Idiosyncratic loyalty

Saab drivers and Saab. A unique relationship between a brand and its customers widely known for its high amount of loyalty and dedication. Personally, I’m proud of being part of this group of enthusiasts who are continuously Saab spotting on the streets, on television, on the internet and while watching movies, where a comforting glance of a Saab is enough to put a smile on our faces. Enthusiasts who go out and wash their Saabs even when it’s almost starting to rain. Enthusiasts who grin when the sporty performance of their understated Swede leaves its (often German) challenging counterparts becoming smaller and smaller in the rear mirror. Enthusiasts who can just enjoy watching the perfect design of their Saabs.

A love affair
The Saab community is alive and well, dedicated to support and thoroughly enjoy the brand. Examples are well known, such as the SAVE SAAB convoys, the We Are Many We Are Saab events, the collective purchase of DJA 880 for the Saab Car Museum, Facebook groups such as Saab Nuts!, the official Saab Cars (Parts) Facebook page, The Saab Cars Instagram page and an always stunning and inspirering celebration of Saab culture sharply displayed on Saab vs Scepticism. And of course all of the websites that keep track of all things Saab, such as SaabsUnited.

Maybe this relationship is best described by Saab in a great book entitled Made in Trollhättan (2002):

 

“How come a car from a small factory, in a small city, in a small country far away can attract people all over the world? Perhaps it is the comfort and the driving characteristics that do it? Or the turbo engine and the performance. Perhaps it is because it is so safe. Maybe it is the design that is the attraction. Perhaps all of it. We believe that people who choose a Saab do so because of its personality. We have 0.3% of the world market and it will probably remain in that neighbourhood. Our goal is not to build lots of good cars, but to build fewer great cars. To own a Saab is to belong to a small group of people, all with their own reasons for choosing a Saab. The common denominator is that you have chosen a car that stands out from the crowd. Welcome to a small but exclusive club. We hope you will remain a member for life”. (Thanks to Saab vs Scepticism for the quote).

 

This idiosyncratic loyalty is a very important asset for the Saab brand. Its an important part of what drives new car sales. And it’s also about the enthusiasts sticking to their trusty Saab, also when for the time being there are no new Saabs available. Saab drivers enjoying and taking care of their Saab. Which is providing a continuing market for Saab Service Centers and Saab Parts as well.

A love affair

 

At the moment, negotiations seem to be ongoing about a possible new majority shareholder for NEVS. If we’re lucky, no matter what strategy the possible new owners of NEVS are going to apply (though it seems that a thorough approach is required), it will still take a couple of years at the least before new Saabs come rolling off the production line again.

Interacting with the community
In the meantime, it would be interesting if the new owners would seek contact with this loyal community of Saab drivers. These days, communities around a brand seem to become increasingly important for businesses worldwide. While on the product development side of things Saab has to catch up because of the years when it didn’t have many resources, Saab has a natural advantage when it comes to a dedicated community.

If the new owners can interact with the Saab drivers while developing the Saab brand and new Saab cars, they have access to and can tailor cars for a group of customers coveted by many other car brands. By doing that, they can also bridge the period of development and keep this customer base involved. As mentioned here many times before, it seems logical that Saab has to continue focusing on being a premium car brand. With the historical production capacity typical for Saab, premium is the way to go. And premium can focus on a niche market, where loyal Saab drivers are strongly represented. When the foundations of the brand and company are strong, the Saab drivers can again serve as a customer base on and with which a thriving Saab brand can be built.

Aside from the most important thing right now, being the outcome of the negotations about the future, how would you like Saab and its owners to interact with its community? Looking forward to read about it in the comments section.

 

22 thoughts on “Idiosyncratic loyalty”

  1. Excellent post and read. This is what sums up Saab ownership in a nutshell. We do not follow convention, we do not like to follow the crowd, we are definitive and who we are is determined by the jets we pilot truly.

    Here at Saabstance in Singapore. We have a very dedicated following of Saab enthusiasts that keeps the flag flying high.

    Sure we know that there are perhaps plenty of better cars out there that can beat a Saab hands down in every arena today. But it is our pride in our jets and this special brand that holds a place in our hearts that keeps us going and we will continue to improve the breed however little we can and make the best out of what we have.

    Still cheering on for our cherished Saab !

    Abel Tan
    SAABSTANCE
    Singapore.

