Bob’s Best and Brightest

Congratulations Bob Lutz, on the best post I’ve seen on Fastlane.  To sum it up in a nutshell, here are the key quotes:

"What is GM’s strategy for fixing its issues?"

A good and fair question. Let’s start by saying there’s no magic bullet for our issues, at least none that we’ve uncovered. The truth is we’ve spelled out in several forums and in several media interviews what we intend to do to address the challenges we face. What we won’t tell you is exactly how we intend to do those things.

I can tell you this: First and foremost, our recovery is riding squarely on the back of our new product programs. There has never been a turnaround in this industry that didn’t happen because of hot-selling cars and trucks. There never will be, either. We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the products we’ve introduced, and some we’ve got coming, and we’ll continue to do so.

To touch briefly on what we have already said publicly, we’re going to take the new cars and trucks we build and we’re going to get a lot smarter about pricing them, about marketing them, and about selling them. We’re going to reach consumers we haven’t reached yet, and we’re going to reach them in places we haven’t been before, at least not at full throttle like we’re going to be.

They’re the keys, but you should go and read the whole thing.  Click on the link above and read it now, then come on back for my schpiel.

Back now?  OK.  Read on.

As always, I take a look at Bob’s posts from a Saab perspective (this is a Saab weblog, after all).

So, let’s take a peek at what Bob’s said and what Saab are doing.

1. New models….

The 9-2x has been on the market for around a year now and is selling slowly despite good reviews from all quarters.  I published another one here just this morning.  This is a car that I still believe was half-done and I’ll rely on my North American friends in the readership to give their opinion as to how well it’s been marketed.  What’s certain is that the car should be a winner with its combination of comfort, speed and a sub-premium price. 

The 9-7x is on the doorstep and all sightings and comments so far have been positive.  Unfortunately, this is a car that I won’t get to drive until next year at the earliest (hopefully on a visit to Canada) as it’s also a North American release only. 

The good thing about both these cars is that many of the people that are (or will be) buying them are people that are (will be) first time Saab owners.  They’re coming into a family of quality cars and these two models will be the first introduction they get to a wider family that includes the sensational 9-3 in all its forms and the soon-to-be-facelifted 9-5. 

For the old hands, there’s the 9-3 Sport Combi.  It’s been a long time coming and is full of promise.  I cannot wait to get into an Aero one of these for a test spin around Hobart’s twisties.  Tony at Motors Saab, book me in now.

With the promise of the 2.8L V6 in the 9-3 range, a new ground-up 9-2x in the future (with the missing key element of a Saab treatment in the interior) and AWD coming into the bigger models in the extended future, the success of these new models and the luring of new customers is paramount and the potential for success is only as limited as GM wants it to be.

2. Pricing them….

I don’t know how Saabs are priced where you’re reading from, but the sad news for me (and Bob) is that I may never be a new Saab buyer.  I started my professional life a little later than most, so I’m somewhat behind the 8-ball financially.

A new Saab 9-3 Linear, the basest Saab you can get here in Australia, is A$47,900 plus ORC.  My house cost just over twice that amount.  As I’m still paying that house off and have me, my wife and 2 kids living in it, it’ll be a few years before I can give Tony at Motors Saab the kind of business I’d like to.

This is where the 9-2x could come into play when it’s revamped.  Please Bob, take it to other markets outside the US.  Lower your per-unit costs and expand your markets.  As a comparison, the Suuby Rex hatch sells for A$42,940 – closer to the neighborhood I could get into in the years to come, when the kids have moved on to other pastures.

I’m not just writing this for my benefit.  I’m willing to bet there’s heaps of other loyal Saabists outside the US market that would be willing to give a genuinely Saab-developed, new 9-2x a run.

The incentives GM offer in the US remain as a double-edged sword.  As written on this blog recently, I really believe GM would benefit from an accross-the-board reduction in the sticker price.  Accompanied by a heavy ad campaign ("we’re giving you what you want"), I’m sure this would do more for customer interest that huge incentives ("we’re desparate").

