Saab and the USA

Here’s a question I’d love to ask Jan-Ake Jonsson and get a straight answer to.

How prevalent are the perceived concerns and trends in the US market as Saab prepare their next round of new vehicles, and ongoing vehicle development in general?

The US remains Saab’s biggest market, but is it the most important market as Saab look to the future?

The US market is incredibly fluid. Trends and expectations fluctuate quite freely from year to year and it’s a place where the one who makes the most noise can sometimes be seen as the most successful.

Although I’m not from around there, I think it’s fair to say this isn’t necessarily the European way. Many car companies just couldn’t get their heads around operating in the US or building cars to suit the US. They pulled out of the US market as a result. Companies like Peugeot, Renault, Citroen, Fiat and most notably, Alfa Romeo.

All of these companies have been pretty successful since, even without a US presence. They design cars for their core market and retain some definite DNA as a result.

I remember some comments from Jay Spenchian in the last few years to the effect that SaabUSA do actually have a fair amount of influence over vehicle development due to the large percentage of sales share they provide.

Many people complain that Saab have lost a proportion of their identity since the 100% acquisition by GM back in 2000. Here’s an example of that, from Metacool back in 2004 (thx for the link, Ted):

Where do brands come from? What we call “brand” is the sum of all the decisions you make to shape a user’s experience of your offerings. Brands are designed and built layer by layer over time. As I’ve written before, your brand does not define the character of your offerings. Instead, your offerings (and the layers of sales, service, support, and meaning creation surrounding them) define your brand.

Want a strong, vibrant brand? Make “brand building” the job of your product development group and your brand team. If you still need convincing, just think about the incredible amount of brand equity created by Sixten Sason over the course of his career at Hasselblad and Saab, and how quickly Saab lost it once his influence was gone.

I’m not suggesting here that Saab should consider pulling out of the US market – let me make that clear. But I do wonder if some of the perceived ‘dumbing down’ of the 9-3 and 9-5 was an attempt to cast a wider net in the US. And if so, at what cost to the Saab brand?

Do Saab have the ability to design cars to their own specifications within a certain budget, and if not, what might they do differently if they did have that freedom?

—–

IMPORTANT!

If you’re going to comment on this, try and keep it objective. This site will get plenty of visits from both sides of the pond while I’m asleep. I’d like to know we haven’t started World War III.

Whilst this is unavoidably a discussion about differing preferences and cultures, please make sure you treat the topic and each other respectfully.

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27 Comments

  1. Good point … especially when you consider the players that have **seriously** considered pulling out of the US market in the not-to-distant past (Volkswagen, Audi) both of which seemed to have a much larger presence here than any of the examples you mentioned. If VW can’t surve here, having become a quasi-american icon of sorts since the 60s, then perhaps the US market does create too much of a strain for some automakers … the flip side is, if you hit the wave just right, New Beetle, TT/A4, Mini, Miata, Boxter etc. you almost don’t have to succeed anywhere but here.

  2. … now that I read my comment back to myself, it is also a good defense of bringing back the hatch. It made the 9-3/900 different, and one of Saab’s perceived problems is that the 9-3 and 9-5 are just too similar. Have the 9-3 be the sportier model with the convertible and the hatch, the 9-5 your more traditional sports sedan … then make a few more siblings that each have a clear niche (a spritely 2 seat “touring car,” a crossover and maybe even bring the Aero X into production as your marquee vehicle — if GM has the fortitude to have a Corvette killer in their own “family” once again.)

  3. This is not the first time I’ve seen/read the “preception” that 9-3 and 9-5 are too similar. I just don’t get it! I ahve a ’06 9-3 Combi and my wife has a ’04 9-5 Sportwagon and they could NOT be two more different vehicles. Could the sedan versions be MORE similar. Does the fact that thye are wagons make then that much more different??? I just can’t imagine that it would be any different than the similarities (or lack thierof) between 3 & 5 series… Maybe I feel this way becasue I have both SAABs but don’t have any BMWs?

  4. Swade:

    I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this over the course of many years driving C900s. Why didn’t America embrace this car? What would it take?

