Weekend Snippets

Sometimes I think that maybe I get too obsessed about this whole Saab thing.  For example, I really cannot understand why they’d have any trouble selling more that 140,000 of these vehicles around the entire globe.  It leaves me dumbfounded. 

Another example, I ran into a guy today.  I don’t know him, but I know of him.  He was the agent showing the house we went to look at today.  I know he owns a beautiful, mint condition 9000CS.  It’s a late model, not an Aero although it does have the Super Aero rims.  He also has a nice NG900 convertible in black.

Now, with two cars like that you’d think he was a Saab guy, yet when I started talking a little Saab with him, he wasn’t interested atall.  And this is a guy trying to sell me a house!  You’d think, especially in a slowing market like hobart, that he’d wax lyrical about toenail collections if that’s what it takes for him to build rapport and make a sale.

Makes me think.  Perhaps there’s two kinds of Saab owners.  Those that love and appreciate their Saabs and those who can’t quite afford a BMW.

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Volvo is developing an anti-sleep system.  They could start by making less boring cars, but I digress.

Volvo’s system includes cameras that detect lane drift and also systems that monitor driver behaviour, like too much playing with the sat-nav system.  I assume it knows if your passenger’s playing with it.  They hope to have the system ready for inclusion in their overly exciting range of vehicles in two years.

Saab are also working on a driver monitoring and alarm system, though it’s somewhat more complex. It uses infrared camera systes to monitor the driver’s eye movements.  Stories earlier this year had it progressing extremely well:

Saab’s ergonomics chief Arne Nabo said this week: "The system is functioning extremely well in our testing. And there is no problem with the hardware, which is reliable and relatively inexpensive. We are now concentrating on fine-tuning the timing and nature of the final warning alarm."

Personally, I think there’s nothing quite like going really fast to wake you up.  But that’s me.

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Thinking further about the low US sales figures…..it really seems that supply is the problem, not so much demand.  The employee program cleared the decks and for some reason or another, no plan had been put in place to ensure that supply would be adequate once the new ad campaign started up.

I just find it really hard to believe that this current situation was actually planned.  Great ad campaign.  Peaked interest.  No stock. 

Rick Wagoner – I swear I could run this outfit. Email me, ok?

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Swade,

    I just want to let you know I enjoy your blog immensely. I have a 93SS presently and have ordered my 9-3 SportCombi. I posted this a couple of days ago on Saabnet. Unfortunately, stock availability is not the only issue our favorite car company is facing. The problems are deeply deeply rooted. The good news is “making a difference” should be pretty simple and really help this brand. Continue your good work!

    Regards

    cachou_sauvage

    I just ordered my 9-3 SportCombi today. Base model with sunroof and a mettalic paint. Pretty simple requirements, but earliest delivery is Feb/March 2006.

    The Canadian dealers in Montreal seem to have very little inventory between now and February. Whatever little few cars are available they all seem to come with roof rail, which I did not care for. I prefer the “clean” look of the base machine. The dealer (who is extremely competent) claims everything is going south to the land of opportunity. Hard to really know the real story there, but I thought they are working overtime up there in Trollhattan.

    When I leased my 2003 9-3SS, there seem to be absolutely no advertising for the product. Now we have TV ads, newspaper clips, airplanes and billboards on the highway, but very little product. It is almost December and there is still no brochure in sight for the Canadian 2006 9-3 at the dealer.

    I work in a sales position; these GM Canada marketing and product planning guys must be absolute geniuses or there are a couple of things about selling permium cars that we, the common consumer, cannot grasp. The SAAB sales people walk around with 4 square inch 2006 color palette. It’s a little sad for a $ 40,000 car. Somehow BMW and Audi must be leaving a better impression on their prospective customers.

    I am looking forward to get the car of course. As a Saab customer, in a peripheral market like Canada where the primary focus is absent and we are amalgamated in the Saturn maelstrom, I can’t help thinking that there is still a lot of work to be done to make Saab a real contender in a fiercely competitive market of premium European sedan. Very basic commercial stuff is simply not there.

