Is Price The Answer?

So many times we have heard over and over again that price is the most important thing to a successful brand and was where Saab went wrong. Do we all believe this though? Was Saabs biggest mistake simply price? For me it is not that simple. Of corse price is important but it’s not that simple and you need more than just a good price.

The average consumer is not like most of the readers here and do not know their intended purchase like a Saab owner does. This makes the need of salespeople to help get the purchaser familiar with the car they intend to purchase which is partly why I so strongly disagree with Teslas sales network. This post is not about Tesla though and I wont focus on why I so strongly disagree with their way of business but to say that I feel a dealer body is needed no matter what kind of car you sell and as a consumer it gives me more confidence in a brand to see dealers who are happy to sell the product.

Back to price. Now it must be said, I am not comparing cars here because there is hardly any similarities at all. When we talk about price or even type of car needed for the market, people often say that Saab needed a small car and a low $20’s price in the american market. Another auto maker with small cars and low prices is Suzuki and just last week American Suzuki Motor Corp announced plans to leave the US market. I know, I know, Suzuki is nothing like Saab. The comparison though is that if Saab had brought out a small and cheap car, would it had sold? Sure it would to some extent but how many would they need to sell to make it worth doing? In the first ten months of this year Suzuki sold 21,000 vehicles, a feet that Saab hadn’t reached since 2007. With the sales Saab had seen in the last years, 10,000 units a year seemed hard to crack but sales were steadily increasing and I believe the 9-4X would have added to that year end total but Suzuki couldn’t make it work with sales of 21,000 cars in the US and one analyst stated rather harsh the comment below.

“Basically, Suzuki does not need the United States, and the United States didn’t need Suzuki,”

So, a small car or cheap car, is that what was needed? I think not, would it had been nice to see? Sure it would. In all fairness to the great people at SAAB, I think they were headed in the right direction with the 9-4X. The 9-4X would have ignited the North American market and because it wasn’t built in Sweden meant that it was possible to make money on it. The trouble would have been that GM could limit how many were built and therefore how much success SAAB would have with it.

It will be interesting to see where SAAB Cars goes with NEVS and what they introduce to us in the future. As far as what they need to be a successful company selling cars to the masses, heck, I’m in the business and even I don’t think I have a clear enough picture as to what they need to say what it is. My personal thought is not in line with people who figure cheaper is better or a small car is the make it or break it. I think that wether we like it or not, EV’s are a part of the future and they should invest into it and build from SAABS success in the past. Look at where Saab has experienced success and build from it. Make another cross over down the road to replace the 9-4X because it was an anticipated vehicle that was going to sell well but don’t rush into anything without clearly understanding the cost and payout.

We all want to know everything that is going on in NEVS and feel that we have a right to know because we love everything Saab, Saab is our drug of choice and we all have opinions as to what is or isn’t needed. In the end, they have the right people doing the right research who are way more qualified than me or any of us and I trust that they will know what is or isn’t needed for the brand to rise again wether that be price or model.

118 thoughts on “Is Price The Answer?”

  1. Jason: First off, the answer to your question is a resounding yes. Second, actually, it is sort of simple. Let’s take your Suzuki example. I will speak for the U.S., since that is what I’m most familiar with. Suzuki is best known here for selling motorcycles. Thus, $24,000 for a Suzuki seems to be a king’s ransom. A consumer might ask “Why should I pay $24,000 for a car that’s made by a motorcycle company?” Saab? Their reputation is for luxury performance cars. That same consumer might say, “Wow, a Saab for $24,000? I thought they were over $40,000. If I can get a Saab for this price, why should I settle for a Volkswagen or Mazda? My suggestion has always been to trade on Saab’s good name with a lower priced car that will bring more people to the brand.

    • No, we wanted our Saabs to be a comfortable car with the bells and whistles, and we were willing to pay for it. I never saw Saab as a mid-20s car, more of a competitor with BMW, Audi or even Mercedes.

        • Tony, I agree with you, I love my ’11 9-3 Aero XWD, but it doesn’t share the same category as my ’10 MB C-300 4Matic. Both are excellent vehicles, both have things that they do very well. Both are very comfortable for long distance travel. They aren’t in the same league, despite my 9-3 being a year younger than my MB. The build quality and feel of the MB is superior hands down, I love it’s styling, but when I grab keys to go, they are for the SAAB. Both put a smile on my face, the SAAB fits me better.

      • Harriett: Problem is, now you don’t have Saabs at all. You might have been “willing to pay for it” but not enough people were—or they wouldn’t have gone belly-up. Also, I’m not suggesting that they not offer what you are describing, only that they also offer an entry level car to bring new buyers to the brand.

        • I don’t know which Audis and BMWs you are driving – but the BMW I drove (which was a small one), handled like I imagine a truck would have, and Audi has the worst track record for repairs – I will miss the Saabs I drove and hope there is something out there – my daughter just bought a Volvo and is happy with it – but the news on Volvo isn’t great either.

          • I have owned 3 Saabs and none of them have been perfectly reliable, but I knew that going into to it when I bought them. I think the same could be said for any European car in terms of reliability. If you truly want a reliable luxury vehicle, then you would look at Lexus or Acura.

            • True. If you want your car to be as reliable as a kitchen appliance, and frankly just about that exciting—-get something from Japan. I also bought a Saab fully expecting some issues. I’ve been surprised that at over 8 years old, it really hasn’t given me problems—-although it’s very low mileage because I have other cars to drive too.

    • Angelo, we disagree from time to time and that’s ok. I disagree in thinking that Saab had anything to offer that should have been priced as low as $24000 at least not in Canada. I think we make too much about price when most vehicles in this class are leased and I believe a good lease rate would have increased sales dramatically but that was not possible in 2011.

      • I agree with you—they DIDN’T have anything to offer that should have been or could have been priced at 24K. They SHOULD have had such a car, or been rushing to develop one. As a result, we did see Saabs selling for that price and lower—brand new—-without warranties though.

      • I agree, I have not interest in a 24k car – I want comfort, bells and whistles and a car that when I turn the key it goes, that’s what Saab meant to me.

        • That criteria can be met by any number of Japanese cars, a Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Sonata or Optima—-they all have bells and whistles and better reliability records than Saab does. I like Saab for the unusual and creative engineering, safety and what used to be value.

    • In reality there is no right answer right now at all. There is no way, you can sell 9-3’s at prices as they were in numbers required to make profits and if prices are lowered to the extend to make possible to sell numbers, they would not allow for profits. While there are currently no other options available to NEVS to remedy this situations, the question is:

      Do benefits of restarting the production of 9-3 (if it is even possible considering the parts availability) outweigh the downsides od doing it.

      The benefits would be:
      – activating supporting industry,
      – accelerating the pace at which organisational structure is reestablished together with production and related capabilities at Saab,
      – accelerating the pace at which people involved are reacqainted with what they are expected to do,
      – making the foundations for reestablishing the dealership/service network and put Saab brand on the market again,
      – make some income to help cover the loses.

      The downsides would be:
      – increased expenses (production, development, materials, people…)
      – media is most likely going to tear them appart for putting a 9-3 back on the market.

      Loses are inevitably going to be the fact of life for NEVS for years to come and I am sure they know that. The EV2 or whatever may be able to change that, but – and this is important – no matter how good it is going to be, it will not stand a chance without means to sell and service Saab cars. You have to start at some point and it seems to me, they chose to prepare the ground for models yet to come. In the end the success of it will depend upon their capability and willingness to sustain losses.

    • I think part if the problem was that GM was trying to make Saab something it would and could never be. The vehicles are built so well you can drive it for 10 or more years and put on more than 250,000 miles (my last car a ’97 9000 was retired last year with 230,000 miles on it). They are not throw away cars–you buy one, fall in love and you never want to let it go or at least I do. How many of us that have become part of the family? My mothers favorite child is her ’88 900 convertible.
      So I suppose that volume might be part of the problem but not because Saabs are poor cars and no one wants them but because they are so wonderful you never want to let them go.

  2. Just a quick comment… I can tell you though.. that they were more SAAB cars I ve ever seen in my life in the USA….. so can we compare with Suzuki? not sure…… For me, it will remain a mystery as why SAAB sales were not bigger….

    • Maintain the price but they have to feel just a bit more premium. BMWs 3 series aren’t that good (and quite an old fashion interior design in my opinion) and people aren’t afraid to pay extra money for that. And what a plague they are…everywhere you turn your head there’s one.I think SAAB didn’t sell more mostly because of the German competition and reputation, which, by the way, isn’t that great for someone who knows a few garage mechanics. It’s all about image !

