Saab Confirms Continued US Market Presence
By Kevin Miller
Aside from today’s announcement that all three vehicles in their 9-3 range have again been named a Top Safety Pick by the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, recent news at Saab has not been positive. Their all-new 9-4X crossover and the replacement for the eleven-year-old 9-5 have both been delayed by GM’s financial situation, and a shrinking dealer network in the US has left even major markets with few outlets for purchasing a new Saab. For example, Seattle (and the rest of Western Washington) now has just one, non-centrally-located dealership to handle new vehicle sales and warranty work.
The past month has seen several rumors that Saab would withdraw from US sales entirely, and those rumors were fueled by the fact that Saab USA had no MY2009 vehicles available at dealerships, and there was no online tool for building a 2009 Saab. As 2009 marks the availability of Saab’s XWD all-wheel-drive system in the 9-3 range, the online configuration tool was to provide a valuable insight into pricing of vehicles with the new drivetrain.
Automotive News (subscription required) recently reported that Saab will continue sales operations in the US. In a conversation with Saab Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson, AN was told that “The Saab brand is very attractive to U.S. consumers. There are no plans to pull out at all. The U.S. is a very important part of our strategy.” While that is a relief to Saab customers and dealers alike, Saab’s US sales are down thirty-one percent through October 2008.
Website Trollhattansaab.net reported today that there has been talk in Sweden of nationalizing the Swedish auto industry if either Saab or Volvo was to be taken off life support by their respective American owners. The two Swedish automakers are key players in the country’s manufacturing and engineering sectors, and failure of either one would make survival of the other, as well as survival of automotive suppliers throughout Scandinavia, a difficult proposition.
In any case, American consumers will be able to support Saab for at least another model year. Regions which historically have been strong markets for Saab include New England, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, each of which can have severe winter weather where all-wheel drive is a beneficial feature. With the 9-3 models boasting XWD as well as a renewed Top Safety Pick rating, Saab has a good product to sell. Now they just need some customers to find their remaining stores and buy the cars, which is a tall order given the current economic situation.
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