Jay Spenchian on TV

Jay Spenchian appeared on Autoline Detroit a few days ago.  I only got through three quarters of the video last night before our prehistoric dialup connection decided to retire for the evening (broadband on its way). 

Jay’s comments were interesting to listen to and I’d recommend you watch the video, available here (you’ll need RealPlayer).

Here’s a summary of some of Jay’s thoughts.  These are my words, not exact quotes, written as I was watching it.

Jay on Jerry York’s idea to sell Saab:

Well, Jerry knows what he knows, but it’s not the full picture.  Saab has a important role to play in the global premium segment for GM and it’s part of their expanding 3-proged attack on the global market (the other two prongs being Caddy and Hummer).  Saab’s almost exclusively ‘plus’ business for GM and gives them access to a very desirable demographic.

Jay on Saab’s growth and market placement:

Saab has truckloads of upside growth potential that GM want to build on.  They’re located in one of the fastest growing segments of the market – entry level luxury – and well placed to capitalise on that growth potential with some new products and more awareness of the brand.

Jay on what he’d say to old-faithful Saabisti that are worried about future products:

GM realise what makes a Saab a Saab.  Design, functionality, economy, performance, safety.  They’ve developed the Saab Design Centre and it’s mission will be to ensure that future Saab’s retain these qualities.

Jay on Born From Jets:

It was a deliberate attempt to emphasise the cars and what’s great about them.  It’s an energetic and dynamic campaign designed to capture the attention of viewers.  It’s core comes from looking back at Saab’s most succesful era (the 1980’s) and what made the cars succesful – there was the design that was individual, created some excitement and it was fundamentally because the cars had a lot of aircraft cues solidly placed in the design.  They’ve tried to capture this heritage and place it in the ads.  Interest has been up around 20% since the launch of the campaign.

My take: good campaign and quite well received from what I read, but the aircraft design needs to be more infused in the cars for the ads to be an even greater success. 

Jay on Cadillac:

Jay was asked whether they’d be better off selling Saab and pouring those resources into Caddy.  A resounding no!  Saab has the infrastructure in place and is well placed to grow in Europe.  There’s virtually no intersection between Saab and Caddy customers.

I didn’t catch the last 5 minutes or so of the interview.  I’ll try and do that later today.  If anyone would like to place them in comments, please feel free.  There may be some content in there about upcoming models.

My thanks to John McElroy for permitting the use of Autoline’s content. 

You may also like


  1. Very good interview, much much better than it was with Jay’s predecessor.

    Saab’s E85, now claimed to come into USA, 12-18 months.

    Jay knew very well key values on Saab, no talk about some stupid quirkyness misunderstanding that’s going strong in the USA.
    I was only left missing innovation and cutting-edge technology or simpliest said, better cars than others.

  2. Yet another reason for the ignition key being in the center: Because a pilot’s controls are always to his right, thus the center location in the cockpit-like Saab driver’s environment.

    Way back on the 60’s, I heard that it was because Saab used a transission shift-lever lock and moved the ignition to the floor when they went to a floor shift in the 99.

    Later, I heard that it was for safety (supposedly just a made-up reason).

    I guess you learn something new every day.

  3. I do believe the ignition is in the center for the locking transmission. They wanted the transmission to lock instead of the sterring wheel because they were afraid it could lock while driving. (I’ve had this happen in my Honda. It sucks!) That is how I heard it anyhow.

  4. OK. So give us the “full picture”. dzlsabe dosen’t want to be the only Saab diesel in NA. VW/MB owners would jump in droves. This ethanol gambit is way overrated…what’s next… butane? Or the the biggest waste of R+D money ever…hydrogen? Let’s try keeping it simple first.

  5. OK. So give us the “full picture”. dzlsabe dosen’t want to be the only Saab diesel in NA. VW/MB owners would jump in droves. This ethanol gambit is way overrated…what’s next… butane? Or the the biggest waste of R+D money ever…hydrogen? Let’s try keeping it simple first.

  6. Key position is also about ergonomics and simple logic.

    Behind steering wheel is stupid and irritating.
    (for example if car key is connected to 12 other keys that bang your knee while driving)

    Also key is only used to start and stop the car, there is no need to have it anywhere near field of view.

    And when you stop or start your hand goes right anyway because of safety belt. I have seen Saab pic explaining this hand movement logic.

  7. TuuSaR,
    I agree that’s how it should be. That’s what I loved about it the first time I sat in a new 99 in 1969. Without looking, if I just relaxed my right arm straight down, my hand always fell right on the ignition switch. I couldn’t understand why nobody copied the idea. I haven’t driven newer Saabs but I hope it’s the same way, although in the 9-7 ads I’ve seen, it looks like it takes an awkward movement.

  8. New entry level luxury cars don’t have keys. they have a button and a credit card you keep in your pocket to be recognized as a valid driver. Perhaps the next Saab will be the same to remain competitive.

  9. Saab doesnt need any comical techno features like Merc’s key-free that opens doors when ever or “hailed” Merc’s electric quided brakes that were so hazardous that they have to be dropped.

    Its known fact for example that electric door locks stop working when it gets too cold.(or battery is dead)
    You ALWAYS have to have mechanical key and if there always is a real key, why not using it as starting the car?

    Oh yeah I remember now funny news of BMW’s key-free doors that locked driven inside of car when it got too warm 😀

  10. My wife who is a PT says that she has had patients from car accidents who had their knees totally screwed up bad from the insertion of keys into and behind their knee cap during accidents where they went forward in the car hard. The key in the center is both logical (Saab calls it start-up control group) and safer. And the steering wheel can’t lock up either (also safer).

    I’m shocked other autos don’t copy it. It is so much smarter.

  11. I agree with TuuSar regarding the key. It’s a sensible, mechanical way of starting, locking and unlocking a car and its steering, rarely prone to failure and will still work with dead batteries, is unaffected by magnetic fields or scratches and will work in 20 years. I wouldn’t say the same for keyless card entry and ignition systems. Just because another manufacturer has them why should Saab follow suit? We’re not talking anti lock brakes or airbags here. It’s a gimmick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *