Is anyone at GMUSA working on Saab at the moment?

Ok, I know it’s MY changeover time, but current numbers and circumstances are giving Saab’s critics and those who aren’t fond of GM’s large brand portfolio a huge target to aim at.

It seems that people at GM definitely are working on Saab – but not in a good way. Whether it’s Saab USA or GM’s beancounters at work in these situations, something’s definitely amiss.

Consider the following:

1. The European Delivery Program is believed to be under threat thanks to some over-zealous beancounters in GM’s corporate office. Check the comments at that link to see the number of people who have done it or are planning to and you can see, because of the great word of mouth advertising that this program draws, that this will be a blow for Saab in the US.

2. Sales for anything but the Saab 9-3 are down. Way down.

3. Saab’s advertising spend has been bottled up this year to give some more punch to the new 2008 Saab 9-3. That’s great for the last quarter of this year, but the brand’s total ad spend for next year hasn’t been increased at all. Thanks again, beancounters. Way to grow a brand.

4. Word has come through this morning that GM/Saab has suspended all leasing programs for outgoing 2007 models. There’s still a bunch of these left and dealers are going to have to push them at buyers only, rather than lessors. With some of the bigger dealerships doing their business with around 80% of customers leasing, you can see how hard they’re going to be doing it. I just checked the current offers at SaabUSA and there’s a “check back soon” message with regard to 2007 offers.

5. Saab was once again the highest spender when it came to incentives offered during September. Want to clear those 2007 models without offering lease deals? Then look for this unwanted title to stay planted firmly on Saab’s shoulders.

——

Again, a lot of this boils down to the fact that GM has under-invested in Saab, leaving dealers with only one mainstream model to sell that’s perceived as being a current model. The 9-5 is a great, great car but gets little love from the press and virtually zero advertising money.

The 9-7x is a niche vehicle inside a niche brand. A good SUV, but well under the radar.

The pipeline’s looking good over the next few years, but until a time when Saab dealers can show people a 9-4x, a new 9-5 and a 9-1, it’s going to be tough going.

——

Whilst the 2007 offers aren’t up on SaabUSA’s site, I’ve had advice come through that there’s cash on the hood of 2007 models AS WELL AS 2008 models.

There’s nothing on the Saab website, but the story is as follows, from advice via email this morning:

2007
Saab 9-3 2.0T Combi —> $4,500
Saab 9-3 2.0T Sedan —> $4,000
Saab 9-3 AERO Sedan —> $5,500
Saab 9-3 AERO SportCombi —> $5,500
Saab 9-3 Convertible —> $5,000
Saab 9-5 —> $5,000
Saab 9-7X —> $5,500

2008
Saab 9-3 2.0T Combi —> $2,500
Saab 9-3 2.0T Sedan —> $2,500
Saab 9-3 AERO Sedan —> $2,500
Saab 9-3 AERO SportCombi —> $2,500
Saab 9-3 Convertible —> $2,500
Saab 9-5 —> $2,500
Saab 9-7X —> $3,000

——

CNN Money have an article today on “GM’s plans to out-maneuver Toyota”, which actually praises the multi-brand strategy. I don’t say “actually” because I disagree with them, it’s just that I’m surprised as most media outlets talk about stripping down GM’s brand population.

They cover each brand individually and in brief, have this to say about Saab:

Some people just absolutely will not buy an American car. So GM has an answer for them. In 2000, GM took full ownership of Saab.

The famously quirky Swedish car brand presents a challenge for the famously corporate American company, though. The very reason for GM’s existence, after all, is platform sharing. What’s the point of being General Motors if not to share engineering and development costs across different consumer brands?

On the other hand, the very soul of Saab is that of independence. Saab is a counter-culture product. You buy it because you want to be unique. They look and feel different from other cars.

And that’s how it should be in an ideal world.

But an ideal world is some time off at this point. Right now we live in a world where the guys charged with selling Saabs to the public have very little in the way of variety to offer. As good as the coming models are believed to be, right now they’re still ‘coming’ rather then ‘here’.

Saab might well be the automotive equivalent of New Orleans right now. It has a less than stellar present but the possibility of a bright future if the decision makers can pull their heads out of their own asses.

