As I mentioned earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to speak with Saab Cars North America President and Chief Operating Officer, Mike Colleran, on Wednesday morning. He is kind to make himself available for us at SaabsUnited, and I hope that this is a conversation that flows pretty freely as the newly independent Saab “follows its own road” to success here in North America.
I’ve not attempted to edit Mr. Colleran’s words much; they don’t particularly need editing anyway. My hope was to convey his message to you dear readers as they were given to me. That won’t always be the case, but for now I think that transparency is of value because we’ve heard so little from the American Saab organization while the battles were raging in Europe and in the GM boardroom.
Finally, I’ll categorize some of Mr. Colleran’s answers as very general. At this point in Saab’s re-organization, that is expected. There is simply too much work to be done before the details come into focus. I understand that, and I hope that you give him that understanding as well.
What are you working on right now?
Colleran: Dealers have been assigned to the company. Now we’ve got to get them product. The second step is to finalize our relationship with GMAC and re-introduce leasing. If you look back historically at the sales loss back to August of 2008, probably 60% of the sales loss is directly attributable to just not having a lease available. This segment, European luxury, penetrates very deeply on leasing as a retail tool. Saab dealers have not had that available, nor have Saab customers, in a year and a half now. High, high priority on getting a lease in place.
A second priority is establishing Saab as a European brand, a Swedish brand, in the market, or should I say re-establishing Saab as a European brand. We’ve transitioned to the global the tag line, “Move Your Mind” which is now out on the website and in the mail campaigns which definitely ties us back to our parent company and our roots.
What’s changed now that you are independent?
Colleran: One, Saab now has the freedom to express itself as an import brand and as a Scandinavian brand. Looking back into our past there were a lot of ties into the General Motors advertising efforts. Along the way, Saab, probably more accidently than purposely, became more identified as a domestic brand. We don’t have to do that anymore. We are free to express ourselves as we would like to.
Another thing being independent allows us to do: we are free to offer retail tools that are built more for Saab and the European luxury segment than for the volume portions of the market. You probably won’t see us involved with the traditional General Motors events that Saab was participating in. You saw those many times. There would be six or seven divisions across the bottom, it would be a “Red Tag Sale” or a “Hot Button” or something like that. It worked well for General Motors, quite frankly, but it made Saab appear more domestic and, too, it didn’t really address the Saab customer’s specific needs. So, we can be more targeted in messaging and retail offers.