News - Saab

Saab fightback already begun

Imminent: Saab's new 9-3 SportCombi will be launched in January.

Saab to find its identity, fix its dealers, focus on fleets and deliver new models

Saab logo13 Dec 2005

SAAB claims it is well on the way back to a sales recovery.

Its global managing director and company veteran Jan Ake Jonsson says this was the priority when he took over the reins in March this year.

"I was faced with three issues: turn its finances around nurture and enhance the brand and to be the General Motors guy responsible for Saab," he said.

Mr Jonsson said that Saab’s uniqueness could be maintained by keeping its powertrain engineers in Sweden "so as it can deliver key characteristics of the brand".

He added that Saab’s much-touted "aircraft-ness" would continue to come via "the cockpit design" and cabin ergonomics.

Mr Jonsson’s challenges are to expand the product portfolio globally beyond the 9-3 and 9-5 we see here as well as the GMC truck-based 9-7X it builds and sells exclusively in North America.

The coming vehicles – a 9-3 SportCombi and facelifted 9-5 in 2006, followed by a revamp of these from 2008 as well as a 4WD wagon and sub-9-3 hatchback – all comply with the product and market strategies he has since put into place.

Fixing Saab’s infrastructure – particularly involving its dealer network in Australia – has already begun in earnest in the first year of Saab Australia director Ralph Stevenson’s stewardship.

After calling this year "a disappointment" (sales to November are down 420 units year-on-year), Mr Stevenson is upbeat about 2006 thanks to two key Saab dealerships in Sydney – its biggest market – that now sees it approaching the optimal network size.

"There’s a renewed sense of excitement," he said.

As part of Saab’s closer integration within GM, Mr Stevenson is also leveraging Holden’s vast fleet contacts and experience to increase Saab’s infiltration of the novated lease and company car sector.

A similar strategy in the UK with Vauxhall brand has seen Saab sales there almost double to 30,000 units this year – beating the Swedish brand’s previous record there by 10,000 vehicles – although the GM-owned marque does not have "in-house" premium and luxury competitors in the UK like it does in Australia (via the Holden Calais, Statesman and Caprice).

"We’re going into 2006 with a lot of confidence," said Mr Jonsson. "We have the broadest product range we’ve ever had … expanding our dealer network (as well as) our integration with GM. It will be a very good year."Mr Jonsson said that the company had a good foundation for sales growth in the long term. Around 1500 units will be sold in 2005.

"What we need to do now is roll out these new products," he said. "If you look at Australia, volume-wise it should be consistently around 3000 units – somewhere over time when we renew our product range it would then range somewhere between 3000 to 5000 units. That would be a good number.

"Australia is an important market to us, and we will do what we need to do to achieve that."

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