Some Dealers Remain Committed To Saab

We received an email today that pointed to a great Automotive News piece on Charles River Saab. The article is more or less telling the story of one dealerships commitment to Saab and the people. From what I read, this is one dealer that truly understands customer service and what it means to take care of the people who helped to make you who you are today.

Ray Ciccolo is the owner of Charles River Saab which is the oldest Saab store in the country. One of the quotes that stands out from the article to me is the following:

“If a customer trades in a Saab, someone else is going to buy it and they’ll need service,” says Ciccolo, president of Village Automotive Group in Boston. “So that’s our goal: We’re going to be the go-to Saab dealership for the Northeast.”

When a lot of previous Saab dealers have either thrown in the towel, called it a day or moved onto another brand, Ciccolo is expanding his Saab service and parts operations.

Specifically, Ciccolo wants to be the largest Saab service and parts operator in his region and he is spending about $100,000 to do so. He is buying as many Saab parts as he can. He has consolidated his Saab parts warehouse and service center near his Volvo store in Boston to cut costs.

Ciccolo will hire two additional Saab service technicians. He will launch a direct-mail marketing campaign to Saab owners in eastern Massachusetts this month.

On the sales side of the business, they are looking to purchase as many of the 2011 Saab’s being auctioned off by Ally and foresees potential profits from Saab sales.

“Dealers aren’t doing anything with the brand and so their customers are going to look to go someplace that’s expanding to get good service,” Ciccolo says. “I see at least three years of good business.”

The article goes into a little more detail as to how they see the opportunity and the numbers involved. Ciccolo it says believes there to be 5,000 to 8,000 Saab customers in the Boston area who are orphaned. These numbers alone to me look like a huge business opportunity. Of that 5-8,000 customers, I’m sure they could move a lot of the vehicles up for auction from Ally. Then you look at the service side where they are currently servicing 25 Saab’s a day and he believes that could double with expansion.

He seems to not be overly optimistic about Saab being revived, in fairness I think just as fans are cautiously optimistic, so too are they. In the meantime they are prepared to take care of their previous customers as well as any who have lost their dealership in this process.

“We’re going to treat it as a business opportunity and if the brand comes back, fine.” Ciccolo says. “If it doesn’t we’ll take care of the people we’ve sold Saabs to.”

The full article from Automotive News was written by Jamie LaReau and can be found here.

UPDATE: Irene Postpones Swedish Car Day

That may be the weirdest headline I’ve ever written. No, she’s not some fat angry lady causing trouble, she’s a big fat hurricane causing serious havoc on millions of Americans’ lives this weekend. Because of the impending hurricane (after the east coast’s first earthquake in as long as anyone can remember, my house shook…), Pierre from Charles River Saab let us know that Swedish Car Day will be postponed one week. From Pierre:

The change is official.

Swedish Car Day has been rescheduled. I am announcing this earlier than previously stated. The museum needed to know today so as to arrange their staffing, and it did not look like there would be any significant news regarding the weather pattern. If anything, the forecast for 2-10” of rain in the northeast corridor preceding the hurricane made the change inevitable. Therefore:

Swedish Car Day 2011 will take place on September 4, 2011

Read more

Thursday Snippets

It’s with a tinge of sadness and no small amount of fanfare that I have to acknowledge the conclusion to Etienne’s work over at Saablog-in.

Etienne started his blog around the same time that I started Trollhattan Saab, maybe even a little earlier. Either way, we’ve been at this caper around the same amount of time. All that time, he’s been keeping an exhausting schedule of attending Saab events all over Europe from his base in Huy, Belgium.

Saab fans all over the continent would be familiar with the flamboyant and always-smiling Belgian, who’s now chosen to take some time off and leave Golfhunter in charge of the Saablog-in website.

Etienne will still be attending events, which is great to hear.

Congratulations, mate, on a wonderful blogging enterprise full of encouragement and great fun for Saab enthusiasts in Europe. And good luck to Golfhunter as he carries the torch forward.

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Pierre Belperron, service manager at Charles River Saab, shares some reflections on his 10 years in the job at the CRS blog.

It’s great reading and gives a great perspective on the challenges of being in the dealership business right now. It’s a tough business, especially when cars are more reliable than ever. Dealers used to rely on service and parts for their cashflow and profits, but that revenue stream has thinned over the last few years and dealers really need to be on top of their game to have a healthy business.

As Matthias Siedl pointed out a few days ago, Saab needs a healthy and profitable dealer network, which to my mind means that all dealers who want to stay part of it will have to offer the best service and facilities they possibly can.

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For Saab historians, the former Saab-Valmet plant at Uusikaupunki that made Saabs for many years (including my old Viggen) produced the Fisker Karma shown at the Geneva Motor Show. Fisker has a contract with Valmet for another 6 years.

