Edmunds asks “Can Saab Survive”

BIG UPDATE BELOW

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Edmunds are asking whether or not Saab can survive.

I’ve tried about three or four times to write a response full of all sorts of righteous indignation, but I can’t. I’ve wasted about 800 words so far and I refuse to waste anymore. So here’s a few quick thoughts inspired by the article, from the hip.

1) The US is overstated in importance IMHO.

The US is Saab’s biggest single market, but is it the most important market? As keepers of Saab’s biggest single market, SaabUSA get a fair bit of say on what comes into Saab’s future models. But at what cost to Saab’s uniqueness as a brand?

A secondary thought that reinforces this: right now SaabUSA contribute a reasonable amount of margin to Saab’s bottom line due to 9-7x sales. But in 18 months or so when that’s replaced with the 9-4x, with a bunch of investment costs to recoup that the 9-7x doesn’t have, how big will their contribution be?

ctm has made a great point in comments to this post while I’ve been writing this. Continental Europe has an inbuilt acceptance for Saab, and has plenty of room for growth in key markets. His numbers from comments:

UK total market: 2,700,000 – Saab: 27,000 (0.99%)
Germany: 3,800,000 – Saab: 5,400 (0.14%)
Italy: 2,600,000 – Saab: 4,300 (0.17%)
France: 2,500,000 – Saab: 3,000 (0.12%)
Spain: 1,950,000 – Saab: 5,100 (0.26%)

What if Saab could reach *just* 0.5% of the market in *just* those 4 countries? That alone would *add* 36,000 vehicles to Saab’s European sales figures. Imagine playing that number game all over Europe…

Imagine if Saab could reach just 1% market share in all those countries like they do in the UK. In my coverage of sales data I’ve been saying for a long, long time now that Saab’s sales in Germany are way under what they could be. I don’t know if they’re way under what they were (in market share terms) in the past, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I’d go so far as to suggest that a focus on satisfying US customers is bordering on detrimental to the Saab brand.

2) Steve Shannon isn’t making much of an impression.

Sorry, but I’ll call a spade a spade here. At a time when Saab’s been under the pump in multiple stories like this one there’s been precious little of Shannon in the media. I don’t need hype or huge presence, but some sort of indication that there’s a heartbeat there would be a good start.

Shannon is quoted in this story from Edmunds, but I didn’t read any enthusiasm there at all. I haven’t heard anything about him really embracing the brand. I’d have thought as he learned the ropes that there’d be something said about what he’s learned. Just something. Hang your ya-ya’s out there and make a stand.

The absence of failure doesn’t indicate success.

3) GM most likely hasn’t given Steve Shannon much of a chance to make an impression.

This article from Edmunds is built upon a response to Bob Lutz’s Fastlane blog entry from last week. I posted a response to that one too. One of the things that Bob said in his blog was that GM see Saab as a jewel in GM’s crown and that they were determined to see it succeed.

As Edmunds note, they’re nice flowery words in public, but they’re not being backed up by a marketing budget that can give Saab any genuine chance at success in the US market.

Since learning that Saab’s US marketing budget would be no greater in 2007 than it was in 2006, I put it down to the fact that the 08 model was coming and funds would be pushed back to launch that in a big way. The rubber’s about to hit the road on that one.

With most of the future products already well progressed through the pipeline, Steve Shannon doesn’t have a lot to do other than market Saab in the US. If GM don’t fund that project with a proper budget that gives him a chance to actually do the job in a meaningful way then he’s basically a lame-duck manager and GM are really shooting Saab in the foot.

Watch this space.

4) That old Cadillac thing again

You’re probably all quite sick of hearing me rattle on about it, but that market share in Europe thing would really, and I mean REALLY be given a better chance at breathing if investment in Cadillac was diverted to Saab in Europe.

Who’s got a better chance of selling an extra 25,000 to 30,000 cars in Europe? Saab or Cadillac?