      • Dave,

        Thank you for your insight as I agree there alot of reasons why SAAB could of been more successful than BMW over the years and we all know why.. I love my 9-5 and how it drives, how it smells, and how it engages me in an emotional way which the BMW fails miserably (mother drives a 328i)

        However, I do believe that BMW, albeit expensive to maintain albeit, strange and inconsistant reliability (in some models) are screwed together more competently than SAAB (pre and post GM). (I am just being honest) My mother’s 2012 BMW 3 series just feels better put together, more secure, and solid than any of my SAABS over the years. As I mentioned in my other post my fiance’s 9-3’s interior delaminated itself within a year (as well as countless friend’s and colleagues’ 9-3 interiors) as well as other QC issues that should not happen in a 1-2 year old vehicle. Yes other vehicles in this segment have similar quality control issues but not as severe and acute as in my fiance’s 9-3. Issues aside she loved the car.

        Now if I was being honest I think Lexus is the benchmark for solidity and quality construction that blows Merc, BMW, and Audi out of the water.

        I would never trade my 2006 9-5 for a 2003-2012 9-3 sc, ‘vert, or Aero X because the QC issues that I have experienced first hand in family memeber’s 9-3’s are very serious issues that cannot be remedied ( I have listed them in another post).

      • > BMWs 3 series aren’t that good (and quite an old fashion interior design in my opinion)

        Yes, they are that good.

        > And what a plague they are…everywhere you turn your head there’s one.

        Come to Boston. SAABs are a plague here; they are at least as commonplace as the Toyota Camry.

        > I think SAAB didn’t sell more mostly because of the German competition and reputation, which, by the way, isn’t that great for someone who knows a few garage mechanics.

        You don’t know what you’re talking about. BMWs are superior to SAAB in every performance aspect, and now, economy as well. Where are they inferior? In safety features, yes (and arguably ergonomics), and the long-resolved fuel pump issue which plagued the 335i/xi/is but in every other aspect BMW comes out on top. Looks, interior fit and finish, interior material quality, performance (acceleration/handling/braking), ride quality, paint quality, audio system quality, additional features (working bluetooth, more control over lighting, more advanced parking assist, better HUD, etc) are all vastly superior in the BMW.

        SAAB wins at: actual sale price (which is not what reviews covered; they compare sticker price to sticker price, or MSRP if you prefer)
        SAAB wins at: safety features (where impact is concerned)
        SAAB wins at: ergonomics
        SAAB wins at: styling (in my opinion; styling preference is subjective in nature)

        BMW comes out on top in every conceivable way, and MSRP against MSRP, SAAB isn’t that much of a better value than a BMW.

        • BMW overpriced marketing car like apple is to computers.. not that nice in my opinion…Based on test driving the 3 and 5 series this fall for my wife’s car options…Plus they are for smaller people -at 6-2 and 225 – my 9-4x is perfect

      • Dave: I have a ’93 BMW 325i and I also have a Saab 9-5. I love both cars for different reasons. But really, have you driven a BMW 3 series? My ’93 feels as tight and responsive as when it left the showroom. The plastics/leather are exceptional. The paint still shines. I love the feel of the car and the exhaust note. There’s a reason why BMW consistently gets rave reviews on the 3 series—-it’s a great car. Doesn’t drive worth a damn in the snow—-but I have four other vehicles to choose from.

  3. After Saab dropped the hatch in the U.S. a lot of hot hatches seemed to crop up here. Personally I loved the European feel of a Saab, or what I as an American thought a European car was. It looks like to me that hot hatches are a big deal in Europe, and that’s what I love about Saab, it was a real European hot hatch, not a watered down for the US version. Small, light, relatively powerful, relatively spacious, good cargo, very well executed, timeless form. That’s what I want back…

    • Saab intended to bring back the hatch. It even originally intended to make a hatch version of the 9-3 SS but GM put paid to that.

  4. Yes, yes, a hundred times yes. The European car market in Australia is already fiendishly overpriced, but SAAB Australia over stretched itself – a 2012 Audi A4, for example, retails for about AU$65k, and brand new Saab 9-5s when they came out sold for close to the A6 price (around 80k).

    This was massively, massively overpriced for a car that was realistically more in competition with a VW Passat as far as brand prestige is concerned. Even now, dealer 2011 9-5s are listed at ~$49k. Way, way, way too much.

      • Reputation/image counts for a lot. Fit and finish in the German vehicles were better than the 2011 Saabs. That being said, I love my 2011 9-5 Aero XWD and I love that it was made in Sweden. I would’ve dropped the money for the 9-4x, but when I found out it was assembled in Mexico I ran away. I think a lot of people would’ve done the same.

      • That may be true, Turbin, but you’re missing my point – market *perception* of a Saab in Australia is, and was, around the VW range. Not the Audi/BMW/Benz range. Saab effectively priced itself out of its own market, which turned off even loyalists (let alone failing to attract new buyers).

        It’s exactly the same problem being faced by GM/Holden with their Commodores, trying (and failing) to compete at the same price point as Audi etc without having the market perception of the product to match it, regardless of the quality of the product.

  5. There’s obviously no one answer why Saab sales in the US weren’t bigger. Back as recently as 2007 and 2008, Saab sales were probably closer to 30,000 than 20,000 and that was down from years prior. Then there was a huge drop to near nothing with the uncertainty regarding the company during and after the sale from GM. It’s not a stretch to think that Saab could have rather easily had 30,000 in sales if not for a few factors:
    — continuing uncertainly about the product
    — lack of a crossover (9-4X) until it was too late
    — a stale product line with the 9-3 no longer exciting even the loyalist.
    — an aborted entry of the 9-5 without moonroofs and NAV the initial year
    — late (actualy no) introduction of the 9-5SC
    — the recession
    — lack of effective advertising
    — incompetency and lack of cash creating a screwed up website without accurate search tools for dealers combined with the loss of great dealers due to everything else.

    • and as for price, I’ve always thought that the sweet spot was about 10-15% less than a comparable BMW or Audi, but certainly higher than VW, etc.

      • I agree with you about pricing of the cars Saab has offered. 15% less than a COMPARABLE BMW or Audi is about right. But my suggestion was that they also needed a new, smaller model, likely a hatchback, that would be about 15% HIGHER than a COMPARABLE VW or Mazda, to get new buyers to the Saab brand. Fact is, Saab could have successfully floated in between VW and Audi (and the others mentioned) with cars that were perceived as “better” than VW/Mazda/Subaru, and worth 15% more—–and cars that were considered “as good as” Audi and BMW, and a good buy at 15% less. On all measures, I think this strategy could have worked—-they just seemed to be too blind to try it.

        • I agree with this too. If you don’t have a smaller, lower priced model to attract younger buyers then they will go buy a VW GTI and then just move up the VW line to a Audi or go with a Honda Civic then move up to an Acura (which to me is more of the comparable level). BMW and Mercedes are in another league with Lexus trying to get there. All of the Lexus IS turbo owners should have been Saab owners with the right price point and quality. Acura IMO is a good competitor for Saabs because they are the premium brand of a solid, well running Honda. Of course Saab doesn’t have the non-luxury line to get buyers interested but they are a premium (sporty) line of cars which is a step below the luxury sporty cars of BMW and Mercedes. I have only been with the brand for just over 2 years now and I try to get everyone I know to realize how great Saab cars are like I did. Hopefully this makes …some sense.

          • It makes a lot of sense. If Mahindra had won the Saab sweepstakes back in the Spring, it’s possible Mahindra could have sold their sport ute wares (and maybe a couple small cars) in the same showrooms as Saabs, with the same service departments, etc. Then, you’d have parent company Mahindra as the Honda from India angle, and Saab as the Acura comparison.

  6. I shouldn’t have jumped the gun with my last post, there was much I could have added, but here’s the dilemma I see with I see with the U.S. market. Americans want big tacky chromed out blingy rides with a water bed suspension that glides over ripped up pot hole filled roads, they want lots of room, they want to take the kids and their 5 friends to soccer practice… they want an Escalade or something similar. That’s not at all what I want in a car. I want a car that fits 4 or so people and the ability to utilize much of the vehicle for cargo if needed, all in a small (less than 70 inches wide and 185 inches long) package. Small cars are increasingly rare, the newest 3 series BMW is almost 4 1/2″ wider than one from ten years ago! As far as why I like small cars… I suppose I just feel like they’re nimbler. I’m sure some of you will tell me I’m wrong, but you won’t change my mind. I want a car, not a boat with wheels.

    • My dad’s observation is that a typical Mercedes is built to feel like a big car (i.e. boat with wheels). His favorite story is of a Mercedes driving friend who worried about stopping over for a visit. The road leading up to my dad’s place is apparently very narrow… My dad got out his measuring tape, and the Mercedes was no bigger than my dad’s 9000. Yet, on the road, the feeling of “big” was overwhelming in the Mercedes.

      If ‘size’ keeps you from taking the NG 9-5 out for a spin, then you are missing out. Big time! 😉 You are not wrong about big = bad, but the 9-5 does not feel big (except when parallell parking, but that mostly reflects my own shortcomings).

  7. The Suzuki situation cannot be compared to Saab. As I understand it, there was basically one model, and the image of a motorcycle was a problem.

    I’m amazed that they sold 21,000 vehicles.

    With Saab, there was a line of cars, and it made sense to develop Victor’s concept of an entry level car that could be purchased in the mid $20K’s … to experience some of the Saab brand … comfort, reliability, sportiness and handling, and move from the 9-1 to a 9-3. and then a 9-5 as the new Saabista built more financial capability to trade up. over the course of time … perhaps 20 years.

    I agree, though that Saab lost much going through the agony of the GM shutdown, the Spyker underfunded fiasco, the Wall Street meltdown and recession, and the production shut downs that starved the dealers..

    We who are fans anxiously await what NEVS comes up with. But most prospects will move on when they need to invest in a car, and the longer the brand is unrepresented with a product, the more prospects will be lost.

    Assuming they come up with something worthy of the brand, the longer the process, the more time and money it will take to rebuild the brand which will become weaker by the day.

    • Suzuki US had (has, they are still for sale with a warranty) a small four door car called the SX4, a hatch back version of same called the SX4 SportBack, a AWD version called the SX4 AWD Crossover, a mid size sedan Kizashi (that’s a problem right there), a SUV called the Grand Vitara and a full size pick truck called the Equator also available in a 4 door crew cab version (American built by Nissan). Seems like a small, but pretty well rounded line up to me.

      Perhaps is not a fair comparison because Suzuki is known mainly for motorcycles (and ATVs and marine engines of course), but BMW doesn’t seem to suffer from an image problem because they also manufacture and sell motorcycles. Suzuki did better than any newcomer it’s first year in the US because of it’s established name recognition in previously established sale of motorcycles.

      Ironically it was only back in 2006 that they were doing the best they had ever done in the US selling over 100,000 units for the first time.

      Suzuki’s problem were (and this is where is all might start to sound familiar). They were a small player in a big market. In tough times, the small can suffer the greatest. Profits from the pick ups were squeezed because they did not partner with Nissan, but merely contracted them to rebadge. After ending joint North American manufacturing of cars with GM (GM’s sold as Geo’s, while Suzuki under their own brand name) left them we having to import everything but the pick ups from Japan. That was costly because Yen vs Greenbacks scenario and again cut into profits on an low volume of sold units.

      It wasn’t their success as a motorcycle manufacturer and it wasn’t that they only had one model to sell. The problem was they had no sufficient long term plan to survive in an extremely competitive market. Similar problems had by Isuzu, Daewoo, Daihatsu. Similar to Saab?

      • But in 2006—-was that when they were selling rebadged Daewoos? Or was it prior to that? For a time, didn’t they just slap a grill and emblem on Daewoos and sell them as Suzukis? And they moved a lot of them as I recall. Anyway, their initial success was with the Samurai and Sidekick—inexpensive little Jeep-like vehicles that totally played well to the image as a motorcycle maker and those vehicles were embraced by bikers as well as young people—-because of the image of being made by a motorcycle company and also the low prices. The names “Grand Vitara” and “Kasashi” were/are ridiculous, at least for U.S. sales. Didn’t they have help from a market research company or good ad agency in the U.S.? Apparently not.

        • I’d have to dig around for the reason, but they stopped selling rebadged Daewoos (by then called GM Korea) in the US around 2006 or shortly there after which was also around the time that GM divested their holdings in the Suzuki. The SX4 and variants were made in Japan as was the Kizashi and the Vitara SUV leaving only the Nissan built pick up trucks made in North America. Since they had low profit margins to begin with and they didn’t sell that many cars added with they certainly weren’t distinctive from their competition plus they had to try and beat them on prices. All added up, I don’t suspect that had the money they wanted for market research and advertising good or not. They may well have been good cars or even great ones, but there wasn’t anything in their lineup that you couldn’t get from Honda or Toyota.

          • About a year ago, I wanted a weekend hauler, used, and relatively cheap. I was thinking if I could find a Suzuki XL7 in good shape, cheap enough, I’d take a chance on one. As it turned out, for some reason, they weren’t very cheap. And to make matters worse—-the nearest dealer (if I needed dealer service) is in another state. And I live in Virginia, near Washington, DC, not exactly the sticks! The nearest dealer is Maryland, outside of DC. In morning traffic—-easily and hour or more from me. No dealers in Northern, VA????? Anyway, I ended up with a Kia Sedona minivan, which has been wonderful. It’s got high mileage on it—–but performs very well. I’m so glad I didn’t end up with another orphan with the Suzuki. I already have the Saab. Of course, maybe Saabs aren’t quite orphans at this stage?

  8. I’d say, that Saab needed a smaller, more fuel efficient model in their portfolio due to the 9-3 and 9-5 getting bigger and bigger. But the focus would not lie in the specific U.S market, but in the European market instead. Maybe not a small car like the Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 or the Peugeot 107, but more like a VW Golf, Citroën C3, BMW 1-series and the Mercedes A-class

    That size, with maybe a price around 20-25000 Euro, i think it would have been better to make a car like that, instead of f***ing around with the Saabaru 9-2X and the 9-7X, that they didn’t even wanted to sell in Europe. Felt kinda strange that our proud little carmaker would have its name on cars that wasn’t even available in the motherland. =S

  9. Price is/was not the answer.

    Presenting and selling the deeper value in Saab was the answer. Jason, how hard did you find it to sell a Saab once you had somebody in the dealership, demonstrated the integrity, quality and safety and had them take a drive?

    My belief is that Saabs involve a deep integrity of manufacture and that you pay for the intangibles as much as the touchy feely stuff on the surface. This became diluted a bit in later years with decontenting, less real leather on seats for example.

    Safety, longevity, general ruggedness are all things I would attribute to Saab. There were many things that could not be communicated on paper. My previous 2006 9-3 combi looked underpowered on paper but it’s real-world driveability was fantastic.

    The lack of on the surface value combined with Saabs understatedness was always the main issue in asking price.

    • In the U.S., many decades ago, Packard went out of business. Many people say that Packards were better than Lincolns or Cadillacs—-that they were the finest American cars ever made. But they lost the competition and went away. People say it was hard to describe in a brochure why they were better—-that their superior build and engineering only became evident after years of ownership, and there was not a good way to say that and make it stick. “Imperial” (Chrysler owned) also made incredible luxury cars and ended up losing to Cadillac and Lincoln. Funny thing is that Imperials cost more than Cadillacs did—-and Chrysler couldn’t convince people that they were worth it. But just like the Saab community—-the Imperial community said the cars were simply better thought out than Cadillac or Lincoln—-better engineered, safer, etc.—-and most people didn’t see those virtues when they went to shop for a car. Similarities to what Saab faced I’d say.

  10. I think this study is still a good read: Who killed Saab Automobile? I find myself re-reading it from time to time.

    In a nutshell, small auto manufacturers stand little chance these days, if they try operate alone. As sad as it is, Saab had a chance within GM. Unfortunately Saab management didn’t succeed outsmarting GM dimwits enough in order to maximise use of GM resources, yet keeping producing something distinctly Saabish. The whole premium/luxury trend probably wasn’t right either. Sharing a platform with GM shoudn’t have been a “liability” and all the name calling, regarding Opel Vectra etc. (more marketing efforts could have been spared on this). Audi shares a VAG platform, yet I haven’t heard Audi being called a rebadged VW. But this episode is now over, anyway. From Spyker we heard a lot of optimism, but not so much in sound business plans, and virtually zero marketing, at least in US — that’s after GM announced that Saab is no more, and there was no widely spread message to speak of on the contrary.

    I really hope NEVS have something more substantial under their sleeve here.

    • Ui, Mifune! Audi does not really share “a” VW platform. They share the same platform for A1 (iirc, not sure) and A3 (Golf). And that’s it. The A4/5/6/7 are based on the MLB, while all others use the MQB. (longitudinally mounted vs. transversally mounted). The A8 shares some parts with the VW Phaeton/Bentley Continental, but is Aluminium.

  11. A bit more re: price. After a lot of trepidation, I just traded in our trusty 2007 9^3 SS for a new 2011 9^3 Turbo4 XWD here at one of the former Saab dealerships in New Hampshire, USA. It took me several weeks to make a decision, and all that time almost none of the new inventory at a few ex-Saab dealerships here has “moved”. They are being offered at nearly 60% MSRP. And it is not too hard to get another $2k off. Yet these great cars are still not selling…

    • The parts situation is still not 100%. It is getting there, and I believe most of us 9-5’ers will be fine. But meanwhile, I think the perceived uncertainty (and lack of warranty of course) takes its toll. As a result, you probably got quite a bargain out of this!