    First off, understand one thing about the US market: no single brand or single type of vehicle or even a single car company has hegemony in a market this big. It simply isn’t realistic.

    Secondly, the US market is so big that even a tiny share of the market is still a very large number of vehicles sold. This is why companies like Saab and Subaru stay around and why Alfa Romeo will be back shortly.

    Third, Peugot, Renault, Fiat and Alfa pulled out of the US market due to the regulatory environment rather than true lack of interest or vehicles sold. The truth is this: Germany, Sweden, the UK, etc. had expectations that closely met or exceeded the US regulations for safety and environmental compliance in their home markets, thus qualifying their vehicles for sale in the US was not difficult. Getting French and Italian cars up to US regulations required a great deal of redesign, and for the volume of cars sold here that cost didn’t make sense. You can add on top of that the number of warranty claims against them here (Peugot in particular). Renault found a way to remain in the market by proxy through their relationship with AMC and then Chrysler; they are still doing it through their relationship with Nissan.

    Finally, I disagree about the ‘make the noise’ assertion. Sure, noise drives sales here, but it does everywhere. Our ‘noise’ may seem a little different, but if you don’t think that Audi makes noise in Germany, you’re kidding yourself. Ditto Holden in Australia, etc.

    Six things that are different about the US market:
    1. The US market is dominated by GM and Ford, and, to a lesser extent, Chrysler. These companies are either absent or completely different in other world markets. Therefore, the competitive landscape is very different here.
    2. The country is so vast that we use our cars a bit differently than other people around the world do. We commute farther, on average, than anyone else. We have much more open road than anyone else. And, due to urban sprawl (something that I dislike), we have to use our cars for virtually every little errand throughout the day.
    3. Historically, right or wrong, our cars have been bigger. This dates back to the earliest days of the automotive industry, so don’t go blaming the SUV empidemic (which is on the wane, by the way). I believe that this is the direct result of our country being much, much younger than others on the whole, meaning that we didn’t have to ‘fit’ the cars to narrow streets and lanes that existed for horse-and-buggy — we were a wide-open expanse with plenty of room for those bigger cars.
    4. The market is so large that people are used to having a very wide variety of choices.
    5. Americans are bigger than others, for the most part. I again believe that this is a factor in the French and Italian (and early Japanese cars) failure in the US — they were designed for people smaller than we are. Of course, Swedes, Germans and British people are our ancestors (among others), so they build cars for people our size.
    6. Gasoline is cheap. Even with the prices going up (around $2.60 near me), we are still at about half the price or less than it is elsewhere.

    How does this affect cars sold in the US?
    1. Americans want what they want. If one marque doesn’t build a car they like, another one will. Simple.
    2. Americans want bigger, more powerful cars. We spend more time in our cars than any other culture, so we want to be comfortable. And we want to be able to use it around town and to haul the boat 60 miles to the lake on Saturday and to drive 800 miles (1300 km) day to get to our vacation destination. 800 miles just gets me to Disney World, and I’m closer than about 70% of the country’s population! Others my drive two 800-mile days to get there. Those are Danni numbers, believe me!
    3. It’s inconvenient to buy a European car for many in the US. Because America is so vast, the dealer network is very, very important to all car manufacturers. In an average state like Tennessee (we rank around 20th of 50 states in population and land mass) there are only three Saab dealers. Heck, there are three Toyota dealers within 15 miles of my house! If you think that someone who lives in a smaller city will buy a Saab, forget it! When I was living in San Angelo, Texas with my first Saab, I had to drive 3.5 hours to get to the nearest Saab dealership! No local mechanic would touch the thing. This is a hard reality for most European makes — they simply cannot access a very large segment of the US population due to geography.
    4. American cars really aren’t that bad. In the 1970’s and 1980’s they were, for sure. In the 1990’s they improved. Now they are good and getting better everyday. Euros, beat me up about this all that you want to, but the reality remains: if you had the option of buying a Bimmer for $40,000, a Saab for $34,000 or a bigger, more powerful, more convenient Chevrolet or Ford for $27,000, you’d freakin’ buy the Chevy eight times out of ten, too.

