Wednesday Snippets

I received an email from Hirsch last night about Saab Performance upgrades and to put it simply (I’m a simple man), you can get Hirsch here in Oz, but most likely due to the tiny market here and freight costs etc it’s deemed too costly to be worthwhile pushing it in the public eye.

At risk of becoming a pest, I’ve emailed Saab Aust to ask about the lack of publicity surrounding Hirsch Performance upgrades here in Oz. A copy of the email is after the jump.

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I’m still waiting for UK and Australian sales figures. German ones would be good too, but I’ve lost my link for those. If anyone can assist with a link for the German stats, I’d really appreciate it.

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One for my main-diesel-man, Fred.

Autoblog have run a full article on a VW Jetta in the US running almost purely on veggie oil. Not Bio-D, but pure Veggie Oil. It involves having separate tanks and a switch to run on regular deez whilst the congealed veggie oil warms up, but apparently it runs fantastic, though it probably smells funny if you’re following it.

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Once again I’m left to fume over the success of Audi, who had their best first quarter ever in 2006 and sold over 90,000 vehicles in March. Saab should be able to top these guys, and one day they will.

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Just when I thought I’d found the best layman’s article about the Biopower Hybrid at Canada’s Auto123, I manage to find a slightly better one at Automobile.Com.

While the BioPower Hybrid concept is a fully functioning automobile, its going to be at least a few years before we see anything like it on the road. Insiders suggest that Saabs course to achieving production vehicles like this car will incorporate small baby steps, starting with things like SIDI direct injection and ethanol capability being added to the regular 9-3, and perhaps, even to the convertible model. Eventually, once parent company GM is ready to introduce full hybrid vehicles, which will take place later this year, ethanol and hybrid technologies will truly unite.

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The Detroit News recently published a story on the Euro-Caddy, the Saabilac, the BLS, stating that sales targets had been revised down from 20,000 units a year in 2010 to just 10,000 units a year.

According to GM’s Fastlane blog, the Detnews story was nothing more than an April Fool’s Day gag. Targets remain on track and I for one hope they meet them. I don’t like the car too much, but what’s good for Trollhattan is (hopefully) good for Saab in the long term.

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Email sent to Saab Australia 5 April 2006:

Emily,

I wrote to you a little while ago asking about a Saab entry into Targa Tasmania but unfortunately haven’t received a reply to that yet. Just wondering if there was anything you could tell me about this. If there is an entry then I’m sure there’ll be a great deal of interest in the enthusiast community and I’d be pleased to help via TrollhattanSaab in any way I can.

Any info appreciated.

Secondly, I’ve had a few people express some interest as to why Hirsch Performance upgrades aren’t (seemingly) available in Australia. I’ve emailed Erik at Hirsch and it turns out they are, but it’s deemed to be too costly (freight etc) to warrant pushing it.

I could understand that from an aftermarket perspective, where parts etc have to be shipped. I guess I’m wondering why these upgrades can’t be offered on new cars and fitted in Europe before they come to Australia. Wouldn’t that be a cost-effective way of offering a performance Saab for enthusiasts? There’s quite likely something that I’m missing here, but I think Aussie Saabists would like to know about it.

Any help/information available on this?

Regards,

Steven Wade
Trollhattan Saab

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20 Comments

  1. Nice work swade, lets see what happens. I must admit, Hirsch are right about the market size, overall business proposition etc…..but. If you don’t try, you are guaranteed nothing. If you try…well, you just never know.
    Lets see.

  2. Thanks for being the messenger and for keeping the momentum going. Bringing some of the loose components from Hirsch is achievable. I’ve brought some other bits myself and it is cost effective. Of course not the interior bits, seats, bumper bars etc ect which will be prohibitive. But as PT says, doing nothing will also lead to nothing. I am in business myself and understand very well the “chicken and the egg” principle. But surely how come all these German brands are doing it and at a much higher premium than an original Hirsch will do it ??? In my view, if the obstacles are because of our market size, distance, etc etc this is highly questionable based on what else is available of equivalent value which is selling. You also point that the Audi situation burns you and all of us. There is the example of what can be achieved by lifting the branding to the limit. We’ve got the products to do so, even when there is so much flak on the 9-5 as is. Saab just needs to lift its game big time. Is it feasible to organize some sort of brainstorm session together with the powers to be at Saab Oz and trash out some ideas to improve the state of affairs at local level ??? I’m just trying to be creative here, so don’t shoot me please !!!

