An open offer to Bob Lutz

Hi Bob,

The comments on the 9-7x thread aren’t really looking too good at the moment, but I say enough is enough!  And I’m one of those that led the charge.  Reading these comments you’d think the 9-7x was built in a warehouse full of ladders prior to smashing a big mirror in the shape of a black cat. 

To those commenters and to myself, I say this:  <deep breath> This car is not riddled with bad luck, is not evil, won’t smother your children or run over your dog (unless you’re a really bad driver).  It’s…….a……..Saab.

There, I said it.  It’s a Saab and it is now and forever a part of the Saab family.  Even the next-gen 900 is part of the Saab family and if that can come into the fold, then there’s room for the 9-7x.  No Saab gets left behind.

That there are perception problems with the 9-7x is symptomatic of the fact that there are changes necessary in the way Saab brings it’s product to the table.  The list of changes to the 9-7x that you have on the blog is actually pretty impressive, but the message just isn’t getting out there.  Meek, mild and innovative, as much as I like the understatement, just isn’t going to cut it any more.  This is a giant game of Survivor and if we’re not all careful, Saab’s about to get voted off the island.

There are several enemies out there, Bob, and I want to take them on here.  I want to prove them wrong and I want to build Saab into the worldwide flagship of General Motors.  A purist (like me) might say I want to take these lemons and make the sweetest lemonade you’ve ever tasted.  I don’t want to take you on, Bob.  I want to take them on with you.  It’s a fundemantal shift in the thought process for me, but a worthwhile one.

I know you’re reading this, Bob, so click below.  Here comes the offer you shouldn’t refuse.

BMW sell 60,000 units a month based on a worldwide perception of ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.  I’d like to show them where they can shove their ‘Penultimate Driving Machine’.  I’ve driven a 3-series BMW.  I’ve driven the 9-3 Sports Sedan.  For my buck I’d take the 9-3 any day and not just because I’m biased.  Because it’s a damn fine car.  Dollar-for dollar it should be a BMW killer.  That the 9-3 is still pegged as an inferior to the 3-series is a marketing crime and Lowe should be made to pull their fingers out of their leather-polished butts and sell the message.  More on that in a moment.

First up, to kill off the Trollhattan plant and move the manufacture of Saab to Germany would be a big mistake (and I say this in no way relating to the fact that you’d be making the title of this blog redundant).  You want to take on the Hun, then dammit!! Take him on.  Make this brand aggressive.  We’re Vikings for goodness sake.  When was the last time a Viking shirked a fight??

I want to see Saabs made by proud Swedes, speeding down the Autobahns with Beamers in tow, their drivers ashen-faced and crying for their mommas!!  I want to see Swedish auto workers abuzz with the idea of harnessing all their intelligence and building the best cars they’ve ever dreamed of.  I want to see Saabs full of innovation, power and practicality, like they’ve always been, but I also want to see people shouting from the rooftops about how good they are instead of ads that are just as subtle and clever as the cars. 

Subtle won’t cut it anymore.

You’ve got a lot of grass roots support out there.  These commenters heckling the 9-7x are doing so because they’re people with a heart connection to the Saab brand.  That needs to be tapped. 

I have a plan for this.  Write to me if you want to hear it.

I own and drive a 1979 model 99 Turbo.  I own this model because it started a revolution in motoring.  It was the first successful turbocharged car to be mass-produced.  I love this car more than you could imagine.  I love its pedigree, its quirkiness, its handling and its torque-steer.  I love the 70’s bordello interior, the way the hood tilts forward, even the sunroof leaks and the seatbelts with no buckles.

Saab needs another revolution, and to think that the US market is the only way to crack it is to limit your thinking to what you can understand.  There are a bunch of companies making good reputations and yes, sales, without the support of the US market.  Renault and Peugeot come to mind.  Yes, the US market is wealthy, but it’s only 250 million people.  There’s a whole world out there that understands and appreciates the Saab brand and it needs a push.

Rallying. 

You think there’s no money in rallying just because the US doesn’t get it?  Think again.  Rallying is cred, Bob.  Cred means sales.  Just ask Kobe Bryant.  And Saab have a history in rallying that could pay you back in spades.  Look at Nissan – Paris-Dakar competitors with one of the ugliest boxes in history.  But they’ve got cred now.  Skoda compete in the WRC.  Skoda!!!  Are you telling me you couldn’t compete with Skoda in a 9-3x type crossover vehicle???

Get a team of Swedes (they understand these things), give them a few million krona and…..wait for it…… a Saab 9-7x.  Tell them you want it bullet proof and in the top 5 in the Paris-Dakar within 2 years.  Then watch them go.  INSTANT cred just for finishing.  Again, you shout it from the rooftops.  Best investment you could ever make.

Dont think it can be done?  You probably thought a Saab 9-3 could never win at Pike’s Peak, too.  Right??  Built, engineered and driven by a Swede.

Bob, I’ve got a million ideas and a passion for this brand that your MBA’s in the office couldn’t dream of.  I bet 90% of them never even drove a Saab before coming to work for you at Saab USA.  I want the success of this brand to be complete.  No mere overcoming of obstacles here. 

Dammit I’ll even buy a 9-7x to prove it (and if you’ve read my criticism, you’ll know that’s a dedicated step).

So here’s the pitch.

You bring me over there to Detroit.  I’ll move my family to a foreign country in order to complete this mission.  Give me a modest salary, Pistons season tickets, a budget, and 3 years of your life and I will turn the brand around.  I will drive the 9-7x to every car club in the country and put Joe Saab in the driver’s seat.  I will complete your crossover into the 4×4 market and make it a success.  I will see the slaying of the Hun within my tenure because Saab will build vehicles that change the way people think about cars.

And I will shout it from the rooftops.  No more meek and mild.  Saab becomes the Viking of the automobile industry and it takes no prisoners.

Purists will be overjoyed with the smaller retro-model.  New customers will be won over with the midsize and 4×4 vehicles of unequalled innovation and quality and Saab’s branching out into the larger segment will no longer be seen as a heresy, but as an extension of the brand as it makes the larger vehicle safer and more enviromentally friendly (incidentally, what better brand reputation do you have than Saab to take on Toyota’s Prius??).

It’s all do-able, Bob.  I’ve got the plans.  You’ve got the capital.  Get me over there and let’s go to work.

UPDATE: There is now a part 2 to this post.  A Rallying Call….

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