    Nocturn blue is my color. Just another element to make the Spring of 2006 a good one!

  2. Swade,
    On several occasions you mentioned a post Employee Discount SAAB supply problem here in the U.S., and I puzzle over where such an idea is coming from. As of Nov. 1, SAAB had 451 cars in inventory in the U.S. When you include an additional 800 trucks, the SAAB “Trailblazers,” the overall total is 441 days. These are official auto industry numbers. The ideal inventory for any automaker is about 60 days. SAAB’s overstock is nearly four times higher than the next highest on the list. And inventory wasn’t very much better a month earlier. Be very wary of GM public relations (PR) nonsense, i.e., lies. PR is how GM has been trying to sell SAABs even before it took full ownership. For example, GM PR boasted of 8,000 plus orders worldwide for the 9-3 Sport Combi. Well, here in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC — a fairly strong SAAB market though not like New England — Sport Combis have been sitting unsold for well more than a month, generating little if any interest. The situation is very much the same with the Swedish “Trailblazer,” which GM hacks also claim is selling well. Ha. The few sales I’ve seen are Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Envoy owners who decided during Employee Discount they could trade up for the same car with SAAB luxury for about the same price. A few people I knew who had Subaru Foresters were making similar plans for SAAB’s now canceled B-9 spin-off.
    As I said in “Tell It to GM” — as politely as possible (I hope) — the GM-SAAB marriage has been a disaster for both parties. It must end as soon as possible.
    Also, can those who keep saying SAAB would not still be here without GM money please STOP. Ford was ready to buy 51 percent of SAAB, and Fiat Group was ready to buy the company, but the controlling Wallenberg family stopped both deals. That would have been okay, had not the same family then sold half the company to the highly undesirable GM. It’s been downhill ever since.
    Finally, I no longer puzzle over the small SAAB sales numbers worldwide. Sure, brand dilution from GM, especially negative in continental Europe, is hurting. However, my “SAAB nut” mechanic once owned a gleaming Porsche 911, and he said his SAABs out cornered that car and his 1991 9000 Turbo “killed” Porsches. What I’m getting at is that an extremely high percentage of drivers — particularly here in the U.S. — have no interest in such a dynamic vehicle. My 2002 9-5 Aero 5-speed travels and handles with the best six-figure exotics. That requires more maintenance than a Camry, Accord, or Maxima. People like us are willing to pay for that kind of enjoyment. But most people won’t. This is why Porsche or Renault ownership of SAAB could be promising: SAAB could occupy a small, protected niche.
    Well, I hope I’ve cleared up the inventory issue. Best of luck on your house shopping.

  3. Correcting sentence in earlier comment on inventory. Sentence that read, “SAAB had 451 cars in inventory in the U.S.” should have read “SAAB had 451 DAYS inventory for cars in U.S.” Sorry about omission of word, but hopefully most were able to figure it out. That’s what happens when you try to post comment while watching American football. – Bill

  4. Bill, I’d be intereted to see where the days-inventory figures you quote have come from. My assertions regarding inventory shortages have come from dealers, customers after frustrated visits to short-stocked dealers and other customers, such as FB above, who are having to wait several months to take delivery of their SportCombi (Rob in Atlanta being another such case, though due to slightly different circumstances).

    I’m not disputing your figures as much as wondering where they’ve come from. My observances are from people on the ground, but perhaps they’re out of date now.

