Saturday Snippets

The power of a strong brand – part 1:

If you’re Ferrari you can take off-cuts from your panel pressings, shape them into cuff links and ask $1,800 for them – and get it!

Question of the day: how many people actually wear cuff links? I aspire to one day.

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The power of a strong brand, part 2:

If you’re a small car manufacturer like Saab and you’ve been incorporating safe head restraints into your seats since the late 1990s, no-one is likely to really notice except for a few crash testing bodies.

If you’re a big famous car maker like Toyota and you’ve been making seats without this protection since year 0, no-one is likely to really notice until you decide to bring this sort of product to market – and then you’ll applauded by motoring publications that love you for it instead of questioned as to why it’s taken so long.

Thankfully my cynicism is shared by a number of commenters there who are not only asking “They’re only getting this now???” but are also mentioning Saab’s and Ovlov’s leadership in this area.

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There is a downside to this safe-seat business today, however.

Another article covers the fact that some of the major manufacturers and most famous brands do whiplash protection poorly.

They list the best and the worst, and this particular quote includes something we should never, ever be allowed to see again.

SUVs from the 2007 model year rated poorly were: BMW X3 and X5; Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Isuzu Ascender; Cadillac SRX; Chrysler Pacifica; Dodge Nitro; Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer; Mitsubishi Endeavor; Hummer H3; Hyundai Tucson; Jeep Liberty; Kia Sportage; Lexus GX470 and RX; Nissan Xterra; Saab 9-7X; Suzuki XL7; Toyota 4Runner and Highlander.

They did such a good job (IMHO) with the rest of the interior, it’s a real shame they couldn’t preserve Saab’s reputation in this department as well.

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TrueDelta are reporting that Cadillac’s dealer satisfaction numbers are creeping upwards with the claim that dealers are being given licence to go to greater lengths to satisfy customers.

If this is truly occurring, then GM might yet turn the tide. It doesn’t matter much how long the warranty is. Car owners these days expect no major problems before 100,000 or even 120,000 miles.

Whilst I hope that this sort of latitude also trickles down to Saab dealers as well, I’m a bit worried by the expectations noted above.

Do you think it’s reasonable to expect a manufacturer to cover a complex machine that’s so open to owner abuse or neglect for a distance of 120,000 miles? It might be great for the consumer, but there’s got to be a responsible line there somewhere, hasn’t there?

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I know there’s a few here who subscribe to the “Subaru is the new Saab” theory, and you’ve quite likely found an ally in Tyler Brûlé of the International Herald Tribune, who have their second Saab-mentioning article in a week.

Take a peek down the lanes of those houses outside Portland or over the hedges of homes in Surrey today and you might notice that the space formerly owned by Saab now has been occupied by a Japanese brand rather than a Swedish one.

Subaru and its Forester model in particular has now moved into the “small and interesting” space that once seemed to be the exclusive domain of slope-backed Saabs.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always suspicious of writers with two accents in the one name.

Subaru are the different one amongst the Japanese carmakers, and maybe it’s accurate to call them a Japanese version of Saab. But the new Saab? They have much of the innovative spirit, but IMO the definitely don’t have the personality.

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14 Comments

  1. Subaru is NOT the new Saab. They are the new Volvo. (Boxy but turbocharged.)

    And, I have three shirts with french cuffs. I have one pair of cuff links — they are made with WWII vintage steel pennies. Cost me $10 for the pair on eBay. I thought about getting the Saab ones, but the Brit selling them wanted $40 for them. Too much for me, and I didn’t like them much.

  2. In reference to the extended warranty comment…

    Cadillac has had quite a few problems over the last several years – most notably – NorthStar V8 engines with oil consumption problems due to sticking piston rings and also issues with head gaskets due to the threads pulling out of the block. The thread problem can be aggravated with replacing the pistons. Even if the heads are properly re-installed there is a probability that the head gasket could fail due to the threads being weakened which leads to engine overheat and failure. At that point the aluminum block is scrap and the vehicle would require a new engine. That is a HUGE expense for a premium luxury car owner and a significant part failure.

    Combine that with some oil leak issues due to the split crankcase design used on the NorthStar and you have a recipe for customer dissatisfaction.

    Sure there are issues of customer neglect etc. But most Cadillac owners take their vehicle to the dealer whenever it needs maintenance – and do whatever they need without question. Given that most of these engines have failed right around 80,000 to 100,000 mile range – even with proper maintenance – how should an owner feel when handed a $6000.00 (or more) repair bill?

    Given that their neighbors ‘squawk’ over the bullet-proof reliability of their Acura and Lexus vehicles you can understand where this point of view comes from.

    GM needs to be able to empower its dealers to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Product quality has improved considerably over the last several years – so if you win back some of those customers and put them in a vehicle that performs reliably for 100,000 to 150,000 miles – they will buy another one.

  3. I wear cuff links, but im the scum of the earth or so at least those who aren’t my clients would lead you to believe. My former Managing Partner had these really big ostentatiously huge Cadillac ones that made me laugh.

  4. My third car was a 1982 Subaru DL 5 speed. It was a good little car that lasted a long time. In fact, the fellow who bought it from me drove it till it was rusted out. Then the junk yard used it to drive around its portable welder.

    The 4WD models has a big following in the western USA due to the need for sure footing in the mountains. So, I can see how it had (and perhaps still does have) a following like SAAB has enjoyed.

  5. For what it’s worth, I have a great pair of vintage SAAB logo (with airplane) cufflinks from Stateofnine.com. A bit overpriced at $45 (US), but hey, that’s branding for ya’!

    guday mate.

  6. I have to agree with the Subaru thing. Subarus are fuel efficient, safe, sure footed, highly practical cars.

    I personally think that new Subarus are more like a Saab than any of the new Saabs. If I was going to buy a brand new car, I’d buy a Subaru.

  7. @Saaboy
    Yes, there are going to.

    It’s really a shame that SAAB Marketing doesn’t use those features in their ads.

  8. Subaru is definitely the new Volvo in North America.
    Volvo went upmarket at the same time as their reliability tanked, so Subaru took their place in the suburbs as the reliable family station wagon. Mind you, Subaru hasn’t had a great record with reliability either. They had a few years where you were assured of either needing a head gasket or a short block within the first 100K miles of ownership.
    Subaru’s are mostly good cars and handle well, but their interiors totally suck (especially the seats), and you have to pay Saab money to get the good engines (at which point you still don’t get good seats).
    I definitely wouldn’t go back to Subaru. I don’t even miss the AWD. My 9-3 tracks better in the snow, even though the Impreza had more traction.

  9. After 12 years of good service from a 1995 Subaru Legacy, I finally replaced it with a new 2007 9-3 SC, 2.0T. A blown head gasket on the Subaru, coming at exactly the same time as those enormous end-of-model year discounts on the Saab finally pushed me over the edge.

    The Saab is definitely an upgrade — zippier engine, much better seats, better safety features, better audio, better climage control, etc. But the Subaru is a good car, too (if not fancy). SAAB management may think their competition is BMW, Audi and Volvo, but those are cars I would never buy. Saab’s real competition in my household was another Subaru.

  10. We have a 9-3 (MY07) and a Forester (MY04.) Both are great vehicles that are fun to drive and have great strengths, in their own way. I do not think that Subaru is the new SAAB, but I think Subaru is the Japanese SAAB.

  11. Strange, but I’m a former Saab owner and bought (and still have) a 2003 Subaru Forester for the family car. I was always a fan of “euro” rides, but I have to say I really love the Forester. It’s now got 86K miles on it with zero problems, it’s very comfortable, versatile, and the suspension/steering is nice and tight.

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