Cadillac is supposed to be the ultimate interpretation of American luxury – so what the %@$# is the BLS? It’s a waste of bloody resources and nothing more. The only good thing that’s come of it is some extra production for Trollhattan and some trickle-down enhancements to the 9-3 that could have been achieved within Saab anyway.

5) Saab should have a great place in the future

If the future is about doing things smarter, more efficiently and with great safety, aesthetics and design then I can’t think of another brand within GM’s portfolio that epitomises those qualities more than Saab.

Their historical philosophies on cars should give GM plenty of ammo for building a great portfolio of vehicles. GM know this, too, which is why Saab punch well above their weight when it comes to innovation and technology within GM.

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Will GM look at selling Saab in the future? I’m sure they will if Saab can’t sell more cars than what they’re currently doing.

With a fuller product range coming in the next 2-4 years, though, I’ll be very surprised if Saab don’t return to profitability. If they don’t, GM will only have itself to blame as the Saab philosophy on car building should be a perfect fit for the modern automobile.

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BIG UPDATE

ctm has gathered some numbers to have a look at that scenario he covered above.

That is, what if Saab were to get the support they needed to boost their market share in Europe. He’s covered almost the whole of Europe here, but the key markets are likely to be those in Western Europe.

Click on this to enlarge and see what Saab could do if they were to lift market share to a) 0.5% and b) 1%.

Saab European sales analysis

The bottom line:

This chart shows that there’s a number of countries in Western Europe where Saab isn’t reaching anywhere near just one half of one percent of market share. If Saab were to attain that 0.5% market share in those countries then Saab would be looking at an increase of over 38,000 vehicles for a year when compared to total sales for 2006.

And that aiming for just 0.5% in Western Europe only.

What incredible amount of money would need to be poured into Cadillac for it to reach those numbers? They’re hoping to move just 10,000 Caddys by 2010 and they’ll probably struggle to do that!

Saab needs a gesture of faith beyond mere life support, especially now that a fuller model range is coming. As I said, GM will only have themselves to blame if Saab fails.

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Thanks to Saabken for forwarding this story.

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38 Comments

  1. If Saab can get their act together and start selling a decent amount of cars in some Western European countries, the US market hardly doesn’t matter. Just a few examples for 2006, that shows just how good the UK sales figures are:

    UK total market: 2,700,000 – Saab: 27,000 (0.99%)
    Germany: 3,800,000 – Saab: 5,400 (0.14%)
    Italy: 2,600,000 – Saab: 4,300 (0.17%)
    France: 2,500,000 – Saab: 3,000 (0.12%)
    Spain: 1,950,000 – Saab: 5,100 (0.26%)

    What if Saab could reach *just* 0.5% of the market in *just* those 4 countries? That alone would *add* 36,000 vehicles to Saab’s European sales figures. Imagine playing that number game all over Europe…

  2. The USA has, historically, been Saab’s largest overseas market. Indeed, right since Saab started making cars they knew that they had to sell into the USA. ….therefore, USA does matter a great deal.

    I agree, though, Saab needs stronger performance in continental Europe.

  3. Will Saab fail if it fails in the US? No because as important as it is,others withdrew and survived. China and Germany are 2 of the most important markets for Saab to be aiming at. To sell more anywhere what Saab needs though is killer new product.

    Will GM sell Saab? I give it 50 / 50, regardless of profitability. Car comapanies will increasingly become design and engineering facilities with the actual production outsourced to suppliers. For example, Trollhattan would be separate from Saab ie: privately owned and would bid against the likes of Valmet or a factory in Germany, Russia or China to build a vehicle designed and engineered by Saab. This is exactly the process Porsche used to make the Cayenne possible. They would source engines and other components from bigger manufacturers as they have always done.

  4. This is the best piece I’ve read on here in the year and a half I’ve subbed your blog.

    This post proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you deserved some face-time with Steve Shannon in Trollhattan, and that you definitely deserve some face-time with Bob Lutz and Rick Wagoner.

