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?