Aussies: Your thoughts please…

Craig, a relatively recent visitor to the site, seems to be weighing up the idea of purchasing a Saab, in particular the 2008 9-3 when it finally hits Australian shores.

In comments yesterday, he asked the following:

The apparent quality improvements are also what i am interested in. I’m little less interested in the look (which is ok) and more on the driving experience.

I read in the wheels (and other mags like it) bagging the chassis tuning, steering etc. In my recent test drives i haven’t noticed any of this (apart from some minor quality issues-odd rattle).

I’m inclined to take most of it with a grain of salt. What is the level of cust service like for SAAB Aust?

That last line is the pertinent one for this posting.

It’s a question I’m totally unqualified to answer except through hearsay. I’ve never been fortunate enough to purchase a Saab brand new, a situation that I hope will change in the future (after we get rid of the mortgage!). I had a fantastic relationship with our local dealer but that was by association through the car club and mutual interest. I never purchased from him, though I observed his service ethic to be brilliant.

In terms of vehicle servicing, the former lead Saab guy at the dealership loved the cars and his customers, but was put under so much pressure to work to a cost rather than a standard that he left and now makes Tasmania’s best handmade fudge with his Mrs. I think that’s a pretty honest account of how it happened, but correct me if I’m wrong, Matt.

As my Viggen is approaching 8 years of age now I take it to an independant mechanic rather than the dealer service facility. My bloke, Steve E, is one of the best Saab guys in the country and has worked on Saabs ever since he started out with the former main Saab dealership here in Hobart many years ago. He was factory trained and cut his teeth on 99s and 900s and has been working on Saabs ever since.

So….

Those of you who have purchased new or make regular use of Saab genuine service facilities, how do you rate the service you’ve received? Sales, aftersales and mechanical. You’re the ones with the first hand experience to advise Craig, so the floor is yours.

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I know it’s often easier to have a whine rather than dish some praise. Please be mindful of giving a balanced and honest representation – the good and the bad.

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11 Comments

  1. Craig, my experience with service for Saabs in general has been rather very good. My preferred repairer was Rick Damelian from whom I bought 2 vehicles but they no longer sell the brand. I am not familiar with the new dealers and have not heard any negatives aside from the pricing from Mildren who simply have a monopoly in the North Shore. I had to use them twice and paid a hefty premium. I would highly recommend Saabserve who are an independent crowd ex-Saab themselves who can provide top quality service at more than reasonable costs. Both, my 9-3 and 9-5 only go there as Steve Emmanuel (the owner) is extremely knowledgeable and handles customers very well. I hope this is of help to you.

  2. My comments are likely useless for Craig because I’m half way around the world in Montreal. Saabs are sold with Saturns across Canada and Saturn established a very positive service record with its client base. We have had a large series Saturn sedan since late 2000 and just added a new 9-5 three months ago. The Saab has not needed any regular service yet but did need one warranty repair (polishable scratch on the windshield due to a bad wiper blade) and we experienced the same competent, no-haggle service we have enjoyed with the Saturn from the dealer (who owns 3 of Montreal’s 6 Saturn-Saab shops). Our dealer also provides a free shuttle van to take customers downtown and back to the facility, or delivers the car to the nearest of the shops. We do some service independently (e.g., oil changes), but I am not at all put off using the dealer for the more technically challenging work.

  3. Well Graig, if you’re in Sydney you can probaly expect the following.

    Since GM has been less than serious about the brand worldwide it inevitably filters down to the sales staff and their morale. They have to sell vehicles that are required to compete (in the Australian market) with the likes of BMW and Audi. Both the motoring press and general public don’t really see this as a level playing field and as such here Saab is seen as the ‘other’ european brand. The comon reaction may be “oh, you drive a saab, is it convertible?”

    Having to live with this stigma as a professional sales person would be difficult and will lead to a loss in morale. The competition sales fiures and media attention will also add to a feeling of frustration. This certainly comes across at the dealership. Couple that with the fact that most dealerships are now part of a bigger Holden franchise I suspect the sales staff may be thinking “How the hell did i get stuck trying to sell these things instead of the new Commodore?”, which is sailing out the showroom quickly. Or in fact any of the other 8 models offered in their range!