  5. The fact of the matter everyone seems to be missing is that Saab was making losses and struggling to survive before GM bought them out. Heck, if Saab was such a strong company before the nasty Yanks washed ashore, they would have gone the Porsche route.

    What I’m getting at is that no matter who ends up owning Saab, the company will still need to make a profit and sell more vehicles in order to stay in business, and that will very likely include “selling out”.

    The Winding Road article last month was very well written: Saab simply lost the edge and missed great opportunities, unlike Audi, and mind you before the GM take-over.

  6. There is one important difference between Saab and Audi. Saab do have a great history of cars that captured peoples heart for decades; Audi do not. Audi was beginning to come to life only 10 years ago. 20 years they made cars like the Audi 100 that nobody want to remember (and most of them are eaten by corrosion by now). 30 years ago they were just a burden to VW who didn’t know what to do with it until they gave them 4WD to play with. I remember Audi as a VW for old men with hats. To shape something like that to anything that suits you is not that hard – especially if the home market is as big as Germany. The thing with Saab is the history that keep getting in the way of everything someone want’s to do with that company and those cars. I’m not saying it’s a problem; but it sure is a delicate situation. Saab (like Apple Computer) was an engineering company that didn’t had that much clue of what the market wanted or were heading. With the Turbo and the convertible they just happened to succeed, but after that they have not been that aggressive going after markets segments until this BioPower thing. With GM as an owner, there is a better chance they actually look up from the drawings and asses the current situation while developing new cars. I sure like the attitude Saab had before about cars, but I fear that today there is no room for it anymore if they want to build cars for other than a few rich people. So the second best thing have to be to give away a little of the quirkiness and attract more buyers and survive. And about US… Sure it’s important. But it it’s not all in the numbers. Being known in the US usually means being visible all over the world. But going after the US market when that is such a big part of the total sale is dangerous because it could mean they give up the European and Swedish heritage of the brand. So I rather see them compete for market shares in Europe to build the brand and then take the sales in the US as an added bonus. But, for that they need some new models that suit Europeans – like a smaller hot-hatch, a bigger luxury sedan, and diesel engines.

  7. ctm, the comparison to Apple Computers is somewhat inaccurate, although valid altogether. Apple and Steve Jobs in particular have been doing an amazing job at marketing their products. But there are many differences: Apple is profitable; it is no longer a niche company thanks to the success of the iPod; Apple is an independent corporation; Apple has one of the most charismatic leaders in recent memory; Apple has a very strict quality control procedure and would never end up at the bottom of J.D. Powers listings if it made cars (and before we all blame GM for that let us remember Saabs are still assembled in Trollhattan – this is where the rattling dash was put together).

    There are similarities, too: both companies are iconic, both companies have went through rough periods (Apple almost went out of business before Jobs came onboard). Unfortunately, Saab seems to lack the management (Jobs) to convince its shareholders (General Motors) that it needs more money in order to make more money.

    I am by no means implying anything, just playing devil’s advocate and frankly just tossing all the blame on GM will take Saab nowhere. It’s a good scapegoat and good for us all to have someone to blame, but you’re in business to make money, not to fulfill dreams.

    We all failt to see the positives, too: this year Buick tied Lexus at the no. 1 spot for overall customer satisfaction and quality, and some extremely positive reviews on its new CUV. Maybe Steve Shannon ain’t that bad of a manager after all, if he managed to pull that one through, what makes you think he wouldn’t do it for Saab, too?

    Oh, ironically, Audi got some press yesterday for intergating iPhone in their new models. πŸ˜‰ And just so you know, I don’t like Audis, ctm.

  8. The thing about Apple is that it set the market trends with products like the first Macintosh and the iPod and used its marketing to make those products household names even though many people can’t afford or don’t own one. Everyone else is playing catch up to Apple (first Microsoft with Windows and now EVERYONE with mp3 players of all varieties). SAAB has some innovations but the marketing of these innovations has been non-existent in the past decade (duh: consumer friendly turbocharging, active head restraints, etc) Instead we hear the meaningless catch-phrase “born from jets”. Well, perhaps, but no one is foolish enough to think that people who design jets are STILL designing cars as a side job, and it tells the average consumer NOTHING about the car itself.

