Rant: Auto Observer and the 2011 Saab 9-5

Michelle Krebs is one of the editorial grand poo-bahs at Edmunds Auto Observer, a respected figure in the auto industry with an impressive CV:

Michelle Krebs, Senior Analyst and Editor at Large, has covered the automotive industry for more than 25 years, regularly writing for publications such as The New York Times, the Detroit Free Press, Parade, Motor Trend and AutoWeek. Before starting her own business, she was staff writer for Automotive News, covering the financial beat and General Motors Corp. Krebs has written a column for Inside Line, Edmunds’ high-speed online car magazine and the most-read automotive enthusiast Web site, since its launch in January 2005. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor of Business at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. An award-winning writer, Krebs has served as president of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit and is a graduate of Syracuse University.

Now that you’re familiar with Michelle and her work, click here to watch a quick clip at Edmunds Auto Observer, where Michelle Krebs hosts a chat about the 2011 Saab 9-5.

That’s Michelle Krebs, on the right.

Edmunds Saab 9-5

OK, watched the clip?

I have a couple of problems with this.

The whole thrust of the clip seems to be the Saab 9-5’s $50,000 price tag. Is the car worth this much? Has Saab ‘earned’ the right to charge this much for a car? (which, by the way, is one of the more annoying questions I’ve ever heard – ask any consumer how much ‘right’ any given car company has to charge for a car and they’ll tell you that ‘right’ is about $5-$10K lower than what they’re currently asking.)

Assuming she’s talking about MSRP, she’s pretty close to the mark for the top-of-the-line Aero model. But she seems to overlook the fact that there are three models in the 2011 product line that are priced beneath the Aero.

  • 9-5 Turbo4 MSRP* $38,525
  • 9-5 Turbo4 Premium MSRP* $43,435
  • 9-5 Turbo6 XWD MSRP* $48,030
  • 9-5 Aero MSRP* $49,565

Those prices are from Saabusa.com, but even Edmunds itself has the listing for the base model Saab 9-5, albeit at $39,800.

Krebs and her offsider talk at length about how hard it’s going to be for Saab to convince people that they’re a long-term proposition, despite the fact that they consider the 9-5 to be a very good car (and there’s no mention of other new cars that are quite literally just around the corner, either).

The other thing is that whilst $50,000 is a lot of money, and there’s no doubt about that, the 9-5 comes very well equipped at that price. And I’m not the only one saying that, either. Conclusion: it’s not aggressively priced, but it’s very well equipped for the price they’re asking.

My thoughts to Ms Krebs: Yes it IS going to be a tough road for Saab, but you don’t have to make it tougher than it needs to be. You work for a prominent organisation and you need to take care. If you’re going to do a piece on the 2011 Saab 9-5 model line then please make sure you include the whole model line, not just the one, most expensive model.

I tried to email these thoughts, but the Auto Observer contact link under Ms Krebs’ sideline bio returned a “Page Not Found”.

US Saab 9-5 pricing – the peanut gallery is murmuring

Edmunds Auto Observer is the first prominent column to come out and criticise Saab’s US release of the Saab 9-5.
As you may know, the US release starts with the V6 Aero version, which is priced just short of $50K and on first glance, looks like it costs more than it’s Teutonic rivals (until you option them up and completely hoover your wallet clean).
EAO goes with the subtle headline….

How To Say ‘Suicide’ in Swedish: 2010 Saab 9-5 Is $50 Grand

…..to which I’ll come back with:

How to say Kneejerk in American: Edmunds Auto Observer

My emphasis added.
I’m not going to sit here and defend Saab, or Saab Cars North America, and their release strategy but it does pay to look a little deeper when considering these things.
1) Saab are starting from a very small manufacturing base and have to make very delicate decisions about what to send where. The writer calls to mind the pricing of the first Lexus as an example, which I assume must have been priced ridiculously low in order to get attention and make up the money on volume.
Well, Saab can’t do what Lexus did and it’s dead stupid to think that they can. They can’t produce the volumes that Blingoyota produce.
2) From what I can tell, Saab will start the US release with a V6-only, Aero-only lineup for the 9-5. They’re bringing the best equipped model they can into the US (with one exception – no sunroof for 2010 apparently). If you’re going to get some out there – and it’s going to be a small volume, probably less than 1,000 2010 models – then it doesn’t hurt to get the best ones you can out there.
3) Focusing on this small volume of 2010 models – which will suit 600-900 customers perfectly – takes one’s eyes off the fact that there will be lower priced and more economically specced models coming down the line in a matter of months. The 2010 model run will be very short.
4) Imagine you’re a car company and you’ve got to re-stock your global market, virtually from scratch. You can only build so many models and you can only make the best of the model mix you’ve got available. Where are you going to send the V6s and where are you going to send the I4’s?
To the places where they’re most likely to sell. That’s where. For the V6, that’s the US and for the I4, it’s Europe. You can do a broader mix when more options come online in 2011.

Like I said, I’m not trying to stand here and play defence for Saab or Saab Cars North America. They can fight their own strategic battles.
But publications like Edmunds should look a bit harder and a little further down the rabbit hole before firing off like this.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.