Communication II (sort of)

I knew he’d wait until I was asleep!!

Jay Spenchian posted his State of Saab address a few days ago (read it here, my response can be read here) and promised at the tail end of it to publish another post in order to talk up Saab’s product.  Given the context, where he was talking of how GM could be growing Saab’s presence in the future, I’d expected something in the ‘product’ post to be related to future products.

Alas, it was not to be. Jay’s follow-up is here at Fastlane.

What we got was a run-down of the current North American lineup, somewhat dumbed-down for the non-Saab audience, and maybe a little dumberer because the proof-reader took a day off.

My review and critique follows……

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OK, firstup, it’s quite strange to me to read about the 9-2x without any reference to Suuby.  It’s almost disrespectful to write about one without reference to the other.  Don’t just call it a Saab like it’s Swedish through and through.  It’s an adopted son and yes, it’s loved and it’s part of the family, but you don’t forget your heritage.  I dunno, it just feels uncomfortable to me.

Funnily enough, I don’t reserve the same feelings about the 9-7x and Trailblazer relationship.  Maybe this is because I don’t have the connection to the Chevy that I have to the Suuby.  Then again, maybe it’s because they made the effort with the 9-7x interior that they didn’t/couldn’t make with the Suuby interior.

Third thing: The old "40%/30%SUV" stats that are so commonly flung around as the reason the 9-7x was produced were flung up again in Jay’s post.  I think any future reference to these stats should include the preface "Before oil prices went through the roof….." and perhaps an addendum on the end saying "…….we’re pretty happy with how it came out, but of course unless we can shove a diesel or a hybrid engine in it, it may become somewhat irrelevant."

Tsk tsk.

The rest of the entry just brims over with underselling.  Maybe it’s my limited understanding of the American market and the American psyche. You have plenty of justification for the 9-7x and some good history on the hatch/wagon segment of the Saab lineup.  But just when you think there’s a bubble of opportunity brewing – pfffft – and off it goes into the wind.

For example, you have a new 9-5 coming out in a week’s time at the Frankfurt Motor Show and all that you write about it is "The Saab 9-5 remains a very important product as the flagship of our portfolio. It is still one of the safest cars on the road today. And we will keep it fresh – later this year, you can expect a thoroughly revised 9-5."

That’s it? No photo or details to whet the appetite? Is this not an important event?  Or is it because it’s happening somewhere other than where the main readership is (i.e. the US), so it’s not important to write about it yet.  I’d really like to understand this.

Another point: If GM had plans to introduce a diesel variant to the important Saab models, then why wouldn’t you talk about it in a post like this one? I understand that there’s trade secrets etc. but let me give you all the tip – come 2007 when regulations will make it viable, the competition will introduce diesel models into the US.  Everyone’s calling out for it.  If Saab are going to do it then why not create some buzz for the future about it by writing it up here?

Look, Jay’s post was OK for someone that hasn’t had a clue about Saab before. I’m sorry to say it screamed of wasted potential to me.  The educated Saab reader knows pretty much everything that was in that post today.  The average Fastlane reader is likely to be quite familiar with the content too.  They’re either a GM car-nut or a GM-basher.  I don’t think there’s many shoppers hanging around the site, but that’s who the post seemed to be aimed at.

Overall: thanks for writing Jay, but I’d like to extend to you an open invitation to write something chunky here at Trollhattan.  Something with some meat to it.  Your average Saab owner is all the things you’ve said they are: loyal, intelligent, discerning, curious. 

Which is why the basics you offered at Fastlane simply. aint. enough. 

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5 Comments

  1. I’m in the US and I thought the whole post was underwhelming as well. Why can’t they just come out and say “Expect to see your Saabs stuffed with more and more generic GM parts.” or “Expect to see the best Saabs ever come 2008.”

    I dunno, maybe they’re scared of running off current customers, but Steve Jobs announced to the world that Apple was going Intel, an announcement that should have stopped sales dead in their tracks — Apple then reported one of it’s best quarters for computer sales ever.

    Confusing world we live in.

  2. They aren’t quite sure of themselves, and their audience, on Fastlane. Some of Bob Lutz’s entries have also been simplistic and overly general.

    Fastlane is an experiment in corporate blogging — it’ll take some time before the marketing folks relax their tight grip on message content and let people speak in the own voice. Remember these posts all have to be cleared by both legal and marketing before they go out.

  3. I am tremendously interested in SAAB’s ethanol powered autos which I understand are available in Sweden now. Altough I am not very knowledgeable, this technology seems to be more advantageous than hybrid engines because it uses a renewable fuel source. Will there be ethanol powered SAABs sold for export to the US ? How do I find out more about them?

    Kevin Murphy

  4. Kevin,

    The 9-5 Biopower (e85) vehicle will be appearing in US Autoshows early in 2006 as a concept. Even thought it’s already selling in Sweden and now being offered in the UK, Saab are offering it as a concept for the US next year. Beats me!

    Anyway, the plan is to guage interest after the appearance at these Motor Shows in early 2006 with a view to possibly offering it for sale in the US, presumably as a 2007 model.

    See here: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=107962

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