    The only person i know who has bought a new Saab has NEVER heard from the dealership since the day she picked it up, six months ago. This, coupled with a story I heard about some very poor service received by one of the memebers of the Saab club here in Sydney with his late model 95, makes me less than impressed with the overal standard. It takes a service bunch, as Joe Lobo has mentioned to take up the mantle and own servicing here in Sydney.

    I have used Saab Serve over a number of years. For the most part i have have the same experience as above however a couple of times I have been left scratching my head. Once on my 1998 93 when the temp dial got stuck and snapped Steve pulled it all apart and oiled it etc. I got the car back and boy did it smell like oil for a good 2 weeks. The smell ended up all through the velour and never really came out. I would have thought, since he’d done this serveral times before, a warning or heads up would have been a good thing, rather than looking at me wondering what I was expecting.

    2nd scratch came when I was noticing a sound from the engine bay. I already knew my Turbo was whistling on start up and needed to be replaced sometime but this noise was new. Steve diagnosed it, in about a minute as a balance chain. The end result was a 4k bill and I’m really not convinced it was the issue because 1. the noise is still there (3 years later) and 2. i saw the old chain and there was very little flex in it. I think it wasn’t really a noise anyway, just my fatherly paranoia i have a Viggen baby).

    I have recently been using (more for convenience since i’m in the east and Steve is in the west) Saab City service in Alexandria. Until recently they had 2 great guys there, Shane and Alan. Both were very helpful, eager to please and great to deal with. The work carried out was quick, good value and on time. they have since left (does that say anything?) and I haven’t had the car serviced yet. I will be going back there to see if the service is still good.

    Now, having said all of that I suppose I ask myself “Have I may the right choice?”. After sales etc can make you feel all warm and cozy, convenient service centres with helpful staff are also great but when it comes down to it it’s really all about the experience of driving the car and seeing it in ur garage. I know I’ve never been happier. Every time I see the Viggen blue as the garage door swings up I smile and get a half mongrel. Yes i want her to be treated well by the people i pay, but no matter what car you buy you’ll be paying for it and no one wil love her the way you do so it’s easy for them to fall short. In the end you remain faithful to Saab because they’re the sh_t and very few people know it and that’s cool. Who the hell want to pull up at a set of lights and see your car x4. Not me thanks. Plus i blow 98% of them away anyway. That’s when the full mongrel appears 🙂 I share the Swade blind faith that GM will one day pull their heads out of their behinds and make a good business decision. Saab is their premium brand and it and its customers should be treated as such. Currently they are not and I don’t think anyone would argue that. It’s left up to nut jobs like us to keep the faith and to shout SAAB from the highest building to a world (and a parent company) that doesn’t listen.

    Oh and Craig, buy one, you’ll love it!

    In summary:

    After sales
    1. Alec Mildren – Expensive but good
    2. Saab Serve – Good value, good knowledge but Parramatta is too far away
    3. Saab City – Good so far
    4. Heartland Saab – Haven’t heard much but was told by the brand manager their that they’re really looking to improve

    Sales
    1. Alec Mildren -Straight shooters, probably the one who will offer you the best price in the first instance but wont go quite as low as the others
    2. Heartland Saab – Wasn’t really in the ball park with the pricing
    3. Saab City – Best price but wow Dylan, a bloody phone call would have been nice to see how the car is going???!!!!

    The fact of the matter is with Saab they’re jumping all over each other to get the sale. Hold out, bargain everything and you’ll get a ripper of a deal. I got 3+3 years warrantee.

    I know you’ll get one, best of luck!

  4. well, although I have not used the dealer to get my car serviced, have used them for repairs and roadworthy, and I found them exceptionaly good, along with Saab Australia, as during the roadworthy they found that their was problem with the firewall. My car is 8 years old, and Saab admitted that it should not be like that and paid for all repairs. The dealer was very professional about it and even when I went to pick the car up after this repair and noticed damage to the steering wheel, they were very appologetic and repaired it quickly and easily even though the car was offsite for the repairs. I have also found them very proffesional in other areas for repairs and if they could not fix the fault (or became to expensive to fix) they did not charge me for any of the work. I would recoemend them no question.

  5. …talk about getting more than you bargained for.

    Thanks to everyone. The only thing which could jeopardize it is any significant price increase.

    Hoping this won’t happen. I do like my Euro but (from recent test drive) i like the SAAB better.

