Consumer Reports cops it but Saab not off the hook

I’ve written about my dissatisfaction with Consumer Reports several times on this site. This American consumer organisation issues surveys to registered members and then compiles data received and issues that are pretty widely read and noticed.

The problem I’ve had with their surveys (which Saab rarely fare well in) is that items aren’t weighted and it’s only conducted among CR members, who I reckon are more predisposed to complaining about everything anyway.

The Autoprophet has covered a story where Consumer Reports finally receive the butt-kicking they regularly hand out to others.

When Consumer’s Union (Consumer Reports) reported that the majority of infant seats they tested failed a side impact crash test, NHTSA was horrified and sprang into action. They tested samples of the same car seats that CU was claiming failed–and they couldn’t duplicate CU’s results. NHTSA deduced that CU had tested an equivalent of a 70mph side impact, not a 38mph side impact…..

….I have always been suspicious of Consumer Reports “scientific” methods–they don’t reveal details of their testing, use tiny sample sizes, and inject (mostly liberal) politics into their conclusions. For example, CU apparently gives the same weight to a burnt out lightbulb on a new car as a non functioning ABS system–both are “problems”. Obviously, one is major and one is not.

And that, in the last paragraph, has been one of my concerns with Consumer Reports.

An audience prone to activism, potentially small sample sizes and questionable data values. This makes for some questionable results, but they’re still widely read and respected, and therein lies the problem.

Those child-seat companies all suffered a shock smear on their reputations, just like a number of vehicle manufacturers (and I’m sure other product manufacturers as well) and it’s all at the whim of a basically flawed group.

It’s good to see them caught out on this occasion.


But that, buy no means, lets Saab off the hook.

Quality is an occasional problem, and here’s an honest look at one guys disappointing experience.

His name is Todd and he purchased a 9-3 Sport Sedan in Aero form last year. He got a great salesman who knew the brand quite well, but in a story I’ve heard too many times recently, his service people let the team down.

From his personal blog:

The car was in amazing condition when it was delivered. The car had almost all the options I wanted….

….Everything went well for the first 8k KMs or so. After that point, a few things started to reveal themselves. The dash is a lot of hard plastic on hard plastic. So when you go over bumps, the dash has a plastic squeak. The doors have components in them that rattle (when going over bumps or when the stereo is at higher volume with bass). The passenger door speaker seems to be shot and when you start the car in the extreme cold (-10 and below C) the car emits a high pitched tone from the dash. Being as busy that I am, I wasn’t in the mood nor did I have the time to take the car to the dealership for repair.

16,000 KMs roll around and the car tells me it needs servicing. The manual says this is a standard service check including oil change and once over on the car…..

….A week later I’m at the service center……Fortunately the dealership had decent wifi, so I could actually get some work done. 3 hours and $1,700 later the car was mine again. Those high performance winter tires cost a fortune.

On my way home, I have a what the f*ck moment. All of the warranty issues that I asked the dealership to address were not taken care of–not even close. And it was obvious that they didn’t even take a look because every single issue was still present. I’m annoyed at this point but I don’t have more time to waste at the dealership, so I put things off.

I just hit 25,000 KMs in just under 6 months. I love the car, but I’m annoyed by these seemingly small issues that haven’t been repaired under warranty…..

Todd, I hope you get your issues fixed soon as the Aero’sone heck of a great ride.

And Saab, I hope you’re still working on this, especially for the next 9-3.

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  1. My 2004 Aero has been a similar experience. It was the best SAAB I’ve ever owned until around 10K miles at which point the interior seemed to begin coming apart. Not that pieces were falling off but everything seemed to just loosen up a bit too much resulting in squeaks, rattles and vibrations when passing over broken pavement. This is not something any dealer can do much about as it would be a never ending search for the latest rattle. On the other hand I’ve had no problems with my service experience other than a yet unresolved electric issue that’s thankfully resolved itself (for now). I do hope that SAAB will take CR’s ratings seriously even if they are flawed – it doesn’t matter if people are still paying attention to them when making car buying decisions.

  2. At least his dealership didn’t dump air freshener into the left side vent and driver’s carpet of his 2006 9-3 Aero. The plastic on my dash was melted. The mats had to be replaced. The carpet had to be steam-washed. Luckily, all repairs were done under warranty. BUT … the car still smells. I probably need the carpets replaced.

    The funny thing, I took it my 9-3 in for the Tech II change to go to recirc when window washer fluid was used to cut the alcohol smell. The dealer had the word “smell” on the write-up. They tried to blame me for using the air freshener.

    Their internal investigation revealed an improper vendor sample my have been in the detailing department. I’m done with this dealer. I’m most likely done with Saab. I have no choice in dealers. I’d go Merc, BMW, or Audi. But those dealers in my area are even bigger frauds than Saab’s.

  3. I also read the article about the article about car seats in Consumer Reports, and have to tell you that I was pleased. I subscribed to Consumer Reports back in the 80’s. It is a good magazine for rating dishwashers, small appliances and things like that, but I never paid much attention to their auto ratings. They were always recommending dull, uninteresting cars, mostly made by the Japanese. But I finally quit subscribing when I got fed up with their leftward bias. OK, they are located in New York, so what do your expect?

    As for SAAB quality, my 2004 9-3 Linear continues to have problems. A bad battery that left me stranded in an airport parking lot at midnight, burnt our headlight, recalls, power lock switch malfunction (twice), seat belt retractor malfunction, and service notifications well before actually needed. The service department has been excellent, I have literally not paid a dime for repairs. But it is still frustrating to constantly have small things going wrong. SAAB needs to clean up their quality and get their reputation back where it ought to be.

  4. Agreed, Sam.

    I’m pleased to hear that you’ve had a better service experience. I know they’re not all bad and there’s some good Saab specialits out there, but if the Australian experience is anything to go by, there’s a lot of dealers servicing Saab that don’t really want the work and not all of them have the proper training for Saab.

    Most enthusiasts I know go to private, non-authorised workshops.

    I am genuinely pleased to hear you’ve got a good one, though.

  5. While I agree that the non-weighted nature of the CR reporting methodology is a detriment, it should not be completely thrown-out either.

    SAAB is still graded on the same scale as its competitors, so it should score accordingly or better, IMHO.

  6. My problem with CR was a comparison test they did a year ago that included a Saab 9-3 2.0T.

    The Saab was the cheapest car tested by almost $10k (American). They complained that the Saab didn’t have as much power as a BMW 330!

    I wrote CR and asked why they didn’t test an Aero (that would have still been the cheapest car tested) that would have been in the same league in terms of power. They never answered me.

    If you are a member, you can get into the CR Opinion page where most of the people with Saabs disagree with the CR reviews.

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