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Saab future ‘fantastic’ in Australia

It has a future: The Saab 9-X Biohybrid was shown at Geneva in 2008.

Change in Saab ownership, distribution to set a course for new growth in Australia

28 Jan 2010

GM HOLDEN believes Saab dealers and customers have every reason to be optimistic about the future of the Swedish marque in Australia following its sale to Spyker Cars and its imminent change in distribution to an independent operator.

In an interview with GoAuto, Saab Australia director Parveen Batish refused to divulge the new distributor/s with which parent General Motors has been in discussions, preferring to wait until a formal announcement is made in the coming weeks.

He said once the final agreement between GM and Spyker was signed, and financing terms settled, details concerning the new distribution arrangements should come to light.

“It’s just too early to say exactly what impact it will have on the dealers in the short-term,” Mr Batish said.

“Obviously, we know what will happen in the long-term – with the new products coming through – but ... the deal still has to be ratified by various bodies and the European Investment Bank loan still has to come through.

“I can’t confirm anything in terms of timing because we still have to wait for the deal to be ratified before any agreements can be made with any potential importers.

“There obviously have been discussions going on for some time, and once agreements have been signed then we can obviously start to discuss who that will be and what impact and what timing will be involved.

 center imageLeft: Saab Australia director Parveen Batish.

“Discussions are ongoing and we are close to an appointment, but, again, nothing will be announced until agreements have been signed and deal has been done between GM and Spyker.”

Mr Batish said he was confident that the change in distribution would not adversely affect Saab’s operations in Australia, which have suffered in recent years as General Motors restricted the development of redesigned and new-segment models for the Swedish brand.

“The key things to say are that, first of all, Saab has a really good future in terms of products coming through,” he said.

“As far as our current customers are concerned, there is absolutely no need for them to worry about how warranty etc will be handled. So our current customers will be looked after into the future.

“What impact a potential importer will have, I can’t comment on ... All we know is that, currently, for everybody, this is fantastic news and a real opportunity to look forward to a great future with an iconic brand.

“This (latest turn of events) makes it, in some respects, even more iconic in terms of what it’s had to go through – the fact that it was so close to being wound down, and now has been saved.”

New product, in particular, will help the Saab cause and provide a basis from which the brand can rebuild. In Australia, its sales were down a painful 42.7 per cent last year for a 12-month total of just 663 cars sold.

Mr Batish pointed to the new-generation 9-5 sedan, the off-road-oriented 9-3X (based on the current 9-3 SportCombi) and the all-new 9-4X medium SUV as models that will make an immediate impact.

“Saab have got at least three new products coming in the very near future, which are just perfect for the Australian market – the 9-3X, the 9-5 and the 9-4X – and are products that Saab has needed for some time,” he said.

“With those products, Saab will become really competitive out there. And with the brand that it has, and with dealers and customers having confidence in the long-term future of Saab, I think it can get back to where it should be in the marketplace.”

Of the independent distributors currently operating in Australia, the three best positioned to take on Saab are considered to be Inchcape Australia, Ateco Automotive and Sime Darby.

GoAuto contacted representatives from all three companies this week but is still to receive official comment.

Inchcape is not believed to be interested, but as was the case with the prospect of taking on Chrysler distribution in Australia following its restructure under Fiat – a process that will now see a Fiat-run factory operation established here – Ateco and Sime Darby are certain to be watching events closely and promoting their abilities as capable of taking on a new franchise.

Regarding his own future with GM Holden, Mr Batish, who relocated from Saab in the UK to Australia in 2006, said he hoped to remain involved with the Swedish brand.

“My future, I’d like to think, is tied in with Saab in some shape or format. And when I find out, you guys will find out!”

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