——

I love the cars. I love the brand. But some off this stuff just makes my blood boil sometimes.

You may also like

16 Comments

  1. Nah, Ted. I agree that the future looks bright. It’s just the present that’s bearing the results of some considerable neglect.

  2. Well, GM’s been under a bit of strain lately — other brands have suffered under this same issue. Look at Saturn, a brand that nearly went under and has found new life with a completely different direction. Look at Oldsmobile, the oldest GM brand and the first one to get killed. These are trying times for GM, so don’t think that Saab has been singled out for neglect.

    On the other hand, GM could do more. Where in the heck is Steve Shannon? I can count on one hand the number of public moves this man has made since taking the helm. And I do not think that his passive leadership and the current sag in marketing/ development/ sales are unrelated.

    I can only hope that the people of Saab USA are gathering themselves for the leap forward.

  3. Swade you are right – Saab is going to have a tough time getting rid of 2007s, especially if there is no leasing, and it’s only a $1500 difference between the 07 and 08 9-3s.

    Is saving $1500 worth the depreciation hit you take buying last year’s model?

    Anyone know?

  4. Guys, we shoudln’t be surpised if 9-5 sales are down.

    It may be a good car but its way out of date. For your ave new car customer it doesn’t justify its price tage, at least not in Aus.

  5. Ah, and the decision comes down to this for me too. I am planning on getting a new 9-3 Vert, and unsure to get the MY08 or MY07.

    I’m not sure, but I wonder if Saab will continue the $1,000-$2,000 owner loyalty incentive. That certainly will help if they continue with that.

  6. That is an interesting comparison article that makes me once again realize how much work GM still needs to do now that they sort of got the UAW lion back in its cage.

    Well, GM needs to look at Saab like it did Saturn a few years ago. Talk about breathing some life into a dying division – I would not have thought it possible. Saturn has become what I think GM was trying to do with Pontiac for years. Give people a pseudo-euro car that still has some American roots. And Pontiac is a mess right now…. G6 GXP street edition… Oh man, what a joke.

    Saab needs product plain and simple. Giving Saab a Trailblazer was maybe a good idea, but that thing needs to go away in favor something new. Hopefully new product reaches them (the dealers) quickly. And giving them some re-branded vehicle with a corporate GM switchgear probably won’t fool anyone who walks into a Saab showroom. Even the girl that sold me my 9-3 had a good laugh with me at the 9-7x…. GM may be able to fool a Buick customer by sticking a Dyna Ride badge on a Chevy but no Saab customer is that mentally disjointed when making a purchase.

    And hello, in reference to the CNN article – Chevy will never compete with Toyota. Never in 100 years. There dealer network sucks butt in the worst way. Walk into Don’s Brooklyn Craphole Chevrolet here in Cleveland and then go to a modern Toyota franchise and tell they are on the same level? Customer satisfaction and Chevrolet? Give me a freaking break…. What is GM smoking?

    And (one more) dang – $5500.00 on the hood of a ’07 9-3 SportCombi! I knew that would happen… Oh well, I love my car.

  7. I’d get a lot more satisfaction with a Chevy product than with a Toyota product. I’m probably not in the majority here, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about what the dealers are like, I just care about the car they’re selling.

  8. I come from a Chevy lovin American family. Lately, I’ve been disapointed by many decisions made by GM. I’m currently waiting on the delivery of my 2008 9-3. My choice of a SAAB was based on my experience with an ’83 900T that performed superbly beyond the first 150,00 miles. I actually have concerns that GM may “muddy the waters” through its influence at Trollhattan. I’ll be relying on the commitment of the assembly plant members to provide an already established level of quality in production in spite of the fact that their company is owned by GM. Time will tell what becomes of my 9-3. I am optimistic that I will recieve a high quality product that will last for decades as I intend to drive it that long. I had the opportunity to purchase any new vehicle on the market and chose SAAB for its unique personality and reliable craftsmanship.
    As for the 9-5, I was never fond of the 9000 in the 90’s. I’m not fond of the Passat either. Something is more appealing about the smaller model…tighter, sounder. 9-5 should be taken in a direction different than it’s little brother. Such a car should have a different look and feel altogether. It needs to be a different car independent of the the 900 or 9-3. I’ve always gotten the impression that the Passat as well as the 9000/9-5 were a “spin off” or capitalization of the “little brother”. The 9-3 was recently described by Edmonds.com as an entry level luxury car. Maybe the 9-5 needs to be a mid or top level luxury car clearly distinguished from the 9-3 not as a sporty car but as that full sized sedan? 9-3…fighter jet, 9-5…luxury long range corporate jet. Make sense?
    Maybe I just need to drive the 9-5 to understand it better. I haven’t had that opportunity. Perhaps when I pick up my 9-3.

