SCNA chief Mike Colleran resigns

Just though via email…..

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Today, Saab Automobile AB announced the appointment of Matthias Seidl as interim Chief Operating Officer for Saab Cars North America, effective immediately. Seidl replaces Michael Colleran, who has resigned to pursue further career opportunities. Seidl temporarily takes on responsibility for Saab Cars North America in addition to his current position as Executive Director Global Sales for Saab Automobile. Saab Automobile expects to announce a new Chief Operating Officer for Saab Cars North America soon.

Seidl has considerable experience in the United States market, having spent several years as Chief Operating Officer for Volkswagen of America in the late 2000s. Prior to that, Seidl was Executive Director Sales American Region for Volkswagen and Audi.

“We thank Michael Colleran for his service and assistance in rebuilding the Saab brand in North America and the Saab team wishes him the very best,” said Jan Ake Jonsson, President and CEO of Saab Automobile AB.

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I can’t say that I’m completely surprised by this development. Things have felt a little too GM-like in the US when Saab needed to break with the past – to do something to assert their independence.

Having met Mike on a few occasions now, I can tell you he’s a very likeable guy on a personal level and one who loved the brand. He was, and is, a product of his environment however, that environment being GM Detroit.

He’s always been responsive to requests for comment from SU and cared about the content of those answers. My best wishes to him and his family.

Onwards and upwards, SCNA!

Order a Saab 9-4x, get an iPad

This is another one of those things that received some attention in comments during the LA Auto Show, but didn’t to the front page. It’s time to change that.

Mike Colleran made the following presentation during the LA Auto Show, during which he announced a special promotion where the first 500 people to order a Saab 9-4x can receive a new Apple iPad worth $500.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNSc3m8PoZs

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How it works:

  • Go to ordermysaab.com and you can register your interest in the new Saab 9-4x. The dealer you nominate should make contact in January.
  • The final amount of the deposit will be determined by the dealer, but $500 of it is the purchased price of the iPad, which will be credited against your vehicle invoice. You’ll receive an iPad with “some Saab9-4x related software” on it, which I presume you can share with others given Colleran’s remarks about spreading the word.

Based on the value given, I’d say they’re giving away the 16GB WiFi iPad (I priced them in Santa Monica last week during a visit with some others to the Apple store).

I love this concept. A Saab 9-4x at $34,200 is pretty good value anyway and to get the freebie iPad and the opportunity to help promote the vehicle elsewhere is pretty good.

And yes, it does feel good to help promote the interests of a company you believe in – I’ve been doing it for nearly 6 years now so I’m really pleased to see Saab opening up these doors.

Be sure to check out the FAQ at ordermysaab.com

Wednesday Night Snippets – LALA-Land edition

I’m pleased to pass on that I’ve been invited over to Los Angeles for the public debut of the all new Saab 9-4x at the LA Auto Show.

It’s going to be great to see the new vehicle in the metal and check out what people are going to be buying next year. The Saab 9-3 ePower will be there as well.

I’ll get a Q&A post up on site closer to departure.

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Speaking of the US, Mike Colleran’s done a quick interview with an industry magazine over there, mainly speaking about dealership and distribution.

This is the only thing that’ll probably be news to the regular Saab news follower:

What changes, if any, are planned for Saab’s parts distribution network, especially relating to the availability of parts to the American aftermarket and independent repairers?

We only distribute parts directly to Saab dealers who in turn can resell to the independent distributors and repair shops in the U.S. We distribute parts to all dealers in the U.S. from our PDC (Parts Distribution Center) in Allentown, Pa. Our availability of parts has improved significantly since the Spyker acquisition from a low point of 88 percent in March to a current average of 94 percent.

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For those of you with Smartbeam headlamps in your new Saab 9-5, here’s a little bit of extra information about them, and the company that makes them.

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Here’s a question for you – who or where was the first Saab dealer?

A newspaper in Växjö thinks a local might provide the answer. Niclas L has provided a translation:

Saab Dealer VaxjoTingsryds Auto Workshop is a traditional family business which next year celebrates its 75th anniversary. The company has sold Saab since the 1950s, which means that it is probably the world’s oldest Saab dealer.

– I usually jokingly say that I was born in a Saab, the owner Sven-Olof Carlsson says.

Tingsryds Auto Workshop is today run by the brothers Sven-Olof and Jonas Carlson. They have sold Saab for 60 years, Opel in 20 years and the latest brand Chevrolet has been selling for 4 years. With good service you have a loyal group of customers who always come back.

– Good service always pays in the long run, Sven-Olof says.

Swedish quality brand
In addition to Tingsryd the company has also been present in Karlshamn for 19 years.

– In total, we currently have 38 employees in the company.