  3. Joe, I don’ tthink they’d take too well to being told how to do their job. I think what it would take is some demand. They’ve placed the cart before the horse unfortunately and I can’t see them changing it, much as I’d like to see it happen.

    One of the big problems with charging a premium for a Hirsched 9-5 is that as good as it is, it’s still a FWD 4-cylinder car. And it’s hard to ask $100K+ for a 4-cylinder.

    Until they get AWD and a V6 in there, I can’t see it happening in any big way.

    That still doesn’t excuse them from at least making it known through dealerships that Hirsch stuff IS available if people want it.

    2.37pm and no response from Saab Oz yet.

  4. Does Saab OZ read our web log stuff regularly ???
    Sure, the 4 cyl FWD to the general public is a draw back. Maybe we’ll wait a lot longer it seems until everything is right to do something then.

  5. Joe, I’ve heard they do occasionally, but have no first hand evidence to that effect.

    Paul – I’m working on getting a bigger version of that picture right now, actually. I thought I had one already, but the biggest I had was 800 x 400. Will pick up a bigger one tonight and hopefully have something up tomorrow.

    My bad.

  6. Swade-
    a BIG eww! no thanx on the SVO/WVO. It is a mess, brings a lot of bad PR(dumpster diving?) to trying to improve Diesels image worldwide, and these guys are in for a world of unpleasant engine problems…ie carboned intakes, EGRs, cats, and the ever popular engine seizure from gooed piston rings. Diesels will run on a lot of different fuels…that doesn’t make them all a good idea. And natch I agree with you…how does Audi “born from VWs” do it?

  7. Couldn´t find your email so I post here insted.
    Recordsales for the first quarter for saab! from ttela.se

    Summary:
    Saab global sales 34200 up 24%. Best market is Europe with 11 600 units, up 1000 units compared with last record in 2000.
    Mars figure total 15 800.

    Big increase in Sweden (but last year was bad for saab in sweden). More fun is UK-sales: 5 279 units and also new reecordssales in Spain and Belgium. (I heard that Opel in spain started to sell Saab just now).
    The orderbook is thick; the trollhattan plant is at a max-2 level. Witch means that all personal must work overtime. (they have some kind of agreement that saab can switch worktime at the plant) Now it is at a Maximum if they need to produce moore I guess they have to hire more meat.

    The hole thing in swedish; TROLLHÄTTAN: Saab sålde preliminärt 34 200 bilar globalt första kvartalet.
    Det är rekord för Saab och samtidigt 24 procent bättre än i fjol.

    Saab fortsätter att redovisa plussiffror på alla sina viktigare marknader.
    På flera av dem handlar det dessutom om riktigt stora försäljningsökningar.
    Bäst går det i Europa, där Saab i mars (precis som i januari och februari) satt försäljningsrekord för månaden.

    11 600 sålda bilar i Europa i mars är inte mindre än 1 000 bilar fler än tidigare toppnoteringen från 2000.
    – Det är vårt utökade modellprogram som nu ger tydliga effekter med ökad försäljning på så gott som samtliga marknader, kommenterar vd Jan-Åke Jonsson, sedan Saab sålt sammanlagt 15800 bilar i mars.

    Största ökningen i antal sålda bilar har Saab gjort i Sverige, men här ska man samtidigt ha i minnet att Saab jämför med svaga siffror från i fjol.
    Då är det kanske mer anmärkningsvärt att försäljningen fortsätter att öka kraftigt i Storbritannien, trots att Saab här ställs mot fjolårets rekordsiffror.

    I Storbritannien (Saabs överlägset största marknad i mars, 5 279 sålda bilar), Spanien och Belgien noterar Saab sin högsta försäljning någonsin, såväl i mars som för kvartalet som helhet.
    Även i USA ökar Saab, trots att totalmarknaden minskar. Här beror ökningen dels på 9-3, men framför allt på tillskottet av SUV-modellen 9-7X (1 300 sålda första kvartalet) som inte fanns med för ett år sedan.

    Och framtidsutsikterna är ljusa med en fortsatt stark orderingång under april.
    Jämfört med samma tid förra året är orderstocken ungefär 50 procent större nu, enligt Saab.
    Ett tecken på att efterfrågan är så god som Saab hävdar, är att företaget i måndags åter gick upp på max 2 i sin produktion.