    My point is this: SAAB has some great products and some great technologies that they beat everyone else to market with, but the average consumer only knows SAAB as a niche “quirky” brand with cars that allegedly have more than their fair share of problems. I’m of course speaking from the US perspective here but it’s what I hear from friends who I’ve talked to about my SAABs in the past.

    SAAB needs much better marketing that can really express to the uninitiated consumer why they should stop by a dealer and give a test drive.

    I don’t currently own a SAAB but may have another in the future – last one lived up to the reputation of being problematic.

  9. Kroum,

    Never thought you liked Audi. πŸ˜‰ But sometimes people fail to forget where Audi come from and their history. πŸ™‚ And I was thinking of Apple over the lifespan of the 30 years. Using a Mac since 1988, I lived trough some of the hell… πŸ™‚ Some decisions probably made sense inside Apple but not to the users (example: just one floppy and no expansion slot in the first Mac, “no-one-wants-color-monitors” in late eighties, absolutely ignoring the gaming revolution by putting crap graphic cards in the machines, the stupid little round mouse in 1999, the “no-one-wants-a-CD-burner” around year 2000, constantly refusing user the possibility to upgrade their machines and so on…). As the joke goes: Jobs idea of market analysis was watching himself in the mirror in the morning… Sometimes I think of Saab the same way. They made great cars, but the market wanted something else and the company didn’t react. To them, they were already making the best product so why change it?

    But ultimately, it’s up to the owner and the board and I think it’s only thanks to GM that Saab exists today. I never blamed GM for anything – more then for thinking that Caddy’s were gonna sell in Europe. πŸ™‚ Don’t know anything about Shannon, so I never comment on him.

    It all comes down to selling cars and making a profit. Buick may have satisfied customers. But as we saw a couple of weeks ago they are fewer and fewer (-28% this year), and the positive surveys or reviews alone can not pay the bill at the end of the day.

    I would love to have Jobs as CEO for Saab, even if it could be a little too exciting… He could sell anything to Wagoner before Wagoner even knew what hit him. Unfortunately, Jobs seems to be a Mercedes and BMW guy… πŸ™

  10. Jobs idea of market analysis was watching himself in the mirror in the morning… πŸ˜† Bang on, ctm!

    I think part of the solution for Saab is to stop looking at itself in the mirror and move on, innovate.

    Same holds true for us hardcore Saabers.

  11. By ctm: “look up from the drawings and asses …” LOL.
    Boy, that had me wondering for awhile what they were doing at Saab. Then I figured out that he meant “look up from the drawings and assess …”.

  12. GM selling Saab ?

    Isn’t that the best think that could happen ?

    At last, they would benefit from a competent marketing…

  13. As much as I love Saab, I really don’t think any of you are being realistic about Saab grabbing all of that market share in Europe. Sure, Saab is going to be releasing a bunch of new and over-due products in the next few years, but honestly how do you expect them to compete with BMW’s and other core competitors of Saab since they’re going to just dressed-up corporate GM cars. If GM really wanted Saab to succeed, then they would let Saab engineer their own platforms, not make them share with Saturn and Opel. People who want to buy cars in the luxury segment don’t want their car to be structurally the same as a car that costs half the price, but looks a bit prettier and might perform a little bit better. So while I truly hope that these next Saab’s are the hits they’re supposed to be, I really doubt if they’re going to be good enough to knock BMW, Audi, and Mercedes off their podiums.

  14. Um, Nate, mate. Audis share their platforms with Skodas, Seats and low-end VWs. Mercedeses and Chryslers share lots of components, too. Okay, maybe BMW is one of few premium automakers who develop their own platforms.

