected arrived and Tom’s new SAAB was on its way to the Wild Wild West.

He has been happy with his decision overall, though he spent more than he originally planned, and it took longer than anyone would have anticipated. I was happy just knowing another SAAB had found its way home to a well-deserving caretaker.

Kelly Cadillac SAAB made a net profit of under $300 so it was difficult to get Mr. Kelly to participate again in July and I was forced to skip that sale though I did assist a few folks with their bids placed elsewhere. From networking online I was able to save a new friend in CO $1000 by providing information about July’s results though we did not bid and I still had a lot of interest from folks all over the country. I soon convinced Geoff that participation in the next sale would be easier and more profitable since I knew better what to expect and to look for and he hesitantly agreed.

We again started with several interested prospects but it quickly became apparent a few dealers were bidding quite aggressively and making it difficult for others to join the party. Five of the six prospects I began with were soon outbid, but one silver 9-3 combi with manual transmission remained on my bid list- a car that Harry in CT thought would be the perfect addition to his SAAB fleet which already included a 96, a Sonnett, and a 95 under restoration. Because of my previous experience I decided to simply observe until close to 2:25. Harry and I spoke and decided to place a bid at 2:29 with hopes to snag it at the end without extending the auction time too. Others were also interested though so it wasn’t as easy as we hoped- again it was a last minute offer that sealed the deal.

Prior to bidding I had insured Harry’s new 9-3 combi would not need a fuel pump replacement and that he knew this was a car with no options. We were optimistic that the car would arrive as clean as the 1st 9-3x and when my drivers brought it back the next day we confirmed all was well.

Harry picked up his new SAAB just 5 days after placing the winning bid and the transaction could not have gone more smoothly. Another happy Kelly Cadillac SAAB owner : ))

Since the sales had previously occurred one per month, the email from Harry on 8/28 alerting me to another auction in just 2 days time, caught me by surprise. Apparently I was not the only caught unawares as even SA took until the very day of the sale to post inspection reports, pictures, or even VIN# to be included. I hurriedly contacted those bidders with prior interest, compiled a bid list, and had Mr. Kelly approve my participation.

We had our eyes on a 9-4x and an Aero XWD 9-5 sedan. Both cars had bids as we moved through the day but I was feeling confident. Unfortunately just after 2pm both reached numbers beyond my customer’s expectations and the last sale ended without further purchase.

Initially it was stated in an ALLY document dated June 13, 2012 that there would be 300 cars available through SA to SAAB/GM dealers, another 600 cars to be sold as 6 lots of 100 cars each, and some additional company cars to be sold even prior to the 1st, 6/28, sale.

Based on the numbers from the SA tool online (which one would assume should be the most accurate) there have been a total of 194 sold thus far of the original 300. (45 on 6/28, 73 on 7/24, 39 on 8/16, and 37 on 8/30) had published information that said 78 were listed for 7/24, 70 for 8/16, and 76 for 8/30, but the sales results listed online at SA read differently.

From what I can tell there are no manual transmission 9-5 sedans remaining, no 9-3x combis, and no 9-3 Aero sedans.

There seem to be about 8 convertibles left on the list, 15 9-4x Aero models, and 5 non-Aero 9-4x models. Also 30 9-3 combis, and more than 250 9-3 sedans. I can also count about 290 9-5 4 cylinder sedans (all automatic) as well as about 60 9-5 V6 models and 12 XWD Aero V6 9-5 sedans.

Of course what we do not know is which of these cars will still be made available to us through SA, if any.

I sure hope there are more to be sold as I am enjoying my conversations with SAABers from all over about their past, current, and (hopefully)future SAABs. I believe in karma and know the SAAB love I spread will come back to me at least two-fold : )) so keep those calls and emails coming and I will do all I can to assist each of you.

