Faith in Saab – One dealer’s perspective

The following was sent in via email from AJ Murphy, General Manager of Just Saab, a dealership in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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It’s no surprise to anyone that has followed the Saab business for the last couple of years that we are an easy target in the media. Often there are biased, personal feelings dominating articles and commentary. Understandably expected by the ‘blogs’ but it’s now creeping into the more established, well-respected outlets that you expect to get factual, balanced reporting from.

Saab is not for everyone. No question. We don’t sell a lot of cars…even in our heyday we were considered a minor player in the market.

Our labels have been many: Irrelevant, re-badged GM products, dying, too expensive, and on and on.

I am baffled by such strong personal feelings for Saab’s demise. If Saab is not for you, fair enough. But strangely those who dislike Saab are almost drawn to us…they can’t stay away or stop talking about us. It’s almost as if they take joy in the struggles.

For example:

I responded recently to a personal tweet from an Automotive Analyst, which said:

“I’d like to pull the plug of the respirator that’s keeping Saab alive”

Then another that said:

“Can Saab please die and stop clogging my Twitter feed??”

This, coming from an industry-professional who has been quoted in a couple of different articles about the future of Saab? Seems like strange behavior but maybe I’m too thin-skinned. [Ed: You’re not. The internet has given rise to a need for many to grab as many eyeballs as possible and glib throwaway one-liners are the biggest club in the bag for many – SW]

Getting to my purpose in writing this…

I was recently quoted in an article by a widely-read industry publication with the headline, “Steady drip of bad news wears on Saab dealers”. My words were recorded accurately. But I was still left troubled by the context of the article. I’ll explain why.

The article starts off: “Starved of product and showroom traffic, some beleaguered U.S. dealers are planning for life after Saab. “

The article transitions to Saab’s current production stop and quotes from Victor Muller saying how hard he’s working to tie up the deal(s) to secure short-term funding necessary to re-start production and bridge the gap to the completion of the Pang Da and Youngman deal. Mr. Muller encourages “…we don’t need anyone to throw in the towel now.”

The article goes on to introduce various dealers expressing their many frustrations.

The purpose of this is not to dismiss fellow Saab dealers’ challenges and troubles. I have too much respect for them.

I am quoted as saying, “They (Saab) need to get production restarted and stop the blood bath on perception.” Saab DOES need to do this. Nobody would argue. I’d even go as far as to say that might be the understatement of the year. Not sure why, of all the things I said, this was quoted.

I am then quoted as saying my only buyers are Saab loyalists or those unaware of the situation. This is fairly accurate. No problem there. Also something that needs to change…and it will in time. The article then goes on to document our current sales data and historical sales data. It talks about one of our stores closing in 2009. Fair enough.

Next is where I get concerned with today’s journalistic style of reporting about Saab’s troubles.

Why no mention of my belief in Saab’s success once we get through this short-term problem? I know I said it… even more than once.

So now I’m left with an article in which I am quoted amongst other dealers who are fed up. I’m right there with my fellow dealers. I’m frustrated, annoyed, and sad to see the ‘steady drip of bad news.’ But it doesn’t mean I’m losing faith nor am I ‘planning for life after Saab.’
I was further exacerbated by Left Lane’s version of the article titled: “Saab dealers losing faith in automaker’s future.”

Sorry folks, I’m not going to sit back and accept that label.

Let me make one thing very clear: Just Saab stands behind Saab, Victor Muller, Tim Colbeck and the entire team working tirelessly to get Saab to prosperity. My faith and loyalty is as strong as ever to Saab.

If you’re looking to write a story about dealers changing brands or someone who wants to rant about how bad Saab is being run, please don’t bother calling Just Saab.

However, if you’d like to buck the trend, and write about dealers who believe Saab will pull through and once they do, will accomplish great things, please call me anytime day or night. I’m sure I can provide insightful, interesting content. Further, I have plenty of customers who would love to share their passion and reason for believing in Saab.