    That’s my spiel. I haven’t even gotten into cost of maintenance, parts price gouging (Saab was notorious in the 80’s!) and other factors, but we’ll save those for another time.

  5. Steven:

    Nobody says that the 9-3 and 9-5 are the same. I’m glad that you find them so different, frankly.

    However, their dimensions and performance are very similar for two cars of supposedly different classes and decidedly different price tags.

    Consider this: How different are the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Camry? How different are the Lexus I-series and the Lexus 300 or 400 series?

  6. my impression, albeit half-baked, most likely, and sleep deprived, definitely, is that all saab/gm sketches must pass the “lutz litmus test”–which appears to be based on lutz’s absolute subjectivity and, thus, cannot be codified. granted…matters of taste.

    not surprising to me, that test seems to have tangible results: ever notice the commonality of a jubilant bob lutz and the new 2-seaters from caddy, saturn, and pontiac?–they all seem to have the same “grin.” …can’t say i blame him–i’d like looking at a familiar “trait,” too.

    so, i’m not sure how saab can control its “identity” if “detroit” is the epicenter of the perspective.

  7. Being an American, I have to say that if I want an American car, then I would have a Malibu instead of my 03 9-3 SS. American cars are not to my liking in general. I am not saying they are better or worse, but as mentioned above, there is a lot of choice here and I choose a car that is not designed specifically to American tastes. If SAAB starts designing all their cars to a broad America taste (i.e. 9-7X) then I will be looking elsewhere for my next car. I love my SAAB because it is Swedish by design, not American.

  8. Its hard to run when GM keeps Saabs pants pulled down around their ankles. The number of markets Saab is NOT in or under- represented is negligent. Esp in the south Saab might get a pimpy little sign on the building at most Caddy,GMC,Buick,Pontiac dealers. In LexKY that dealer is a Caddy/Volvo dealer with a plastic Saab sign in the window and two new cars.

    Why GM spends so much ad dough on Pontiac and Saturn chasing $20K customers?

    Improvements on 93SS need to be put in 95…ReAxs, the “key”, etc….Saabized GMC Acadia for the 97? Oh and as always Diesels.

  9. Fred:

    GM most certainly doesn’t keep Saab bottled up for spite.

    And, both Saturn and Pontiac likely out sell Saab 20 to 1. That’s the reason that they get the advertising.

    Finally, I agree with you on the dealership network issue. That’s the reason for the 9-7x.

  10. I found your article very interesting and thought provoking. As someone from the “other” side of the pond of course I do not agree with all the points. As someone who has been around Saab’s for close to 20 years I do not know if I would say there is a perception of the 9-3 and 9-5 being dumbed down at all. As was mentioned the public’s taste is fluid and all one has to do is look at the top selling car here in the United States…the bar of soap on wheels Toyota Camry. Saab’s problem is they are too slow to change. Instead of being percieved as a cutting edge technology driven company(which they should be) Saab always seems to be the one playing catch up. Whether it be specific technologies, or model offerings Saab is always responding and not really anticipating these trends.
    As for Saab losing their identity when GM bought Saab? Which identity,the one that when you went to pay for your service bill you would need to take out a loan from the bank or is the identity in which Saab lost close to $12000 on every car sold here in the US? If anything GM’s influence i.e. money has made Saab continue to be a viable alternative to the usual suspects. As well as reducing ownership costs,increasing warranty coverage,etc. If that is “dumbing down” lets have more. There is more to a cars brand image than a hatchback. And I can assure you a hatchback will not be the cure for what ills Saab. Would it help?? Of course. But being second to last in the latest reliability scores which for the last few years have been trending downwards fast would be a good place to start. Sadly, that is the major perception and reality here in the U.S. People want a good,safe,RELIABLE,car. You will not find a bigger fan of the Saab brand than me but at a certain point you have to deal with the pink elephant in the middle of the room!!

  11. I live in the US, and I couldn’t agree more about diluting the Saab Gene pool. Or dumbing down as you put it. As for the brand theory and what not, it’s a difficult thing to understand. brands are sort of like the cliche, which came first, the chicken or the egg.