    • Mean: Yes, it might be time for that, and they’re available. If it’s time for another Saab, I’m afraid I can’t buy a new one. Gee, I wonder why?

      • I’ll tell you why,you don’t have the cash $$$$ or your to darn cheap! Don’t use availability as an excuse, if if they where available you still wouldn’t buy a new one!

        • Mean: I bought a new one in 2004, when my son was about to be born. Had no problem with that new car purchase and still have that car. Sticker was discounted about $6000.00 or $7000.00 as I recall, making the car worth what I paid. The record shows (the bankruptcy/going out of business record that is) that the masses disagree with you. Those who had enough cash decided Saab was charging too much and they opted for a different brand—-be it for refinement, resale value, image, etc. Makes no difference. Those who didn’t have enough cash also opted for a different brand. People who don’t understand the nuances of engineering and the “feel” of a car decided they’d buy cars equipped with a V6 engine, leather, navigation systems, powerful stereo systems, power everything, 10 year warranty, etc.—-for around 30K. I would probably opt for a Saab with textile, no navigation, manual seat adjust, etc., to get the “feel” of driving a Saab. But no, I wouldn’t want to pay a premium for that alone. Again, you could defend it all you want—–the went out of business though.

  12. If your brand is strong enough, you can get away with charging a premium price for ordinary materials and performance. Saab’s brand hasn’t been strong enough for that in a long time.

    When your brand lacks strength, you have to put more out there for people to experience if you want to charge a premium. This could be done with noticeably better materials + better operation (either better economy or better performance) + better service. It could be done with a great story and clever image. You have to put something out there that buyers can tell their friends and family about, and that their friends and family can appreciate when they see the car. Word of mouth is a great way to build a lasting, premium brand.

    You can’t just jump to the finish line simply because you want to.

    GM tried to do that with Saab. They announced that they had a premium car for sale but the tangibles didn’t add up to the asking price, and the intangibles couldn’t be wished into existence while GM’s badge-engineering culture was actively ironing the heritage out of Saab.

    When you are unknown, you have to earn the right to charge a premium. I hope NEVS realizes that, and either comes to market with premium qualities or comes to the market with mainstream pricing.

  13. Jason; You are a car salesmen, and a very good one I’m sure. Let us take a trip down menory lane shall we? If you look up Saab in the old NADA books you will find that until GM purchased the company in 1990, or so, Saabs were coming into the North American at list prices( below) that of the big 3, and lower than most imports as well. Saab did not enter the US market as a luxury manufacturer. That came later. Saab established itself in America as a VW competitior. It later tried to compete against BMW and Mercedes, and failed in doing so. If you are going to sell cars in the US in any numbers you must have a price leader,and you must grab the youth market. Every Asia car company understands this, why can’t we? Jason thanks for all your efforts, always fair and balanced.

    • To be honest, the youth market is the only reason I think Saab needed a smaller car. I didn’t think it was the car that was needed to survive but it would help in a balanced portfolio kind of the old get them while they are coming or going. If it was your first car, we have something for you, if its your last well we have that too. Problem is that it costs a lot of money to create a car and was that what was needed first? I don’t know, I think the 9-4x was what North America needed and was a good call but we will never know if I’m right because the company wasn’t funded well to get us there.

  14. Car buying is not about price, but about image. At least in the ranks where Saab played. Build the car that your target audience wants, and they will come.

    Look at Jaguar. When being sold to Mahindra, they decided to provide more equipment and raise the price, since they knew they had to make more money per car. The target number of cars sold was however lowered. Seemed to work, at least until the recent crisis.

    Or Porsche. When they introduced the Panamera at a higher price then the competing S class etc., I really thought that they would not be able to reach their sales goals, not due to the price, but because of the limited range of these luxury cars. I was wrong, Porsche simply _expanded_ that market.

    Saab still had their image, and problems could be forgiven, if they just had provided the right car for their audience. A prime example here is Alfa. They were virtually down on their knees, with nothing left but their former glory. And then, out of nowhere, there came the 156/166 line. And Alfa was back instantly, with no problems. Aside, unfortunately, from the fact that the reliability of these models could not parallel their design. Then, the 159 came out, with a worse aerodynamics, too heavy, boring engines. It was not the car alfisti wanted (despite using a Saab developed platform). Sales collapsed.

    Buy the car your buyers want, and you will sell it. Under GM’s rule, Saab left their blue ocean (hatchback, utility, amenable interior), and failed in the red ocean of boring salon/estate trivialities.

    • It was Tata not Mahindra that bought Jaguar and also Land Rover.

      I still feel it was GM who was much to blame for Saab exiting the hatchback market. One more step to making Saab a bit more ordinary. Like you say, was it not better to be king of the hatchback market than just another pawn in the saloon/estate (sedan/wagon) segment? However there are admittedly some markets where an ordinary 4 door saloon/sedan seems to sell better than a 5 door hatch. For that reason I think Saab might have considered a ‘twin door’ style 5 door (supposedly Saab created that concept anyway). That would’ve have kept just about everybody happy and perhaps it’s something for NEVS to consider? However I firmly believe the 3 door should be pure hatch just like the first 99 combi coupe.

  15. I have been in many businesses for many years as well, and all I can tell you is that it is always easier to start with an expensive product and work your way to make the costs match your break-even than the other way around – hope that a cheap product would sell at volumes high enough for the thin margins to cover your fixed cost base (and pray to God your variables don’t get out of control eating any thing margin you have).

    It is also relatively easier to sell on price, so that you have more competition in that field. The elusive volume resulting from high prices gets sliced into too many pieces, and finally there is always somebody large enough to have even more of an edge and offering an even cheaper product, or a product at your price better enough to undercut you massively in the eyes of the customer.

    For Saab, the only way is to start from a high horse. There is no proof there are enough customers prepared to pay any prices for more than 120K of Saabs a year. There is a proof that quite recently, there were enough of them to pay quite high prices for 30K a year. There is also older historic evidence for up to 120K Saabs a year sold for rather high prices in Saab’s good years under GM.

    People here complain about Saab not being in the same league as Merc, BMW and Audi. But the issues mentioned are not the age or provenance of the platform, or the capability thereof, Saab has all that and the rest seems quite irrelevant. The issues mentioned most often is the lack of refinement of the interior or a certain feature. Both can be fixed even in a vehicle heavily based on the old 9-3, it is only a questions of working with suppliers. I believe Saab would be better off repolishing the 9-3 to match the industry “perceived quality” standard and keep prices high than peddle the old car for pennies. There is no way Saab will outsell Skoda.

    The thing is that Saab needs a focused brand image to justify why they are so special and expensive. Let’s face it, the 900NG, the 9-3 YS3D and even the 9-5 YS3E were not so universally stellar either – the platforms were old and with questionable pedigree (that was at the time Opel and Vauxhall hit the all-time quality, image and pricing low), many features were lacking and the interior was solid and elegant, but devoid of pizzaz. At the same time, you got cavernous boots and practicality coupled with solid build, stellar active and passive safety and, most importantly, super-punchy turbos with great handling. This was all sprinkled with all the little thoughtful touches that appealed to somebody intelligent, insightful and appreciative of other people’s ingenuity.

    I guess Saab can still pull that off with the 9-3 Combi. It has the practicality, safety and handling arguments in tow. What it needs is an overhaul of the interior and new propulsion options (not that I’d find e.g. the TTiD lacking, but it simply is not available anymore). NEVS will take care of the electric option, now they are reportedly pondering finding some liquid-fuel-burning options as well. Perhaps a hybrid is in the works as well, and this works quite well for some manufacturers in the market.

    This image has been proven to appeal to 120K people worldwide. Not 1M, not 500K, not even 200K. Saab still needs to find a way to break even at perhaps even a half of those 120K, and this means selling the cars EXPENSIVELY and earning every penny out of service and aftermarket.

    Quite a few of them in the US on Saab’s scale, but a blip on the US market radar. Still, there is a more solid evidence of those customers existing than massive amounts of customers wanting such Saabs in China.

  16. Regarding dealership: Am I the only Saab buyer who decided without being talked to dead by a salesperson? Weird.

    When I had to buy a knew car, I first scanned the market for all FWD, European built cars. Then, I ordered broschures on those models. Those that were still interesting regarding their look on paper, and technical data, then got a look in real life at a dealership . Only after that, I test drove cars on a (very) short list. At no instant, I needed someone to “explain” anything to me.