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Word has just filtered through via email from SUHRT’s Jorgen Trued that Vladimir Antonov has purchase Bowler Offroad.

If you’re not familiar with Bowler Offroad, they currently make the Nemisis. A rather extreme offroader….this should be a decent intro:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3Ismn3IWck

I haven’t seen any official news on this, but it’s interesting to say the least.

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Here’s a great Geneva graphic, found at Autoblog. Head there for a link to a giant full-res version.

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And on a totally unSaaby note – Chuck Norris has just turned 71 (inside out with fear)

He’s currently assembling 71 nuclear reactors on a cake, which he will proceed to blow out like candles with nothing but the wind generated from his lightning fists.

Charles River Saab 100K Clinic

If you’ve got an older Saab, you’d probably love to have someone with 30 years Saab experience take a peek over it and lead you through a review of the entire car, yes?

Next time Charles River Saab holds one of these 100K clinics, I’d suggest you sign up.

Luke Lewis did, and here’s the report he shot through via email today.

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On Saturday, January 29th, Charles River SAAB hosted a 100K- Mile Clinic, which was open to anyone with a SAAB that had 100K or over on it. The idea behind this clinic (from my perspective) was to bring people in and give them a chance to not only meet the people who work on their vehicles, but also give those customers an opportunity to see their vehicle from a Tech’s perspective.

I was there with some other members of NESA (New England SAAB Association). I tagged along with my buddy, Ryan, who brought in his 9000CS.

The day started with an introduction from Pierre (to introduce the technicians and customers). We then went with the Tech to the car, did the initial walk-around. We then got in the car and went for a brief test drive. The entire time, the Tech was telling us what he was looking for.

When we got back, we went inside to the Service area and through the car up on the lift. Our Tech was Peter and he gave us an extremely thorough walk-down on this car and was extremely descriptive in his actions. (Note from Luke – Peter, a service tech for SAAB for 30 years previously drove a 9000Aero and knew this car inside and out).

(Note from Swade – I met Peter Maitland at Swedish Car Day last year and his knowledge is indeed Britannica-ic when comes to Saabs. He’s also got a nice little collection of them, too, including Ol’ Blue and a Saabo caravan).

I have provided some pictures of the event.

I wanted to thank Charles River SAAB, Pierre, and Peter for this awesome experience.

  • Pic 1: Peter (Tech in the driver’s seat) and Ryan in the passenger seat – getting ready for the test drive.
  • Pic 2: Fellow SAABer, Mike M, was getting a detailed walk around with his Tech on his 9-5 Aero SC.
  • Pic 3: Down the way, an other customer was taking advantage of this opportunity with her 9-5 Sedan.
  • Pic 4: With gloves on, both Peter and Ryan are ready for a thorough exam of the engine bay.

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My thanks to Luke for the report.

It’s always great to see people getting to know their cars a little better. And it’s outstanding to see a dealer going to this length to help them do it. CRS are straight from the top shelf.

Charles River Saab Named Top US Retailer of New Saabs for 2010

I received this press release from Charles River Saab over the weekend. I just wanted to recognise this achievement here on SU.

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Press Release: Charles River Saab Named Top US Retailer of New Saabs for 2010

WATERTOWN, MA – Ray Ciccolo’s Charles River Saab of Watertown has been recognized by Saab Cars of North America (SCNA) as the nation’s number one leader in volume sales of new Saab’s for the 2010 calendar year.

The dealership, which is part of the Village Automotive Group, is located on Arsenal Street and is the oldest Saab dealership in the United States, having recently celebrated its 54th anniversary.

“This is very exciting news,” said Village Automotive Group President Ray Ciccolo. “It’s a great acknowledgment to the hard working staff that we have at our dealership. As a dealership group we have had a solid presence in New England for over 50 years. In providing positive customer experiences, something we pride ourselves on, we have been able to expand while maintaining our core values that keep clients coming back to our dealerships and referring family and friends,” he added.

Ray Ciccolo has been an auto dealer for over 45 years, and his dealerships have accomplished impressive goals while being a vibrant part of and a major contributor to the communities in which they serve. Ciccolo’s Village Automotive Group locations include, Boston Volvo Village of Brighton, Honda Village of Newton, Charles River Saab in Watertown, Hyundai Village of Danvers, Cadillac Village of Norwood, Hummer Village of Norwood, Nissan Village of North Attleboro, and their most recent acquisitions, Porsche of Norwell and Audi Norwell.

For more information on the Village Automotive Group visit www.villageautomotive.com.

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I’ve got to know a couple of dealers over the last 12-18 months and all the ones I’ve met are hard-working people who love the brand.