    In the past, Saab had a great product that built the brand to what it is. (I am excluding ‘today’ at the end of this b/c Gm is exploiting Saab’s past aviation heritage and it’s just not right). Saab’s problem lies in the fact that GM has it’s tight grip around our beloved brand. I do not want everyone driving a Saab. It is a unique car/brand and unique (well informed) individuals should drive them. GM ideology is the opposite, they want everyone and their brother driving one, thus the dilution of the brand. This is where I get frustrated. The only way saab will free itself from this grip is if saab becomes successful again all according to GM’s short sighted plans. I am at the point where I would like to see Saab become saab once more, or just close the darn doors.
    k

    I am beginning to think that Gm should just close up saab. I am tired of them ruining the brand. The p

  12. After reading some more comments, I wanted to also agree that Saab is too slow on the upkeep. They used to be the leader in safety, environment thinking and so forth. A concept car that has to be plugged in or switched on (I may add) isn’t going to keep you in the forefront. They need to get the E85, diesel and whatever other energy efficient tricks they have up their sleeves in production no matter the dollar sign. Oh, and bring back the C900 in a ‘Green’ sort of way. Kind of like what Toyota is doing with the Prius. You want to see high sales, I think it would work.

  13. I have to say that I agree, but also dissagre.

    The main problem is spelled – losses for SAAB, aged 9-5 (that due to improvements made on the 9-3 make the 9-5 comparable and not a step up).

    GM has (generally, forget the 9-2 and to some extent the 9-7. Both these vehicles have showed that bad(ge) enginering is not the way to go) done a good job. The 9-3 is a great car, and if the folks in Trollhattan would not have scrued it up spending to much money on changes that no-one could notice we would have had the SC 3 years ago and maybe other versions of the car as well.

    The key to the future is more models on the same platform. GM have a unique possition here. They have enought brands to tailor the product to a specific group, enought size to acheive economics of scale etc. They just have to do it!

    SAAB also have to work with the quality (given that Swade would not recoment a 2003 9-3 tells you something), improve the interior quality and bring the 9-4 and 9-2, not to mention a new 9-5 to the market.

    Everytime a saab customer is about the change car, the only choises are similar, and that is simply not enought.

  14. I hope no one mis-understood, I didn’t mean that I thought the hatch would “save Saab” … I just proposed that it would make the difference between the models more evident. Also, I’m not particularly fond of the 9-5s nose redesign, but I was ecstatic to see more distinction between the 9-5 and 9-3 front ends. There were many years that it wasn’t easy discern between a 9-3 or 9-5, especially when you were both doin’ 75 mph (or more) in opposite directions.

  15. I think that Saab should consciously try to avoid doing “American” designs if they want to do well in the US.
    VW learned this the hard way in the early 1980’s: they started colour-coordinating crushed-velour fabrics with headliners and dashes, built a Rabbit pickup truck, etc, and saw their sales disappear. This made them close-up shop in the US (as far as manufacturing is concerned).
    They only got back in the game once they made their cars “German” again.

    Let’s face it, if you live in the US and want an American-style car, you’ve got lots of choice.
    There is a very large public in the US for cars that don’t fit the mainstream. This is the market that Saab needs to win over.
    The only way to do that is to make their cars as Swedish and distinctive as possible.

    No one who is shopping for an Osmobuick Gutless Supreme will ever buy a Saab. No one who might buy a Saab wants it to be more like a Mercury.

  16. People buy what they want. If someone really wants a Saab, they’ll go out and buy one. If someone really wants a Pontiac, they’ll go out and buy one. If someone really wants a reliable sport-ute with 14 cupholders and a built-in Easy-Bake oven, they’ll go out and buy one. My point is that once you get past all of the “enthusiasts” like us who love certain cars for certain reasons, you have general American populace that buys cars because they suit their needs and their wallets. The reason that Chevy and Saturn are volume sellers is because they have a car to suit pretty much everyone’s needs. Saab doesn’t, and it never will. This means that Saab should focus on retaining their core Saabist market, and gaining new converts through new models and improvements to their old models. The fact is that not very many people are looking for sport sedans and wagons that are kind of like BMW/Volvo mutants but have huge perceived reliability problems.