    But if you expect GM to chip in a couple of extra billion dollars so Saab can develop their own platforms for the sake of it you must be nuts. The Saab 9000 also had a shared platform with the Fiat Croma and the Alfa 164.

    In fact, what makes you think that even if we imagine Saab got the funds to do so, it would actually develop a better platform? Saab did not invent the car, and don’t underestimate GM’s engineering know-how when it comes to creating platforms.

    Overall, I don’t see what the big deal is with Saab sharing platforms… There is soooo much more to a car than just the platform, reading what some people write would make you think they just slapped a Saab badge on an Opel Vectra. Geez…

  15. Audi share with Skoda and Seat, but still sold about 650,000 cars in Europe in 2006. Saab developing their own platforms? Sure, but then they 9-3 would cost at least $40,000.

  16. Doesn’t Audi share platforms with VW, Skoda and Seat?
    And doesn’t Volvo share platforms with Ford and Mazda?
    Sharing platforms doesn’t have to be negative…

  17. Nate,

    People DO pay more for upgraded platforms. Just compare an A4 to a Passat, an A3 to a Golf, a Mini to a Peugeot 207 (same engine/drivetrain), or an E-class to a Chrysler 300.
    Much has been made of the fact that the 9-3 uses the same platform as a Malibu/G6/Aura, but the later three use pressed-steel suspensions, have horrible interiors and come with engines that just won’t rev. As far as consumers are concerned, the only thing they have in common with a 9-3 is the rear leg room.

    I think that cars that offer a premium experience (great handling, power and luxury) in a reasonably-sized package are Saab’s sweet spot.
    A friend of mine has a 2002 Saturn L100, which is based on the same Vectra platform as my 2002 9-3. If you look at both cars together, you can tell that they are cousins (same long and thin look), but each and every detail on the 9-3 is better executed, from the paint to the interior to the engine to the underbody.
    The vast majority of consumers would not consider these two cars to be similar, even if they do have the same general architecture and dimensions. They do not offer the same ownership experience.

  18. You all have brought up a lot of good points about how platform sharing can be good in many cases, and don’t get me wrong, I do think platform sharing is fine in some cases. But, I honestly don’t think it’s the same case with Saab and GM. As Kroum stated, Chrysler and Mercedes do share platforms, and look at what ended-up happening there. Mercedes is now selling off Chrysler and their reputation as being a great car manufacturer is tarnished with dozens of recalls over the past few years. And yes, some Audi’s do share their platforms with lower end cars, but as far as I know, their more upscale ones, such as the A6, have their own. And the new 9-5 needs to compete with cars like this, and frankly I have a hard time seeing how it’ll be able to if it’s basic design was meant to be used on cheap economy cars. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if Saab truly wants to be competitive, then GM has to sink in the funds to allow Saab to build some great cars.

  19. Been gone on vacation for a couple of weeks, so its good to get back into your blog. I see the “Saab Unleashed” meme is still going full force in your comment pages. “If Saab could just get out from under the thumb of evil GM, they could mop up the floor with Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus, not to mention (insert name of profitable luxury car maker here) They would sell 250,000 cars a year easily, all totally built and designed in Trollhattan.”

    As Dr Evil would say, “Riiiight . . .”

    Without GM, Saab would be sitting in the car museum of defunct auto companies next to the Studebakers, Ramblers, Kaisers, and so on. I know how painful that is for all you Saabophiles/Swedophiles to contemplate, but sometimes the truth hurts. Saab has no future other than as a division of a larger company. If it isn’t GM, then it will likely be a Chinese, Indian, Russian or some other company looking to buy an established brand name, something more recognizable in the West than Tata or Dong Qi.

  20. Sam, I agree with you 110%, that if it weren’t for GM, Saab wouldn’t be around today, or it would be owned by someone else. All I’m saying is that GM needs to pour in some money to make Saab competitive like they are with Cadillac. If you look at what the media is saying about the new CTS, they all love it. I just think that if GM actually put some effort and cash into Saab, and didn’t make them share so many components with they’re lower end cars, that Saab would really have a shot at taking on BMW and the rest.