I guess you could say that SU is not a mainstream presence – people have to look for something extra-Saaby to find it – so the fact that some Saab dealers would be aware of SU and then reach out to say “Hi” shows that they might be a dealer that cares a little more about their product.

I spent 4 days in Boston in August 2010 at the invitation of Charles River Saab in order to attend and speak at their Saab and Volvo exhibition, Swedish Car Day. It was an incredible event and it’s a wonderful testimony to the management of CRS that they’re willing to organise and support this event every year (and it must have been a tough decision in 2010 given that Saab dealers have had to cut budgets to the bone).

I just want to recognise their achievements here on the site. These guys are aces and I’m really pleased to see their efforts rewarded.

Congratulations!

Friday Snippets – CRS edition

It’s a Charles River Saab -ish edition of snippets tonight, though it’s not intentional.

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First of all, Pierre’s set an unofficial goal for Saab dealers in the US and I think it’s a pretty good one, actually – conduct at least 100,000 test drives (amongst the dealer body) in 2011.

That’s 1.5 road tests per dealer, per day, which should definitely be achievable. I’d love to see them tally these up.

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Seth, one of the service guys from Charles River Saab, is selling his Saab 99 on Ebay.

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Dimini.ch, sellers of fine Saab scale models, have a fantastic new Saab 900 model in stock. 900 models are the one scale model I’ve never seen much of, so this one is a very attractive item to me. An order will be placed.

They have a new red convertible which looks the goods, too.

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Speaking of convertibles…..

We’re featuring Saab’s four-seasons four-seater drop top all this month with Winter Convertibles in focus.

It’s great timing, then, that motoring website Pistonheads has an article celebrating the development of the Saab Convertible.

I’m going to reproduce a special release from Saab on the Convertible shortly, which will give their own take on the car’s background.

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Road tests……

City AM drives the Saab 9-5:

It’s a lot of car for the money whichever way you look at it and a breath of (Nordic) fresh air if you like to be different.

Autocar, one of the British mags that didn’t like it’s first drive in the TiD, drives the Saab 9-5 TTiD Aero:

This new engine is much more responsive than Saab’s regular, single-turbo 2.0-litre diesel. Performance below 2500rpm is much less lethargic than it was in our road test car, and engine refinement below 3000rpm is better too. The 9-5 hardly feels fast, even in this guise, due to those tall gear ratios – but at least this one’s quieter and easier to drive at normal crank speeds…..

….This new version of the 9-5 proves that, if you dress it with the right options and go for the latest diesel engine, you can make this Saab meet most class standards.

A little Christmas gift

When I give gifts at Christmas, I generally don’t give the person something menial. I don’t give socks, for instance. Not that I’ve got anything against receiving socks. It’s tedious having to go out and buy them, so perhaps the gift I’m really receiving isn’t the socks, but the relief from having to go and get more. But I digress.

Whan I give a gift, it’s something that I, as a friend or family member, want that person to have. Because I think it’ll bring them some happiness, or expand their horizons a bit. It’s a lofty goal and it doesn’t always work out, but it makes things interesting.

When I wrote a post called fuel economy is from the devil last month, I knew I’d upset a few people. It was a spur of the moment thing. I was annoyed about a couple of comments that damned Saab to hell purely for the sake of a couple of mpg’s. I thought about it for 5 minutes out on the back steps (getting a breath of ‘fresh air’) and then came inside and wrote about it.

The underlying point behind the whole post was that for me, driving my Saabs is all about the act of driving, which is one of my most favourite pastimes. Engaging in this most favourite activities in a Saab delivers more enjoyment in more situations than I can imagine any other car delivering.

It’s about versatility. Utility. Performance. Comfort. Safety. It’s about the combination of elements that Saab have been building into their cars for years.

To me, the point of ruling a Saab out or encouraging someone else to do same because they might be one or two mpg’s short of some other competitor (whilst simultaneously being several mpg’s ahead of others) means you can’t see the forest for the trees. Saabs have competitive fuel economy but they’re about so much more than that. Maybe the reason they don’t do as well as they should in reviews is because it takes an owner with some miles under their belt to understand the full panorama that is Saab’s offering.

My one little Christmas gift to you today is a pointer over to Pierre’s latest writings at the Charles River Saab blog.

Pierre takes the theory a few steps further and with similar reasoning in mind. It doesn’t make a marketer’s life any easier, but a Saab isn’t about a unique selling point. A Saab’s qualities are hard to measure with numbers because they hinge on the total package, they way it entertains, endures, protects.

For me, it’s reassuring to know that a guy I have so much time and respect for “got it” – even if I annoyed him at first 🙂

Enjoy. It may not be what you wanted for Christmas, but hopefully it’s a surprise that you might find useful.

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