I live in what once was a thriving Saab town.
That trophy now sits on my window sill. It’s the 1998 Rural Customer Service Award and it was won by Kingsway Motors, a former Saab dealership here in Tasmania.
The guys behind Kingsway sold the dealership shortly after winning this award. They’d had a great run. Kingsway Motors was located in one of the more affluent suburbs here in Hobart, a spot called Sandy Bay. They had a small showroom just off the main street but that’s all they needed. They had a loyal local customer base and they served them well.
Around 1999, the dealership was bought by the Jackson Motor Company, who were primarily Ford dealers located in the north of the state. They wanted a foot in the door here in the south and the Kingsway purchase was their golden opportunity.
They never really wanted the Saab franchise – they wanted the real estate. They were absolutely hopeless when it came to Saab. I don’t know if they finally wriggled out of their dealership contract or if it was taken from them, but around a year or so later the Saabs were moved out and a bunch of new Volkswagens moved in.
The Kingsway guys didn’t get their service award for nothing. They had one of the best Saab mechanics in the country working for them. Steve E trained on Saabs from a young age, cutting his teeth on 99s and 900s.
How good is he, exactly?
Well, after Jacksons took over Kingsway, Steve wasn’t wanted and went to work for another workshop here in Hobart. At Kingsway they had 1,100 Saab clients on their books. Steve took 1,000 of those with him to his new employer just by word of mouth.
Given that things were so poor at the new Jackson-owned Saab dealership, it came as no surprise when it was finally relinquished. The responsibility for Saab in Tasmania was taken over by a company called Motors, who were the Holden and Hyundai dealers here in Tasmania. Prior to Saab coming on board they also sold BMWs from the same showroom as Holden.
The guy in charge of their BMW section was Tony B, and he took over the responsibilities for Saab as well when they came on board and BMW moved out. Motors re-fitted one of their excess spaces as a Saab Ultimate dealership and for about a year or so all looked beautiful. It wasn’t quite so beautiful behind the scenes, but it looked good.
Even with the new 9-3 Sport Sedan released, sales of Saabs weren’t enough to sustain the floorspace that Saab were given at Motors, so they moved down the road to share the Holden space.
Fast forward a few years to 2007…..
The Motors group have never been totally sold on Saab. A limited range has meant limited sales and in many ways, Motors treated Saab as a brand that had been thrust upon them rather than one they would have by choice. Tony B stayed loyal to Motors and to Saab through some very hard times. Earlier this year he felt the need to advance his career and applied for the Holden Sales Manager job that was advertised at Motors, where he’d been a successful operator for 14 years.
Tony is a fantastic car guy with a great manner and thorough product knowledge. He was the #2 rural Saab dealer in Australia – and yet Motors still passed him over when it came to the Holden job. Around the same time, the BMW Sales Manager job became available and Tony was successful with his application. He started there this week.
A few years ago, Motors also had a specialist factory trained Saab mechanic, Matt G. He’s often seen on this blog as “Saabologist”. Matt got sick of the way Motors pressured him in the workplace – pressure that led to corners being cut in the service dept. He left there a few years ago to take over a small business with his Mrs, who is simply known as “The Pants”.
As I write this on Friday, April 13, the old Kingsway building is now empty and available for lease. Jackson Motor Company has built a new showroom and are selling Audi and Volkswagen from there.
So we now have an empty building where Saabs were successfully sold for years, a premier Saab salesman working for BMW and one of the best Saab mechanics in the country servicing out-of-warranty Saabs for someone else’s business and making that guy heaps of money in the process. Our other premier Saab mechanic is making (delicious) fudge for a living and doing the occasional wrench job here and there.
Something’s very wrong with this picture.