  21. Sam, Nate, I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who disagrees with you on Saab’s fate if GM hadn’t stepped in. I’ve also consistently said that GM are the best owner for Saab given current circumstances.

    But they need to invest in them. They’re doing that with an expanded model range coming, but they need to do it with marketing now and esp in western Europe.

    It’s quite dismissive to write “nasty GM” arguments. That’s not what’s being made here. It’s a look at what bits still aren’t working.

  22. Well, I’m still sticking with the General for a little bit longer…. As long as I’ve known of Saabs, they’ve been owned partly/entirely by GM -yeah, I’m young.

    I think the next 3 – 6 years will prove rather Saab is better off or not with the General… if it’s not, maybe Porsche will be looking to buy another car company?? πŸ˜€

  23. The serious question is how much credibility can you give to a company which believes they can sell Cadillacs in Europe? Even in the USA this brand is considered by many as a sick and dying animal. What would your freinds think if you bought one?

  24. Talonderiel, Porsche? So we can get rebadged Cayennes intead of rebadged Trailblazers? Actually, come to think of it, if Saab ever ends up in the hands of a luxury-only conglomerate (Porsche or BMW) it is not entirely impossible that they will dumb down their original platforms, e.g. the 9-3 will become a stripped-down 3 series instead of a pimped out Vectra. Not sure which one is the better option.

    Perhaps we should all pool together, set up the Trollhattan Saab VC Fund, wrestle Saab off the hands of GM and get a first-hand experience with running a loss-making car company.

    Now – jokes aside – Saab needs to become profitable, for GM to justify pouring in more money for R&D. Seriously, no big automaker, be it a Porsche or a BMW AG will ever put through will loss-making and treat Saab differently than GM “just ’cause it’s special”.

  25. GM can’t pour money into every one of its brands at once. They revamped Cadillac, they revamped Buick, they revamped the hell out of Saturn, and Saab is next, if you look at the products in the pipeline. I really think GM can’t be criticized about not giving Saab enough money right now, because they have other problems to deal with. Wait until the NEW 9-3, the 9-4x, the new 9-5, and the 9-1 come out, and THEN crap on GM if they’re not doing a good job. Right now, Saab is small potatoes for GM. Besides, if you were THE GENERAL, who would you dump tons of money into for the American market: Cadillac, the Standard of the World, the *ahem* Cadillac of car companies, the builders of some of the most iconic American metal for the past ONE HUNDRED YEARS, or…Saab. As for Europe…ok, they’re not making great decisions over there.

    Also, englishbob – no one over here thinks Cadillac is a sick and dying animal. That was 5 years ago. If I bought one, my friends would be pretty damn impressed, and frankly, if I were European, and my friends scoffed at my new CTS-V, well, they can eat my Eurodust.

    But seriously, give it another 5 years, and then see how GM is handling Saab. They’re about to introduce two brand new models and completely revise the other two models, they need to save money for that.

  26. re: comment 7,
    Yes, they are still assembled in Trollhattan but I don’t think the rattling dash is. When I was there it looked like the dash came in as one piece from a supplier. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think the Swedishness is important but I’d be willing to pay more (or should I say sticker vs the rebates) for more reliable and rattle free Saab even if it was made in China. I don’t know if I even care if was designed in China if it was true to the fundamental Saab philosophies.

    As for the GM investment in Saab, I still haven’t seen the case for Saab ever really expanding enough that it makes a noticable improvement in GM’s bottom line. It’s just too small in too big a company. Therefore, I can’t see GM investing that heavily.

    The problem, if Saab is a jewel in the GM crown, it’s next to the much bigger Opel opal, Caddy diamond, Pontiac ruby, Saturn emerald… you get the point.

