More thoughts: Saab in Germany

I wrote a few days ago on the troubling revelation that whilst Germany is Saab’s fourth biggest market it seems to sell a relatively meagre number of vehicles.

This is troubling on two fronts. First, the clear reliance that Saab has on its top three markets is revealed. Second, the apparent inability of Saab Germany to penetrate what should be a fairly lucrative market.

The good news for Saab’s German office is that they have a massive opportunity here to turn a weakness into a fourth pillar of growth for Saab – and Saab needs all the growth it can get righ now in order to stay alive and get the R&D dollars it needs to fulfil its potential.

In response to my article, I received the following in comments and they make for very interesting reading. Both are from Germany and shed an interesting light on what’s happening there, both with the German market in general and Saab in particular.

First up, from Michael – commenting on market perceptions in general (some minor editing included):

Being a fighter pilot is not that popular in Germany compared to 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 what 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 divison of BMW and the journalist – 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, what is left? Choose a Spitefire or SAAB J21 instead of a Messerschmitt?

Interesting stuff, huh? There’s a definite lack of identity that Saab has to overcome amidst the car-buying public, as well as the parochial nature of the typical German punter that I alluded to the other day.

Next, Bjoern talks about Saab’s efforts in Germany, as seen from his perspective being a consumer in Germany:

I guess one of the biggest problems in Germany is the lack of marketing. I have no doubt that Saab could get 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..

The problem is that Saab Germany doesn’t do marketing at all.

There are no TV ads except for 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 were a few ads for the launch of the 9-3SS and the 9-3SC.

Saab should focus on a lot more of the unique features in the cars that are also developed 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 ignition position…. Saab has had it between the seats next to the shifter for aeons… 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 agressively as a safety feature. Saab?… no. The dealer tells you but the ads don’t.

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 – and guess what.. yea.. they have blue glass tubes with a 3D feeling in the cockpit…and I bet they will use it in production before Saab does!

Sometimes I’m nearing 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 next-to-no incentives or initiatives to keeping the customers etc. You only get a magazine two or three times a year and that’s it. If you subscribe to the e-Newsletter you also get some e-Mail sometimes. But no incentives 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 saddest 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.

It’s an interesting insight.

As I said before, this presents itself as a huge opportunity for Saab Germany. The growth potential has to be enourmous. Recent press release activity would indicate to me that they’re trying to get the message out there. Here’s hoping that they can really be aggressive in doing so in order to make the German motoring pres take some notice and thereby make the heritage, the innovative history, the technical capabilities and the current model line of the marque better known in Germany.

The only way is up.

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6 Comments

  1. Ryan,

    I’m not sure what the point is here? Your post at the link seems to ask more questions and i’m not sure how it relates to Saab in Germany. Am I missing something here?

  2. “You only get a magazine two or three times a year and that’s it. If you subscribe to the e-Newsletter you also get some e-Mail sometimes.”

    It’s no different in these respects here in the U.S. I get more email from Audi than I do from Saab. I see the BMW Magazine quarterly on the newsstand. Saab’s magazine seems to be only a 1-3 times a year, when they get around to it, kind of thing.

    Luckily, U.S. being a major market for Saab, we at least see advertising and get some incentives. Speaking of “toy cars”, the two Saab dealerships I’m familiar with in SC and TN sell Pontiacs and Cadillacs respectively. I have to wade through that candy to the corner of the lot with the Saabs. The goods news though seems to be people coming in looking for the sold-out Pontiac Solstice are going Saab.

  3. To me as a previous owner of a 9-5 Aero (now owning an Audi A6) it is very obvious why Saab can’t do better in Germany. Firstly, at least the 9-5 is more than outdated in terms of driving behaviour, available technology, quality feel of the materials, etc. in comparison to 5-series, E-class and A6. Secondly, most cars of this class are leased in Germany, the majority being company cars. Compare the monthly leasing rates of a well optioned A6 (list price 65.000 Euros for a 3.0 tdi quattro with almost everything) to a fully loaded 9-5 Aero (list price more than 10.000 Euros less than the A6) and guess what: The monthly payment is about the same! Thus, companies tend to lease german cars and if these cars cost the same (leasing rate) but offer more in terms of technology, comfort, drivetrain, materials, etc.; then there is not much left to buy a Saab.
    Nevertheless, the marketing of Saab is a disaster. For example: For decades Saab is offering downsized turbocharged engines having a huge experience with that technology. Now the german car companies also jump on that train, but while they manage to explain the advantages, Saab was never able to exploide being the first with turbocharged four-bangers instead of gas guzzling V6 and V8 engines.

    Regards from Berlin

    Stefan

  4. Concerning first german Marketing and also: DESIGN – one of the most important aspects.
    First Marketing. Today I received the actual sent out from Saab in my Letterbox. Should come as a joke, but has nothing to do with decent marketing fitting to the saab philosophy: a paperbag for flight-sickness!!! Subline: »For Co-Pilots« Hahaha. This doesn’t even fit to a Golf GTI campaign. Instead of pushing the Premium-Aspect of the new models in a decent scandinavian way, they advertise with simple and neagtive feelings. And for sure: in the showrooms in Germany Saabs stand next to Opels, cheap Chevys and here in Stuttgart even next to Volvos. You’ll get no premium feeling that way. The Dealers often are ex-opel guys and know very less concerning saab-style and scandinavian design. I never feel understood.

    Second, Design: they lost a lot of profile. The straight windshield and roofline, that must turn from the windshield to the side-windows. You find it here: Suzuki Swift, Skoda Roomster. The 9-3 Sedan misses the straight roofline that clearly defines a saab. Even worse: it came for the classic 900/9-3.1-shape. The 9-5 facelift shows a frontmask without the typical grille and the straight horizontical line above the lights. The Rearlights are not Saab at all and follow old BMW-Lightdesigns. Poor. Wheels: they killed nearly all »3-spokes«. Remeber the old Aero-Turbines? Interieur: the new chrome-trend is not stoppable, but try to get a black roof-interieur. This is typically for jets. You get it at Audi and BMW. BMW advertises with Head-Up Displays and Pilots.

    It’s not too late. We have the wonderful 9-3 Sportcombi and the Vision of the Aero-X. Go Go Go Go Saab. Back to the roots: Scandinavian Living, no Airforce-Military-Atmosphere!

    Olaf, Frankfurt/Stuttgart
    9-3 Sportcombi Vector in pure Black
    NoChrome Linear Parts
    Three Spoke Evo-Wheels

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