Saab USA to start enthusiast site?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….but screw that! I want in.

The latest Saab iNews, forwarded to me by several recipients in the US, includes a link to a readers poll where Saab USA are asking people what sort of things they’d like to see in an enthusiast website they’re thinking of starting up. Here’s a look at the options, click on the image to enlarge:

SaabUSApoll.jpg

Hmmmmmm.

Wallpapers – check
Insider information – occasional, unfiltered check
Reminders for service appointments – read your owners manual, dumbass!
Warranty and user manual info – OK, that’s useful
Connect with enthusiasts – check
Pics, videos etc – check
Tips from experts – check, sort of

It all sounds a little familiar, no?

I’ve been doing this Saab Blogging thing for around 18 months now. SaabNet’s been around since 1988 and SaabCentral, TSL and Saabscene for between 2 and 5 years. With Trollhattan Saab and these other sites proving there’s a readership and a valid formula to stimulate the best enthusiast community in autodom, it seems SaabUSA want to jump on board.

My initial reaction was a little panicked. The site they’re outlining in the poll above sounds very much like this one (but without the constant news, car reviews, sales info and ability for readers to contribute to the content) – could I stay afloat if one branch of my muse is competing against me?

It’s now a few days later I’m feeling more comfortable with the whole thing. Trollhattan Saab, since its inception, has always provided the most comprehensive and honest coverage of Saab news that I can manage. Its mission is to the Saab brand – the cars that created it and all the cars made today that truly carry the Saab heritage forward.

Would I like to be involved in the SaabUSA site? Hell yes!

I’ve been very open about the fact that I’d love to work for Saab, in any market. It’d beat the hell out of my current well-paid-but-boring-as-watching-paint-dry employment. The opportunity to work in a field that you’re passionate about doesn’t come to everyone. And it may not come to me either.

I’ve expressed an interest in talking to Saab USA about this proposed site but so far, there’s been no reply. The most important part of running a site like this is sincerity. The fact that you’re conveying news and opinion with no alterior motive – it’s all about the fact that we drive and enjoy Saab cars. I think I’ve proven here that I can do that and I’m pretty sure that my occasionally critical style would prove to readers of a corporate site that the site truly is about promoting the brand and everything that’s good for it, that it’s not all spin. OK, the advance release spy photos may go missing, but that represents about 1% of this site’s content anyway.

Will Saab share my opinion? Probably not. It’s their site, their dime and their decision. It’ll live or die by its credibility. There’s a hell of an opportunity here for them do something really good. I honestly hope they do.

Trollhattan Saab will stick around and provide you with the most comprehensive, rounded, far-reaching and honest coverage of all things Saab. I hope you’ll stick around too.

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11 Comments

  1. You have my vote! I really hope Saab makes you an offer you can’t refuse – that will be the best of all worlds – access to all the right information, combined with your passion to see this great brand succeed. Good Luck! And if it doesn’t happen, you’re bookmarked in my browser for a daily visit for a long time to come.

    Sumit

  2. Well here’s my take. Any Saab site run by the company (GM) WILL

    – Become just another form of advertising
    – NEVER contain constructive criticism
    – Concentrate on Seppo (Septic Tank {a place where you pump the toilet waste} / Yank) content
    – Be REALLY politically correct
    – Not be independent

    What they will fail to realise is that the owners are very passionate, and such will be a very hard group to please (as a whole). One mistake and their cred will walk out the door. Over regulation or censorship will do the same.
    The BIG win with sites like Trollhattan is that they’re independent with influence and content from a TRUSTED source.
    Yes, Saab USA is pasionate about Saabs however their biggest motivation is sales. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind this will influence the content and is indeed the influence to create such a site.
    Perhaps I may politely suggest you put the time and effort in to creating a 95 that will shoot the opposition down. If you are as you say, born from jets!

  3. You can’t copyright or trademark an idea. If there was a legal way to stop someone else from putting up a Saab enthusiast website, Scott Paterson would have found it.

    There also needs to be an enthusiast site separate from Saab – precisely to fulminate about potentially dumb GM decisions (e.g., selling the next gen BLS against the 9-3 in the US).

    I think you’d be better off hooking up with an enthusiast magazine (European Car? something like that). You’d maintain editorial independence and potentially get to review (test drive? 🙂 ) other marques.

    As an aside, Saab should think about a paper analogue to the website. Whatever happened to Saab Soundings? A beefier version of Soundings that complemented the website would be nice.

  4. I agree with Nagpal that you have my vote if that’s what you want to do. But I also agree with Richo and Greg and worry that we would lose a free-speaking voice in the Saab community. You’d be writing with someone looking over your shoulder. I thought FYI blog would be a great thing for GM but I noticed that it took about 8 hours for a comment to be approved–no chance for give and take arguments in comments there.
    I hope you find the opportunity you’re looking for, but I also hope you can continue to play the role of a free swinging, say what you think kind of advocate, with a free and open comment forum.
    You’ve got my vote though for whatever you choose in the future.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement gents. I think it’d be an interesting experiment and if an opportunity arose I’d be foolish not to grab it, but realistically speaking I don’t expect that I’ll have a choice to make.

    FYI and Fastlane were great in theory, but have proven to be too infrequent (Fastlane) and uninspiring (FYI) IMHO.

  6. I agree with most of the above. Greg’s comments are on the money, and I’ve always felt that the Saab Owners Club has let us down in the media / communications arena. They’ve got the ‘Nines’ magazine, which should be / could be a great read, but it isn’t. They could have / should have a great blogger with a relationship with Saab USA, but they don’t. You, in freakin’ Tasmania, have a better handle on the comings and goings around SaaB USA HQ than they do!

    I’m all in, too — Swade for public Saab ombudsman!! The ‘insider’ with an ‘outsider’ agenda!!

    It could work.

  7. I responded to the survey. Frankly, I don’t see GM allowing a site any more useful than:

    https://www.owners.saabusa.com/

    This site is pretty useless to start. The minute the new owners site would show initiative, promise, or independence, GM will quash it like a bug. Saab spirit and GM corporate culture live on opposite poles.

  8. OK guys, you are in a perverse way making my point: GM needs someone like Swade to show that they are serious about Saab and making Saabs that Saab people like. They need that same someone to tell GM exactly what Saab people think.

    First of all, I don’t think that Mitch is 100% correct when he says that Saab spirit and GM culture are opposites. Actually, I think that the two are closer together than any of us care to believe.

    The primary difference, to me anyway, is in the numbers. GM has to make between 2 and 3 million vehicles per year to hit the revenue targets. With those kind of numbers, GM can’t ‘hand craft’ cars like Saab has in the past. There’s simply no way. On the other hand, Saab couldn’t survive that way, either. Saab had to gain some of the big number efficiencies to continue as a car manufacturer. Therefore, the two live together on the same continuum, with GM trying to make efficiency look personal and Saab trying to make personal more efficient. They are good for each other overall.

    It’s up to someone to bridge that gap — to make Saabs less like Chevrolets or Vauxhalls while maintaining the efficiency and accessability that nobody does better than GM.

    Easier said than done, but feasible.

  9. All,

    I agree that Swade should join Saab Automobile USA, but not without me as co-pilot / chief archivist in charge of facilitating all of the Saab Video archives, etc and getting that content on the web!

    -R

  10. i’m all for saab having more feedback “channels.”

    i doubt it would be even half as objective as trollhattansaab.net, so i don’t think there’d be any real “competition,” as it were. and, certainly, i wouldn’t leave “trollhattan” for it.

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