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Saab hires Saabs United blogger

Enthusiast: Steven Wade (pictured) has gone from Saab fan to Saab employee.

Save Saab campaigner Steven Wade to work on Swedish brand’s social media

18 Mar 2011

THE Australian Saab enthusiast behind the Saabs United website that formed a base for the global ‘Save Saab’ campaign has been hired as project leader for social media in the born-again Swedish car-maker’s interactive marketing department.

Saab will be putting to use Steven Wade’s social media knowledge, built over six years of operating the Saab blog site Trollhattan Saab, which became Saabs United in early 2009 when General Motors put its Scandinavian subsidiary up for sale.

“My main task will be to create content about the company and the Saab community for distribution through various social media channels,” Mr Wade told GoAuto of his new role. “The aim of the task is to bring the company and the community closer together.” He said that on discovering the blogging medium in 2004 and how it “gave the ordinary person a voice,” he took to it straight away, his enthusiasm for and knowledge of Saabs providing something he felt he could write about with some authority to serve an audience.

“I was fortunate in that people enjoyed the content of the site. I had some great sources who provided me with inside information as to what was going on at Saab. This caused some irritation with Saab at first, but I still managed to build up a great relationship with the company,” he said.

With Saabs United now a thriving community and regularly serving over 500,000 pages per month to readers all over the world, Mr Wade said the website had grown to such a point that he felt unable to continue managing it while sustaining his day job and family life.

 center imageFrom top: Steven Wade (left) receiving the inaugural Saabs United Award from Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson, 2011 Saab 9-3 sedan and hatch, Saab 9-3X, Saab 9-5.

Asked how his job with Saab came about, Mr Wade said, “Thankfully, my need to make changes and Saab's need to move more deliberately into the social media arena intersected, and here we are.

“Saab actually advertised this position last year and I applied for it. My ‘job interview’ was a discussion with the Saab Executive team at the LA Auto Show last year and then a few phone calls shortly thereafter.”

In Saab’s announcement of Mr Wade’s appointment, the company credits him with playing a “pivotal role in rallying support around the globe for the Saab brand during negotiations for its sale by General Motors”.

It goes on to say that Mr Wade gained “valuable insights into how to communicate with customers through social media”.

Mr Wade – who claims to be one of the first people Spyker Cars CEO and Saab chairman Victor Muller contacted after Spyker’s purchase of Saab from GM was finalised – published a letter on the Saabs United site in which Mr Muller said: “You have single-handedly proven the importance social media has nowadays in situations like the one Saab went through. You became one of my most powerful allies in those trying times which now are fortunately behind us”.

The site's proudest hours for Mr Wade were in 2009 and early 2010, with Saabs United’s coverage of Saab’s sale to Spyker Cars.

“It was a hectic time for the company and I'm quietly proud of the track record the site maintained for accuracy and completeness in reporting, often beating the mainstream press to the heart of the story on any given day,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough to be invited to Stockholm to see and report on the closing of the sale in person, which was quite a unique experience.”

Mr Wade originally trained as an accountant and has worked as an auditor for the past nine years. He is moving from Hobart, where he has lived for 16 years, back to his home town of Melbourne so he can take up the post – based at Saab Cars Australia’s Port Melbourne offices – starting on April 4.

“My family still live there, so it's a homecoming for me. It'll be great to see a lot more of them, and of course my beloved Carlton Football Club,” he said.

Mårten Wahlstedt, director of Saab Marketing Communications, said: “I am delighted to welcome Steven to the team here at Saab Automobile. Engaging with customers through interactive channels and social media such as Facebook and YouTube is of the utmost importance for us”.

Of the options Mr Wade considered for the site since his decision to stop working on it, including leaving it for other contributors to run or keeping it online but only as an archive, Mr Wade eventually settled for what he originally considered the least likely result: selling it.

Ownership of Saabs United has passed to Tim Rokka, a 30 year-old Swedish commercial pilot known on the site as TimR, a Saab fan who has lived in Trollhattan most of his life and once worked in Saab’s factory.

“I've known Tim for four years now, having first met him at a Saab Festival in Trollhattan back in 2007. He has a team of six or seven guys writing with him, nearly all of whom I've met at various events over the years. The site's in very good hands,” said Mr Wade.

Asked whether he sees the experience he gained through running Saabs United or the profile he built among Saab enthusiasts as being most useful in his new role, Mr Wade said that he hoped his profile will be immediately useful.

“People familiar with Saabs United will, I hope, check out what we're doing at Saab. I'm already accustomed to most of the challenges this role will pose - duelling time zones, the tyranny of distance, building and moderating community and much more. I'm not one to claim I've done it all and know it all, but six years of running SU should stand me in pretty good stead.”

In honour of the website founded by Mr Wade, Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson last August created an annual ‘Saabs United’ award that will be presented each year to the person who, in the eyes of Mr Jonsson and a judging panel, makes the single greatest contribution to Saab’s success. Fittingly, the award’s first recipient was none other than a surprised Mr Wade.

Mr Wade said he has owned “eight or nine” Saabs but didn’t discover the brand until the early 1990s when a friend bought a 9000 Turbo.

He said he was smitten with the Turbo after his first drive, although it was not until late in the decade that he bought his first Saab, a 1972 99E, by which time he had caught the Saab bug and bought his first force-fed Saab, a 99 Turbo, which went on to become his joint favourite – alongside the 9-3 Viggen, one of which he has also owned – a few years later.

Mr Wade now drives a 1999 9-3 Monte Carlo, number nine of just 50 imported to Australia from a global production run of 195 cars, while his wife’s mode of transport is a Saab 9000.

As GoAuto reported at the end of February, Spyker announced plans to sell the sportscar business to the Russian-owned, British-based coachbuilder that produces body panels for the Spyker sportscars in order to reduce its debt burden and focus on the revival of Saab.

Last year, Australian Saab dealers sold just 14 cars from old stock – down from 1862 in 2007. However, new models are now returning – beginning with the 9-3X all-wheel drive wagon, 9-3 sedan and 9-3 wagon – via a pared-down dealer network established by factory-owned distributor Saab Cars Australia ahead of the all-new 9-5 flagship sedan’s local launch in April.

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