Saab Service – up to scratch?

I have one local Saab dealer here in Hobart.

I have two available Saab specialist mechanics, though one is frequently off somewhere making or selling fudge so I haven’t used his services on a paid basis yet.

My choices are fairly limited and as I spent the last half of last week in a city that did offer choices it made me wonder what I’d do in that scenario. It also made me appreciative of the fact that our local dealer is a true Saab fan and the local specialist that I use is a thorough professional and really cares about the results of his work.

I’ve mentioned our local Saab dealer, Tony B, several times before on this site. Tony’s been a huge supporter of our car club and over the last few years he’s also become a friend. He’s not your typical car guy who just sells them because he’s in the business. Sure, he may take a vehicle home off the lot but it’s not the only Saab in his driveway. His wife and daughter also drive them. He believes in the product he sells for a living enough to put his family into them. That speaks a fair bit to me. He’s been keen to learn about the history of the brand and luckily we have a good spread of historical Saabs here in Tasmania so he’s been able to do that pretty easily.

He’s been an enthusiastic advocate for the club and an interested driver of Saabs since day 1, and it made me wonder what life for our club, as well as for me as an enthusiast, would be like if someone else was in the chair.

It’s a similar story with service. We have an independant workshop here that has one of the best Saab techs in Australia on the tools. Steve E can be called at any time and I know that almost any job he does for me will be fixed 100% the first time. Every car has its gremlins, but I know that Steve will apply all of his considerable knowledge and skill on every job. He cut his teeth working on 99s and 900s and has worked on everything Saab released between then and around 2002. He was the Principal tech at the local dealership until it was sold, when he went to work for an independant workshop. At the dealership they had around 1,100 clients on their books and when he moved, about 1,000 of those clients moved with him.

Last week I had dinner with some people from the New South Wales branch of the Saab Car Club of Australia. One of them had purchased a 2005 model 9-5 brand new. Another of the guys was a service mechanic for Mercedes Benz, but a long-term Saab owner.

It was amazing to hear the contrasting stories about service experience from both of them. Paul, the 9-5 owner, was very disappointed with the local Saab service agent. He’d bought a car from these people brand new and feels that the servicing side of the transaction has been pretty disappointing to say the least. You’re herded in as one of the GM cattle and are treated the same as if you’d purchased a $15,000 Barina. There were greasy finger marks over the engine bay, etc etc.

Simon, the MB service guy, spoke about the MB service ethos as being pretty critical in terms of retaining customers. The service environment, the reporting, the finished car that’s presented back to the customer – all of them play a critical role in how the customer sees the brand and the dealership in particular. A happy customer is one that will think about coming back rather than looking for alternatives, as Paul is (insofar as his scheduled servicing is concerned).

Saab came under the GM umbrella in 2000 but here in Australia at least, they retained some independance in service and parts up until last year. In 2005 this role was taken over by Holden and it’s fair to say it hasn’t always been smooth sailing since. There are some long-time Saab dealerships that have the formula right, but there’s also some Holden dealerships that have had Saab thrust upon them and I fear it’s in these dealerships that the customer experience is less than ideal.

How are things where you are? As mentioned I’m blessed with an enthusiastic dealer and easy access to good, professional service.

What’s it like where you are and has it ever threatened to influence your buying or repeat-buying decisions?

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14 Comments

  1. Sorry about having to run and make fudge m8, but as a Holden and SAAB master tech in Tasmania and only getting paid $15 p/h which was about $3 p/h more than a retard tyre fitter, and having worked so hard to get the service back to where it was when Steve E had it, we won service department for the first 3 years after we had it.

    The new manager swept into the service department at the local dealer and told me I was giving the customers preferential treatment and it had to stop. Needless to say that was the straw that broke my back.

    We then decided to go it alone and do something for ourselves. Sometimes I miss the cars and the challenge of diagnosing a complex problem, but I dont miss being taken for granted and having all my hard work being taken for granted by the bosses.

    I miss all of my old customers and understand that a lot of them are not happy since i left, I encourage them all to go to Steve E.

    And as you know Steve W Watch this space m8 things may change.

  2. For those of you that don’t know, “saabologist” is the other Saab tech I mentioned in the post, the one now making fudge. Pretty darn good fudge it is too.

    Matt, I’d like nothing more than to see you and Steve reaping the business for yourselves instead of lining the pockets of others. If I won the lottery tomorrow the workshop would be all yours.

  3. Well, Swade, I have been blessed with an extremely good SAAB dealer here where I live in the western part of Norway. My dealer; http://www.hellesto.no/, is very on target and proactive. When my car is in for service they always have a replacement car for me ready, or they pick up my car at my office, and they are supporting me with both phonecalls and mails. They even wash my car if I drop in just to say hello. And after a service the car is always cleaned and ready for action. Some years ago (until mid -90)I was driving BMW, but I have never before had such a good experience with a car dealer as I have with my present local SAAB dealer http://www.hellesto.no. My family has the same experience. Both my parents and my brother are now driving SAABs from hellesto.no. We are very pleased indeed!

  4. As a long time Saab owner, who still has a 2002 Saab 9-3, and sold a 2003 Saab 9-5 last year, I can say the service at Saab dealers in the NE United States is atrocious. I now have a 2006 Infiniti M35x and will probably not go back for my first car. The salespeople are clueless and the service operations shoddy. I also own a 2004 Volvo XC70 and the dealer experience is much better than the Saab dealers in the Philadlephia area.
    I was prepared to buy another 9-5 but was simply turned off.