  6. We bought our 9-5 wagon brand new from Heartland Saab 2 years ago. Apart from a couple of issues of the Saab mag from Saab we’ve heard nothing from the dealership. I tell a lie, we’ve had offers to insure the car from Heartland Saab but with the letterhead being Heartland Holden. Our one and only service there was so appalling that i now take it to Saab Serve and have torn up our extended warranty from Heartland.

    Last week a yellow Hummer dominated the dealership window.

    I was more than happy with the sales staff but the salesman i dealt with left a month or so ago to sell golf clubs instead. I wouldn’t buy a car though from a dealership who’s aftersales service was no good so that would rule out Heartland for me.

  7. …and yes Paul was the Heartland Saab customer i was referring to in my ‘story’.

    ps – i didn’t even mention Pate & Venoy at Rushcutters Bay, and there is a very good reason for that.

    I wonder if they’ll charge me for mentioning their name……?

  8. As an Ex-Melbournite, I can only reccommend Triple S of South Melbourne for your Saab work. They looked after me in that horrible time when My 9-5 took a knock from some bastard in an old Ford. (end rant!)

    They really do go above and beyond.

    Now that I’m living in North East VIC, My only option is to take my car to Albury Saab. They also deal in Alfa, Citroen and Fiat, so they’re plenty used to dealing with “obscure” euro brads. They’ve currently had my car for a week and a half after my turbo vented its oil supply all over the guy behind me on the highway. I’ve asked them to upgrade me from the GT17 to the TD04, and after a little bit of hesitation, they’ve gone and done it and I’m picking it up this afternoon.

    To me its a sign of a good dealer when they’re willing to take those few extra steps. These guys have never modified a car before, and they’ve even had some tubes manufactured to specification because the parts would have taken 2 weeks to get, just so that I can get it back in a resonable time.

    I have nothing but praise for them.

    My only problem is suffering the withdrawl of Saablessness.

  9. We purchased our 06 9-3 Sportcombi Linear about 2 months after they were formally launched and priced here is Australia. I visited 2 outer Melbourne dealers that were both pretty good to deal with. The first offered me a test drive and afterwards worked up a pretty reasonable price. The other had some good prices going on demos. The catch with both is that they were not keen on trading a 03 XR8 ute.

    After some biding my time and researching I then contacted our local dealer Barry Bourke with some reluctance. This was because they are a Holden/HSV dealer foremost but have one end of the showroom for Saab. I had dropped by after closing once before to pick up some brochures and they had been pretty friendly but I wasn’t sure how well they would support Saabs. I noticed they had a brand new and a demo SC. I finally dropped them a mail and received a keen and prompt reply from Dean Pattison the Saab Sales Manager. I noticed that Dean’s sig had ‘2005 Saab Dealer of the Year’ (he was also Salesman of the Year). We mailed back and forth and he sent me lots of pics of a couple of cars. I finally lined up a time to come in for a drive. I got in late afternoon and Dean simply gave me the keys and told me to take it overnight. I drove the wheels off it and went back the next day with my wife to talk numbers. Being a Holden dealer turned into an upside as they were quite OK with the concept of trading a V8 ute and after about 2hours of hard bargaining made a good deal on the demonstrator with an extended warranty. It is interesting to note that it seems that Saab’s policy is for the factory warranty to begin when the customer takes delivery of a car, not when it is registered as a demo. I have received conflicting views on whether this is the case and will take it up with Saab Oz.

    On pick-up, the car was well prepped and presented to us in the showroom so they had made a good effort to make an occasion of it. Dean also gave us a ‘Welcome to Saab’ box, which is a frosted plastic filing box for keeping car related documents. It included a beautiful Saab book, accessory catalogue, the latest Saab magazine and some other bits and pieces. My wife snapped up the nice little Saab keyring with a unique I.D. number and Saab address in case of loss.

    Since then I have not been directly contacted by Dean for any follow up but do drop in from time to time and am always welcomed and shown some new stuff or given some goodies if he has any. I am on Barry Bourke’s mailing list and get reasonably regular mail-outs with Holden/HSV and Saab news.