  5. I know you’re not disputing my inventory numbers, Swade, and the numbers aren’t mine, anyway. Further, I’m as shocked as anyone as to how severe the SAAB overstock is, given the recent huge discounts. Every month, the automakers in the U.S. release numbers for the previous month, in this order: U.S. sales by make and model, inventory by number of days, and average monthly sales total per make dealer. Of this latter number, SAAB sales per dealer for October averaged a paltry five. Every vehicle dealer in the U.S. has access to these numbers, which are also printed in their U.S. weekly industry newspaper, Automotive News. Automotive News also prints monthly sales by make from Canada, Mexico, and Europe. My best guess on FB’s problem is just what he seemed to suspect: priority is being given to the U.S. market. Canada is an extremely, extremely small market. As to feedback you get from U.S. SAAB dealers, they likely see it in their best interest to not state how bad things are. Put more bluntly, I know of no group more prone to lying than car sales people.
    As of the last week or so, all 2006 models are in the U.S., the last arrival being the re-styled 9-5. However, I would not be surprised to learn there aren’t many Sport Combis in the U.S. yet. But again, the two sitting at my local dealer — the only SAAB dealer serving millions of people in Washington, DC and its Virginia suburbs — are doing just that: sitting — for weeks and weeks, now. Same with the 9-7s.
    Obviously, 9-3s — and certainly my beloved 9-5 — aren’t exactly flying out of the lot either. And the 9-2? Forget it. Without incentives, no one seems to want that little thing. I mean, no one. In fairness, my strong dislike for GM aside, this is historically a slow time of year for car sales. I expect an uptick in SAAB U.S. sales come spring , but nothing more than we’ve seen in the recent past: struggling to reach 40,000 total yearly sales. And I expect a drop in SAAB sales in 2006, due to many completely new products from competitors. Adding to SAAB’s woes here, true SAAB fanatics like myself buy our SAABs like you purchased your Viggen — with miles on it. My 2002 9-5 Aero was a SAAB lease car I got through an auction in February this year with 37,000 miles on it for the rather nice price of US$23,500. I wouldn’t think of buying a new one at the much higher price, especially given SAABs’ historically poor residual values. I purchased my prior SAAB, a 1995 5-speed 9000 Aero in May 1996 after a SAAB regional sales reperesentative put 12,000 miles on it. I saved US$13,000, and sold the still beautifully running machine last April with 200,000 miles on it for US$3,000.
    If you want to see inventory or any other figures, send me an Email or fax link and I’ll provide you a photocopy or PDF. November inventory should be available in about 10 days.

  6. FB, congratulations on your purchase! I’m really looking forward to my first drive in the SC. Probably be next year before we see even one here though.

  7. I’m guessing that Bill’s “days inventory on-hand” is not calculated based on YTD sales, but on these current low levels of sales. Saab dealers have been nearly out of product here in Detroit for months now. No 9-2X since June, 9-7X pretty much sell as they arrive, and the 9-5 is going through a changeover. There are 9-3s available, but NO SportCombis, they are on back order. So I think his source is calculating these numbers based on current or recent, and not YTD numbers. It’s not RIGHT or WRONG to do it that way. But it can be misleading.

    If there were 14 or 15 months’ inventory around these parts, it would sell.

  8. To illustrate the problem with the “days inventory” approach, take the number of 9-7s that are in inventory. Dividing the 800 units by November’s run-rate of 9.92 units per day we arrive at a “days inventory” value in excess of 80 days – 20 days more than the so-called “ideal” level. But divide the 800 units by the number of retail outlets in the US and it works out to about 3 vehicles per dealership – hardly an excessive supply! It sounds like some dealerships – in the burbs of DC, for example – have more than 3 units on hand, so it’s very likely many dealerships have no 9-7s in stock at all.