  5. Thanks Steve.
    It makes you wonder what the government are doing about skills shortages though.
    A plumber/electrician/builder earn a fortune,whilst mechanics get shit.No matter how good they are.
    Also in the case of Danni “the pants” she is one of Tasmanias best pastry chefs cake decoraters, a very rare breed of trade,and last Sunday in the Sunday Tasmanian it had her old boss from Lipscombe complaining about having to get chefs from overseas due to the lack of chefs in australia.
    I mean pay us what we are worth and we might stay in the trades.
    Coz i tell you now,we did not set up our own business for the money,we may start making a lot in maybee 10 years when our debts are cleared,but it beats getting used by a greedy boss.
    Now all the awards we have won so far in our first year of business are ours and no-one else can take the rewards from us.
    Like those 3 service department of the year awards that i won to see my Boss who gave me nothing but shit take the trip to Sweeden,fat twat.
    Gee i am an angry mad Welsh/Australian.
    And i miss my Company car being a SAAB,now it’s a Hyundai Getz,soon to be a Mazda 6 diesel wagon.

    Sorry you Saab types but i know how bad the SAAB brand has gotten for reliability especialy in the Diesel area.As the Diesel engine in the SAAB is used in the Rodeo and we have had huge issues with them.

    GM pieces of crap held together with roof screws.
    Dont laugh thats serious,you pull off a panel trim in a Commodore and it is held on with a self cutting roof screw,no treatment to the paintwork underneath and no care taken when fitting it,at least Saabs were put together with some thought,even though they are using some terrible components.
    Dont worry about the garrage for me Steve if you win the Lottery,just buy Saab off G.M before they kill it for good

  6. I had the pleasure, or displeasure depending on how you look at it, of working at my local Saab dealer, Saab of Milford.
    Apparently, it’s heralded as number one in the country, and the CSI scores confirmed this.

    And I have to say, while customers were treated fantastically(Hell, I drove an hour and a half each way to install a piece of trim so the customer wouldn’t have to drive), the management treated the employees like dogs. So many times I’d get a phone call a six in the morning one of my few Saturdays off telling me to come to work or never come back.
    I have a couple friends working at other GM dealers, and they tell me it’s the same way. If you work at a GM dealer, you’d better be okay with being a trained dog.

  7. My 2004 93 is serviced in Houston, TX. So far, everything has been great. Everytime we get the car back it’s been thoroughly cleaned. Also, if they see anything else in the car that I haven’t even mentioned, they replace it. Last time, I went in for a scheduled maintenance and left with new dash nobs for the air conditioner, new button for the glove box, new lug nuts for the rims, and they re-fitted the leather seat covers to make them more taught. Performance Saab in Houston gets an A+.

  8. If you work at a GM dealer, you’d better be okay with being a trained dog.

    WOOF WOOF and i eaven have to lick my own balls

  9. I’ll tell ya, they &#^@ed me in the ass and I never even got a reach around.

    GM wanted them to bring in a couple college kids that were taking the GM training course.

    And there was only one open lift, so out the door I went, and now I’m getting black balled. I can’t even get a job at an indie garage, it’s awful.

  10. some of you would know of my ‘little tiff’ with the service department of this same local dealer (note: saabologist wasn’t the mechanic… that was half the problem). i won’t go into the details but put it this way: i wouldn’t hesitate to buy a car off Tony because he’s a great guy, but forfeit my new car warranty to go to the other guys for servicing.

    unfortunately Saabs require Saab mechanics to service, not Holden mechanics, which is something current service management is forgetting. the Holden ‘takeover’ means that virtually no one at dealerships has any experience with pre-GM takeover Saabs either, which leaves a pretty nasty taste in the mouths of older car owners who just want their cars looked after.

  11. You’re jokin’ me –

    “Sorry about having to run and make fudge m8, but as a Holden and SAAB master tech in Tasmania and only getting paid $15 p/h which was about $3 p/h more than a retard tyre fitter, and having worked so hard to get the service back to where it was when Steve E had it, we won service department for the first 3 years after we had it.”

    Learn to type and I’ll pay you more than that. Thankfully my saabs are old bangers that don’t need to go to the dealer.

  12. Thats right Bill,Customers pay $110 per hour for my labour and i get $15 of that.And now in most workshops due to greedy managers and over zealous OH&S laws we cant even work on our own cars after work hours.The whole auto industry in Australia is in the pits right now,take a look at any service station or car yard.Nothing is moving , sales are down and its getting worse,what we need now is another rate rise.
    You know it makes sense WHAT?

  13. I can tell you that I have visited multiple Saab dealerships in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the service has been mediocre to poor. In general I have found taht the sales representives do not know very much about the cars they are selling, and customer service is lacking. I never got my car washed, and always got it back with greasy hands on my steering wheel or knobs. I always try and go to my indie when I can, where I don’t feel like just another processed customer. I’d say the dealers in my part of the US have got some work to do.

  14. Sounds like the dealers in the NEUS might have some work to do. Strange considering it’s one of Saab’s key NA markets. Scary for the same reason.

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