  9. I was thinking about how I would help the 9-5 right now and this is what I came up with.

    * Make the automatic transmission standard.
    * Take the rain-sensing windshield wipers out of the visibility package and make them standard.

    I was just at the saabusa site and was building a 9-5 and they have done both of these things. So somebody is showing up for work.

  10. Rod H.: I don’t see how limiting customers’ choice (in the case of only offering an auto trans) is in any way helpful in selling cars. If I were in the market for a car right now and I had $40K I’d be looking at a 9-5. I prefer the Aero “sport” model and would demand a manual transmission.

    As for making the rain-sensing wipers standard, they also did this on the 9-3, leaving me wondering (once again) what exactly differentiates the 9-3 and 9-5 to justify the 9-5’s higher price?

    Whenever I tell people I’m a “Saab guy”, the reaction is never that the person says, “oh I hate Saabs”, as you might hear about another brand. I usually get the response, “[pause & quizzical look] Why?”

    The general public just does not know anything about Saabs. They aren’t on most people’s radar. The poor sales boil down to one issue: target customer education. What educates people in general? Advertising. This is something GM is not providing Saab enough funding for. People aren’t going to go to a Saab dealer if it’s not even on their shopping list as one of the brands they have an interest in.

  11. That’s right Gripen, I’ve not seen a SAAB commercial stateside! Nearly all Americans know nothing about SAAB and when you mention the name the only thing that comes to mind is the vague recollection of a mid ’80’s 900. I’ll likely be the only one for miles with a new SAAB. Clearly, I’ll be doing my part to get the word out. I’m confident I’ll get plenty of second looks and inquiries.

  12. I think Rod H has a good point about making the automatic a standard configuration in the US – and manual transmission isn’t eliminated as an option (you just don’t reduce the base price for selecting manual). You have to figure that most people in the market for a 9-5 (at least the Combi) are family types. I don’t hear too many soccer moms clamoring for a stick shift.

    I don’t get the deep rebates right away on the 9-3s. If they aren’t going to charge full MSRP, then why don’t they just price the cars lower to start? Does the price point determine the “entry-level luxury” category, or is Saab afraid that 2007 model purchasers will sue them for causing a drop in resale value (a la iPhone early adaopters)?

  13. Mike – I agree with most of what you said in your first comment, but I don’t think that the 9000 was a capitalization on the 900. It was originally going to replace the 900, remember. The decision to have two models was made later. Plus, it was a joint development venture with Alfa, Lancia, and Fiat, so I think it really had little to do with the 900 (which is probably why it didn’t end up replacing it as originally planned).

    Gripen – I don’t get pause and why very often. I always get “I don’t know anything about them,” or, every so often, “Hell yeah, me too!” :p

  14. Jeff, I appreciate the background info. I was not that familiar with how the 9000 had come about. It helps to be informed; what sites can I check out to learn more? Obviously this site has much to offer. The Estate on the GB site looked great but I would definitely choose an automatic should someday I go with the 9-5.

  15. Mike: Click on the ‘Saab 9000’ link on the Archives page of this site.

    Tedjs: Where I live, the shoe is on the other foot. Our Chevrolet dealership is pretty good and our Toyota dealership is a bunch of slick-talking thieves. I took my Toyota in for a service and they performed three or four other ‘services’ without approval and sucker punched me with a bill twice as high. I argued back a couple of charges and got back to within reason, but it wasn’t pretty. Dealerships will vary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *