The power of a strong brand – part 2

The power of a strong brand part 1 was written on June 1. In that piece, it was noted that whilst the Saab 9-3 Convertible has been applauded for it’s top crash ratings, the fact that Audi and BMW convertibles were rated considerably poorer was well and truly overlooked.

And in true “strong brand” fashion, I haven’t heard their poor results mentioned anywhere since that time.

ctm emailed me from Sweden yesterday to let me know about another trick being pulled by Audi. It shows once again that there’s power in a strong brand.


I don’t know about other markets in Europe, but in Sweden, Audi is now desperately trying to become environmentally friendly. I had seen some ads but took no notice.

This morning I happened to read a short review of the Audi A3 1.9 TDI e-power that goes on sale this summer (click here to read). The engine is the same turbo diesel with particulate filter that can be found in VW, Skoda and Seat. But, “e-power” is the name of the game here.

Sounds good, right? Must be some really new exciting stuff? I mean, this is Audi! Vorsprung durch Technik.

Well, according to the review and from looking at the Audi homepage, the “e-power” stuff in this car consists of the following:

1) different gear ratios in the gearbox and a indicator light that tells you when you should change gear, and

2) tires with low rolling resistance

This is it. This is Audi’s breakthrough idea of environmentally friendly.


What really pissed me off this morning was the start of the review:

“…[the manufacturers] have worked hard to get a environmentally friendly profile for the future. Toyota took the lead with hybrid’s, Ford took on ethanol, BMW put resources into hydrogen and Honda have presented several fuel-cell vehicles.”

Ehum… Saab?


That’s the power of a strong brand.

Saab are building their enviromental credentials with BioPower and turbocharging. Future models will see smaller engines introduced with greater power output and economy due to better E85 technology coming in the pipeline.

And the actual BioPower name was the subject of another sidenote from ctm:

Did Saab strike gold with the name BioPower? English is not my native language, but it does sound very good compared to others.

Ford/Volvo FlexiFuel – Sounds technical and not very sexy. Fuel? Ugly word. Have me thinking of me standing at the gas station filling the car and see the money go up in the air…

Volvo Bi-Fuel – Bi is “bee” in Swedish so it looks stupid here. And that word fuel again that reminds people that cars do consume fuel.

VW EcoFuel – Better, but still the word fuel.

Audi e-power – Email? Electronic power? And “power”? They changed the gear ratios, so now it’s even slower! (105 BHp, torque 250Nm @ 1900 rpm, 0-100 km/h @ 11.4 sec, top speed @ 194 km/h).

I tend to agree that Saab have nailed the name “BioPower” pretty well. There’s very little ambiguity there as to what it means. A newcomer may not know that it relates directly to an E85 fuel system, but they’ll likely draw the association straight away that it’s something environmentally freindly.

And it’s definitely better than using the word “fuel” in your catchphrase.

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  1. I dunno about other models, but I know US spec NG900s with manual transmissions came with an optimum economy gear shift light, so Audi is pretty behind the times…but Audi probably integrated theirs into the wheel and used OLEDs and wrapped the shroud in gold-encrusted leather, so it’s better. :p

  2. my 97 chevy s-10 pick up had a shift up light. and a thousand other cars including saabs. this is nothing new.

  3. I figured it wasn’t a new idea, I just wanted to make fun of Audi’s “funtion follows form” design ethic. :p

  4. My 1986 Jetta Turbodiesel had a shift light, so it’s not a new idea for VAG either.
    If I recall, the shift light was used to exploit an EPA loophole that improved the estimated MPG. The car was basically undriveable if you followed its shifting suggestions (upshifts at 1500 rpm).

  5. Guys, that’s all true, but you’re missing the point here, which is: in a highly-competitive market place even the best products don’t sell without the right marketing behind them. Saab needs to step up its branding and dust-off its image – it will be hard considering there are widespread feelings of hatred towards GM, but if friggin’ Audi can do it then why not Saab!

    As the old adage goes: work hard for your name, then watch your name work for you.

    On a related note, at least some journos appreciate Saab’s BioPower efforts: Saab takes pole position in environmental class.

    “Saab is firmly established as a technology leader in realising the full potential of bioethanol E85 as a fuel.” 😀

  6. I think Kroum hit it on the head. You should expect companies to aggressively market their products, and to even stretch the truth at times in those efforts. It seems that the real problem here is that SAAB’s ability to do this has been hampered by GM’s tight budget. On a related note I’ve always found the Born From Jets ads to be a bit of a waste. I think as an overall catchphrase for the brand it’s good but I think they’d do better to spend the limited advertising money they have educating the consumer on the real-world benefits of driving a SAAB. Telling consumers that the company was originally started by men who built jets does not accomplish this.

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