    Nowadays, I decided that the best thing to find out about details is to order the operating manual for a car. I did that twice so far, with Skoda Superb, and the 9-5.

  17. First, we have different concepts, cheap car is not the same definition that small car, cheap car is a basic car without extra equipment and small car is a car below average in size. Some luxury cars are small and expensive
    Saab was a nich brand, with an appropiated market position, luxury european car, for top executives, saab was not for the masses, instead the saab commercial advert. and marketing was targeted on different type of people, smart people who recognized the real value in terms of money paid.
    In my opinion the time changed and the companies need to innovate, (saab was offering basically the same 2 models for long period) and finally the global crisis, worldwide the saab potential buyer was affected by the economical turmoil and that is the cause for low sales level in 2009 to 2011. By the way only 573 saab 9-4x were produced in GM Ramos Arizpe plant.

  18. I dont think price had anything to do with it. The perceived lack of quality in the interior plastics plus that dumbed down interior introduced in the 9-3 in 2006 didnt help.

    • The lack of quality in the creaking, groaning and squeaking interior plastics – not forgetting the clicking/tinkling rattle fronm the Auto A/C knb – was a big disappointment to me. But I still bought the car, (after a hefty discount, I would not have paid top whack) and thoroughly enjoy it – except for that bloody rattle!!

    • Carl: That car had virtually no advertising behind it at all and frankly, it was TOO MUCH like the Subaru it was derived from. But it still could have sold very well had they promoted it properly.

  19. Is price the answer how to sell Saab? No, I don’t think so. The price for a Saab is depending on which market but also on the quality of the car. To many times I have read in Car magazines that the interior and exterior are not competitive with Audi. The look of a car is subjective but journalists influence on people should not be underestimated. 9-3 is the volume model and I think that Saab has never had a variant that can compete with Audi S4 and BMW M3. TurboX was good but not enough. Is the opinion among people that the interior on Audi and BMW is superior Saab? If so try to make the interior in higher quality. I know that a problem for Saab is that their volumes are far from the volumes of the Germans and that can make it hard to compete on the same level. Saab has been good to find innovations and be first on the market with them so I think that must be a hard but necessary way to go. Saab will never be able to compete with the price.

  20. The price for a SAAB wasn’t very much more for others cars of it’s size and specifications as engines and thing like that.
    In my opinion the biggest fault was that the people by the factory didn’t listen to the market.
    What i mean about that?
    As an exemample: Then i think back in the eighties and what SAAB said about a car with a Diesel-engine*. That was an engine they never would introduce.
    But then i look at MERCEDES-BENZ, OPEL, PEUGEOT, and as last example AUDi. those brands sold a lot of cars with a DIesel-engine. Why? The customers wanted cars with that kind of engine. Why? They were a lot more economical as cars with petrolengines. Look at what the fuelconsumption of the Diesel- and petrolengines.

    When i talked with other people in the eighties and the nineties and it was about cars, then often the other people said that they didin’t like a SAAB and that was because a SAAB looked tot massive and old. Old? Yes, old and that was and is up totoday a lot of people don’t see differents between a SAAB 99 and 900 and when i explain ther also was a SAAB 90, they that i was an idiot. That was and is why a lot of people who didn’t know SAAB so good as a lot/most of the people who knows SAABsUnited thaught there were build not so many kind of SAABs from the start ofthe prodution of SAAB cars. ‘They’ think ther was the old SAAB, the 96, the SAAB 900 and the SAAB 9000.
    Yes, we know ther was also a SAAB 92, SAAB SAAB 94 (Sonett I), SAAB 95, SAAB 97 (Sonett II and Sonett III), SAAB 99 and SAAB 90.

    And then i think further: Whan was it that SAAB began to sell loss cars? That was in the same period after the biggest succes in the first half of the eighties. Why was it that SAAB was been sold to GM? It’s sad to say, but that was because SAAB didin’t sell as it did up to around 1985. Tthe biggest reason for that problem was that SAAB didin’t listen to the customers who want tot buy a car and held what they thaught was good for the customers. But, the customers thaught: You don’t want to produce and sell what we as customers want, then we don’t buy what you deliver.

    When SAAB was baught by GM the SAAB 900 NG came as modelyer 1994 in 1993. This SAAB was build from 1993 up to 1998 and the the SAAB 9-3 came. Customers who didn’t know the difference between those SAABs and didin’t now the brand SAAB thaugt: ‘What’s new about that car? Oh yes, at the rear the lights are different, and the numberplate is new located on the new trunk and that’s it!’
    The SAAB 9-3 ws the first SAAB with a Diesel-engine and that was a (small) succes and from modelyear 2002, introduced in 2001 the ‘big’ SAAB, the SAAB 9-5 was also available with a DIESEL-engine. In my opinion much to late and that is because ‘the market’ asked in the beginning of the eighties of that kind of engine. That’s about 15 to 20 years to late!

    Will SAAB in the future get a fair chanse, the people who works for SAAB, in ownship by NEVS, have to listen much more to what the (future) customers want.
    NEVS would first only build and sell electric powerd SAABs, but a few weeks ago they also said that they will build petrol and Diesel driven cars. If i understood it right, they have listend to the critics of people about NEVS only would build electric driven cars and that’s the way (by building cars with petrol and DIesel-engines) they can get more customers for their products. If SAAB in the eighties had listen (much) more to what the (future) customers wanted, such as a Diesel-engine, then it was a less chance that SAAB never was get (nearly) bankrupt in those eighties, that they didn’t need GM in the beginning of the nineties to survive and SAAB could have had the big succes of the beginning of the eighties up to today.

    NEVS: If you listen to what the people want for kind of cars, then you can make a big suces of the brand SAAB and i realy hope you are going to that.
    I which you a lot of succes with SAAB and please let SAAB live as it was let’s say before 1986!

    *) A Diesel-eingine was and is not such a big need for a car on for example the US-market, in Europe it was in the eighties and i now a different situation and because i live in Europe, then it can be a little bit strange what i wrote above for the people who don’t live here and i know that you can think it is a stupid thing what i have wrote there. Sorry fo that, but it is wrote in a kind of style how a lot of people here in Europe thaught and thinks about SAAB.

    For people who thinks: ‘DUTCH900C, don’t you like the brand SAAB?’ To those people i only can say: “Yes. much more as what (perhaps) can been made out of what i wrtoe above, but that isn’t the meening of the text, but that is waht i often have understood from people who drives cars of other brands and about how they think and thaught ‘our’ brand.”.

    • “The price for a SAAB wasn’t very much more for others cars of it’s size and specifications as engines and thing like that.” Actually, Saab was charging as much or more for cars with 4 cylinder engines—-than the luxury brands were selling with 6 and 8 cylinders. Me? I like my 4 cylinder turbo that makes 220 HP (and had I stepped up to the Aero, it would have been 250—-both very respectable numbers in 2004). I like the fuel economy and the “buzz” doesn’t bother me a bit. I find it “robust.” But other luxury cars shoppers wanted refinement/smoothness. Other cars in this price range, or less, featured engines that were utterly silent and smooth, no vibration that can’t be avoided when you have only 4 cylinders. That’s a perception of power and quality—-and when you’re asking for luxury car money, these are virtues that MOST buyers demand. Otherwise, I agree with what you are saying. A diesel in the U.S. would have given them a niche no one else had at the time.
      And absolutely yes—-if NEVS turns out to be a company that actually listens—-the sky is the limit. If on the other hand, they are stubborn and feel that they will dictate to the market instead of vice-versa—-they will squander hundreds of millions and fall flat.

    • well i agree with you in a diesel engine for europe, i live in Portugal South of Europe, and here what the people want is diesel engines everywhere, those premium brands such as bmw audi mercedes benz only sell diesel engines here and have a huge reputation those kind of engines and are more economic and reliable, that was/still is a problem for SAAB.
      SAAB really needs a smaller car like bmw1/audi a1/mercedes benz a-class to compete and get younger people to buy those cars, i own a SAAB 9000 CSE from 1996 2.occ 150hp love the car, but peoples reaction is: isn`t diesel? and i say no it´s petrol and they say that i`m crazy having such car, my brother likes the interior but hates the exterior, it´s too big he says, but there are also peoples who love it like i do, telling me how great the car is and love the swedish design and the brand SAAB cause it´s a very safe car, i own the car for 10 years now, it´s being time to buy a new one, i´m hopefully SAAB cars return in time for me hehehe, or i will have to think in new possibilities, don´t know yet what to buy, one thing i´m sure i won´t buy any car from general motors

  21. For a generic car the price has to do it. If you design and build a proper Saab, something special, you can set a higher price. I am for the later.

