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.
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.