Posting light tonight

Sorry, but you’ll have to chat amongst yourselves for a little while.

I’ve found another video tape from Saab Festival and it’s got some great stuff on it. For example, I just found out that LHD versions of both my cars were parked in the rear carpark of the Saab Museum! Woohoo!

Heaps of other groovy stuff too.

Back soon.


In the meantime, perhaps we could hear from some Brits as to why Saabs are so well appreciated there, and so comparatively well known as opposed to in the US.

I’ve been in touch with Saab people from Australia, Sweden and the US. I swap emails with them quite regularly and it’s good for the blog and hopefully it’s good for the coverage of Saab as well. I don’t have much contact with Saab in the UK, though.

So how come you guys are going so well?

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  1. I re-live it everyday, well almost. looking forward to going again in 2009. spoke to Tim yesterday and he’s up for it. Phill is as you know and also gary who will pick up his convertible on tuesday hopfully. told joe to save his money as he must go. all the guys from gws are going again. so all in all there will be a few people there that i know. have you come across the film with “you on the track” yet. only 20 months to go. 🙂

  2. Steve

    my 2cents… father got his first Saab back in 1972, a beige 2 door 99L, with chrome mirrors, grills, handles, the front-on airccarft badge, the lot. I was only a toddler then, and grew up with this one car for several years until I realised not all cars were like that. Others were tinny, even more plasticky (the Jap cars always had a plastic smell that made me car-sick 🙁 )
    This great car was followed faithfully by a series of 99s and then 900s before the last addition a GM900. Of all these, I have to say the GM900 was the greatest disappointment, stripped as it was of features that Dad had always taken for granted with Saab, like heated seats and headlamp cleaning which were now extras.

    My first Saab in my own right appeared in Dec 06, a fusion blue 9-3 Vector Sport 1.9 150 SW and I have to say it is the most enjoyable car I have ever owned (apart from the immediate previous car, an Astra SRI, but hey, that was just for kicks 🙂 ).

    Why chose a Saab in the UK? I think you have to appreciate the reasons are often as much about not wanting to pick the other offerings in the market as they are about positive Saab features. For me the Saab does no one thing exceptionally well and I could list a lot of minor gripes, but at the end of the day, no other marque offers me the scope to be individualistic and still practical and reliable – here are some thoughts on UK perceptions of other marques, only mine so others may disagree:

    -Volvo – dull all look the same , hate the hip shape midrift, call it brainwashing, but they are the enemy within

    -BMW – OK, so good car, but soooo many if them, implies little imagination

    -Audi – again dull, A4 Avant is a good looker, but again toooo many on the roads and boring interiors

    -Merc – too pricey, old man’s car

    -VW – Passat is too associated with use by taxis and resembles the worthy Skoda

    -Honda Accord – never could get excited about it, competent but dull

    -Alfa – yes we all love the looks, but I have had one Italian car and never again – electrics are a nightmare

    -GM/Ford – what is there ? brand new Mondeo which for reasons I don’t understand is getting great reviews. GM Omega was the last great car by a mass producer IMHO.

    -Jaguar – Xtype ultra safe and for old boys, XJ pricey and too retro, but a great car

    What about positives for Saab?

    -There is an image in the UK that this is a car for free-thinkers, not necessarily the uni prof and green, but maybe the engineer or architect. Anyway, you do get comments from people which I don’t think the ‘default’ choices would give rise to.

    -The cost is sensible and the packaging is very good – high equipment levels (barring my gripe that formerly staple elements of even the most basic Saab such as heated seats and headlamp wash have been removed to the extras list 🙁 )

    -Avail of diesel (remember though how we all baulked at the thought of a diesel Saab?) and UK tax breaks undoubtedly led to the 9-3 ‘s success in the 2000s – if bio can acheive simlar status, Saab will be in a strong position.

    -Established dealerships and relationships – this matters – people get turned off by bad dealer experiences – I had one on delviery of my car in Dec when it broke down within minutes and the dealer was slow to react – it’s all resolved now and hasn’t put me off, but we do all by nature tend to focus upon and remember the negative experiences of ownership that often have little to do with the actual motor itself. Saab needs to support dealers partic with complex new models coming out.