  22. Thanks for this new post, I was getting nervous for seeing nothing new on this site for days. I think that the comparison with suckyouki is wrong, better compare a new small Saab with a mini or an Audi A3, or bmw1. That’s the league for a small Saab . People who are in the market for those cars could also be interested for a small Saab or Volvo v40 and are willing to pay a little more than that they would for a skoda or seat or Opel .

    • I notice that a new small nice-looking Opel is on its way; Opel Adam. Too late of course, since GM always seems to react slow. But this car, Adam, could have been a base for a small Saab 9-2.
      But since GM is GM, Opel is of course getting all sorts of blame from Detroit. GM claims to make a lot of money, while also claiming that Opel loses money fast. Probably the same amount I would guess.

      And the deal between GM and PSA seems to be off, since the French government are loaning Peugeot money with the catch that no jobs will be lost in France. Which would mean that all jobs in danger would be in Germany, at Opel.
      I am rather happy with this as I could see no good come of it, only bitter feuds.

  23. Here in U.S price is not only point to sell. look at bmw. their 3 series starts at 40k (holy F). im subsrcibing to all 4 major car magazines here(motor trend, automobile, car and driver and road and track). In 6 years since i started(the same time when we bought first SAAB 9-3) maybe, maybe a couple of times i saw a article about SAAB. Otherwise nothing. No tests, no drives pretty much nothing. Car magazines acting like SAAB didnt exists. I remember one of the test not too long ago in motor trend when they put together luxury class (Mb C-klass, bmw 3 series, audi a4, acura tsx, volvo s60, infiniti g25, lexus ic250 and buick regal sport). Some of those models were 2012 but few were 2011. I thought were is SAAB 9-3 2011???????? with the cheaper price and better driving dynamics and handling then some of the cars it would show interesting results but Nothing…… SAAB 9-5 2011- not a single test, nothing. A little mention about 2010 model but no test at all.

    Bring 9-3 how it was from 2012 after nice changes and sell for 25K. Daaaaaamn. its the price of new acura ilx( its a civic dressed up and nothing more).

    I want SAAB again in U.S. Please!!!!!!!

    w.

    • Correct. I can attest that — at least for the last 9 years that I’m in US — there was virtually no Saab marketing of any form here. Probably the only reason I noticed those few Saab commercials is because I already was very interested in Saab. And yes, a complete absence from automotive media…

      • And they did spend a fair amount of money on “Born From Jets” but what a goofy campaign that was. They wasted their budget on nonsense that probably didn’t attract one new buyer to the brand.

    • BMW and MB, at least in the U.S., have image and reputation that has taken decades to achieve. They are status symbols, with very high resale value and a dealer experience that treats owners very well in many cases. They are considered cars for the rich (unless you drive a BMW 3 that is almost 20 years old, like I do). Anyway, Saab has never, ever had this reputation. Saab built its trade, in the U.S., as the “Under $2000.00 car.” Then it was a quirky “college professor’s car” somewhat like the Peugeot 504 or 505. Eventually, it went upmarket and for a short time in the 1980s, appealed to yuppies—-in particular, the convertibles. By the 1990s, these cars were not considered “values” by any means—-many who might have been interested after seeing one on the road had the shock of their life when they went shopping—-sticker shock—-and no lower priced entry level models to move those potential buyers to. The rest as they say, is history. A historic bankruptcy. No, price is not the only thing. It’s definitely not the only thing and not an important thing for a rich person who wants to tool around in a Benz or 7 series BMW. But for many people who are comparing prices and models closely—-a strong case can be made that a Saab is worth a little more than other cars they’re looking at—-but not nearly as much more as they were asking before they went out of business.

      • Angelo, please stop with the ”the bankruptcy proofs Saab going upmarket killed them” mantra.
        They short time they were just that was the most successful in the company’s history but they needed big money to develop new models and modernize production. Then GM entered the scene.
        At first Saab was going to be their European luxury brand until someone probably noted this could expose the crap made in Detroit and everything changed.
        THN was left so deep in no mans land it became impossible sell cars by the numbers. Just look at the platforms, model range, engines and interiors offered…
        The only ones who landed in Saabs during the last 20 years were people who a) had a history with the brand (trusted the Swedish engineering), b) were smart enough to figure out that on their own that these cars have tremendous value, or c) GM’s crazy discounts in the U.S. that got subsidized by other markets.

        Fast forward to the Spyker-era. They ran out of money for various reasons but we’ll never know how far they could have taken SAAB as a brand. It is unfair to say they should have sold entry level hatchbacks when it takes years to bring out a new car.
        They had nothing but a ten year old 9-3 and a big(ger) 9-5 sedan saddled with a hp restriction and an interior straight out of Grand Moms parts bin -before they could replace it.
        No wonder Saabs didn’t sell well with all the news that the brand was dead, uncertainty surrounding the new owner, factory wind-down, bankrupt suppliers, delivery delays, missing options, GM run websites and god knows what else.
        And yet, the NG 9-5 was competitive on the road compared to the “premium” competition in the same price range.

        • “The short time they were just that (higher end luxury brand) was the most successful in the company’s history but they needed big money to develop new models and modernize production. ????? Huh? This was the most successful run in the company’s history, but they didn’t generate enough profit to develop new models and modernize production? “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” If at their peak, they weren’t doing well enough to modernize and engineer new products, the venture was/is simply impossible to succeed with. And my “entry level hatchback” idea—-I said they (i.e. Muller) should have made it a priority. I know they couldn’t have had one in their first year. But this slot was/is so darn critical for any chance the nameplate has—-had I been Muller, I would have been jetting around, knocking on doors, trying like crazy to get a quick fix—-a temporary rebadged product—-just to fill the need and get cars in showrooms as quickly as possible. Then, that small car (a Saab original) would go on the drawing table before any other product to be introduced as quickly as possible to replace the rebadged product. Not a good idea? Tell that to Honda, who rebadged an Isuzu to get a badly needed SUV in their showrooms while they worked on their own. Yes, the Passport became a better vehicle, the Pilot—-but the fact is, Honda couldn’t wait. Saab couldn’t either. Facts are stubborn things—-they failed with expensive cars. Did they fail BECAUSE the cars were too expensive? We might never all agree on that, but I think the circumstantial evidence certainly points to that.

          • Angelo, you are just shooting too much from the hip. It was the current OWNER in the mid 80’s that wasn’t committed to putting billions into Saabs next step in becoming a major player, not that step had been the wrong one to take. That’s why they sold to GM. It was going to be a match made in heaven. GM’s money, factory technology (reduced unit costs), dealer network, huge parts volumes etc.

            Are you saying they should have dumped the turbo, stayed in the C segment and just surrendered to the bigger Volvo’s? I do not agree. Base cars sell thanks to the image created by the high-end variants. The expensive 9000T and 900T sold A LOT of naturally aspirated Saabs over here. With a premium price you can also build quality. No one looked down at Saab in the 80’s even with all these old 96’s an 99’s around. SAAB cars were good enough for Kings and Prime Ministers.

            Just watch the press conference from December ’89 what the plans were.
            I didn’t say they Saab should have sold ‘luxury’ cars only. Audi and BMW never did that in Europe, they got those semi affordable base models (1.6 L engines) for decades which BTW sucked. A 3-series from the 80’s was an outright dangerous vehicle, yet it was considered a status symbol in places like California. That’s because they didn’t have to drive them through snow or on ice. God forbid if you crashed one. It must have been made of tin foil? All this while Saabs were like tanks saving lives. Don’t get me going about Audi’s 30 years ago…

            SAABs downfall started when it took too long to replace the c900. By the time GM had turned 180, ran out of money and told THN to make something out of the Opel platform with no engines to compete against the Germans upmarket. Game over.
            The perception and the brand value went down the toilet not only in the U.S. but everywhere. People like myself and tens of thousands of Saabers took a look at the GM 900 and though what the hell is this?
            Saab became a car that drives better in bad weather, had the turbo advantage for a long time, no model range to speak of, it lost it’s practicality, much of the quality and had an interior made out of the cheap looking stuff. You can’t sell many cars that way unless they’re priced way below the hyped brands with enormous marketing budgets. All those design studies, Car Show concepts but non in production, ever.

            About the entry model (9-1/9-2). You probably weren’t around to hear how VM couldn’t shut up about the smaller car in 2010. In fact it was one of the reasons to Saabs poor sales. People were waiting for the next best thing. The ‘real Saabs’ to hit the showrooms.
            Upgraded interiors, tweaked engines, the new 9-5 wagon, 9-4X, small hatch, you name it. Orderbooks were filling up the minute they announced MY 11.5 and people had only read about the small improvements.
            I suggested at the time that the current base 9-3 would had become a really good entry/bridge model in waiting for the smaller hatch. A real Jetta killer starting at $19.990 -built in Mexico?
            The price range you listed was very good IMO but the -A8 sized- 9-5 could have gone easily even higher with a M5 fighter.

