US Saab stockwatch

Time for some reader input please…..

In my Weekend Snippets post, I had a bit of a whine about the sales figures from the US and mentioned the common theory that the current low sales figures are primarily due to low inventory levels in dealerships around the USA. I’ve heard various mumblings to this effect from Saab USA, Saab dealers and customers that have been around sales yards in recent times. The common reason for the low inventory is the Employee Pricing Discount Scheme that operated during the US summer, clearing 13,083 vehicles during June and July 2005.

In comments for the abovementioned post, Bill counters this theory with the unexpected news that according to industry data, Saab actually has 451 days-inventory floating around the United States. I don’t dispute it as Bill’s an enthusiast, but unfortunately I don’t have access to this data, which is at Automotive News, as it’s a subscription site that I don’t subscribe to (may have to change that).


If you’re a dealer reading this, please give me the lowdown on you location and your stock. The level of local interest would nice to know too, especially in light of the current ad campaign. Please don’t inflate anything. Remain anonymous if you want to, though an idea of your location would help.

If you’re a Saabisti reading this, have you stopped in at your local dealership lately and if so, what were the stock levels like there? Did you chat with the sales guy and get a feel for how things have been?

Your comments would be welcome. If you haven’t commented before, now’s the time.

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  1. Good news again from GB. The market as a whole is down again in November with -7.9% compared with November 2004. For the whole year, it’s down with -5.8%.

    For Saab, it’s the other way around. For november, new vehicles is up with 20.9% and over the whole year Saab is up 36.1% with a total of 25.674 vehicles. Seems that diesel is the key to the success. 42.2% av the new cars in GB in November were diesels.

  2. I was at a dealer in Central New Jersey on Saturday picking up some plates.

    They did not have any ’06 9-5’s. Maybe a dozen leftover 2005 9-5’s – 1 wagon.

    It was the first time I saw 9-3 Aero’s. There were perhaps 5 Aero Convertibles, a similar number of sedans and 1 Aero SportCombi (the only SportCombi on the lot).

    The rest of the cars on the lot (maybe 15 or 20) were 9-3 2.0T or leftover 2005 9-3’s (I did not look close enough to tell the difference). There seemed to far more 2006 models there than two weeks earlier although the dealer’s lot still had some open space.

    451 days seems like a ridiculous number. They would still be selling 2003 models.

    Speaking briefly with the dealer, he is selling SportCombi’s as fast as they come in. The other ’06 9-3’s are doing well also, although it is hardly the season for convertibles.

    There is a BMW dealer about a half-mile away where we had a test drive before buying Saab. Their lot is absolutely crammed with new cars. Not sure if this means anything.

  3. Actually it was more like 451 new vehicles total in country. (As hard as that is to believe it’s true.) I can’t remember what the total number was, but it was a result of stopping manufacturing of ’05 models before ramping up ’06 models. Normally they would have had plenty of inventory, but Employee Pricing wiped out those numbers and you can’t simply start making more close to the end of the year.

  4. Normteke,
    Days/cars? I’m not sure which. In a followup to his post, he said he meant 451 days, not 451 cars. But then he said, when you add 800 trucks, the overall total is 441 days (less than 451). Does that math make sense?

  5. Days= number of days to sell all vehicles in inventory based on previous month’s daily selling rate.

    Nov 1st, 2005 US days supplies (22,800 vehicles)
    9-3: 381 days
    9-5: 510 days
    9-7x: 217 days
    Magic Calculator Avg days supply for all Saab vehicles: 441 days. 9-2x was not listed.

    The only vechiles higher are Chevy SSR pickup: 250 days,Chevy Yukon XL: 232 days Mazda5: 915 days (ouch), Mistubishi Raider (SUV): 243 days, Porsche 911 Carrera 4: 312 days, Isuzu Pickup i280/i350: 263 days (these are compated to 9-7x at 217 days)

    Avg for GM is 101, Ford 100, D-C 91, Toyota 28, Honda 38, BMW 24.

    Maybe the cars are all stuck at the docks in NJ instead of at the dealers’ lot like my ’06 Combi Aero!!!

    Also BMW sells an avg of 66 cars & trucks per dealer per month, Saab sells 9 per dealer.

  6. Last time I went to my dealer to check on my Combi order, they had three 9-3 Combis (2 aeros, one 2.0T) in stock, but no new 9-5’s and only two 9-7x. Lots of used stuff on the lot though. Not sure how many other 9-3s, but quite a few.. > 10?) DC/VA/MD area, one of 3 dealers.

