A sobering thought…..or a call for optimism

Every month for the last six months, usually around the time I report on Saab sales in various markets, I’ve been saying that Germany has plenty of potential for growth in terms of Saab sales. It’s a huge market for car sales and it just makes sense to me that Saab should be doing well there. They’re sophisticated, well designed and appointed.

Of course, the Germans come across as a parochial people and I’m big enough to admit that they make some pretty decent cars themselves. It’s no surprise then that German manufacturers make up the vast majority of the top ten sellers in their home market.

I just stumbled on a German Saab press release that gives some hope, and at the same time makes a somewhat sobering statement.

Saab sold just 309 cars in Germany in August 2006. Despite this, the press release informs me that Germany is currently Saab’s fourth largest market worldwide after the US, Sweden and Great Britain.

309 vehicles makes for the 4th largest market!! That’s got to be cause for alarm. Australia, a drop in the ocean in terms of worlwide car sales, sold nearly half this amount in the same period. The highest ranked Saab on the German market, the 9-3, was ranked in the mid 70’s on the sales chart (i.e. there’s around 74 different models that outsell the 9-3).

In addition, the German market has somewhere in the vicinity of 129 Saab dealerships, meaning that they’re selling about 2.4 cars each, per month. My local Saab dealer, in a small city on an island is managing more than 2 per month.

Now, admittedly, a number of these dealerships are new and the vast majority must be tied in with other GM marques in Germany. Most Saab dealers here in Australia occupy a corner of the local Holden showroom and I imagine it must be a similar setup there with Opel.

The cause for hope is that Saab of Germany do seem to be marketing the cars more aggressively in recent months. I’ve seen several press releases for the Pilots Wanted promotion recently and the press release I’ve used as a base for this post provides a long look at Saab’s history, innovations and current model line.

Building a car market isn’t a short term prospect. With so much potential for growth in Germany and a new round of models coming in the next few years it seems that Saab of Germany are positioning themselves for some expansion.

It’s a good thing they are, too. Australia’s hot on their heels and looking for that fourth spot!

A dodgy internet translation of the German press release is reproduced after the jump….

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10 Comments

  1. My customer just picked up his 9-3 AERO in Frankfurt on european delivery program,he told me that dealer there had 9-7 on the showroom floor and cried that will never sell that car because it is not a diesel.GM, wake up, gas in europe is $7 a gallon!!!!!
    By the way,just received few 2007 9-3, I can live with interior,little throw back to 900 with silver trim on dash but I’m mad that they took away our cool SID!!!!!

  2. Alot of the German problem is location…while all the DE brands have the sweet spreads Saab is by and large tucked back in some obscure industrial cul-de-sac.
    As mentioned a nice concept is the downtown botique showroom…Ive been to the one in Berlin and also in London. There could be more of these?
    GM could sell tonnes of 97s with say a 2.5 5cyl TurboD…Ill second Jaceks wake-up call…and I dont believe the V6 wont fit in a 95 or the 97 for that matter.
    Finally whats with all the no leather, no sunroof, black cars over dere?

  3. Jacek, that’s two out of two dealers now that are angry about the loss if the SID. I know my local guy is disappointed by it as well.

    And the diesel for the 9-7x, as you both mention is a total no-brainer.

  4. Well,
    I guess one of the biggest problems in germany is the lack of marketing. I have no doubt that Saab could get, and take, quite a bigger slice of the market. Many people I have talked to and told them about my Saab and Saab in general, had no clue about the new models, features etc..

    Problem is that Saab Germany doesn’t do marketing at all. There are no tv ads (there where a few when the “Genes from Jet’s” acion started. But that’s it. No big advertising in newspapers (sometimes there is a small ad – often published by the local dealer! At least there where a few ads for the launch of the 9-3SS and the 9-3SC).

    Saab should use a lot more of the unique features in the Saabs that are also developt by Saab. All other brands often copy these features and present them as “new” and inveted by them… but heck.. a lot of this stuff has been developed by Saab in the past. Like the key hole… Saab put’s it since aeons between the seats next to the shifter… now other brands to something similar… they put it in the center of the center console and use a start button. The difference is: They sell it agressiv as safety features… Saab… nop. Yeah… the dealer tells you but not the ads.

    Or the new cockpit features of the Aero-X. Using the glass elements for a 3D look and feel and modern design etc.. What’s coming up a few months later… Yep… VW with the presentation of the soon to come (!!)(seems like 2008) Iroc or Scirocco – guess what.. yea.. they have blue glas tubes with a 3D feeling in the cockpit…
    and I bet they will use it in production before Saab does!

    Sometimes I’m near of self destruction when I see what Saab Germany does… nothing… Saab dealers get their display full of Chevy toy cars… or will be closing. There is nearly no to null customer insentives for keeping the customers etc.. You only get two or three times a magazine and that’s it. A yes.. if you subscrite the e-Newsletter you also get some e-Mail sometimes. But no insentives or features to push the affinity to Saab. It seems that Saab Germany has a lot to learn in the areas of marketing and customer service/satisfaction. They have to be a bit more aggressive.

    The sadest part is to know… or to be sure… that they could do soooooo much better. But to see them pushed down to the ground by Opel and GM Int..

    Let’s hope the best for the future.

  5. Some further comments:

    Being a fighter pilot is not that popular in Germany that in the US or UK. Since Hermann Meier and Arthur Harris, the guys who should buy a Saab are not very into war plane aviation. Actually, I do not want to buy a product that is advertised in this way either. (Do not want to be a F16 fighter pilot and bomb towns!)

    Another point: I was ask by a German friend that car I drive. I said Saab. He said, he would not buy a Japanese car! He drives Opel!

    Next: Why should you Buy/lease a Saab if you can get a Bimmer? When it comes to fetish BMW counts more. This brand is being louded with tons of “Premium” by the communication devison of BMW and the journalist that Saab has almost no chance to compete with the Huns.

    The last thing: You do not have to drive a Saab if you want to have a Turbo. The Huns have a lots of Turbos too nowadays.

    So, that is left? Choose a Spitefire or SAAB J21 instead of a Messerschmitt?

  6. Hi Swade,

    no problem. Feel free to use the text. But check for spelling mistakes. *grin*

    I can also write an update of the text wih more details about the german market and Saab with more precised arguments. Feel free to contact me.

  7. Michael,here in Houston you can see all great BMWs and you can also see a lawer,doctor……………
    hooker or gangster getting out of that car,everybody has that darn thing. With SAAB you in many ways different. I like that.

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