            Behold, premium image restored.

            • We agree on a lot. A couple points: Toyota and Honda built their reputation for reliable/high quality cars—-selling smaller, basic cars at low prices. The Civic, Accord, Corolla and Corona/Camry—-back in the late ’70s into the ’80s—-is why they now sell Lexus and Acura cars, why they sell large and expensive sport utilities, Avalons that are priced as high as Buicks, etc. I’m not suggesting that Saab build a Corolla. I’m suggesting a small car that sells at the higher end of what small cars go for—with a nice quality interior and good engineering/reliability. Yes, base cars sell because of the image of more expensive ones—-but sometimes, it’s a bottom up proposition too. Get buyers interested in a brand by making their first new car a Saab they can afford—-and walk them up the ladder as they get older and make more money in life, as they have a family and need a larger vehicle, etc. I wouldn’t have abandoned the turbo—–but I never thought their entire product line needed to be turbocharged. That was a contributing factor to not having a base model car that most people could afford. Their strategy wasn’t good—-product line, advertising/marketing, etc. Y said it yourself—-no one looked down at Saab when a bunch of 96 and 99 models were still on the road. No one would have looked down on them either, if a nice 9-1 or decontented 9-3s were available either.

            • I remember in 1982 when I sat in my first SAAB, my Uncles 5th Saab, a brand new 900 turbo. The interior was very functional, yet bland and not very attractive IMHO. And then I asked him what he paid for the car. I thought he got ripped off in a major way. Then he handed me the keys and told me to take it for a spin. I immediately fell in love. I got it. The road feel, the surge of the turbo, etc. I then felt around the dash, the glove compartment and was puzzled. Quality was not at the same level as most vehicles in the same pricepoint at the time. A year or so later I flew to CT for a family reunion and sat in the same car. The material around the glove box started to bubble in the middle, and the very comfortable seats looked terribly warn, looked like leather seats of a 10 year old car. I was very puzzled. The interior creaked over bumps and the headliner was coming apart and my Uncle was very meticulous about caring for this car. In 1987 the car was involved in a serious accident. My uncle walked away without a scratch. The saab was totalled but it saved his life.
              Q/C has been a Saab issue since the Scania days. And for the price of the 82 900 one could of purchased a 3 series, etc. So nothing has really changed regarding Q/C issues for over 35 years. People in general frown upon interiors that fall apart in the first year of ownership. That is something I will never understand about Saab. Nothing has changed. And we blame GM for destroying Saab. Unfortunately will not rise from the dead despite its amazing driving experience and safety record I am afraid. People remember. I love my 9-5 but no one, absolutely no one would put up with the crap I have endured with that I know of around here.

              • Seb, if someone gave you the choice, back in the 80s: The car will cost x USD, but it can either have great interior or superior passive safety. — Which option appeals to you?

                AFAICT, the interior suffered slightly as more resources were put into passive safety. If you wanted nice interior, there were plenty of brands that could have provided you with that in the 80s. If you’d rather have a fun driving experience combined with superior safety… Well, that was the Saab you speak of.

                Maybe it is possible to get everything right: Exterior styling, performance, good winter capabilities, interior styling AND still keep the price low, but I have yet to see anyone deliver that! Somehow some of you guys expect 100% from Saab, but when it comes to other brands you are willing to compromise…

  24. This price myth should end right now.
    The fact is that former Saab owners have disproportionally moved to other premium brands like Audi and Mercedes (at least in the US). They haven’t moved to low-price brands like Kia or Dodge.
    People here may not think that Saabs were premium cars, but their owners were certainly premium car buyers!

    The thing about cheap interiors baffles me as well. I had the opportunity to spend significant time in a Mercedes over the summer. This car was the same age as mine, had similar mileage, and originally sold for $10,000 more. The interior of the Mercedes was startlingly inferior: materials were cheap, and the design was abysmal. Everything had the same plastic texture and colour, and the shapes were very strained (hard to explain, but think of how the top of the instrument cluster blends into the passenger side). I’m sure MB puts-in a better effort at the top of their lineup, but they had nothing decent to offer in Saab’s price range.

    My opinion on why Saab went bust: they ran out of money. Sales were increasing, confidence was coming back, they had great product in the pipeline, but they just didn’t have enough cash to bridge the gap and reap what they sowed.

    They did make some strategic mistakes, especially in the US where they went with a GM-like “advertise high, sell low” strategy, but that’s not what killed them. The funding shortfall was evidently big enough that a few extra sales would not have saved them.

    A final note about price: the 3 Series vastly outsells the Hyundai Accent in the US (and in every developed country other than Korea). Which market would you rather be in?

    • Interesting insight into MB! Incidently, I believe that I remember (;-)) once having read that Saab drivers have the highest average income of all “normal” brands (I assume that Bentley and Aston Martin will be exceptions).

    • Your facts that former Saab owners have moved to premium brands is not accurate, at least not in Sweden. I talked to one of the biggest Hyundai dealers in Sweden, located in Stockholm and he has traded in a huge amount of Saab 9-3’s in the last year, he told me that the same thing was applicable to the other Hyundai dealers around the country. He had more former Saab and Volvo owners than any other brand… not very strange since Saab and Volvo were the two biggest brands…

      At least here, people are going for more low-priced cars. Thats pretty clear when Volvo’s third biggest dealer in Sweden said that they have lost 44% of their customers this year regardless of the discounts that were given, the Volvo prices including discount could still not match those given by VW and Hyundai so the customers switched brands…

      • The data comes from a link mentioned on Swade’s blog. I left a comment there correlating the brands that Saab owners had moved to and their sales rankings overall. It was US data. Swedish data will be different, for obvious reasons; Sweden is the only country where Saab had a big overall market share.

        Volvo made 4 of the top 6 selling cars in Sweden last month. The top-selling Hyundai (i30) sold half as many units as the lowest-selling Volvo (XC60). I suspect that your dealer friend was exaggerating somewhat; or that he doesn’t realize that the overall Swedish market is in decline.

    • Bernard: I don’t know if we have or will ever have the statistics to prove one way or the other—-if former Saab buyers have gone upmarket now that Saab is gone, or downmarket as Tim suggests. I don’t know. Here is what I do know: There weren’t enough people buying Saabs. So whether this small group has decided to spend a little more for an Audi, or less for a Huyndai really doesn’t matter. There weren’t enough people buying the cars for Saab to be viable. The question is, what should NEVS pricing strategy be? My ideal is for there to be an entry level model that is affordable enough to get buyers of more modest means into a new Saab. And there should be a higher end model that can compete with luxury marques—-though truth be told, Saab will still have to outflank Audi or Mercedes in some way—-and charging less while providing high perceived value is a good way to go. Frankly, the way I see it, VALUE should be what Saab strives for. Charge more money for the entry level Saab, but treat buyers to a better car. Charge LESS money for the high end Saab, but treat buyers to an experience that rivals the more expensive cars.

    • It comes down to a value proposition. I bought a ’06 9-3 2.0T as new for $27k. I remember when I bought it, I knew I wouldn’t pay more than $29k because my perception of Saab was on par with VW. The build quality and interior was no where near BMW or Mercedes.

      After Saab collapsed, I have since moved onto Audi. I recently purchased a ’13 Q5. If Saab truly built a luxurious car then I probably would have paid something similar to my Q5. It probably also didn’t help that Saab had terrible depreciation.

      • Obviously it won’t be easy, especially given the current economic state of the auto industry. NEVS has decided that EVs will be their product (notwithstanding consideration of a petrol version, at least in the near term). I don’t know how the EV business model will work out, but it may be a market in which they can succeed, especially if the cost for which they acquired the SAAB assets in bankruptcy is low enough to enable them to produce and sell made-in-Sweden SAAB EVs at prices that the market is enthusiastic about. There may be other ways to succeed, but this is the course NEVS is taking.

  25. Price is always a factor, but it’s really the competition in the final analysis. For GM, Saab competed against it’s other brands particularly in the US. The financial crash, however, ultimately forced the issue. Politics played a part also. Notice how the votes in Michigan and Ohio for US President are credited as being influenced by the US Auto (GM) bailout by the winners. I don’t know any US politician advocating moving US manufacturing jobs to Sweden. For 2010 and 2011 Saab just did not compete against BMW despite price.

    Just a thought.

  26. Yes. Saab collapsed because sales volumes of new models were close to zero. Why? Every car magazine generously covered and praised the beautiful new 9-5 and even the 9-4X. Yet very few were sold and almost none exist today (Well okay, about as rare as Ferraris).

