Proving that the United States press is substantially more fair and reasoned than the Swedish press, Glenn Brooks has an excellent analysis for Just Auto about Saab’s next steps, and why he thinks they have more than a fighting chance. Alright I’m teasing, but really, even though I’ve read about 80-100 articles in April alone about Saab’s situation, I’ve found none besides those that I or my fellow writers at SU (including Swade) have written that accurately depict the real picture Saab faces going forward. They’re not some crappy automaker with no reputation, they’re Saab damnit, and the sooner people stop looking down on them and realize just how good they are, the sooner they can get back to doing what they do best, making the best all around cars for your money on the planet.
Glenn thinks Saab needs a new PR strategy, pronto:
“…the first priority for Saab ought to be a worldwide PR initiative, to simply point out via one high-profile campaign that the company is alive and well. But the idea would have to be simple, striking and logically, push the firm’s underdog status. Recent history suggests that this could work as long as it was slickly executed and able to catch the imagination of social media networks in the largest global markets.”
We at SU agree, and if you’ve picked up in the last few weeks, we intend to show our community’s vision for what Saab’s message should be. We’ll be announcing a Saab Ad Contest 2.0 soon which should be every bit as fun and even more engaging than the first. No matter what your ability level may be with Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, you’ll be able to contribute your own vision. It’s going to be fairly involved, but it should also be extremely rewarding, and once all the details are ready to be announced, I’m sure it will give the creative types among us an outlet to channel some energy which may actually go a long way towards changing public perception about Saab.
Back to Glenn’s piece, he agrees with us at SU who feel that Hawtai is an excellent fit for Saab.
“Hawtai is itself a firm that likes to go against the grain, in much the same way as Saab was once famous for doing. It might not build cars with wraparound glazing and fan-pattern alloy-wheels inspired by features of Viggen fighter jets, but its decision to focus on clean-diesel technology in a country where use of the fuel for passenger cars is starting to take off, was visionary. Indeed, the firm, which is controlled by the entrepreneur Zhang Xiugen, has tried to stay out of the limelight, in a way that contrasts with its larger rivals BYD, Chery Auto and Geely. Yet Hawtai is arguably far more worthy of positive publicity as it tries to quietly get on with the business of growth and innovation.”
In the piece that I’ve been working on about Hawtai all week, I can firmly say that the leaders at this company have made all the right plays to be where they are in the market. The choice of Ordos, for instance, was brilliant. It aligned the Chinese government’s interests with Hawtai’s. You can read more about it in my piece due out later this week (sorry that it’s been delayed ;)).
Coming back to my first sentence of this post, Glenn wraps up his take on how the press should regard Saab now.
“Just as they rightly did when Geely first showed an interest in buying Volvo Cars or indeed when a loss-making Dutch supercar maker declared its interest in Saab 16 months ago, elements in the Swedish media are raising questions over a potential foreign white knight…Yet as well as demanding answers, the media must also give both Saab and Hawtai breathing space.”
Right on, Glenn.
Yet so long as the firm has the funds to help Saab grow in the medium term, what Hawtai built or did not build in 2010 is not something that really matters. What does, is the potential for a tight manufacturing and distribution alliance using Hawtai’s underutilised but ultra-modern plants. Powertrains might also follow, especially as Saab seeks to replace its current GM-sourced engines and gearboxes. As just these few examples show, the sceptics are wise to ask questions, but they should keep an open mind too.
Booya. As far as I’m concerned, this article is a slam dunk. It’s nice to be able to finally link to someone else on the net who is willing to do his homework and give the Saab story some reasoned analysis. If you’re looking for quality auto journalism, keep an eye out for what Glenn Brooks has to say.