  2. For me, it’s not a matter of delivering GREAT cars—but delivering very good cars that are engineered and designed to be a little different and somewhat unique. You don’t have to break the bank to accomplish that. You have to be creative and outflank the bigger guys. Saab was able to do that for a long time. The problem with “Don’t build a lot of good cars, build fewer great cars” is that they couldn’t sell enough of the great cars at the prices they were charging to remain in business. Now they’re not selling any cars. Build that great car as a flagship for the fortunate few. But build a more reasonably priced “very good” model with some Saab attitude, for the rest of us—-and sell enough of them to survive this time.

    • Good point, Angelo. A diversified product range looks like the most reasonable way for a car brand to stay in business. Volvo is doing it, BMW, Audi and Mercedes are, even Maserati and Porsche are. Next to that though, I think the range of customers and production capacity is also a factor to take into consideration. When producing a smaller amount of cars (relatively speaking), I think you should try to optimize your revenue from every car you produce and sell. Personally, I think that is were Saab can be at its best, when backed with the needed funding to get there.

  3. Thank you Ward for a very good post! I think you explain and describe in a good way how we are connected to Saab as enthusiasts!

  4. Great article Ward. Really sums up what it is to be a Saab owner and enthusiast.
    For a small company to be such an innovator of new technologies and to produce cars with quirks that are sometimes irrelevant but always make one smile makes me wonder about the future.
    We all saw how GM struggled to come to terms with the Saab ethic of design and safety; watch the BBC Top Gear tribute to get a feel if you can find it, and now there is talk of Mahindra a large engineering conglomerate with loads of money but no real idea what niche branding is all about.
    Maybe this is the end for Saab. Perhaps it has run it’s course and needs to be consigned lovingly to history. I hope not; but perhaps it would be better than someone producing a run-of-the-mill facsimile and sticking the Griffin badge on the front. That I would not like to see.

    • Thanks Jova. Great to hear.
      I totally understand what you mean. I am indeed familiair with the interesting tribute of Top Gear, the line up of typical owners of different brands in the tribute episode is also quite funny. Regarding that, I think the ownership of Jaguar Land Rover by Tata is still very interesting. I know the conditions are different, but still, if a large company as a possible owner knows the potential of a car brand and its characteristics and can provide the necessary funds to realize that potential, I think we as Saab enthusiasts can have a very exciting future with Saab.

      • Understand what you’re saying about Tata and JLR but they were still going concerns with strong product ranges and Tata was at least a vehicle manufacturer.
        I fear that the delay in finding new investment for Saab and relying on money rather technology to drive the future could be the wrong solution.
        I am, however, an eternal optimist so still hope for the best. Having just acquired a 7 year old 9.3 I can wait until at least 2020 before I’ll need to find a replacement.

  5. Very nice reading indeed!
    Some of the posts here at SU have been quite pessimistic lately, some times for good reasons, but definitely not all the times. I would say that the SAAB community is still unique, with a lot of dedication. I know some of us have “moved on” to other brands, but there are also a lot of fans still believing in a future. I have promised myself never buying anything else than SAAB, and I still hope I will be able to keep that promise.
    Even if it should not be a future, SAAB will still be remembered as a very interesting and special brand with very loyal (but unfortunately few) costumers.

  6. Nicely written post Ward, and thanks for the mention (Saab vs. Scepticism). We may not have any new Saabs for the foreseeable future, but we sure have a load of amazingly fun and exclusive Saabs to maintain, tweak and enjoy. Let’s keep it simple and appreciate those for now – Carpe diem.

  7. What really makes me sad is that I discovered Saab too late: early enough to afford a couple used cars, a 1999 9-5, a 1994 900S Vert, a 2006 9-7x and then my first new one, a ’09 9-3 Aero… but then things got dim. I bought a 2010 9-5 when there seemed like much hope and then a 2011 9-4x when things had gone south a year later but with definite sentimental appeal, like it was my last chance. If it had been ten years prior I could have really experienced the brand, but I was too late. I still hope, but can’t help but think I missed the train and there’s not another one coming.

    • Don’t worry. Even if there is never a new Saab produced, I, myself, plan to drive Saab for many years to come. As for now, I drive a 2002 Saab 9-5 2.2TID, in excellent shape, and bought for allmost nothing. In a few years time, i will buy a 2010 – 2012 Saab 9-5 for a small sum of money, fix it up, and have a car for many years to come. Or i may buy a late 9000 model.

      Even if my Saab is 12-13 years old, it’s still a better car than most of the cars on the marked today..

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