Two Saab assets – Product and People

Whilst the newspapers and web columnists have been talking us down, you’ve been hearing plenty from me about the reasons I believe Saab will survive it’s current difficult times – brand, factory, product and people. Perhaps it’s time to hear from someone else.

The following was written in comments to this website by Derek M, who attended the Saab Owners Convention in New Jersey last weekend. I’ll present it here without any further introduction or context as I think it speaks for itself. We have some of the best fans ever.

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Just a quick (although not brief) note of appreciation. When SAAB was announced for sale by GM, I hungered for news and stumbled upon Saabsunited. It’s my wife who has always been enamored by the brand, but I’ve since come to develop a passion for the brand. I still receive a smile each day as I pilot my convertible to work. Your post of the 9-5 combi at SOC was all the incentive needed for Denise and I to take a day trip to New Jersey. It was nice to be surrounded in an environment that was all about product instead of the media’s constant barrage of finances.

It is the details of the 9-4x which are certain to create or reinforce the brand loyalty in the CUV segment. Ex: The collapsable u-rail system locks into place under the floor if not needed. (Gee, can you see what Jason and the design team can do about emulating that concept with the wind diffuser for the next generation of convertibles???)

Perrine SAAB brought a 9-5 turbo4 sedan for test drives. (Java with the cashmere leather, wood trim and cocoa brown dash is particularly luxurious looking.) I must confess to having scoffed at your praise of the turbo4. My bred-in-the-US mentality is that bigger is better – so while I appreciate the size of the new 9-5, after driving the turbo6 last year why would I even think about a test drive of the turbo4?

Was I mistaken in my assumption? Absolutely. The power band and torque for the turbo4 was smooth and readily available, no lag- no feeling under powered.

After drooling over the 9-5combi in person, who cares what is under the hood. it will sell on looks alone. I do think the turbo4 is the right choice for the US market as this trim distinguishes it from the 9-4x trim levels. (Although, it would be nice if aero trim included the Hirsch upgrade in horse power to distinguish trim levels, but I’m no product planner.)

The most enjoyable part of the day was the interactions. During our test drive of the 9-4x aero, we had the opportunity to converse with John (Libbos, from Saab Cars NA). What great tenure and expertise. Where I work, we refer to employees of twenty-five plus years of service as Legacy employees. If my memory and math skills are adequate, John will reach that milestone next year. They’ve helped define our brand and create our culture, leading to our legacy. It is that passion and determination that distinguishes companies from their competitive set. Passion is inherent, you are either impassioned by your work or you are not. As a Human Resources guy- Human Talent is my area of expertise. I truly believe that it is the power of the individual , the human asset, that makes an organization unique. The competition can’t copy synergy, mettle nor fortitude.

So regardless of one year of service or twenty-five years, my thanks to both you and John for the impact and passion you’ve ignited in me. I look forward to the day when conversations and media can focus on product. I have every confidence that similarly impassioned individuals are working towards the financial solutions needed for such a realization.

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15 Comments

  1. I too love and care for this brand , 35 years of service to customers and meeting the people of SAAB has been great . Today I’ll still be going to work and providing the best service I can for the people  I care for , I’m not part of the decision  of who does what on SAAB I can only do what my part is , providing great service for  the brand
    Thanks Dave , Columbus Ohio , USA

  2. Another example of the stuff Saab people are made of comes from today’s DI.se, in a story about Volvo’s difficulties in recruiting new engineers. (They need to hire 1 000, but will still have 600 vacancies at the end of the year.)

    And there hasn’t been any rush of engineers to Volvo Cars from Saab Automobile, in spite of the liquidity crisis and withheld salaries at Saab.

    “No great numbers have come to us yet. The Saabers are loyal, in spite of the big problems. But a few are on their way in, in various positions,” says Olle Axelsson [information manager at Volvo Cars].

    1. It’s not for lack of trying on their part, I can tell you!  🙂

      There was a story in DI.se (and others) about one of our marketing managers who’s going to Volvo.  I was having lunch with him when DI.se called.  Five minutes before that, Volvo called to let him know DI would like to talk.  My hunch is they were quite happy to have a Saab-to-Volvo story out there.  

