Saab’s Friday the 13th Nightmare
By George Straton
The day after GM had the dubious honor of notifying more than one out of every four remaining 218 Saab dealerships (81 in all) that their services will no longer be needed by October 2010. (At least it’s not as dour as when, back in August, GM announced that it was suspending Saab sales for our Canadian neighbors after December 31, 2009.)
Koenigsegg, the anticipated succeeding owner of Saab Automobiles – not to be confused with Saab Aircraft selected the 137 dealers set to survive the transaction.
What remains to be seen is how many of the remaining 137 will even stick around? How much (or rather how little) is a franchise worth when the entire brand sold only 6,000 units in the US through September of 2009. Amazingly that figure is a mere one-eighth of the sales managed by Volvo, the next-smallest luxury brand in terms of US sales. To put Saab numbers further in perspective, VW managed to sell 6,000 pricey Eos convertibles in that same period. Over the same time Porsche found more American buyers for its exclusive 911 line.
For one thing, Koenigsegg, in the short term, would obviously need to ramp up financial backing to entice remaining dealers to stay on board.
For another, Koenigsegg and Saab will have to convince the 137 surviving Saab dealers that there is a brighter future for the brand. With the current 9-5 mercifully being put out to pasture and replaced by an all-new model and the 9-3 seeing minimal updates aside from line extensions for the next few years such as the all wheel drive 9-3x, will that be enough to convince them to stay in the fold until the sun shines brighter in Trollhattan?
There’s also the issue of the 9-4x crossover. The Saab faithful didn’t really embrace the Ohio-built Chevy Trailblazer-based 9-7x SUV, so how will they feel about a slightly more Saab-like crossover that shares a platform with the Cadillac SRX and is built in Mexico?
Lastly, the line is going to need more than two models to have a prayer. An entry level Ks-egg sports car which could compete in the market with the likes of the 911 could finally give the Saab line the prestige it’s always sought.
Saab is very much running out of time in the US. With two-thirds of the lineup about to be refreshed, this is do-or-die time in terms of sales. If they don’t increase significantly in the next 18 to 24 months, the future of what’s left of the brand in North America is not looking very promising. Saturn had far more dealers and far more refreshed products, and that brand is now in the dustbin of history.
Oh, and some additional advice to Koenigsegg management, “Please no more 9-2xs”.
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