That Saab is close to Sven-Olof’s heart, there is no doubt about. The family business began selling Saab in the early 50th century when Sven-Olof grew up and the car brand has followed him through life since then. After several turbulent years the future looks bright again for Saab.

– It’s very positive. The sale is back at the same levels as before the crisis.

What is it that makes Saab such a great car?

– It is a Swedish, safe quality brand.

Sven-Olof also highlights Opel of course.

– Opel has a very wide range from Opel Corsa to the new Opel Insignia. Opel has always had cars with very low cost of ownership. Recently we had premiered on a brand new Opel Meriva.

DAVID FÄRDIGH, MAGAZINET

I’ve always heard the name Philipsons mentioned in relation to Saab’s early days but I’m not sure how those early dealership arrangements worked.

My suspicion is that the reporter is claiming seniority for this dealership because of its age, and because it makes a nice story. And of course, he may be right, too.

Saab coming to Canada in September, Saab 9-3 to arrive in October 2010

An an article from the Globe and Mail today, Mike Colleran talks quite a bit about the return of Saab to the Canadian market.

He also mentions this:

The 9-5 is scheduled to arrive in dealers by the end of September, said Colleran, while the revised 9-3 is planned to arrive soon after in October.

We still don’t have anything as to what that car might look like (surely there are some making their way around Trollhattan by now?) but we do have a few clues as to what changes have been made.

I’ve also heard recently that the 2011 model year will be a comparatively short one for the 9-3, with a longer year for a ‘farewell’ version for MY2012 prior to the brand new model coming, late in 2012 as a 2013 model.

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About Canada:

Starting next week, Saab Cars North America will officially take over the warranty claims and service responsibility for late-model Saabs from GM dealers in Canada.

The first new Saab model, the 2011 9-5 mid-size sedan, is scheduled to arrive by the end of September.

But I think we knew almost all of that, anyway…..

Good to hear that the wheels will start rolling in Canada soon. It’ll take some time to get some speed up again, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

SOC Roundtable Q&A with VM, JAJ, Colleran, Libbos

Ladies (?) and Gentlemen, let me start with my normal tip of the hat to Saab’s new leadership. As I gathered my notes from my computer and looked at the photos, I again remembered the extraordinary nature of this roundtable discussion on Sunday morning at the end of the Saab Owner’s Convention for 2010. These up-close-and-personal interactions with the corporate brass really don’t happen in the everyday auto maker. In fact, I hesitate to call this group “corporate brass” because they have been so accessible. It certainly isn’t something that I take for granted, even a little bit. These men do not have to spend their summer weekends with a bunch of car geeks, but they do. I appreciate that a great deal.

Secondly, I must compliment my fellow Saab aficionados in attendance during this hour. All of the questions asked were important questions to answer There were no “whiny” questions about product failures, service glitches and the like, and the group was courteously attentive. Again, I do not take this good behavior for granted. We are Saab people, and Saab people are a different breed. We think. I like that.

Muller, Jonsson, Colleran and Libbos Q&A Roundtable SOC 2010

Once again, thanks, guys!!

My notes from this hour-long discussion are after the jump.

Read more

Saab 9-5 Launch Video On YouTube

Thanks to several readers via e-mail and Dippen in comments, here’s the video available on YouTube, which is a much more accessible venue.  (The links were previously posted here.)

Kudos to all that asked questions.  They are/were very good questions and they were all pointing towards Saab as an enthusiast brand.  No other brand takes questions from their audience, to my knowledge.  Excellent!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZLp1OUSrnU

Notes:

1.  A couple of commenters noted that many of the comments were the same that JAJ and VM mentioned at the Saab Owner’s Convention in Aurora, Ohio.  They are, of course, correct right down to the video and JAJ’s comments about the verbiage about selling colors in a black-and-white video.

2.  JAJ’s comments about “heritage” and making Saab “even more unique” is still music to my ears.

3.  Interesting that JAJ mentions that the “A” luxury segment will have significant growth through 2020.  He also claims that Saab “owned” that market in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

4.  2012 is the target for the “all-new 9-3”.  That is pretty aggressive, folks.  Take into consideration that they’ve only just hired the chief designer.  Wow.

5.  VM:  He’s like a broken record thanking the enthusiast community.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing it.  Way to go, Swade!!

6.  The 2010 Saab 9-5 spoken of as a lynch-pin of the business plan for Saab.  VM gives GM credit for realizing the mistakes of the past and allowing Saab to reclaim some Saab DNA with the Aero-X.

7.  Profitability in 2012 because the company will have three brand-new designs in the showrooms — the new 9-5 will be the oldest of the three!  VM reiterates that Saab can be profitable at a 100,000-unit volume.

