US Sales Data – May 2006

The US sales data is in and there’s good news and bad news. Well, it’s probably more like bad news and a little bit of interprative spin that can make it into neutral news. Bear with me….

The raw numbers would seem to indicate that the bubble, small as it was, has burst in the United States. Saab sold 3,030 vehicles in May, a drop of 21% on the 3,836 vehicles sold in May 2005.

The individual model numbers tell the story:

9-2x: 104 units sold (1,042 in 2005) -90.4%
9-3: 1,986 units sold (2,245 in 2005) -15.1%
9-5: 385 units sold (582 in 2005) -26.4%
9-7x: 555 units sold (47 in 2005) +1081% (meaningless figure though)


The bad news

1. Sales of the 9-3 aren’t building at all and it’s hard to see where any momentum is going to come from. The V6 has been around for long enough new to be making an impact, as has the SportCombi. The 9-3 should be gaining on numbers from last year, not losing. From January to May 2006, the 9-3 has had year-on-year movements as follows:

Jan —- +26.09%
Feb —- +1.83%
Mar —- -0.13%
Apr —- -2.15%
May —- -13.04%

Do I need to draw you a graph?

2. Sales of the 9-5 remain at a steady 30% (aaprox) below last year’s sales. The new model is clearly not having an impact in the US market.

3. Whilst the 9-3 and 9-5 news above is less than positive, there’s only one thing that can help the 9-2x – a trebuchet.


The positively spun good news:

1. The 9-7x continues to gain a wider audience. It’s sales have risen every month so far this year. No spin here, it’s all good and a credit to the engineers that tweaked this truck just right.

2. Given that it’s basically dead in the water, the numbers don’t look quite so bad if you take the 9-2x out of the equation. If you take away the 9-2x from both this years and last years numbers, then Saab sold 2,926 vehicles this year as opposed to 2,794 in 2005. An increase of 4.72%.

How could I justify doing this?

Well, the 9-2x, if you remember, got a huge price reduction around this time last year, even before the employee pricing scheme took hold. Hence the huge numbers for May 2005. They sold 1,042 9-2x’s in May 2005 compared to just 388 the month before. 9-2x sales continued to be huge for another 2 months until stock went dry and the employee pricing thing wore off.


Bottom line – Jay and his buddies at Saab USA need to pull a rabbit out of the hat. There’s still 7 months of the year to go, but sans another employee pricing scheme in the US summer it’s fair to say that the current trendline isn’t looking the best.

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  1. The real test will come around September, right about the time last year when there wasn’t a ton of inventory anymore and sales really fell apart. If Saab can post some big gains in the last few months of the year, then we won’t be in so much trouble. But for the summer it’s expected that there will be some big percentage drops compared to last year.

    On a related note, it seems like there has been a real lack of promotional incentives here in the US. Aside from the usual lease rate on certain models, the same incentives have held up for most of the year so far. If you ask me there’s nothing to bring people into the showroom aside from a new SportCombi and a new 9-5 that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of.

  2. If my memory serves me correctly, May of ’05 was about when GM came out with it U. S. employee discount incentive program, which proved wildly popular.

    So year to year comparisons from here on out are probably not too meaningful for the next several months.

    That being said, Saab is deffinitely having difficulty gaining traction, and the #’s for the refreshened 9-5 have to be truly disappointing.

  3. The story for the 9-5 is even worse when you take a look at sales data for May 2004: 1,134.

    I don’t get it. The 9-5 is a great car, why aren’t people buying it?


  4. MikeF

    The next 2 months will indeed be the kicker due to the Employee Discount program. Saab sold 6,614 vehicles in June 2005 and 6,469 in July 2005.

    I think we can expect -50%, give or take 5%.

  5. Why would someone buy a SAAB 9-3 when they could get an “equivalent” BMW for less money? Comparing six cylinder sedans to each other (the 9-3 Aero vs. 325i BMW) the Bimmer is believed to have better performance and a better image than SAAB. The Bimmer even has better fuel economy. Sure, the SAAB is safer, but the only Americans who consider safety when purchasing a vehicle are soccer moms who are buying an SUV or minivan.

    The 9-5 is dead in the States. Why? IMHO it’s because it’s ugly. I know some of you are gasping. It’s boxy and uninspiring. The Aero version is an improvement, but now you’re talking some serious money. Why would you buy a 9-5 instead of a BMW or Audi? The performance (lack of AWD) isn’t up to par.

    GM has tried to position SAAB to compete with brands it has no chance against, IMHO.

    I really think that GM needs to stop trying to take sales away from BMW and concentrate on “finding their own road”. They’ve diluted SAAB to try to be a cheaper BMW clone to compete (killing the hatchback, for example) and all people see SAAB as is a weiro’s wannabe Bimmer.

    I’m hardcore SAABisti as they come and I wouldn’t even buy the current versions of the 9-3 and 9-5. If they can’t even make a car that I can desire, where do they think they’re going to get their new customers?

    SAAB needs to go back to making near-luxury hatchback cars and add AWD (at least as an option and standard in “performance” models like the Aero) already. This need has been blatantly obvious for YEARS and still hasn’t been addressed. They can’t add much more performance until they get AWD. They’re at the limits of what FWD can handle. They also need to make great strides in fuel economy. It’s unacceptable that the 2.1 liter turbocharged I4 9-3 barely beats out BMW’s 2.5 liter NA I6 in fuel economy.

    The bad news (as if there hasn’t been enough) is that SAAB has no plans for any new models until 2008 when they come out with the 9-4X. The 9-3 and 9-5 are going to have to suffer through these current models for another three years! Good luck, SAAB.

  6. Agree with Gripen. Why buy a Saab 9-3 or 9-5 when they try to be like a Volvo, BMW, Lexus or Audi? Do you get Scandinavian design? No. LED-lights? Njet. HUD? Nope. AWD? Sorry. Great sound system? Don’t think so. Hatchback? U kiddin?

    Do I get a wannabe BMW 3 or Audi A4? Yepp.

    They love SUVs in the U.S. Even if gas price double, they still gonna sell lots of them because lots of pople need them. And the 9-7 seems to stand out in that pack, so it sell. The 9-3 or 9-5 do not stand out from the rest. Especially not amongst the core buyers who loved the old 900.

    They would probably double the sale if they started to manufacture the Saab 900 Turbo from 1988 again… 🙂

  7. The 9-3 SportCombi stands out, and there’s quite a few Saabs in my area. But I think you’re missing the big picture here: reliabilty. My 2003 9-3 (which I bought used in 2004) has been in the shop 3 times in the past two years, once for 34 days as it needed a speed sensor replaced on the transmission (they had to replace the entire tranmission in the end). Nearly all the problems were connected to the electronics (and one to the handbrake). Saab may be losing customers because people are looking for a sporty reliable drive, and so far its Infinity G35, which is close in price to the 93, might be providing it (plus its interior looks better). I am not looking forward to my 3 year warranty on parts running out this July, as that’s the point owning a Saab gets really expensive.

    I’m hoping the SportCombi’s quality will improve by the time I replace the 9-3, but its ironic that the most reliable Saab I currently own, is my wife’s 9-2X Aero.

  8. Passing thought –

    Saab sold 3,030 vehicles in May, a drop of 21% on the 3,836 vehicles sold in May 2005, which we see above, was mainly due the 9-2x. I remember reading an interview with Jan Ake-J that the 9-2x sales amounted to little if any profit. The 9-7x would generate much greater cash flow even at half the volume (9-2’s sold last May)

    So in my little mind – things don’t look quite as grim either

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