    Rambling I know, but overall I think the brand is distinctive, the Scandinavian lifestyle is aspirational to those in the UK, the package is about the right balance of price and equip and there is a legacy of warmth to the brand raised by past masters such as the 95/96 and 99 turbo.

    Long may it continue and may other markets aspire to the relative success in this market.

  3. i’ll try and make sure to postpone australia til july 2009 so i’ll go up again. have a bet with robin that i’ll smoke him in kinekulle 🙂 and just to give him a good advantage, i’ll drive that pink streched limo 🙂 it was so much fun!

  4. The UK has long been into rallying and Saab had respect for the rally hertiage. In the 70s and 80s they simply had great product backed up with (for the time) great marketing. There was a strong image and the launch of the 9000 gave the more affluent buyer something to move into from the 900. The collapse of Alfa and Citroen also helped to boost Saab as the first choice of the thinking man. Architects and Doctors were seen as the natural customer, maybe people who liked the solidity of a Volvo but hated the image. A Saab was something that you aspired to own and could very possibly do it. It was never a car to impress the neighbours like a Merc but it stated quietly that you were doing well.

  5. Mark B – brilliant contribution there. Thx.

    Is all this historical appreciation the reason why Saabs are still accepted so well today, Jon?

    I’d just like to figure out how other places could do it better. If there’s a magic trick Saab GB are using. Sounds like there isn’t though.

    I’d love to get Jonathan Nash for an hour and get his thoughts.

  6. Good question. In my case yes, the original BMW 3 Series and Saab 900 were the 2 cars I looked at in magazines when I was a kid and said – yes I want one someday. Enthusiasts look back at the rallies and the turbos and feel a warm glow and joe public see them parked outside expensive houses. In some respects they are quite close in image to the VW Golf in the UK – they have status but are not status symbols.

    The UK and Ireland are tiny countries and the Saab range fits quite well. Medium sized cars that can demolish motorways but also have that great midrange for overtaking on B roads.

    I also think the dealer network takes them seriously. In Belfast the fact that they share equal showroom space with Porsche helps. The cars are proudly on display not hidden away behind inferior GM product. I also know for a fact from friends that the wives and girlfriends of Porsche buyers then get a good look at the 9-3 ‘verts on display and sometimes pick one up while waiting for the deal to be done.

  7. “The UK and Ireland are tiny countries”

    The UK has 60 million people in it, it is not a tiny country by any means. It may be cramped and crowded, but not tiny.

    Ireland, OTOH, has a population of only 4.1 million. This is a million fewer people than my home state of Minnesota. *That’s* a tiny country.

  8. Jon, true the Porche link-up in the Bwlfast dealership is a big help in terms of glamour by association-as you say, sharing a floor with Vauxhall wouldn’t cut it at all.
    I do also agree that Saabs have been seen as ‘classless’ and do not as often attract the vitriol and unwanted attention of the envious types (like the morons who added a coachstripe the length of my car last week 🙁
    ). This is an advantage for Saab vs the ‘look athow well I’m doing’ BMWs and Mercs and to a lesser extent Audi. Maybe Saab should make more of this in the way Audi highlighted it years before they in turn became arrogant?

  9. Greg I meant more form the presepctive of driving, rather than population. I am a UK citizen as well dont forget! Our roads are narrow and twisty b roads which make driving fun along with some fantastic high speed A roads.
    I work in Dublin a bit too and I can assure you all off the 4.1m population are on the M50 toll road between 4:00 and 6:00pm!!

    Mark, I saw a Vauxhall dealer advertising as a Saab dealer last week – not sure if they are an “offical” dealer. It will be nice to give Agnews some competition but I agree it miay not be a good move.

  10. A few of my friends have told me that riding in my 9-3SS was the first Saab they had ever ridden in. I’m 21, so that’s pretty lousy. 21 years and never in a Saab. I’ll admit, it took me 16 years to get there, but I was never interested and exposed to cars (until I wanted to get one, which was a ’94 900).

    In the USA, BMW owns the image of a luxury, sporty car for all the daddy’s girls, and people who are looking for the status icon. I have nothing wrong with BMW (nice cars in fact), but I don’t buy into the fact that they are so much greater than the competition.