8.  Victor needs to be careful how he says “flocking”.

9.  Saab and Spyker will be a “two-way street” relationship.  Both companies will help the other.  Interesting.

10.  “One of the most attractive heritages of all automotive brands.”  – Victor Muller

11.  August 16th again mentioned as the Canadian launch.

Complete North American Saab 9-5 Launch now on line

For all of us that couldn’t attend yesterday’s launch of the Saab 9-5 at the Scandinavia House in New York City in person or via the web in real time, the complete video has been posted on line.  Here it is:

Click to watch the Saab 9-5 Launch on the Saab website
Click to watch the Saab 9-5 Launch on the Saab website

(If you’ve not registered, you may try this link, but in theory we all must register, even after the fact, to see the video.)

It is about 45 minutes in length.  Many of our readers commented on the North American Saab 9-5 launch event in this previous post.  I have yet to watch the full length of the video, so your reaction will be as fresh as mine.  Please fire away (like I can stop you!).

Saab’s Mike Colleran appearing on the internets

I’ll be frank and honest here….. If the head of Saab Cars North America, Mike Colleran, was a stock available for trade, my rating would be ‘caution’.

When Saab were going to split from GM, my hope was that someone completely new and fresh would be brought in at the top. Someone without GM experience. Kind of like what Ford did when they brought in Alan Mullaly. I hoped that Saab would take some time and find someone with a passion for the brand, the instinct to know what it needed in Saab’s biggest market and the cohunas to make sure they got it. I wanted another Bob Sinclair.

I’ve only met Mike Colleran once (it wasn’t positive, it was pure GM spin) so I can’t comment on him personally to any substantial degree but it’s fair to say I’ve been watching his work as closely as one can from half way across the world.

People I’ve talked to have nothing but good things to say about him, however, and his early performances, such as the interview on Autoline, prove that he’s had the requisite media training. That’s all very encouraging.

But then there’s phrases like “fuselage-inspired exterior” showing up on the US specifications list for the new Saab 9-5 and they make me think nothing but “GM’s still in the house”.

So I’m still watching. And hoping. And I think things are slowly but surely looking brighter. There are two recent Colleran-related articles on the interwebs that are giving me cause for optimism.

The first was this impromptu tour around the new Saab Cars North America building, given to a guy named Kip who just happened to be passing by Royal Oak and thought he’d stop and take a few photos. It was written up over at AutoSavant.

[There was no] receptionist and I was taking a few pictures when Mike Colleran, President and COO of Saab Cars North America came out. We talked and he said he had a few minutes between appointments and offered a tour of the facilities.

Apparently others have received the same courtesy when they’ve stopped by. I’m not suggesting that everyone should do so as I’m sure the people working there will get busier and busier as business picks up, but it’s good to see an openness to the Saab fans that drop by. That’s a personal approach that I didn’t expect, to be honest, so kudos. It’s very encouraging to see.

The second article is this interview over at Left Lane News, which showed up just today.

In the interview, Colleran offers answers with far more candor than the answers I got in my first meeting with him in Frankfurt last year. This is the reason my new-found optimism. Take this question and answer, for instance:

Diesel? Hybrid? Hatchbacks?

Colleran: The 9-5 wagon is coming in the spring of next year just after the 9-4x. Wagons are part of our future. We’d love to have a hatch, there’s no question that’s one thing that was part of our history. It’s under consideration but no final decision has been made.

As far as diesels are concerned, certainly the miles per gallon are attractive, but there are significant barriers to entry here in the U.S. with the emissions certification. We’ve got great diesels in Europe that just can’t meet the U.S. certifications. Right now, the the cost of doing that ourselves is prohibitive, but as an independent company, there are suppliers out there that we could partner with to do that. We’d love to have a diesel, it’s not in the product portfolio, but we’d love to have it.

I asked the diesel question of SaabUSA multiple times over the years and one of the incredibly frustrating things about them was that you could never get a straight answer. It was always an inconclusive answer like “We’re looking at it and hope to have it” but eventually, we had to figure out the reasons why diesel wasn’t probable for ourselves.

To see Colleran offer a straight answer on this – We’d love it but it won’t meet emissions and the cost of doing so is prohibitive – while it may not be the answer we wanted to hear, at least it’s straight and to the point.

I’m not sure I’m ready to give Mike Colleran a “buy” rating just yet, but I’m feeling a lot better today about the man in charge of Saab’s biggest market.

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Related Content – You might want to check out Eggs’ interview with Mike Colleran from earlier this year.

And by the way, this post isn’t as arrogant as it might seem on the surface. Mike Colleran doesn’t have to do diddly-squat to satisfy me and I’m fully aware of that. My opinion of his work carries weight with no-one except me. He just needs to make sure that his bosses are happy. But…. I do have a history of looking at who’s doing what to look after the brand in the bigger markets and this is just a continuation of that.

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