    Det är det högsta steget i Saabs flextidssystem och innebär ett antal timmars extra produktionstid i veckan jämfört med normaltid.
    De närmaste sex veckorna är det max 2-tid som gäller på Stallbacka.
    – Att ha den här flexibiliteten är guld värd för den som säljer bilar, poängterar presschef Christer Nilsson.

  8. What a fascinating thread to scroll through……

    A couple of things to put into the mix with regards Hirsch in Oz.
    1) I don’t know the size of the Swiss population but Sweden has 9million people. Aus has 20m. There is more than enough market potential here, just ask toyota. Or if you want to compare apples & apples – ask AMG or BMW-M or even ( dare I say it) HSV. Its not about potential, more about commitment of marketing $$ and Holden would rather put theirs into a flashy campaign for the latest buzz box out of Korea (courtesy of Daewoo), or Dave Hughes selling utes and commodores than their so-called premium brand. Saab here just doesn’t seem to rate. I have noticed the billboards and print in the weekend papers but its still just a start.

    With regards the market appeal for a $100k four-pot FWD car…
    1) Its probably overpriced at 100K as is most of the Saab range.
    2) I think the climate is turning towards 4cyl for a variety of reasons. CC still counts for a lot of people but the group is shrinking. Why else is the Prius on backorder? An economical, eco-friendly-ish 4cyl with 350+nm is a pretty good proposition at the moment
    3) FWD – does have its limitations in pure performance terms but….ask someone who lives in a rainy/snowy climate or at the end of a long gravel road what they’d prefer. FWD wins easily where RWD lands you on your arse wondering which way the FWD car went. Take any current model RWD sedan for a drive after a good spell of rain on a twisty road and see if you don’t back off a bit.

    My point is essentially that the drwabacks that you point out are really legitimate features of Saab to be enjoyed and demonstrated as positives. AWD,V8, etc would all be welcome additions to the range but merely to add colour to what is already a very clever car.

    Half -full? Half-empty? Half-full to me and its a shame that more people aren’t aware of it. The Hirsch issue just seems to epitomise the situation. Great cars with plenty of people finding excuses not to sell them.

    For what its worth, you can select Australia on the Hirsch site to locate a dealer… but the page is empty.

  9. PS – if you’re thinking that i’ve changed my tune slightly on market potential`for hirsch in Australia – you’re half right. Its been on my mind all day actually and thats where I’ve got to. There’s still no escaping financial reality of running a business but… businesses run on sales.

  10. Have any of you driven an Audi lately? I’d say that ‘born from VWs’ is resulting in some darn good cars. Maybe better than the Saabs. Heresy around here, for sure, but it’s quite possibly true. Additionally, Saab has no answer to the A8 which hurts sales here in the US.

  11. PT – I’ll come back to you points in a moment.

    Eggs – No critics of Audi in the chair I’m sitting in. The grinding of my teeth is over the models that GM’s cost-cutting killed off. Models that were innovative and could have had Saab leaps ahead of where they are now.

    Audi did it with a solid line that resulted in the TT, a halo car, and they capitalised from there. Saab could have had a similar path but for a few mistakes and the cost-cutting that resulted.

    Whenever I see Audi’s success I think “There but for the goofiness of ????? goes Saab.”

  12. PT, I don’t know what your current job is, skills, degrees or any other brightness you possess in addition to your clear business sense. One solution to fix the local grievances with Saab’s position will be for GM/Holden to employ you to run the show from here on onwards. I hope you see this as clear compliment since people like you are desperately needed. Maybe we should run a campaign to have you as head of Saab OZ and fix this short sight ness once and for all. I thoroughly enjoy your comments and accurate points of view. Keep commenting please !!!

  13. Pete,

    You’re right on the money. Marketing $$ are likely dictated from the US, and as Saab’s around a 1,000 unit seller here in Oz, there aint going to be a big pot to draw from. But as you say, it’s about having the flagship present for effect more than for pure profit.

    My point earlier was that amongst the $100K crowd, CCs do count for a fair bit, and that’s where the 9-5 is going to fall over (possibly along with the aged chassis design).

    You and I know that a 9-5 is a great FWD car, but your average well-heeled yobbo wouldn’t have a clue about that.

    I really do think that it’s worthwhile pushing Hirsch a lot more through dealerships in the eastern mainland states, esp Sydney.

    Here’s hoping that Saab Aust can see the sense in it. I personally know of 2 or 3 Saab owners just here in Tassie that I reckon would possibly consider it.