    On the Saab Australia front I promptly received my Roadside care letter with membership card as well as info about our coverage. I was also sent a feedback questionnaire about our purchasing experience. I have been mailed the Saab magazine as they become available and have been invited to a couple of events, which were quite nicely executed with eats, drinks and goody bags at the door. Also received an offer for free tickets the Melbourne Motor Show, which we took up. The catch was that the phone number I had to call was disconnected (???) so I emailed instead and was promptly sent the tickets.

    On the service front, Barry Bourke was clean and efficient in their first service (20,000km intervals!!) and I arranged a loan car through Dean. He didn’t have road registered Saab he could spare me but leant me an Astra diesel which was interesting and pleasant enough. There were a couple of warranty items, which were fixed without question on the day. My only gripe is that they didn’t stamp the corrosion inspection book, which is important to me as I’m on the coast. When questioned about this they confirmed the inspection was done and they would stamp it next time I dropped in.

    I have also recently received a Customer Satisfaction Program letter from Saab requesting me to take my car in for replacement of a component. Others might call this a recall notice. In any case I’ve been informed.

    SO the experience has been good on the whole. The car is not as good as it could be, mainly interior niggles. The sales, service and after-sales from Barry Bourke and Saab Oz has been good and pleasant but not always complete. It is clear that Saab is not as well resourced as it could be from the dealer level to the global level. Dean from Barry Bourke has mentioned that they also need a hero car beyond the Aero to really halo the brand. Maybe the XWD ‘Black Turbo’ is the answer. There is definitely room for improvement in lots of ways but my family is very happy, safe and secure in our choice of Saab.

    As a footnote, we have been a one-car family for the past year but recently had to bite the bullet and purchase a second car. We previously had a ’93 9000CS as a second car and thought we might gun for a early 9-5 sedan or estate. After chasing various leads and having a test-drive, realised that we were not going to get anything decent at the bottom end. In fact the car test-driven, offered by a Saab dealer (not Barry Bourke), was quite poor with shuddering brakes, dodgy info display and bubbling chrome on the grille! Coupled with poor salesman knowledge of the product I was put off. Having been looking at 9-5s for a few weeks I decided to try high-end 9000s instead. I just missed an immaculate late model 9000CSE and was cursing those 9-5s. After a few false starts (Swade published one of them), finally we found and settled on a 98 9000CS Anniversary, one owner, low kms. The lucky driver on any given day is now in retro-land but it’s a supreme cruiser and in many ways every bit as comfortable as the 9-3.

    BTW: If anybody does head off to Barry Bourke Saab in Berwick for a look, tell Dean that Jason sent you.

  10. Craig

    Have purchased two new cars from the dealership Steve speaks of, a 9-5 Vector and now a 9-3 Aero. I have no complaints with either of the cars, in fact nothing but praise. I thought the Vector was a great car to drive but the Aero is so so smooth, effortless driving, I put 700 klms on in the first weekend and had a big grin at the end of it. It is a 2006 model and I like the dash better than the 2007 model. I also have no complaints with the sale experience or the service, although regarding service the 9-3 is still very new. Interestingly the last purchase was since the change in the sales person and of course the serviceman. As Steve says, the previous sales person was just fantastic you could not ask for more. I can’t say the latest experinece measured up quite the same but is was very good none the less. The service charges are a little high but the dealer does give discount for club members and anyway this one comes with the 60th Ann deal of service costs included.

  11. I have been interested to see if GM dealers who are selling Saab’s, and Saab dealers themselves, will be able to sustain a good sales relationship when GM now forcing Saab dealers to sell Hummers as well. Fair enough they’re brands all owned by GM, but Saab should NOT under any circumstances be positioned besides Hummer – the target markets may have similarities but the actual mentality of people who own Hummers is far removed from people who want to own and drive Saab’s.

    In my part of Sydney we have McGrath Holder who, like Heartland, are one of the key GM dealership groups that is selling Saab’s. I don’t have any contact with them and have not met any of the managers or sales people to talk about SCCA with them, but to date I have not met anyone who’s bought a Saab from them. I would personally puke if I saw Saab cars and Hummers side-by-side in the same showroom. 😎

    Other people probably feel differently, but GM’s on a knife-edge with Saab’s brand loyalty at present. The cars they’re producing now are good (excepting the ludicrous 9-2x and 9-7x which we don’t have in Australia), but now GM has to work on getting Saab re-established as it’s own premium brand, not something that’s tied to the other key GM brands in the USA.

    Craig.

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