My challenge to the Media, blogs, auto-enthusiast publications, et al:

Write a story about those who are not leaving Saab for another brand. Write about dealers who are standing behind Saab. Write about people who love cars and are enthusiasts. After all, isn’t that what’s at the heart of any brand? Those of us with loyalty and passion. We are out there. And our voice can only have a positive impact on Saab’s image. Saab needs not only financial strength…but also the strength of support to succeed.

It’s your opportunity to introduce this rarely heard point-of-view to your readers.

Respectfully,

AJ Murphy
General Manager
Just Saab Cincinnati
513.527.4300
ajm@justsaab.com
www.justsaab.com

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24 Comments

  1. I fully agree. 100%.
    But I am afraid the news media will ignore this because of their own iron rule:
    “Good news is no news”

  2. Wow. Very encouraging indeed. It’s so disappointing however that it will take ages for new SAABs to get to Russian dealers…

  3. Mr. Murphy, I would be happy to buy my 7th Saab from you when my lease ends in 2014.

    Let’s hope Saab has a plan when (not if) production starts up. 

    Suggest you lean on your current owner base with an incentive that’s just just to hard to ignore.  You are going to need a sure way to move units.

    The Saab brand is toast here in the United States right now, thanks in no part to TCC, USA Today and Automotive News.  Advertising to the general public would be a waste of capital.

    Please be ready when the day comes.

    Perian – GMI

  4. Great letter to support Saab and it’s loyal hard working dealers, we couldn’t agree more with your support and enthusiasm for the brand, unfortunately the media feeds on negativity and feel good stories don’t sell papers. I hope you sent this to the editor at Automotive News, not that he would report about it anyway. We agree 100% with your views, and also believe niche players have a place in the market.

  5. Thanks AJ to put your points forward so strongly ….

    PS: can I buy my next SAAB from you mail order? Would you post it to Italy?

  6. Very well said, AJ.  We no longer have a Saab dealership in Alaska, so if you ever decide to branch out up here, I’ll be first in line to buy from you.  🙂

    And while we’re on the subject, he and Swade are absolutely right about the garbage that passes for “automotive journalism” among today’s blogs.  The old school magazines and newspapers still know what journalistic integrity is, and tend to follow established rules of proper research and fact-based, objective reporting.  But tabloid websites like The Truth About Cars are nothing but blustering hyperbole and ad space.

    When Saab bounces back and crushes every ill-informed prognostication of these trash blogs, they’ll be exposed for the mindless gossip rags they are.

  7. I guess Just Saab’s story shows that it’s not a good idea to speak to the press at all.  Stories have been slanted, quotes taken out of context, and facts have not been checked.  I guess this is the new norm for web-based journalism.  I also see news sites that use other sites inaccurate stories to verify their conclusions.  If I were in a position to be contacted by the press, I’d give them the standard “no comment” and let it go at that.

  8. “But strangely those who dislike Saab are almost drawn to us…they can’t stay away or stop talking about us.”
    Addiction is a funny old thing – positive or negative!

  9. As a satisfied Just Saab customer (at the Dayton branch of the dealership), I can attest the folk there are not only eloquent, they provide the best auto service we’ve ever had. And since our 1994 900 red convertible is approaching 18 years old, that’s something we appreciate. We’re also grateful that they suggested test-driving a 93 Combi; we bought one new in 2007 and love it. Saabs may not be for everyone, but some of us often just don’t like products made for “everyone.”

  10. Well said Mr. Murphy. I concur that much of the press on Saab recently has been extremely biased and based on personal beliefs. Much of the rhetoric would not pass fact checking. I agree with you that Saab’s have a niche, and they will probably never be the next Toyota Camry that breaks sales records. That’s fine by me, because part of the appeal of my Saab is the fact that they turn heads and leave people asking, “What kind of car is that?”

    I appreciate your enthusiasm and your well thought out statements.