  7. You’re right. I went back and looked at my notes of the Saab inventory from back in October and there were just slightly over 3000 new Saabs in the entire US. That still is not much inventory for the biggest auto market in the world.

  8. Clearly, some of my fellow SAAB fans in the U.S.A. cannot find the SAAB of their choice at their local dealers. From looking at the raw inventory numbers, which I present in total here, I believe the issue is not one of supply, but rather distribution. The one possible — and I emphasize, possible — exception is the newly produced Sport Combi. That is the only vehicle that isn’t well represented in dealer lots here in metropolitan Washington, D.C. But there are several at each dealer, and the number is growing as the cars don’t sell. Following, then, are the numbers. Keep in mind that it averages 14 days for a ship full of SAABs to reach a U.S. eastern port, such as Baltimore. Therefore, all SAABs represented by the nearly 23,000 total below should now be in the U.S. and long since arrived at the designated dealers. The figures don’t indicate how many of the inventory vehicles are 2005 models. However, if there are more than an extremely small percentage of 2005’s left after that huge Employee Discount two-month sale, SAAB is in even worse trouble than any of us imagined.

    9-2—-2,600- -?- —-734

    Total SAAB Car* -22,000—-451-317
    Total SAAB Truck —800—-271128

    Total SAAB—22,800—-441-365

    *Automotive News estimate

    Yes, the days’ supply number is deceiving given recently depleted supply, but in years of watching these numbers as a journalist and former journalist now, SAAB has continually far exceeded the industry ideal of around 60 days’ supply. For those who like to analyze figures, note the following:

    INVENTORY: Unit count of vehicles on hand at dealerships, factory lots, ports of entry, and in transit on a specific date.
    DAYS SUPPLY: Number of days needed to sell all vehicles in inventory, based on the previous month’s selling rate.
    NOTE: Numbers may not add due to rounding.

    Someone mentioned visiting a BMW lot in the U.S., so I’m providing these BMW and Volvo numbers for comparison purposes. The totals include the “trucks.”



  9. Bill,

    Thanks a bunch for reproducing those numbers. I’d agree therefore, that’s it’s likely a problem of distribution. With the very small numbers on lots being mentioned by those that have commented, it’s a strange situation. Off the top of my head, there’s about 290 Saab dealers in the US, correct?

    Divide the 22,800 vehicles mentioned above and that’s 78 vehicles per dealer, plus change.

    Somewhere, there’s a big paddock full of Saabs waiting to be sold….and I want one.

  10. I might be oversimplifying here, but wouldn’t it be better to work out the days-inventory based on an average daily selling rate rather than just the previous month’s selling rate.

    That seems to be mixing apples with oranges. Concluding a long term number from short term figures.

    Through 2005, Saab have averaged 3,234 sales per month. Apply that number (again, overly simple for the sake of alacrity) to the total inventory and you have around 7 month worth, or 210 days – rounded off.

    That’s still way more than ideal, but I think it’s a fairer representation than 441 days.

  11. Agree on both above points, Swade. That’s why I realized I’d better present actual totals. I recall a trade press article, no earlier than 2004, about SAAB’s U.S. distributing unit changing the way it distributed cars. Something about rewarding the better performing dealers. I thought it was far lower than 290 SAAB U.S. dealers these days, but I haven’t checked the total for a long while. Between 1987 and the early 1990s, the D.C. region went from 6 metropolitan dealers to just 2 today. I’ll try to get the national number of dealers.
    Like I’ve said, I’m only sharing official industry numbers that are out there. I’m quite suprised by that high stock number. Unless there’s been some disruption somewhere, it seems it can only be a matter of unfair distribution as we both now agree. Interestingly, I haven’t noticed you hearing about inventory from anyone in New England, the strongest U.S. SAAB market. I’m betting there’s a healthy choice of vehicles up there, like here in the D.C. area.
    That’s it for me for now on this one. There’s not much more we can do at this point than wait for the Dec. 1 inventory numbers, due around mid-month. I’ll pass those along. If the high inventory continues, I’d say your U.S. readers who can’t find SAABs ought to start complaining loudly to SAAB-GM U.S. management.
    Just one final comment. An inventory of nearly 23,000 is well more than half of SAAB’s annual U.S. sales. While that would suggest more than 6 months supply — and I occasionally have seen a new SAAB sit unsold that long — the heaviest selling period is spring and early summer. So it is not quite as horrible as it calculates too, but is very far from healthy. Well, lack of profit tells us that, doesn’t it?