Yours in SAAB~


31 thoughts on “Inside The Ally Auction Process By Julie Gardner”

  1. Overall the average sale prices were:

    9-3 convertibles (2) at an average of $28,350
    9-3 sedans (119) at an average of $19,369
    9-3x (4) at an average of $28,250
    9-3 combis (10) at an average of $20,238
    9-4x (8) at an average of $31,181
    all 9-5 models (49) at an average of $26,842

    but breakdowns on 9-5 models using the last 3 sales results only (6/28 results were too old to retrieve):

    9-5 Turbo4 (3) at an average of $20,400
    9-5 Turbo4Premium (11) at an average of $25,271
    9-5 V6 (7) at an average of $28,333
    9-5 AERO XWD (14) at an average of $31,030

  2. Wow, 9-3s at under 20K and 9-5 turbo 4s for around 20K? What else does that money buy in the car world these days? These truly are amazing deals. You put a warranty on it—-keep your fingers crossed that parts will be reasonably available for years to come—-and you end up with the best value in a car purchase that I can think of. Julie rocks! It was great meeting you Julie back in the Winter—-as you said that day “Perfect weather for our turbos!”

  3. As always a brilliant write up that is clear and concise! Great work Julie and thanks for everything again! It was nice seeing you, hope to see you at the KOP Meet

  4. Great article and excellent customer service!

    I just ran into 9-4x on Ebay from Kelly Saab… I’m yet to see one in real life but if I knew it was road legal in Europe and had an easy way to ship it over the big sea I would hit “Buy it now” well…now 🙂

  5. The number and description of cars reported by was supplied by Ally Financial in excel format, usually a few days to a week before the auction.

    Very interesting article!

  6. I don’t often post here Julie, but just wanted to say that was one of the most interesting articles of recent times here on SU. Prices seem very low it has to be said. However @Angleo, yes it looks like it represents a cracking value car purchase, but on one proviso – you keep the car for longer than the average. Try and sell it on after 3 years and I expect Saab’s aleady shaky reputation for depreciation will have taken an even greater hold.

    • I agree with you. And I venture a guess that people who buy Saabs generally keep their cars a little longer than average—-since longevity is one of Saab’s virtues. Even with older Saabs, they are cars you fix instead of throwing away. I hope the parts supply can maintain this practice.

    • Thanks, Graeme, for your kind words. I agree with you both in that if you are looking to purchase a car to drive for just a couple years and trade or sell, a 2011 SAAB may not be for you. But if you plan to keep the car for the long term as many of us SAABers do, these are a steal!!

  7. I am disturbed by one aspect of this—-and that is the equipment level falling short of what was represented. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening. It’s easy to say it’s just a paperwork snafu—-no harm meant. But Julie—-whenever these descrepancies have been reported, it always seems to be that some feature is missing. Have you heard of a case yet where something significant was a pleasant surprise, NOT described on the paperwork? In other words, do the “mistakes” go both ways, or is it always that a car shows up missing some feature that was promised?

    • I don’t know about the auction but whenever I have ordered a car and it showed up not quite right from the factory, it was always missing something. I have never had a pleasant surprise when it came to cars not arriving right. I did however once while working at a GM dealer have a Chev truck show up with half Chev badging and half GMC badging, that was neat.

      • That’s awesome- the dual badging. Love it.
        And I agree with Jason, you don’t usually get happy surprises.
        It was also interesting to me that according to the arbitration folks anyway I was the only one that placed a claim for missing equipment. Maybe it’s just because I am so detail-oriented and was the only one who noticed…

  8. As the ‘buyer’ identified in Julie’s note on the first Smart Auction/Ally auction, I feel compelled to comment on her article, in particular on the arbitration (or rather the lack thereof) requested by Kelly Cadillac SAAB after the car was delivered to Lancaster, PA and the lack of NAV & Telematics was noted. Smart Auction/Ally argued that the specifications for the auctioned vehicles were derived from the VIN numbers. As none of the VIN decoders that I was able to locate on the Web provided that level of detail, I am more than a little dubious regarding this claim, but remain open to input on the subject. That SA/Ally refused to provide any compensation for what was their mistake deserves all the bad press that the community can provide. However, these features were not our primary rationale for bidding on the 9-3X and, while they would have been useful additions, we proceeded with the purchase in spite of the adverse decision on the part of SA/Ally. As background, our family has been SAAB owners/drivers exclusively since November 1971 when we picked up a new (red) 99E from the SAAB dealer in Oslo, Norway enroute to Tromsø. The SportCombi is SAAB #9 (plus or minus 10%) and we currently own a ’74 Sonnet, an ’89 900, and a 2002 9-5 Aero Wagon. We live in White Salmon, WA which is situated in the transition zone between the climates of western & eastern Washington. Furthermore, we live on a hill which is accessed by an unmaintained private road which typically collects more snow than our 9-5 Wagon can manage (although the 900 does well).