  11. And this is a perfect example of why the “steady drip of bad news” is most frustrating.  At best, most of it is “half-news”, at worst, it is just plain wrong.  As one who makes a living selling Saab, it is certainly difficult to see day after day, but in the end it is my enthusiasm for the cars and the brand, not the drama, that keeps me going here.  I am not blind to the various possible outcomes but I am also aware of all of the work that is being done to ensure I (we) still have new Saabs to sell now and in the future.  There is no point that I can see in being negative about the future, especially when it comes to my customers.  Being positive, but realistic and truthful about what is happening is how I have found to be the best way through this.  And guess what?  I still sell new Saabs.

  12. This post needs an alternate title or search terms like “General Manager of Just Saab in Cincinnati says positive parts of his quotes were left out of AutoNews article”, so it will come up on a Google search near the article.

  13. Is there such thing as bad publicity? I think so in our instance. I’m just a humble salesman at small New England Saab dealer and daily I see how the power of how our comments effect perception, both through the media and on the front lines where I work. Al, nice job being “real” and challenging alternate realities conveyed by those perpetuating the bad stuff

  14. AJ Murphy is not the only one fed up with the stream of Saab bashing. Found this by Johan Norberg in Bilägare Opinion: “Sincerely sick of the tone against Saab”http://www.vibilagare.se/opinion/kronika/innerligt-less-pa-tonen-mot-saab-33701
    Well written and worth a read.
    Googletrans snippet: “Maybe they are right or wrong, but it’s fascinating that they dare step out into the hot air and be so utterly cocksure face of this myriad of facts.”

  15. Nice reading.
    A little off topic – or maybe not: Today – here in Copenhagen – I saw 2 NG 9-5s. (one black, one silver) I normally dislike cars that big. But I have to say; Those cars – especially the black one- had an amazing appearance. From the stance of the total body to the organic details, f.ex the “tooth-map-like” LEDs in the rear-lights/stopping lights this car is something very special and , design-wise, beats all its “competitors” by far!
    I am tempted to say: If one are in the market for a car in this class, one should actually have very little sense for ( or interest in-) shape and design to prefer an Audi A6, a BMW or a Mercedes.

  16. I bought my first Saab last fall. Turns out that Saab was actually my first car ever as well. I was never intending on buying a Saab, it was more of a fluke. Being 17 I knew there was more of a risk buying an imported car in terms of cost for repairs, reliability etc. After a year of driving, the car has given me no problems what so ever. I’ve maintained it with regular oil changes and have treated it like my baby. I bought it (2003 9-3 Linear) with 209,000kms and have driven it so far to 245,000kms. I like to push the car, the sound of the turbo and the feel of the car around corners is amazing.

    I’ve totally being considering looking at Saab for my next car. I’ve had my eye on an 08 9-3 Aero XWD and will be buying one early next year. I know Saab has a lot of great products, and people actually need to try them to realize how amazing they actually are. 

    Heres to all the best! 

  17. Well said AJ!  I follow Just Saab on Facebook and I have to say that you know how to promote the brand.  Boo!  On those who have lost faith in Saab and all the negative media.  It has had an impact on people especially Saab fans who should know better than to buy into it.  Just last night someone asked me to show my Saab in an “orphan” car show.  Saab is not dead yet and won’t be.  Griffin Up, people!

  18. Just Saab has still got attitude and so have I. What gets noticed in the (my) parking lot is the black Ferrari and my red 9-3. 100%Saab.

  19. Saab is a very defiant automaker.  Saab defies the status-quo: they build cars that look like no other automobiles, while being both aesthetically pleasing and practical.  Saab defies perception: most people mistakenly think that my 2.0T 9-3 has a V6.  Saab defies the odds: As an automaker, Saab has shown an unparalleled ability to overcome any obstacle.  Saab is simply too defiant for others to be able to make predictions about them, and as the media makes a living off predicting things: they loathe the unpredictable.  So, it is understandable that they would loathe Saab.   What’s truly disgusting is when this self-righteous desire to “always be right” is converted into hatred.  Hence, just as Saab brings out the best in its supporters, it brings out the worst in its opponents.

  20.  Bravo Mr. Murphy!!! Times are tough enough without the constant rant from the drama queens in the media. Thanks for setting the record straight on this one! Better days are coming, I’m absolutely certain…

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