    Enter Saab. I try to ‘sell’ (the idea) Saab to my friends every chance I get (which is most likely annoying to all of them). Most people look at Saab (who don’t know the brand) and see another Ovlov, not direct competition to Audi, BMW, Acura, Infiniti, etc… A big mistake from the general public.

    I’m hoping with the release of MY08 9-3 and future 9-5, 9-4x, 9-1, a new image of Saab can be branded and shown to the ignorant motoring public of the USA.

    I am lucky to have one of the best secrets on 4 wheels… A Saab.

    end rant.

  11. Jon, also spend time on the M50, pretty sure the remainder of the masses are on the M2 at Sandyknowles though;). Agnews defo need competition, mad that Ivan in Coleraine and Donaghys in Omagh can only service cars but have to go to Agnews as sole distributor, but guess that for 1.5m population in NI we’re no worse off than many guys on here from Usa and Oz?

  12. I pretty much agree with the comments of Mark and Jon as to why people buy Saabs in the UK. However, I do not believe that these wise buyers are the reason why Saab GB have achieved their new car sales figures.
    The major GM brand in the UK is Vauxhall (otherwise known as Opel in the rest of Europe) and their big sales volume is achieved by selling to the fleet user and daily rental companies at huge discounts.The end result is masses of less than year old cars on the market at bargain prices – something in the order of 50% of new list price. This is good for the private buyers of these used cars but bad if you were the person who bought a new one at list price!
    Recently, Saab GB have caught the Vauxhall disease and have been heavily discounting to the fleet market resulting in plummetting residual values, so that a 3 year old 9-3 struggles to retain much more than 30% of new list price.
    Mercedes, Audi and BMW ( C Class, A4 and 3 series) meanwhile are in the 50% – 55% area. This treatment by Saab GB of their faithful ‘user chooser’ customers is very disappointing to say the least.
    Also, Saab GB are failing to retain their faithful customers by their model choice availability particularly for the new MY08 9-3. It is has been said many times that Saab buyers are ‘individuals’ and their desires in cars are eqally so. Let me illustrate my gripe with Saab GB, I have a 9-3 2.0T Wagon/Combi purchased new in 2005 (my fifth new Saab) and my wife has a 9-3 1.8t saloon/sedan also new in 2005. Whilst I love the power and torque of the 2.0T engine, I almost hate the hard ride of the (mandatory) sports chassis on the poor, bumpy roads we have to suffer, my wifes car is much better to ride in. For MY08, Saab GB has made the sports chassis mandatory on 2 out of 3 models, Aero and Vector, only Linear is available without (I don’t count the Airflow – this is a base model aimed at the fleet market) and Linear is only available with a very limited choice of engines. If I want the 2.0T or TTiD I have to have Aero specification, why can’t I have these engines with the non sports suspension like in other countries?
    Yes, Swade I too would like an hour with Jonathan Nash to get him to explain why his actions are annoying such a loyal Saab addict!
    Am I alone?

  13. Bob

    I understand the issues you raise, and as I mentioned above, the avail of diesel was certainly a factor in the whole fleet market revivial for Saab in UK – naturally the downside is a glut of pre-owned models. I have taken on my 9-3 through a lease which protects me from residual risk, and because of Saab GB’s keeness to push up registrations was avail to me at a keen price – these tend to be 12 or 24 mnth deals and again serve only to dilute the residual worth for those like you invest in your metal.

    There is no answer to this unless Saab embark upon one of those guaranteed value trade-in schemes that raised their heads in the 90s, but really the market drives these things and for anyone purchasing a car, it pays to consider whether you will be replacing it within a short or longer timeframe. Whilst the Saab depreciation may be partic heavy, equally the fact that cars are being sold to fleets at all is a mark of acceptatance and desirability to fleet users – I never thought I’d see the day when Hertz would have a fleet of 9-5 wagons lined up at Belfast airport – but it’s great to see.

    Ultimately the brand does not command as strong residuals as BMW or Audi and it will be a long winding road before they do, requiring more favourable reports on reliability and quality for a sustained period – the inital barrier of desirability of the motors I think has been cracked by the current 9-3, Saab need to build swiftly on this with the new 9-5 and replacement 9-3.

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