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?
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.