  27. As a long time Apple watcher, the lesson I would take away is the role of the Apple Retail Stores in the company’s rebound. In most of the US, the only place to buy and service a Mac used to be national chains like CompUSA with an Apple aisle tucked away in the back of the store. Apple realized that, for the most part, resellers will never sell their products as well as Apple.

    Saab could apply this in their US dealer strategy – Saab people are the best ones to sell Saabs. Ideal leadership in Detroit won’t make up for face-to-face contact with apathetic salesmen or shoddy technicians. Of course Saab still needs to deliver a quality product to the market in a timely manner too.

    Ironically, I received an email from Saab USA today and the dealer mentioned in the email – Saab of Sacramento- is now closed. It used to be a combined Saab-Jaguar shop, but the Jaguar portion is under new management and the Saab portion abruptly fell off the map (and the Saab dealer locator) in late June. If I am to believe what has been posted here, Saabs should be available in my neighborhood soon – at the Caddy dealer πŸ˜›

  28. TimJ,

    I get the feeling that the Saab dealerships in the US is not at all organized together with other GM brands. Why? It’s a small brand, a big country, and they should all profit on sharing costs with each other. In Sweden, as far as I know all Saab dealers have the Opel and Chevrolet brands as well.

  29. ctm – I don’t think offering different brands at the same dealer is a bad idea as long as each brand is represented properly. To extend the analogy some more – Apple still partners with some national chains in the US, but they use “ store-within-a-store” concepts to maintain brand presence.

    From the Edmunds article:
    Shannon maintains that Saab “continues to fill a unique niche in GM’s multibrand strategy in the U.S.” . . . he insists that Saab does not β€” and will not β€” compete directly with Cadillac. Rather, “people who buy Saabs would never consider another GM product.”

    If that’s really how GM feels about Saab customers and Saabs are being sold next to Cadillacs, then those dealers need to be prepared to adjust to radically different customer expectations. Otherwise, the Saabs will probably wind up “tucked away in the back of the store”.

  30. Tim, I agree my car was sold along side Porsche. The idea is not to get a Cadillac customer to look at a Saab but to get a Saab customer to drive to a site that happens to sell two (or 3 or even 5 different brands). It is then up to Saab USA to audit their dealers agressivley to ensure that their product is correctly sold and that after sales is run well. Its not about dragging Saab down to Caddys level but raising both to a best in class position.

  31. Jeff – you totally proved my point ! You are an American and like American cars – thats fine!
    But Europeans like European cars! There are, of course, some exceptions to these broad statements which are illustrated by Saab sales in the USA and some Cadillac sales in Europe but both volumes are peanuts compared with the market volumes in each area.
    If you assume that most of the cost of manufacture for Saab is in non US dollar based currency, then what size of loss are they making by selling in the USA considering the exchange rate situation? In the UK a 9-3 2.8 combi auto in metallic is Β£31500, thats $63000 at todays exchange rate not $37000 as in the USA. So, for GM to make a success of both Saab AND Cadillac one thought could be that they stop selling Saab in the USA and stop wasting time and money trying to sell Cadillacs in Europe!
    Oh, and by the way, I can easily supply you with the names of at least 20 American friends of mine who would support my opinion about ‘a sick and dying animal’ – they drive Toyotas, Nissans, Mazdas,VW, Focus, BMW etc.

  32. i can hardly wait for the aero version of the 9-1, based on steve shannon’s description:

    “…an interesting body style…an iconic shape with a lot of design flair β€” kind of the opposite of sensible shoes. But it will also have a good dose of utility. This is not just a toy β€” we don’t want to do a generic bread-and-butter car.”

  33. ctm, you hit the bullseye with your comment on the unorganized dealerships in America.

    I’ve yet to see a Saab dealership that knew anything about Saabs, save the one stand alone dealership I went to… Which is now closed.

    TimJ, you are definitely right about the dealer’s tact and approach.