  12. Just a hunch regarding the 9-3, 9-5 series cars ( and to a lesser extent the 9-7x), they come off the same assembly line, probably necessitating “batches” of cars to be built and shipped to different markets, effectively “flooding” the stock numbers at times. I also seem to recall reading an article in Sept. stating Saab had something around 61 selling days/cars on hand after the big sale. Most other makers have more than one assembly plant which is less skewed. Just a hunch.

  13. Thanks for the correction Alan, though I’m a little embarrassed that you quote my own site to correct my mistake. That’s commenting from the seat of your pants for you!!

    260 dealers would make for 87.69 vehicles each. Even worse!

  14. Oh yeah. I did not even register with me until I saw a 9-2 on the road today; In all the trips to two different Saab dealers I’ve made recently, I have yet to see a 9-2 on a lot or in a showroom.

    I guess it’s easy to forget they are technicaly Saabs.

  15. Bill: There are 4 SAAB dealers in the MD/DC/VA metro area not 2 (50 mile radius of DC) plus 2 more dealers that do service only. And one of the 4 has more 9-3 Combi’s than 9-5s. I tried to not violate any automotive news copyrights with my posting, but yours is a lot clearer for folks who haven’t spent that last 25 years of their lives in the auto industry.

    Swabe: In ref to day’s supply, the method is only “apples with oranges… concluding a long term number from short term figures” in Saab’s case. BWM’s numbers show they can sell all their cars and trucks on hand (23,900) in the next 26 days based on the rate they sold cars/trucks last month. All short term numbers. Same with Toyota, they could sell all their vechiles on hand (189,500) in less than a month.

    Days supply is one of those month to month numbers that have been around for as long as I’ve been a paid subscriber to Automotive News (since 1983) and it has been a fairly good measure of overall sales success. Look at the numbers and you’ll see the successful makes and the not so successful ones. However, like all statistics, there are a number of ways to interpret them as well as twist them to prove or disprove a particular point. I won’t quote Mark Twain quoting Benjamin Disraeli, but I will quote Homer Simpson…”Facts?!?! You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!”

    I think is is also noteworthy that the number of SAABs sold each month per dealer was only 9 per month last month.

    It has been said before, but what the heck is so wrong with SAAB’s cars (they don’t make trucks)? Most of us would say it’s not the cars. Find the key to that puzzle and you’ll be on Mr. Wagoner’s short list, the “good” one, not the “bad” one.

  16. (Swade: Can you clean those other ones up? Fat fingers and improper use of the TAB key….Sorry)

    Here’s the SAAB US day’s supply for all 2005 (so far). Supply has been pretty steady, but sales per month has not. The former has been infered to the contrary in other explanations of the poor day’s supply data.

    Month | Inventory | Days Supply
    Jan – 25,000 – 197
    Feb – 27,000 – 396
    Mar – 21,000 – 198
    Apr – 21,000 – 179
    May – 21,500 – 183
    June – 23,100 – 138
    July – 23,100 – 91
    Aug – 23,700 – 95
    Sept – 22,100 – 210
    Oct – 24,200 – 305
    Nov – 22,800 – 441

  17. Hey Steven, If you’re still following this post, thanks for clarifying the SAAB dealerships in the Washington, DC region. It would appear you are counting the multiple Virginia sites of International Motors and perhaps a similar Maryland situation. That’s fair, because my calling it one Virginia dealer made it sound far worse than it is. Although it’s nothing like the many happy dealers of the late ’80s, which goes without saying given growing SAAB sales back then. Is someone still selling SAABs in Frederick, MD? A few years back it was a “no haggle pricing” dealer on or near Route 40.
    As for your SAAB US day’s supply for all 2005 so far, all I can say is, “What in the WORLD is going on here?” That Employee Discount blow-out — even though not good enough a deal for me, who prefers post-lease from auction — should have cut inventory to a pittance. Normtek wrote that his notes from October showed “just slightly over 3,000 new Saabs in the entire US.” He must have been referring to a specific model, because you show a stunning 24,200 total. Granted, some of the cars were in transit, but still, SAAB couldn’t even reach the ideal 60 days supply mark during the big GM sale blowout. This is actually becoming scary. I mean, I’m one of the SAAB purists who want GM out, out, OUT — but for the first time I’m actually starting to doubt SAAB can survive under any owner. I was hoping SAAB could become a protected niche maker under, say, Porsche, but to be a successful niche manufacturer requires prices in the US$75,000 and higher area — or at least US$50,000. Can you imagine running a business where your inventory is always so much higher than demand? That’s a killer to the wallet and to one’s emotional well being.
    Well, thanks for the information. Good stuff.

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