    As noted by Julie there have been other auctions but there has been little to no feedback from dealers/buyers of these vehicles other than what Julie has provided here. It would be helpful (for me, at least) to hear from the other purchasers, especially in regard to the issue discussed here. Our 9-5 wagon was purchased from Chuck Andrews in Princeton, MN & driven back to UT, where we lived in August 2002. As noted, the 9-3X was shipped from PA to Utah where we took “delivery” in the local KMART parking lot. Subsequently, it was driven to WA where it now happily resides.

    • Wow Tom, you bleed Saab blue, don’t you? I can’t believe how your current cars so neatly cover so many Saab generations. The Saabs I love most are the ones I remember from my childhood—-the 1960s era “bubbly” Saabs, includling the little Estate/wagons. I used to watch them during the Summer from our seasonal cottage front porch—-buzzing around Harvey’s Lake, Pennsylvania, purchased from Kunkle Motors, the nations oldest continuously owned Saab dealer.

    • Hey Tom Berkey……. I feel like we may live parallel lives, based on your post of Sept. 29th quoting above…..
      “As background, our family has been SAAB owners/drivers exclusively since November 1971 when we picked up a new (red) 99E from the SAAB dealer in Oslo, Norway enroute to Tromsø. The SportCombi is SAAB #9 (plus or minus 10%) and we currently own a ’74 Sonnet, an ’89 900, and a 2002 9-5 Aero Wagon. We live in White Salmon, WA which is situated in the transition zone between the climates of western & eastern Washington. Furthermore, we live on a hill which is accessed by an unmaintained private road which typically collects more snow than our 9-5 Wagon can manage (although the 900 does well).”
      Here in Evergreen, Colorado our family has owned 22 Saabs since our very first Saab, a brand new 1972 99SSE in Copper Coral. BTW my wife and I drove from Oslo thru Tromso to the NordCap in 1997, but we rented a new Saab for the Tour, didn’t buy one in Trollhattan. The new Diamond Silver 2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo4 with 6-spd manual that we bought via the auction out of the Port of Savannah, GA is Saab #8 in our current fleet, joining a steel gray 2003 9-5 Aero Sport Wagon, a silver 1986 Saab 900T CV, a red 1974 Sonett III, a 1969 Saab 96 V4 Vintage Rallye Prep car, a 1968 Saab 96 Deluxe, a 1967 Saab 96 2-stroke vintage race car, and a red 1961 Saab 96 bullnose aka Project RedBull. We even lived in western Washington back in the late 1960’s, and now live on a hilly dirt private road with minimal maintenance here in Evergreen, CO. Talk about similarities!!

      • I also live on a hilly dirt private road in NW Oregon which was too much for my ’03 9-5, but so far the ’11 9-5 XWD has had no problems with other than dust collecting on the sensors and causing them sometimes to show a fault after dusting the car off. Have lots of silica in my well water, so I can’t rinse off the car as often as I’d like because it leaves semi-permanent spots on the finish. I took delivery of my 2011 outside of Chicago, pre-bankruptcy, a little over a year ago, and drove it back to Oregon. Great trip, by the way.

  9. I too also sell Saabs in Pa not too far from Kelly Saab I have been selling them for 36 years starting at Clews and Strawbridge in Frazer Pa and now at general sales Cadillac Saab West Chester Pa.We bought many of the Saabs from the port and have had good luck with all of them.I have heard through the grape vine that some dealer in the mid west bought all the remaiming Cars, Is this true?

  10. Schmelz in mid west did buy many cars at the sale, but if you are referring to the same rumor I had heard the 600 approx. remaining cars were bought by someone in FL who was backed by someone in mid-west. I am attempting to get clarification/confirmation of the information so can pass it on to all of you. : )

  11. So I’ve heard from a dealer in NE that all 600 remaining cars are gone, having been acquired by them and a partner. This sounds slightly different than the rumor Julie and Jason are referring to.

  12. A lucky dealer “in each of these states” might be extended to include Colorado, where the former Mike Shaw Chevrolet Saab (now John Elway Chevrolet Saab) suddenly had 28 of the “new” 2011 9-3 XWD sedans show up in their inventory from the NJ port, and how about the increased inventory at BlueGrass Saab in Louisville, KY?

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