    The closest dealership to me that sells Saabs also sells Caddies, Bentleys, Land Rovers and Rolls… Granted, myself being a college age male in shorts and a dirty military shirt (just got off work) is not the typical image buyer… But it shouldn’t take an half hour for a dealer to walk out to me, and then it definitely shouldn’t have been newest dealer who didn’t know anything about Saabs… I spent those 30 mins standing around the Saabs looking them over and the first sales pitch they guy makes is for the Caddies…

  34. englishbob – People here in America like all types of cars. I’ve heard that Europeans generally are more concerned with buying European than Americans are with buying American, but I don’t have facts to back that up. Anyway, yes, I’m American, and yes, I love Cadillacs and Buicks and Chevys, but I also like Saabs, Volvos, Porsches, BMWs (old ones, anyway), Triumphs, (oldish) Jaguars, Lotus’…point is, it really doesn’t matter where the cars are from, as long as I like them. Most people in this country either think like I do, or they just buy Japanese because that’s what Consumer Reports tells them to buy. Sure, there’s tons of people here who only look at domestic cars, but they’re a minority. A large and very vocal one, but still.

    In my mind, Cadillac in Europe should be seen the same way Saab is seen in America: Something different, but still good.

    As for the exchange rates, if GM thought that they could never make a profit simply because of exchange rates, they sure as hell wouldn’t try to sell Cadillacs in Europe, and they probably wouldn’t sell Saabs here. Obviously, they don’t think that.

    Lastly: “Oh, and by the way, I can easily supply you with the names of at least 20 American friends of mine who would support my opinion about β€˜a sick and dying animal’ – they drive Toyotas, Nissans, Mazdas,VW, Focus, BMW etc.”

    With the exception of the Focus, which is a model and not a marque, but whatever, all of those are foreign. There is a huge group of people here that swear by foreign cars and always assume that domestics are complete junk no matter what part of Detroit they’re from. These are people that are completely blind to the huge strides that the domestics have made recently in terms of reliability, efficiency, and quality. If they want to stick with their foreign cars exclusively, that’s cool, but the domestics need to be given a chance to redeem themselves, rather than constantly being written off without close examination. The people that DON’T stick with exclusively foreign cars (as in people who like everything, or people who only like domestics) will tell you that Cadillac’s new cars are phenominal (unless they’re Ford or Mopar guys, but you can’t really trust them anyway :p).

    Pontiac, now THERE’S a dying animal. Who knows, though, GM might turn them around too, like they did with Caddy and Saturn.

  35. Jeff – My original comment was all about peoples perceptions. Whether they are correct is not the issue. Perceptions influence decisions greatly and a Cadillac IS perceived by a large percentage of people in the USA as a heap of Detroit junk (as you mention) and a crazy purchase. I have received many uncomplimentary comments from my USA friends about my ‘addiction’ to Saab as their perceptions of Saab are not positive! Whatever people think of Cadillac and Saab is based upon past bad situations which are no longer correct, but how long will it take to change these opinions? Probably never. In the UK, there is a grand total of 3 Cadillac dealers to serve a population of 70 million people who buy approximately 2.7 million cars per year. The UK sales data shows about 300 ‘other GM’ cars in a years sales, only some of which will be Cadillac. How much money will GM have to spend in the UK alone to improve these pathetic figures? Whatever the sum it sure as heck would be better spent on Saab UK (or Pontiac in the USA for example!)

  36. Bob and Jeff, I think you’re getting a little carried away. What makes you think GM senior management doesn’t know how and where to spend its money? Do you think they’re reviving Cadillac just because they like the brand so much?

    GM is a corporation, they will invest in whatever they believe will make the most money in the long run. Just remember they had ni sympathy for Oldsmobile and were prepared to spend the billions in dealer settlements – they must have had solid reasons to believe the oldest brand in their portfolio has no future.

    You have to look at the bigger picture: pushing Buick in China and Cadillac in Europe may be done in preparation for the Japanese luxury brands such as Inifiniti readying up to enter the European and Chinese markets.

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