GME’s Alain Visser on Saab

Alain Visser, the brand chief for Opel, has given an interview with German publication n24 during which the topic turns to Saab.

You can read the entire interview, in German, by clicking at the link above. Alexandros has been kind enough to provide a translation of the bits pertaining to Saab:

Visser: ….Saab is a “boutique brand”, i.e. a really unique brand. In the German market it is of course not easy for Saab. Audi, BMW or Mercedes occupies the premium segment. Everyone else who tries to get into this segment is going to fail. I refer to Lexus or Jaguar. In other countries it is working, but not really in Germany. We suffer under the same phenomenon: Germans want their Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. But I believe that there are more than 5300 Germans, who want to drive a Saab. How long will GM allow itself the luxury of having Saab?

Visser: The Saab Business-Case isn’t only based on 5,300 vehicles… …but 133,000 vehicles world-wide isn’t really satisfying…

Visser: …the goal at Saab isn’t 300,000 vehicles; Saab must stay a “boutique brand”. The problem with Saab is that you can’t make any big marketing activities. You almost have to speak to the potential customers individually. I believe that Saab is a dream brand. We invested into the brand Saab and I am confident that the brand will grow due to the coming products. What will come except the SUV?

Visser: First the facelift of the 9-3 will come, then the SUV and further models, about which I can’t speak right now. But the portfolio of Saab will be decisively broader, than it was before.

It’s always interesting to hear the perspectives brought forth by GM Europe executives. This guy in particular as Saab is so undersold in Germany. I’ve mentioned before that I think the German market could possibly be the best barometer Saab could ever wish for. Build cars that satisfy that market and lead to rising sales and I’ll bet sales will be rising in just about every other market at the same time.

2008 will probably be one of those barometer years. The 2008 Saab 9-3 is considerably quieter than its predecessor and with the addition of XWD and the TTiD engine it should make for a better year for German Saab sales. There’s plenty of upside potential there.

Thanks Alexandros! 

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  1. This seems a refreshingly honest & realistic perspective for a change. I’d still like to see more commitment to a range though. I wonder how he sees Volvo & VW relative to Saab? That is the competition in my view ( +/- Audi).

  2. No mention of the new 9-5. Talk about an omission! Nevertheless, an «honest & realistic perspective» to quote PT. He could also have mentioned that Saab, besides being GM’s only trully global brand, is helping the General with future product developments, such as the exciting and extremely important Volt.

  3. i think that is a bit of a defeatist attitude. i don’t think it’s out of the question for Saab to enjoy the same success as Audi in recent years. they sold a trillion 900s in the 80s and 90s, why can’t that happen again? all it takes is the right car at the right time. the market where i live (SoCal) has been nothing but MBs and BMWs for most of the last 17 years. people have drifted toward Audi because it was different and classy. IMO the only reason Saab hasn’t been able to capture some of that dough, is because they don’t charge *enough* for their cars. people want to spend money, and they want people to know about it. so make an entry-level Golf/GTI-equivalent 9-1, a reasonably-priced/equipped 9-3, and a killer of a 9-5. something beautiful and sleek and expensive. charge enough for the damn car so it can be built to make it worth the money. people will buy in droves.

    (with that said, i think Audi is getting a little big for their britches…now with roughly 97 cars in their line up, all with S and RS and RSS and RSSS variations that should only serve to cannibalize their own market, becoming too costly for them in the long run. then again MB has 10,000 models and they’re doing pretty well.)

  4. Audi has always seemed expensive to me, especially on a dollar-per-horsepower basis. They get you excited with the hi-power teasers, but disappoint you when you discover that $40,000-45,000 only buys the comparatively anemic base engine.

    So, yes, I agree – there’s room for Saab to make a move against Audi.

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