          1. possibly so ….

            maybe the guy is a very nice guy (I do not know him personally to comment…) but I do think it was not appropriate taking the call from DI.SE given the current situation at SAAB …

            it was clear they were trying to build a big damaging (for SAAB) “story” on it …

    2. This loyalty makes a great brand story that sets Saab apart from all competitors. I hope marketing is working really hard to start telling it as soon as the company is back on its feet again.

  3. I too was very taken with the Turbo4. While I am a 4-banger kind of guy, it did seem a rather diminutive engine for such a heavy car, but my concerns were alleviated when I finally drove it. I did have an interesting encounter with a recent buyer of a Turbo4. He’s a long time Saab owner, and coming out of a 9000 CSE 2.3T. He came to the service department stating that the car was massively underperforming. I elected to just take the car for a ride with him.

    Around town, certainly there was no problem; these cars pull nicely from a stop, perhaps better (at least in the seat of the pants) even that the V6. When we took it to the highway and had long sustained acceleration, where the car feels fine, but nothing like the V6, the customer said–“See, it won’t get out of it’s own way.” I pointed out on repeated attempts, that to really gage the acceleration in that car, you can’t rely on viceral sensation, you have to actually watch the speedometer climb: it’s accelerating faster than you think. He asked why that was. I pointed out that the torque curve characteristics were a bit different on his new and old cars, and that the rate of acceleration was more linear in the Turbo4. A retired scientist from MIT’s Lincoln Labs, he thought about my observation for a moment and said–“Oh, you mean the second derivative.” Now remember, I’m a musician masquerading as a service manager, never took calculus and while I can expound on counter-point in retrograde inversion, I had no idea what “second derivative” meant. I never skipped a beat, though, and made like Jon Lovitz used to on Saturday Night Live and said–“Yeah, that’s it….the second derivative.” [I have since read up on second derivative and despite my ignorance, I was correct.]

    At this the customer finally accepted my observation and went on his merry way. You can bet that the next time I take a roadtest and the question of acceleration comes up, I’m trotting out my second derivative.

  4. I bought a 2010 9-5 Aero thinking that the 4 cylinder would be underpowered. I had a chance to take a Turbo 4 out as a loaner car and much to my amazement, I found the Turbo 4 to pull very strong.  It had great performance and much better fuel mileage than my V-6.  It’s a great car.  I think the problem is to get the average buyer over the stigma of driving a $40,000 four cylinder car. I think if we can get the buyer to actually test drive the car, they’d be quite impressed by it.  I look forward to a test of the sport-combi when it arrives in the US.

  5. John Libbos is indeed a Saab legacy. He is extremely knowledgeable and conversant on all things Saab. We have had the privilege of John’s experience at many past SOC’s and really appreciated his support this year as well. All of the participation by SCNA folks helped make it one of our best ever!

  6. Ever
    since I was a small kid, the old Saab 900s always caught my attention. In 2008 I
    happened to visit a local Saab Dealer in Vienna, Austria. I fell in love with
    the stylish, masculine design of the 9-3 and 9-5. So I took a 9-3 Aero
    for a test-drive and loved it. For three years I dreamt of purchasing this
    model, but due to financial constraints and other issues I could not do so.
    After things settled down a bit I decided to go for it and last month I leased
    a Saab 9-3, 210PS. So my dream car was finally parked in my garage. Driving on
    the Autobahn and in the city is an unforgettable, fantastic experience. I have
    owned several brands before (including a brand new 2002 A6 Audi, which had
    serious problems every 3 months), however Saab both when behind the wheel
    and on the outside has a special aura, a spirit that distinguishes it from the
    rest and which cannot be described. It has to be felt. I follow very closely
    the events surrounding the company and cannot imagine having to ditch this
    beauty after the expiry of my four-year leasing agreement, should the Saab company be eventually liquidated. I have faith in the Saab team, in the Owner and
    thousands of enthusiasts and fans worldwide. Please make my day and save the
    brand!

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