Fresh Air – Saab Australia

This article was a real breath of fresh air.

I’ve always said that I couldn’t work in a selling type position (however far I might be from the actual job of selling) unless I totally, completely believed in the product I was selling – 1000%.

My previous interactions with Saab Australia have all been with the grass roots team, they guys and girls at the coalface. Always good. Always enthusiastic and always helpful. They’re believers (or good actors).

I actually visited Saab Australia’s offices earlier this year for the AGM of the Saab Car Club of Australia. I’m not sure what I expected when I first saw the offices, but I’m sure my mind had concocted something more sophisticated than the cube farm I encountered. It was an office like any other – a bunch of cubicles, some of which were organised and others that looked like a dog’s breakfast (g’day Emily!).

The spartan conditions were unexpected, but what I did see, absolutely everywhere, were Saabs. Imagery abounded everywhere you looked. It’s probably always been that way, but it was encouraging to see and it made me feel right at home.

Another thing that’s been encouraging is the appointment of Parveen Batish as Director of Saab Australia and New Zealand. I first heard about Parveen from a participant in the Saab Ice Experience, who mentioned that he’d met this guy who was apparently coming ‘down under’ to take charge of things. That was certainly news to everyone here.

Every report I’ve had about Parveen has been positive. It seems we’ve finally got a Saab guy at the helm here in Oz again. The difference is evident too. A year or so ago Saab Oz were recovering from their full merger into the GM infrastructure. The brand was languishing with flagging sales and little for the market to get interested in.

The linked article will tell you plenty about where Saab Australia is at today – and a fair bit about Parveen Batish as well. It’s from GoAuto, an Aussie publication.

IN a direct move to increase its brand awareness and sales, the new director of Saab in Australia and New Zealand, Parveen Batish, will promote green power alternatives, Saab’s healthy performance-per-dollar equation and its Scandinavian aircraft heritage.

And the former Saab UK executive isn’t excited by recent figures that show Saab doubled its month-on-month sales in August and so far this year lies 43.5 per cent ahead of 2005 figures – largely on the back of stronger 9-3 sedan demand – because he admits Saab sales were lacklustre last year due to over-pricing on some models.

“We’re 40 per cent up this year, but if I can sit here next year and say the same I will have succeeded,” he said.

Saab recently confirmed it would introduce its first diesel models Down Under in January in the shape of the 9-3 TiD sedan and (SportCombi) wagon, powered by a 110kW/320Nm 1.9-litre DOHC turbo-diesel.

There you go.

Aggressive promotion of Biopower in a market that doesn’t have anything more than E10. Introduction of diesels to the market and best of all – refreshing un-spun honesty about the company’s performance.

Here’s a guy making a difference in the company he works for, and trring to make a difference to the market he works in. Magnificent.

Australian 9-5 sales remain static despite a facelifted model being launched here in May, while 9-3 convertible sales are up 12 per cent and 9-3 sedan sales are 100 per cent year-to-date.

“It’s tough when you’ve got a product that old when it’s priced at $68,000,” admitted Mr Batish.

More un-spun honesty. The 9-5’s a great car and every one I drive impresses me, but Saab know that it’s fallen behind its competition, which is why I’ve heard whispers that they’re going hell-for-leather to get a new one to market quicker than expected.

A lot of Saab Australia’s success in the last year or so has had to do with the re-pricing of the 9-3. Saab Oz decided to de-spec the car a little and get the price down to sub-$40,000. This has certainly helped. The 9-3 ad campaign here in Oz started with character named Sven messing up an order and ending up with too many 9-3’s that they had to sell at clearance prices. Parveen’s refocusing the market on Saab’s performance-per-dollar equation:

“Sven’s dead, and so is poking fun at our heritage while spruiking a $39,990 car. That’s what [household goods retailer] Harvey Norman does. We need more equity in the brand, we need to stand for something and we and our dealers need to make some money.

“You can either sell through price or brand equity, which is a longer-term proposition. We will enagage people in the brand and give them more reasons to consider us and I don’t mean by discounting but real ownership benefits.”

I’m not sure if those words mean the end of the sub-$40,000 9-3 or not. If so then there’s some major cojones on display here. But you can’t argue with the sentiment though.

“Saab have got to stand for something” is the message I get. I know all independant-thinking Saab enthusiasts would agree. Here’s hoping that some of those enthusiasts are working for Saab and are in positions that allow them to make decisions about the brand and it’s future. People like Parveen and the hardworking team at Saab Oz (and similar offices around the globe) deserve to have something to believe in when they come to work in the morning.

Parveen’s received an invitation from the Tas branch of the Saab Car Club to come and visit Tasmania, see the new dealership, drive the best roads in the country and have a BBQ at my place. I hope he takes us up on it. It’d be a pleasure.

Thanks to Turbin for the link

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4 Comments

  1. Swade,

    as you know i have meet the man, and i cant say words that describe him enough, he is the breath of fresh air that Saab Australia needed here (no hate to Ralph, but he was Holden to the bone, and they all new that) I came away from the meeting just blown away buy him, i fully trust what he has instore for Saab down here. now he has to convince the dealers, then more importantly the customers

    al

  2. Nice to hear but the proof will be in the pudding. Thoroughly appreciate level-headed approach Parveen appears to be taking. Saab Aus is a passenger with anything less.

    Share your sentiment swade.

  3. Good article.

    What I see now in Oz is this:

    More attractively priced SAABs.

    More TV ads than ever.

    More press stuff than ever inc. diesel, bio-power.

    Local dealer placing full page Iconvertible ad in local community paper.

    Also seeing more SAAB’s new and old in our outlying suburbs.

    The pudding seems pretty good so far.

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