Selling Saabs Pt 2

Back in May, I wrote a post entitled "Then Why Can’t They Sell Saabs?".  It was a reply to Mark LaNeve’s Fastlane post about improved GM sales data accross most brands, though Saab was notably absent in the improvement figures.  This begged the question about why Saabs weren’t selling, given that they’re a great product.  My thoughts on that post about the 9-3:

In my opinion, these cars should be out of supply in the dealer’s yards. They should be creating a wind vortex as they run out of the showrooms with smiling owners at the wheel, the salesmen lying exhausted at having to service so many people in one given day.

This car is superb. Again, I haven’t read a bad review. I posted a review yesterday where the reviewer was genuinely concerned that the next custodians of the vehicle wouldn’t…..love it….like he had. And that was a Vector – imagine if he’d had the Aero.

Pro’s: there isn’t enough room to write them all.

Con’s: there are some cons with the 9-3??

Why isn’t it selling? That’s a question that better minds than mine will have to be left to answer. Maybe it’s underinvestment in advertising. Maybe it’s underinvestment in supporting infrastructure – a dealer access problem. I’ve heard complaints here and there that Saab dealers can be few and far between in some areas. I’ve also heard that once a customer gets to drive a Saab, they usually buy it. But they’ve got to get into it first. Given that the US is the land of convenience, this is obviously not going to play into Saab’s favour.

Feel free to go and read the entire post.  Looking back, it’s not too bad.

Now, I’d like you to have a think about your local area…………..where is the nearest Audi dealership?  Is it better placed than you local Saab dealer?

AutoIndustry in the UK have just published an article outlining the results of a study concerning different brands and their relative positions around the UK.  The study looks at each brand’s image strength as well as the positioning of dealerships around the realm.

Audi came up trumps with a combined effectiveness ranking of 92%, compared with Saab’s paltry sub-75% result, which actually placed in the bottom 10, slightly worse than Chevrolet.  Yes, Chevrolet.  In the UK.

New research from the consumer demographics specialist CACI looks at the ability of each manufacturer’s UK dealer network to attract retail car buyers. Using a combination of the manufacturers’ brand strength and the location of the dealers, CACI has ranked the networks of all manufacturers with new retail sales of over 6,000 units per annum.

The top 10 holds few surprises given the brand strength of the German marques and the willingness of their dealers to invest in the best locations to reach large numbers of retail customers within their catchment areas, with Audi leading the way, even with a relatively small dealer network.  

Given that Saab’s having its best year ever in the UK, it doesn’t take much to imagine how much better it could be doing with a little more strategic thinking about the future.  Another post written in August concerned the rise of Audi as a serious competitor to BMW and Mercedes Benz, a mantle that Saab should have been positioned to take,  one that was thwarted by a lack of investment and the cancellation of planned models around 5 years ago. 

It seems that Audi not only got the model development right, they also got the strategic network right as well.  Perhaps this is something for GM Europe to think about as they plan the years ahead.

Dealers, your comments are welcome…..

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5 Comments

  1. The deciding factor in whether or not I got a new 9-3 vs something else in July was the distance to the dealer. The closest Saab dealer to my office is at minimum a 30 minute drive. That doesn’t make it too easy to get in there for the no-charge scheduled maintenance. By contrast, there are 2 entirely different Acura dealers within a 10 minute drive. I could even get to two different Volvo dealers within 15 minutes if I wanted to.

  2. That’s the point, Jim, and it was obviously an influencing factor for you. Do Saab a favour though, and change jobs before you update your vehicle again 😉

    I live in a city small enough that you can reach one end of the suburbs to the other in 30 minutes!

    But if you were in a big city and led a busy lifestyle, it’s gotta be a consideration.

  3. There are 3 Saab dealers within 30 minutes of me, and one of the dealerships has a sattelite service center about 15 minutes away, and on my way to work.

    What this means in the grand scheme of things is that the area I live in (Washington DC Metro) has a higher concentration of Saabs than a lot of other areas of the country.

    Of course, it would be nice to have a dealership even closer to home…but I can survive :).

    Oh, by contrast, there is only 1 Audi dealer that I am aware of within the same 30 mile radius (there may be more, but I couldn’t tell you where).

  4. Here in Salt Lake City the SAAB and Audi dealers are only about 5 blocks apart in the downtown area, and both have new, classy-looking showrooms. It is the only SAAB dealer in Utah, however. Outside the large metropolitan areas in the western US, SAAB dealers are few and far between. Like 400 to 500 miles apart. That really limits the appeal of SAABs in this part of the country.

  5. The way to dealer is the first step for a customer to find and eventually buy the car. I’m working at a dealership in The Hague in The Netherlands. The biggest challenge here is SERVICE, in this countrie they are looking for service, and they’re prepared to drive more than 15-30 minutes for that. We’re near the Volvo, Audi, BMW and Mercedes dealers, al in the same businesspark. Customers are always comming to look at the SAABs because they know the brand, and thats when we hit, then threu an enthusiastic talk about not only the car but the Brand and service helps selling them! and it realy works!

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