Given that I’m well and truly wedged in the sphincter of what was once described as “The Arse End Of The World”, making it to the NAIAS was never going to be a real possibility for me. Thankfully, Dinger from Dublin Saab was heading to Cobo and offered to cover Saab’s presentation at the show for the benefit of those that pass by this little spot in cyberspace.
So, without further ado…..
Saab at the NAIAS
My first impression of the Saab display at the 2006 NAIAS in Detroit: “That’s it?”
The problems at the display were many and disheartening. First the layout was very long and quite narrow, even standing in the middle you are never more than a few feet from the much larger Saturn and Hummer displays that were flanking Saab’s. All displays, including previous year Saab’s try to first invite you in and then isolate you from the rest of the show, Saab’s odd spacing made for a failure on both counts.
Another big failing was the display’s ability to create any buzz over the new 9-3 Combi and 9-7x. Both cars were placed nowhere special with the 9-7x nearly being hidden between two large wall monitors near the rear. The worst placing though goes to the forlorn 9-2x, which was tucked in next to the wall behind the last of the 3 large monitors. I think I could have stolen the wheels off the poor thing without anyone noticing.
I was at the display for about 30 minutes and in that entire time I saw not one single Saab representative on hand to answer questions. Sad. Also the best way to create buzz at the Detroit show is to wow people with concept cars, Toyota had 3, even Kia had one, Saab was the only maker without a real concept on display. Saab truly seemed like the forgotten step-child in the GM family. (Swade here….please note – the 9-5 Biopower was, officially speaking, Saab’s concept for the show. Given that it’s just a mod on an available car, the call made that there was no ‘real’ concept present is fair enough – and while I’m at it, was this car real? I mean, we’ve seen a press release about 310 bhp etc, but was the car on show actually fitted with the Biopower setup and have any motoring writers actually driven it and tested the apparently awesome power? Answers please, Saab USA)
And on a personal note there was some old bint sitting in the BioPower 9-5 Combi the entire time I was there. 9-5 hog!
Now for a few positives.
The three large wall monitors did a good job of pushing Saab’s safety, rally heritage and the BFJ (Born From Jets) theme. A nice trick was an array of small monitors in the ceiling that would show a F-16 fighter appearing to “buzz” the display while hidden surround speakers gave a fair try at impersonating a thundering low altitude jet. The display had an area of tables and chairs offering weary show goers a rare chance to get off their feet for a few moments, all while watching the Saab propaganda, not a bad idea at all.
The display wasn’t packed but it seemed those there were genuinely interested in the cars. I watched people poking in and around the 9-7x and heard only positive comments ranging from, “Man, they actually managed to make the Trailblazer nice” to, “I’d like to have this SUV, it doesn’t look like a moon rover”.
All in all the BFJ campaign is working and creating interest but GM still isn’t sure what to make of their Swedish division. As for selling Saab off, I don’t think that’s in any immediate plans as they did nothing with the display to show the value of the brand. I think the next 5 years may be critical, if Saab gets new and properly Saabed product then GM’s in for the long term, but if new cars get killed while in the pipeline and things are still limping along a sell off maybe our only hope.
Oh, and by the way, the Porsche display was a sea of humanity.
My thanks to Dinger for filling us all in on the display. If Saab were willing, I’d be happy to be flown up there, or to the next big gig, to act as the on-site info guy.