  17. The one thing about U.S. that scares me is that maybe Saab think about it too much. True, it’s a big market. But to succeed you have to either 1) have a really strong European brand and sell overpriced car to rich people, or 2) sell true American cars (middle-of-the-road sedans, pickup trucks etc., or 3) sell cheaper Japanese cars for those how don’t like expensive European cars or big American cars. At least, that’s my Swedish view of it… 🙂

    Why did Saab get a foothold in the U.S. market? I think it was because of the 900 vert and hatchback. It was weird, different and European and some people just wanted that. And since it’s a big market and there are lots of individuals (by that I mean people how live the “American dream” and want to be different), that was enough to establish a market that begun to be important for the brand.

    After the old 900, I don’t think Saab has been able to reach out to these customers again. Saab models today are not iconic like the old 900 – or cars like the Beetle, the Mini…

    I want Saab to be iconic again, because to me that means that they are true European and not just “another brand”. But I’m afraid that by looking to closely to the U.S. numbers and feeling the pressure to sell more, they start playing the American game and sell more crowd pleasure (I think it’s called…) with big engines, lots of gadgets and so on. And then I think they will loose the weird European style – and then loose market shares in Europe.

    Because I see Europe as really important. And the numbers in some places are pathetic. In January, they sold 290 cars in Germany. 290! In a car-crazy neighbour country with about 80 Million people! That borders to criminal! How is it possible? Even in U.K (a market with more smaller and cheaper cars) Saab sold 1.500. January in Europe (not counting Sweden) was about 5.000 for Saab. That is not much for such a big market. I think there are so much to do in countries like Germany, Poland, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands… They are strong economies with lots of middle class people. They should move 2.000 in Sweden, 1.500 in UK, 1.000 in Germany, 1.000 in France, 500 in Italy, 500 in Spain, 500 in Poland… I mean, selling about 10.000 a month in the whole of Europe should not be impossible. That’s 120.000 a year in Europe alone. Add to that another 2000 a month in the U.S., and soon you hit 150.000 a year.

    Work on Europe. Build something iconic and it will sell in the U.S. just because it’s different. But don’t try to hard to please the U.S. market yet.

  18. The lack of AWD is killing Saab in the U.S. – it’s no accident that the strongest Saab markets are also the areas that get the most snow in the winter. FWD was the key selling point for Saab in the 1960’s. But today Subaru and Audi are eating into Saab’s winter-handling advantage in the snow and ski areas.

    The flip side to that is that FWD is a positive disadvantage in the rest of the U.S. market. BMW in particular cleans up in California, Texas, Florida, and the rest of the Sun Belt because of the superior driving dynamics of RWD.

    No AWD to be competitive in the Snow Belt, and no RWD to be competitive in the Sun Belt is a real problem in the U.S. market.

    (Notice that AWD fixes both problems — improving both perceived winter traction in the North and performance-at-the-limit in the South)

    Saabs do have some comparative advantages from a U.S. perspective. Saabs are great long-distance cruisers. Absolutely the best seats in the industry (I don’t know why Saab don’t advertise about the seats — seat comfort is a huge, huge issue for cars and it’s been a Saab advantage for decades. I realize that an average focus group is not going to rate seat quality as a criteria influencing a decision to purchase, but OTOH virtually everyone who sits in a Saab for the first time says or at least thinks, “hey, great seats!”).

    Also the large, flat torque curve you get from turbocharging also fits U.S. driving preferences, especially now that turbo lag and torque steer have been substantially reduced.

    But AWD can’t get here fast enough. Assuming that Saab doesn’t overprice AWD as an option, I’ll bet as many as 50 percent of Saabs sold here in the U.S. will be AWD.

    The perceived reliability problem is a real one, and it’s a problem for Saab because it doesn’t sell enough cars in this market to overcome the perception.

    But mostly reliability is a secondary obstacle for an American considering Saab – if the car is compelling Americans will buy it (e.g., the classic 900 in the mid-80’s). OTOH if Saab is another “me, too” near-luxury car, consumers will minimize their risk and buy an Acura or Infiniti.

  19. I see a lot of mentions above of the c900. All I can add is , after looking at the “Silver Sled”, please Saab, make another car like that! I agree that AWD is a must, but otherwise I think Saab should stay FWD for the reasons Kaz mentioned in the “Saab Vs BMW coming soon…” article in which he finished with “I love my Saab 🙂 And it loves me 🙂 🙂 :)” Couldn’t agree more.

  20. I dont think of SSAb as being dumbbed down, I think of the brand as being “diluted” to appeal to a broad market. I have said before and I say it again, how do SAAB sell more cars with out losing their identity?

    The c900 did not have a broad appeal no matter how much we like it. Is that a bad thing? I am guessing that for us the answer is no and for a SAAB sales person the answer is yes…

  21. eggs, great comments. I don’t think folks in other parts of the world realize how competitive the US market is. We have a lot of choice and we expect our cars to be reliable. This is the main reason Renault, Alfa etc failed in this market. When the gas crunch hit in the 70’s the Japanese companies had reliable fuel efficient cars to sell. The European manufactures could not touch the Japanese companies in regards to quality. Honda and Toyota in particular may make some boring cars but they run forever. Americans generally will not put up with poor quality just to drive something “special”. As eggs mentioned the lack of dealership coverage hurts SAAB tremendously. The average buyer is not going to drive 2 hours to get their oil changed.

  22. Since this column is about “Saab and the USA” and that’s where I live, I thought my thinking about buying a Saab might be appropriate. I’m going to buy a new car this year and have the choice narrowed down to either a 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero or a 2008 CTS. I’ve owned Cadillacs but never a Saab (I try to buy GM vehicles – my last non-GM was a 1997 BMW 3-series). I want a four-door sport sedan with good handling, automatic transmission, 0-60 of 7 seconds or better, with a decent sized back seat and trunk, and luxury features. Specifically, heated leather seats with memory, good stereo with an auxiliary audio input, rainsense wipers, Onstar, fold-down rear seat, universal home remote and rear parking assist. In an earlier post someone mentioned a Malibu instead of a Saab. The problem is, the Malibu, Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Buick LaCrosse can’t be ordered with all these items. That narrows it down to the 9-3, 9-5 or the CTS. Although I like the size of the 9-5, buying a $40,000 car with a four cylinder engine isn’t what most Americans want, even though 260HP and 258 lb-ft of torque is nice. Also, I think the interior of the 9-3 is nicer, but not as nice as the new CTS. I lean more toward having rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive because having better weight distribution and having the front wheels only doing the steering make the car handle better. From what I’ve read, the 9-3 ReAxs helps a lot. I haven’t driven one yet, because I want to drive the new CTS and 9-3 back-to-back for comparison. I’m hoping Saab won’t wait to long to offer the AWD and the “Black Turbo” 280hp motor (same as Opel Vectra OPC motor?). Having AWD would eliminate the FWD, RWD issue. I also wonder about the resale or trade-in value of the Saab given it’s less popular in the U.S. versus the CTS. Although the 9-3 has slightly less interior room than the CTS (rear leg room and shoulder room), I’m surprised the 9-3 has the larger trunk (15 cu.ft. versus 12.5). Two other reasons I’m thinking about the 9-3. One, equipped the same, it should be about $5000 less than the CTS, and two, I might take a vacation in Sweden to pick it up and let Saab pay my airfare. I’d love to hear from 9-3 owners who may have looked at the same comparison, and why they bought the Saab.

  23. I very much agree with Greg on the mountains. Saab is getting killed by not offering AWD. Colorado historically has been a Saab hotbed, and still is, because people here are individualistic; they like the practical features of Saab design (bring back the hatch!) and we need power to get up mountain passes. Saab always gave you it all, and decent mpg. The model age and 4-cylinder definitely hurt. And personally, I’m forlorn over the fact you buy a Pontiac Soltice with my damn engine in it. What a crime.

