I found a Saab blog yesterday that I’d never seen before. The particularly interesting thing about it is that it’s written by a Saab dealer. And not just any Saab dealer, but America’s oldest dealership – Charles River Saab, of Watertown, Ma.
Maybe I’m just late to the party and hadn’t heard of it, but it’s been a refreshing discovery. The posts are quite infrequent and started back in 2004, when the whole blogging thing was quite new. And what we have here is a nice little time capsule of thoughts about various vehicles and personalities within SaabUSA.
Here’s some favourites, but I’d encourage you to click through and read the entire blog. You could read every post in one sitting and it’s a brilliant insight. Hearing the Saab Performance Team express regrets about having no Talladega event in 2006, and then reading the thoughts from this corporate blog makes me feel that in contrast to a lot of the corporate spin we get from GM, the feelings of the Saab enthusiasts outside the company are very similar to those Saab enthusiasts inside the company.
From the beginning….
Welcome to our SAAB blog. If there was ever an automobile that inspired enough passion and intense loyalty that it merited a blog, it is SAAB.
What is a SAAB? It is not the availability of a hatchback. It is not the location of the ignition switch. It is not even a turbocharger. No, what makes a SAAB—any SAAB—a SAAB is the core values that define the philosophy of its execution as an automobile. Twenty years ago, those essential SAAB pillars were revealed to me by Ralph Skinder, whose relationship with the SAAB brand goes back to the earliest days of SAAB in the United States. Simply put, he told me that there were five key elements in every SAAB: safety (both active and passive), performance, comfort, utility and efficiency. There are a couple of other attributes that come to mind: important ones, like durability and uniqueness. But those five create the backdrop to every SAAB to have ever graced our roads.
On the 9-2x:
The 9-2X, by contrast, is very good looking. That, coupled with a modest price tag and great performance, will position the 9-2X to do well in the marketplace. The only question is…who will want this car?
The good news, I think, is that it will attract new customers to the Saab brand. Hard-core Saab enthusiasts will hate this car. But then, the hard core loyalists have hated virtually every new car Saab has put on the road….for a time.
There’s a very interesting comparison between the 1984 c900 and the 2004 9-3 Sport Sedan.
I’ll refer to this in another post later.
Alluding to the versatility of Saab ownership:
I love to drive (good thing since I commute 90 miles a day). I drive….enthusiastically. But I also drive safely. These are not mutually exclusive, especially in a Saab!
On driver training:
My interest in automotive safety was rekindled when I was introduced to Stevens Advanced Driver Training (www.skidschool.com) . Not only did attending their classes raise my skill level, but it made me painfully aware of how dangerous our roadways are. I am now a Stevens devotee and for those who don’t know, I try to organize two classes per year for my customers at Stevens, and I would encourage every driver to seek their training. I had long thought I was a really good driver, that I understood the physics of an automobile and of driving. Boy, was I wrong.
On being a car salesman:
The reason I left sales in the first place was that I refused to lie, and it cost me business. Yet I would see bold-faced liars making promises and statements that were 100% bull….and these guys sold cars. Lots of them. People would rather hear a lie that makes them feel better than the truth that disappoints them…..but then they want to complain because they’ve been lied to! This explains the phenomenon of politicians, tel-evangelists, corporate CEOs, media and entertainment figures who get caught in their lies, and it costs them nothing! Nothing! And this is the populace that wants to cast aspersions at some lowly salespeople. That’s just too funny.
On the possibility of Saab being sold, rumoured a few years ago, or being moved out of Sweden after a sale of the Trollhattan plant:
If Trollhattan is indeed to close and the brand stays within the GM portfolio, as GM’s only global premium car division, look for many diverse GM products to wear the Saab moniker. Besides Saabarus and Saablazers, maybe we’ll have a Saab/Cadillac, called the 9CTS5, or a version of the Opel Kappa, we could call it the 9K, and maybe a Saab/Hummer…..OK, I’ll stop.
At the introduction of the 9-7x:
The interior is a different matter. Overall, it’s well done. I appreciate, that as opposed to the 9-2x that has no Saab DNA in its interior, that the 9-7x interior designers made an effort here, with mixed results. The ignition in the console, the 9-5 cupholder in the dash, the color of the wood, the design of the dash vents, and even the printing on the dash switches all look very Saab. However, you can’t just pull an instrument pod, no matter how good and how complete, out of the parts bin and fool people.
On the resignation of Debra Kelly-Ennis:
Ding dong the witch is dead…I won’t contain my glee. During her tenure as the COO of Saab Cars USA, I never publicly criticized Debra Kelly-Ennis. As of her departure on April 1, 2005, she is fair game.
….and a little more on Saab General Managers
To the Saab enthusiast, any Saab president (or COO, CEO GM or whatever the nom du jour is)has large and legendary shoes to fill. Saab’s first president was Ralph Millet, the Hingham resident who first brought Saab to these shores. The most notable president, and perhaps the most successful was Bob Sinclair during the Orange, Connecticut years. Bob had enormous charisma, loved cars, loved Saab and had to testicular fortitude to make bold decisions.
On the 9-5:
I think if consumers got past their fixation with ‘new’, there would be a lot more 9-5’s on the road.
In Feb last year when Jerry York was suggesting Saab should go:
Just got back from an industry convention – NADA, or the National Automobile Dealers Association – and I wanted to pass along some news on Saab and its future. You all have probably heard the rumblings about GM’s commitment to Saab – especially new Board of Directors’ member Jerry York’s opinion that GM should get rid of the Saab brand – and whether Saab will be jettisoned or closed down. Well I am glad to report that Saab and GM management confronted this issue head-on this past weekend.
Jay Spenchian – Saab’s General Manager – as well as the CEO, Director of Sales and Director of Marketing of GM, all made firm and unequivocal statements that Saab is an important part of GM and its future. But beyond the words, if you sat in at the official Saab Franchise Meeting, there was an energy and a positive vibe that was quite encouraging.
In defence of GM when it comes to Saab’s interiors:
Thus he insinuates that some of the crummy interior materials are there because of GM. Is it his contention that nobody in Trollhattan had anything to do with interior? That interior was designed by Michael Mauer’s team, not some good ol’ boys from Detroit. The interior is sub-par for the car, but that is not a GM problem. How about the Saabs of old and their interiors? Mr. Ford views Saab’s past through rose colored glasses. The interior of a classic 900 is filled with bits and pieces that looked like they were spec’d from an army surplus manual. There is nothing cohesive about the mix of parts and materials in those old cars. It is pure funk.
On Jay Spenchian’s move away from Saab:
I must say that I will miss Jay. He was the most accessible Saab chief in a long, long time, and one of the very few who sincerely understood the brand. Before Jay worked at Saab, and when he first joined GM, he requested a Saab 9-5 as his company car, to the astonishment of his co-workers. His reason? It was the best car in the GM portfolio.