  14. BTW, this is the email response I got from Erik at Hirsch in Switzerland yesterday (still no response from Saab Aust to today’s email)…..

    Hi,

    It is theoretically possible to order Hirsch products over Saab Australia. Homologation and warranty issues are in order. The contact person there is:

    Neil Whitehead
    neil.whitehead@gm.com
    Tel +61 (0) 3 9257 0961

    However, the transportation time and costs for any hardware parts would be substantial, so they are not actively pushing our products.

    Mr. Whitehead does however have two Hirsch Performance IPRO programming tools registered in his name, which means that they should theoretically be able to perform software-only upgrades.

    Cheers,

    Erik

  15. Swade — my comments re:Audi were aimed more at Fred than your comments.

    And I agree with you — Saab could be farther along with some better decisions. I’m simply heaping another reason for Audi’s success onto the fire of thought — they’ve made some great cars.

  16. At the risk of becoming a pest myself; heres a few more afterthoughts

    Eggs – Audi do make some sweet cars. Friend of mine has an A4 1.8T Quattro and its a beauty. A license-shredder for sure.

    Swade – agree that a fairly simple start to the Hirsch campaign would be awareness with current 95 owners. Its not that complicated. As far as rev-heads go – guilty as charged your honour. As you know, I drive a lot ( 160km round trip to work daily) and do as much at high speed as possible. This is all relative to those of you with access to an Autobahn – bastards. Friends have various speedy sets of wheels, from the Audi above to BMW645 and Subaru 3.0 Bilsteins etc. Despite this, the unique qualities of a turboed swedish four are what drew me to Saab in the first place. So, while I acknowledge that your average HSV nut is not really going to look sideways at a 95 – unless its passing them – I reckon here are enough revheads who would be more than curious about the numbers that a Hirsched 95 puts out, if they knew about it.

    The lack of cashola or other resources is a big aspect of this no doubt. If I draw some VERY loose threads together about Saab here I could say:

    Average annual sales: 1000+ units
    Average selling price: $65000
    Turnover: $65m
    Assuming 50% gross profit, Cost of Goods : $32.5m
    Sales & Marketing expenses could be in the region of $25m + (would love to see what they comprise of as they are mostly carried by dealers, not the parent I guess)
    EBIT of $7.5m (10%+ )?

    Are SaabAus in the GM Aus annual report? Anyone seen one?

    Joe -I’ll keep the resume up to date, get my best suit drycleaned and wait for the call. Appreciate the compliment but as I’m sure you know, its one thing to postulate on a blog, its another to run a business. There probably are some Hirsch freaks at Saab-Aus who just can’t get the system to go their way; Neil Whitehead may be one. All the same, just be ready if someone calls for a reference. 😉

    Wonder how many upgrades that software in Melbourne has done?

  17. I am convinced that the folk at Hirsch are assuming a lot in here through the distance factor from Europe to OZ. Surely, overnight deliveries will cost a bomb but off peak and lower priority shipments are very competitive. Agree with Swade’s comments on the average Joe Blog not turning it’s head to a 4 cyl unit at all. But just by the sheer presence of one and the impact of its performance many heads will surely turn. When a Merc C55 AMG is priced at the $160K and will produce not a lot more KWs than a 9-5 Hirsch at around $100K, surely it will attract many heads regardless of the number of cyls. PT used the comparisons of the HSV brand very well. At the end of the day these HSVs are nothing more than Hotted Up dam good looking Commodores which for the average Joe are ridiculously over priced. Yet they are sold extremely well, even exported to the UK. So, how come we are doing this in our own backyards effectively selling ice cream to the Eskimos ??? Where are you based PT ????

  18. eggs-merely re-posing the question…how does Audi do it? And yes I have driven several quattros, a TT, an A8 and VWs petrol and diesel…and I still dont get it. Knowing that, I guess the trick is to get Audi/VW owners to test drive Saab…as people that td…usually buy? A/VW owner retention aint all that. Also there is no rebuttal to AMG/M in the biggest, $$$ market. Why?

  19. That’s my point Fred why ?? What is clear is that Saab is probably the most undersold prestige car in the whole world. I follow this site because I’m very passionate about the brand, love the cars etc etc but also to learn more and enhance my overall knowledge and expertise. From what I’ve read it really shocks me the amount of underselling there is and how little awareness on the strengths of Saab is being broadcasted. And on the other hand the public are so blindly behind that German cars that is sickening at times.

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