  24. Lots of good comments and differing perspectives. A few of my own thoughts:

    EggsnGrits, you have it easy in Tennessee. In Utah we have one Saab dealer in Salt Lake, with the next closest being in Denver and Las Vegas, about an 8 to 9 hour drive at freeway speeds. One dealer in a state of 2.23 million people and 84,876 sq mi(219,887 km²). Wyoming, where I grew up, has about half a million residents for an area of 97,818 sq mi
    (253,348 km²). The closest Saab dealer is in Denver, a five hour drive on the freeway. There are dozens of U.S. and Japanese, and some European dealerships in both of these states, by the way.

    Swade, living in Australia, understands about a large, sparsely-populated country, but I doubt that many of the European readers do. Americans outside of the large metropolitan areas of the American West have no opportunity to purchase Saabs.

    American taste in cars is definitely different that that of other countries, for the reasons already outlined above. Most large Japanese manufacturers have design staff to produce models that specifically cater to American preferences. European manufacturers don’t do this as much. But Americans that buy European brands generally want them specifically because of their European attributes. That is also the appeal of Saab, I think. But it isn’t a mass-market appeal.

    Lack of AWD is a big disadvantage for Saab. I bought my first Saab back in 1979 when it was one of the few cars with front wheel drive, and Saabs had a reputation for getting around good in the snow. Nowadays, almost every car is either front- or all-wheel-drive, so Saabs are nothing special in the snow anymore. Now people buy SUVs or Subarus to take skiing, rather than Saabs. That would be a big help, especially in the part of the country with long winters. (I am hoping to get an AWD 9-3 station wagon when my current lease is up.)

    And lastly, Saab’s quality reputation could stand some improvement. Honda and Toyota set the quality standard in the USA, and it is a very high standard, regardless of what you might think of their model offerings. When you pay a premium for a Saab compared to a Camry or an Accord, you expect for the quality to be comparable.

  25. A geography follow up: Utah and Wyoming have a combined area of 473,235 km2, as compared to 449,964 km2 in Sweden. The combined population is 2,726,951 compared to 9,113,257 in Sweden (all figures from Wikipedia) One Saab dealer in Utah and Wyoming combined compared to ?? Saab dealers in Sweden.

    Or the UK, with 244,820 km2 and a population of 60,609,155. Same size as Wyoming with 121 times as many people (Ooh, way too crowded!)

    Sorry, slow afternoon at work.