Marketing and selling them….

I haven’t seen a Saab ad on TV here in Australia for a long, long time.  I think Adam was in short pants and Eve in ponytails.  Again, I’m not sure what it’s like out there in the rest of the world (you’re thoughts welcome in comments), but here the well is pretty much dry when it comes to advertising dollars.

Why?  Beats me.  The cars that Saab salesmen have to sell here in Australia are absolutely sensational.  They should be aggressively pushed.  Yet, for some reason or another, sales teams are left hoping that repeat-business will, indeed, repeat.  I’d be willing to bet that more than 60% of Saabs sold in this country are sold to previous Saab owners (my guess only).  If it’s even close, it’s a statistic that HAS to change.  If it’s like that elsewhere as well, or even half as bad, then you can say with a fair degree of certainty that someone isn’t doing their job effectively. 

Bob – I’ve offered my services before and I’m still willing to take on the job of selling Saab – even here in Oz in what’s become a loyalists-only graveyard!!

—-

Again Bob, congratulations on what I think was the best post so far at Fastlane.  You’ve got a lot of people along for the ride, so go hard.  We’ll be here to help out and hopefully, buy some great Saab cars in the future.

Oh, and sorry again about the General Hospital gag.

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4 Comments

  1. Good points as usual. I have not seen an ad for the 9-2X in either print or on TV, although I do hear of them :).

    I think Saab could use an across the board 10% price cut. This would put the MSRP of their models below comporable BMW’s and Mercedes. While I think Saab is a better car than either they need to do something to convince other people, and 10% less for a quality car is a good incentive.

    Of course I could be biased because I want to buy a new Saab in the next year or so.

  2. I can only agree with your price and advertising concerns. New Saabs are expensive even here in the states, which must be one of the cheapest nations to buy a new car in. Don’t even ask about the cost in the homeland of Sweden. I’ve checked, and I know what salaries are like there (I lived there for two years), and let’s just say that you can buy the condo in a suburb of Stockholm…or buy the car. I like your idea about lowering prices across the board a lot better than the dreaded “incentives” as a solution. As for advertising…I’ve never even seen a Saab ad that wasn’t in a magazine. This may be because I don’t really have TV right now (only PBS really comes in well) but even when I had the total cable channel package there was never a single Saab ad that I can remember. I can recite that damn “Like a Rock” song from Chevy trucks verbatim, but I can’t remember a single Saab ad. I do have secret hopes that someone with a lot of capital and a rational management team buys Saab off of GM…that would be the best of all possible worlds!

  3. Adam, Allan,

    I have a copy of the 9-2x ads on my hard drive, but they’re too big to put on here (it’d kill my already overstretched bandwidth).

    Hopefully I might be able to put them up temporarily when I move Trollhattan to it’s new space (shortly).

    They’re not the best ads I’ve seen by any stretch, but at least they could be out there if the dollars were put in to support them.

  4. Swade et al,

    Canadian prices for Saabs (and most new cars) are prolly quite similar to what they are in OzzieLand. A new 9-3 Linear 2.0t here starts in the high Cdn$30’s, an Aero 2.0T is closer to Cdn$50, all notwithstanding dealer incentives of course. And with their depreciation rates, I can easily pick up a 3-yr lease return model later in 2006/07 for an ’03/’04 Aero/Arc for two-thirds (or even better) their original values. My approach is, let someone else pay for the depreciation and the troubles of going back & forth to the dealer to get the recalls and bugs worked out 🙂

    Back in ’01 I bought my ’93 9000CSET fully-loaded for about 1/4 of the original price new. Granted it’s nearing mid-life now (218,xxx kms and counting) but I have all the amenities of most modern new cars (minus ESP, EBD and all that 21st century jazz) and prolly 90% of the driving enjoyment. Not to mention that classic Saab-italian vintage 😉

    Ken
    ’93 9000CSET “Matilda”

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