    Sales volumes collapsed because pricing was totally unrealistic. The volume curve goes like this. At $10,000, Saab would sell over 5 million 9-5s per year in the USA alone. At $20,000, that number is probably 200,000 cars per year to start out. And it goes down. At $40,000, that number is maybe 500 cars per year.

    Saab’s business model may have made it impossible to compete selling 9-5s for $30,000. But it would have been a slower death, and many more beautiful, visible cars would have been built. Being a price leader is _crucial_ to sales volume. It wasn’t optional for Saab to be a price leader. It was mandatory. Perhaps a mandate doomed to kill Saab, but 9-3 at $24,000 and 9-5 at $30,000 were mandatory price points. And I said so at the time.

    • Jim: In my opinion, the sticker pricing should have been:
      9-1: $19,950 – $26,950 U.S. (Hatchback)
      9-3: $24,950 – $34,950 U.S. (Sedan or Hatch, Sport Combi slightly higher)
      9-5: $35,950 – $45,950 U.S. (Sedan, Estate slightly higher)
      Sport Utility – Roughly the same as the 9-5, with a wider range—-perhaps $32,950 – 46,950

      My plan would be as follows: The entry level small hatchback would not have a “cheaped out/stripper” version. They would be a high quality little car, well equipped—even the base model. By adding another $7000., it could be “loaded.” The mid range and larger cars could be ordered as decontented versions for people who wanted a Saab—-and were willing to do without “Gee Whiz” gadgetry or power everything, heads-up displays, navigation systems, sunroofs, etc. With a spread of $10,000 for the base and loaded versions of these models, plenty could be done to make them competitive in the luxury market, for those who wanted all the conveniences. If need be, another 2K could be added to really top these cars out. The sport ute? For buyers who wanted a people hauler and again, could do without all the bells and whistles, perhaps a reliable front drive platform could be offered, with textile interior and the like. At the highest end of the scale, a sophisticated truck with everything.

    • Before any talk of bankruptcy, well equipped SAAB 9-3s were advertised and readily available for less than $30k (often a lot less). Even OG 9-5s could be bought for under $30k in the last few years of their run. These prices didn’t exactly create a flood of sales.

      Honda Accords can sticker at over $30k, and they are made in quantities that would have been impossible for SAAB to achieve in the short to medium term so a $30k (or even $35k) NG 9-5 was not a realistic expectation.

      • The prices I listed are MSRP. Dealers would have backed off of them a little bit. I think my price ranges would have been realistic—-and yes, assuming the dealers would knock a couple grand off now and then. If Saab couldn’t sell the cars described for the prices I listed, there’d be no point in trying to succeed. My prices are in today’s dollars too. Higher than this for the stickers—-no deal.

          • My starting price was around 36K—-maybe to be routinely sold for 34K. That’s mid 30s. That’s for the basic car without a lot of garbage on it. If they can’t sell a mid-sized car, decontented, for 35K, they will fail. They are not BMW or Mercedes. They never will be. Time to recognize what they are capable of and who they are capable of selling too—-and for how much. Living in a fantasy land of them moving 50K cars without sunroofs is over. It ended badly in fact.

              • How is everyone else doing it? That is, selling larger displacement, more powerful engines, in cars under or around 30K, with leather, power moonroofs, navigation, kick ass stereos, etc.? Why is it that in your opinion, only Saab has to put a lawnmower engine in a car that I price as high as forty-six thousand dollars?

                • It would take years of losses for SAAB to build volume to where they could sell an acceptable 9-5 for under $35k. In the meantime, it might be a vehicle for people who like the idea of an optional mower deck attachment for their car.

                  • Hmmmm….or, they can buy some cars from KIA at fleet prices—-rebrand them as Saabs and charge a few thousand over the KIA sticker and still sell quite a few. Like that idea?

                    • I don’t like it. Not that it won’t work if the goal is to increase KIA’s production, but I can save a few thousand by buying a Kia and replacingthe logos with SAAB badges – or I could save even more and simply leave the KIA badges intact.

  27. I have enjoyed all of your input but at the end of the day the product that SAAB was offering was too late too soon and way way way overpriced. The 2010 9-5 XWD V6 got decent reviews (not great) from TTAC, car and driver, autoblog, winding road,etc. Although it was a gorgeous execution every reviewer came to the same conclusion: GM interior controls that felt too much like a Buick, and the car was not very engaging and quite boring on the road despite the great handling capability on the track.

    The 4 cylinder 9-5 that was launched a year later was blasted by Consumer reports and others for being too heavy, not enough power, and poor rear visibility, unrefined engine, and not enough “quality” for the exorbatant sticker price: http://youtu.be/s0X8I1A9CkE

    Lets be honest folks. If the 9-5 V-6, XWD MSRP was at $35k loaded than I, (IMHO) believe it would of sold like hot cakes. The new 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium with 4wd and all the bells whistles can be purchased for less than $35k and it is a really solid car, road performance, otherwise and I dislike Ford with a passion.

    The 9-5 4 cylinder, priced in base Passat territory (22-25k) would of had a chance. But honestly. the interior quality of the 2010-2011 9-5 was subpar to even a Passat which is sad (besides the seats). I pray that NEVS will resolve these QC issues in their relaunch of the 9-3, and price it in Mazda 6, or Honda Accord (LX) territory or below if they stand a chance.

  28. The power of the brand is what ultimately sets the price (assuming your car is ‘as good as your competitors’ – and it seems that, for instance, a Suzuki Kizashi is on paper just as good as its competitors. Why then, did it only sell 310 units in the US in October, compared with 29000 camrys, 16000 Sonatas, 8000 Passats.

    It seems in the US, for a new car dealership to be successful, you need to turn approximately 30 – 50 new units of that brand a month. Audi average 35 (high average transaction price) VW is currently 50, Toyota, lexus, I have heard, is even higher. With that number of monthly sales, you can have a stock of twice that number, and an average turn rate of 60 days.

    Suzuki, last year, with 220 dealers and 26000 sales, had an average turn of just 10 vehicles per dealership, per month.

    Around 200 dealers appears to be the minimum you can get away with , if you want to appear to be a national US brand. Saab , before 2009 had 218, and after 2009 – started off at least, with 137.

    Saabs average US per dealer monthly sales were in 2008 : 6 in 09 : 4, in 10 : 3 (maybe a little higher, assuming several dealers threw in the towel, between 9 and 10) The fact is, you cannot run a successful new car franchise on those sort of numbers, you cannot retain or pay sales staff , and you cannot maintain an attractive wide range of product in order to entice buyers in. based on the 60 day turn rate, you would only be able to stock 6 to 8 cars.

    Simply having a cheap price is not the entire answer (otherwise Suzuki’s would have sold as well as Kia’s) Having a strong brand is. That is why Audi can sell in the US, the same number of Q7’s monthly, as VW do Touregs, but with a third few dealerships , and a higher average transaction price. Same platform, same engine.

  29. Problem wasn’t price. I’d rather say problem was GM. It was “from the beginning” that GM didn’t understand or was not interested to understand how to manage Saab as a brand. So, models innovation was low, advertising was not existing, so brand value was not supported while Saab good engineering was included in many GM products. This is just my perception as a passionate user.

  30. I’m not sure that the 9-4x could ever have been very profitable for Saab. When Saab left the GM fold, GM hit Saab with development costs for the 9-4x which were probably factored in to the unit cost of each vehicle which Saab sourced from GM. The 9-4x gave Saab a valuable car for US showrooms, but eventually replacing it with proper Saab sourced product was probably going to be quite a high priority once the 9-3 was replaced. As you suggest Jason, if perhaps the 9-4x sales had started to bite into it’s sister Cadillac model, GM would’ve simply limited supply to Saab?

  31. Responding to someone’s post here, a question came to mind: Are Saabs orphan cars? When a brand goes out of business and/or when it leaves your market, if you’re an owner—-you’re driving an “orphan.” Peugeot pulled out of North American, leaving me with an “orphan” 505. Ditto for people with Plymouths, Mercurys, Pontiacs, Hummers, Saturns, SUZUKIS, etc. What about Saab? They are no longer selling in North America and they are no longer manufacturing them. That would seemingly make them an orphan brand. But wait: If a new company owns the brand and is at least TALKING about returning to my market, is my Saab truly an orphan? Confusing. A dealer told me that if Saab comes back, it’ll be all new dealer agreements—so I guess technically, there are no existing Saab dealers???? Just former dealers who still service Saab?

  32. This is one person who has purchased nine new Saabs over the last 30 years that will not be moving “downmarket” to a KIA, VW, or Hundai. Unless Saab/NEVS pulls a rabbit out of a hat and puts a new Saab on the US market in the next two years, my next car will be an Audi Allroad or Q5.

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