  26. Just finished up reading the posts here and flicked on the tube. Reporter Tim Russert interviewing the retired Lee Iacocca from Chrysler. (UFC Ultimate Fighter was a repeat). 30 seconds into watching the interview Mr. Iacocca, when asked his opinion by Mr. Russert, if he thought Japanese cars are more reliable than US brands, Mr. Iacocca replied “The price of admission into the US market is reliability”. Hmmmm…
    I’m American. I surf the net, instant/text message, flick the tube, nuke my food, speed to work, run here, run there, I run everywhere. I want a good value for my hard-earned dollar. Your warranty is great but I just don’t have all that spare time to spend at your dealership while my “reliable” car is once again in need of repair. Maybe your cars are not the most expensive in the luxury marketplace but they cost more than a Toyota and are much less reliable and cost almost as much as a BMW or Audi and are no where near as luxurious. So who are you Saab? Yes, I know you are from Sweden and are Born from Jets and back in the day you had a really unique product in the 900T convertible and the hatchback, but as an American, I want to know “What have you done for me lately”?
    You insult my intelligence with the 9-2. Value? Sure, when it had the price tag of a Subaru. You again insult me by assuming I would so easily hand over more of my hard earned dollars to you ,than Subaru….just for your badge. The 97x? Yes, it rides nice when compared to the base GM mothership. Remember how hard I work for my money though? Your badge? Shame on you again. The base 9-3 sedan……hmmmm…looks like a Buick. Let us not EVEN talk about the 9-5. Luxury Sedan? This is America baby. Do not assault my senses again and think I’ll buy into that one as well. 250 9-5s sold in the US last month? The number says it all. We do not want them. I can find so much more value, luxury, reliability (there’s that word again) for my dollar just a mile down the road at the BMW dealership. And I won’t be driving anything that looks remotely close to a Buick.
    You were once unique so I was willing to pay a premium for that state of independence. You are no longer. Now the only thing I find unique about your brand is that you have managed to survive this long while being so out of tune with what I as an American want and am willing to pay for.
    My grandmother had a way with words. When she saw someone who was afraid to commit or move forward or put forth an effort or make a stand, she would say “Sh*t, or get off the pot.” Saab, General Motors…I say to you, “Sh*t, or get off the pot.” Make a stand or turn your back and go home. Both of you.
    Oh yes, and Born From Jets? Please, we were all Born From Sperm but rarely discuss it with another. We as adults, move on to the future. Grow up Saab. Come with us into the future. It’s a nice place. Sure, maybe it’s not always safe. Wait, you have me protected, right? I’m independent and adventurous though. I’m not afraid of what is coming around the corner. Safety is great and thank you for all the hard work you put into protecting me. I can tell you though, as a friend, that is not what I focus on all day when I’m driving. I look around the interior of my car and like it to be appealing to my senses. All of them. I envision myself staring at the road ahead through the windshield of my well designed and crafted, intelligent, reliable vehicle and congratulate myself for how smart I am for purchasing such a great car. I rarely envision my face smashing into an airbag. Stop selling the negative. I’m not paying $40,000.00 + for anything that I can envision myself crashing in.
    Give me another reason to buy one of your cars. Sadly though, in America, we have a short attention span. Don’t take too long to find an answer because in my mind. I have already crossed you off my list and am moving on to the next dealer or website. Click. It’s that easy these days. This is America. It’s who we are. We are all trying to take a sip out of a firehose. It takes less time. More for less. Value in relation to the return on my investment of precious time and resources.
    So anyway, “The price of admission into the US market is reliability.” Yes Saab, in order to even show your face at the dance you must be reliable. You are not, so you are denied access to the dance. It may be too little, too late to fix and turn this mess around. Another way to get into the dance, albeit through the back door, is to be exciting. Make some noise if you must. Hmmmm…the Aero X. Just might do it. I hear television, internet and radio are great ways of getting your message across to the American public these days. Will get us noticed again. Maybe get us on the dancefloor so we can strut our stuff. Do we have any stuff left? Should be enough time to fix our quality issues, no? So then we would have Excitement and Reliability. We already have Safety nailed. Let’s move forward. Fuel efficient? That too. Performance? Got it. Value? Well, if the car is exciting and reliable and efficient and fast and safe, heck, I as an American, will pay a premium for that as the product would represent great value.
    Let this not be the last dance just before the lights are turned off. The sales numbers in the US are worse than they appear. Brand Loyalty? There is none unless it is earned. Save the folks who can now own a Saab because of the GM discount through their employer, and GM fleet business, and GM Employee Pricing in 06, who have we attracted to the brand? Stand alone, with no help from the General. What number of former Saab loyalists have grown with the times and moved on to better things?
    We can knock GM all we want for their unwelcome design influence, and I agree, but they are the lifeline keeping this thing called Saab alive. Sell your Soul and there is a price that must always be paid. Question is, can we get it back once bartered? Do we want it back? Are we in any position now to cut the chord?

    Sh*t or get off the pot. Let’s turn this Saab story into one that a dad like me, trying to sell cars like yours would be proud to read to his kid. The moral of the story would be to “Finish Well”. Ready? Steady? GO!!!!!! Please….

  27. ^^^^ and there is a case in point as to why Saab should ignore the US market in designing its cars.

    That sort of instant, throwaway attitude is so far from what I understand the Swedish view on life to be that the two are almost at completely opposite poles.

    Build the best Swedish designed cars you can, regardless of what a particular market thinks of them. How SaabUSA want to market them is up to them.

    If only GM could give them that freedom and if only they had the cohunas to take it and run with it.

    Sorry, but the “what have you done for me lately” line just gets to me.

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