    You can’t sell what you don’t have…

  9. Correct, Dave, dealerships here in metropolitan DC have at least 3 9-7x’s in stock. Without rebates or incentives, those vehicles just sit there. Until the employee discount, there were 9-2x’s sitting around for as long as 5 months — you could tell by the inspection stickers on the windshields. Although I’ve seen a 9-3 occasionally sit for as long as 6 months, that’s usually more the case with the aging 9-5s. An acquaintenance shopping for a 9-5 Aero this past spring happily told me and a SAAB-loving friend, “they were down by $10,000 (on the price) in 10 minutes.” Sad. I don’t know how these dealers put up with it. Bob Lutz admitted in print last year that the 9-2 was necessary or GM was going to start “losing” U.S. dealers. Unfortunately for him, the 9-2 was greated with an enormous yawn by the buying public.
    D.C. is a fickle car buying place, typical of the U.S. yuppies (Young Urban Professionals) of the 1980s, who helped push yearly SAAB sales in this country to near 50,000. But most of those buyers didn’t appreciate the cars for what they are, and in just a matter of years switched en masse largely to Acuras, Lexus’s, and Infinitis. That plus a major exchange rate shift threw SAAB into a continual sales crisis that lasted to this very day. Now-a-days, it’s just the true believers like myself who buy SAABs here, with the occasional convert who often trades the car later for Japanese. I met one guy who actually dumped a 9-5 Aero to drive a Chrysler 300M. Go figure. And as I said, most like me prefer used for the value, given the fact that car will easily go 200,000 miles and with proper care far more.
    I don’t know what you mean by “November’s run-rate of 9.92 units per day,” but it doesn’t matter. I’ll try later this month to supply the blog with the latest figures. Numbers guys like you and Swade can have at it. My favorite writer, all time, American Mark Twain, wrote in the Autobiography of Mark Twain: Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.’
    That said, I was simply seeking to provide another perspective on SAAB’s bad situation here. No matter how we slice the numbers, the relatively tiny automotive market of Great Britain is beating not only the world’s largest auto market, the U.S., in SAAB sales, but also SAAB’s home market, Sweden. Whatever spin GM wants to put on that news, it has to have them privately apoplectic.

  10. Bill, I assume that the days-inventory data is in the “Data Centre” Section of Automotive News. I can’t get to it unfortunately as I’m not subscribed (I’m starting to feel a subscription might be necessary).

    It’s an interesting point and I tend to think that the reality is somewhere between what you’ve seen and read about in your area and what Dave mentioned about Michigan. I suppose you could call that an average.

    I’ve heard to many people, dealers and customers, complain about low inventories to dismiss it completely, I’m afraid. But I do look forward to seeing those numbers if you can get them to me. I’ll get out my abacus and see what happens (tho I must admit this sort of thing ain’t a field of experience for me).

  11. Love your site. Our dealer is in Naples,FL.
    We have no 92x, or any 95 models, but more
    important, no 93 convertibles here to sell.
    We could sell a load more if they were available.

  12. I DONT KNOW WHERE THEY GET THEIR NUMBEERS FROM, BUT OUR INVENTORY LEVELS ARE FINE FOR 9-3 SEDANS. PERIOD. WE HAVE NO 9-5 , 92X, OR 9-3 CONVERTABLE INVENTORY AT ALL. WE HAVE SEEN ONLY TWO SPOT COMBI 9-3’S. WE ARE IN THE SUNBELT AND HAVE CUSTOMERS TURNING TO OTHER PRODUCTS BECAUSE OF NO SOFT TOPS BEING AVAILABLE. WE ARE SELLING TWO MONTHS OUT OFF A PROMISED INVENTORY SHEET ON THESE 9-3 CONVERTABLES. THEY ARE NOW ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM WITH AN EXTRA 100 CONVERTABLES FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA SPREADOUT AMOUNG 13 DEALERS. BIG DEAL… OVER 50 PERCENT OFSALES ARE CONVERTABLES, ACTUALLY 64 PERCENT LAST YEAR. THE POWERS TO BE STILL CANT GET IT RIGHT! CUSTOMERS ARE SCREAMING FOR THE NEW 9-5 PRODUCT ALSO AND WE ARE TURNING AWAY PEOPLE AND LOSING SALES. NAPLES FL USA

  13. This is the inventory at a major Saab dealership in Wisconsin USA: cars—-9-2 59-3 169-5 59-7 4—-total 30
    451 days inventory on hand implies that this dealer sells only two cars per month. This seems ridiculous as a new car that is 15 months old will be one model year out of date before it is sold.

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