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GM envisions a mainstream future for its quirky Saab
By Doron Levin

Employees of Saab Automobile AB in Trollhattan, Sweden, are wondering if the world still thinks of its cars as Swedish — or whether that even matters any more.

Saab, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., unveiled a prototype of its latest model — a sport utility, of all things — last week at the New York auto show. Yet there was nary a mention of the quirky Swedish essence that once made Saab cars a cult favorite in the United States.

GM wants to turn Saab into a premium brand for drivers who like sporty European design, and who might think owning a BMW or Audi a bit obvious.

For GM, the idea is to bring Saab more into the mainstream of its global business, integrating the brand into its strategy of creating common parts and chassis worldwide, while maintaining the individuality of its models, to control costs and improve profits.

Saab’s 9-7X, available starting next year, is a four-wheel drive SUV with styling to make it resemble one of Saab’s current sedans — a heresy for Saab purists. Its dimensions are identical to GM’s family of SUVs and it can be built on the same assembly line as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy.

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i gotta say im not unhappy about this. old saabs, to me, were too different, but i like the safty, but now with all the new modles, i might actually think of buying one.

ok that came off a little harsh, i dont mean to say that old saabs are bad in any way, they just arnt my style, so i wouldnt be in the market in for one, now the stlye is nice, i like the key placement, and safty is important to me, so now it is actully a car that would be near the top of my list, a littly way under cadillac.
 

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SAAB has always been considered a quirky car for quirky people. it's never been thought of as mainstream, and certaily never been considered luxury. funny thing is, Subaru was also a goofy brand at one point, and now it's quite popular, and builds cars people want to drive. what's the difference in what they do now versus what they did in the past? not much. Subie always offered good cars, available AWD (although now it's standard across the board on all models), and pretty decent value for the money. they are still unique vehicles. Subaru's popularity, in my opinion, is due to years of very successful marketing. back in the 90's they had the Outback, "the world's first sport utility wagon", or as some see it, the first crossover. it was a wierd idea, but one that was marketed successfully with Paul Hogan as their spokesman, and from there things took off for Subaru. then their cars were "marketed" in popular video games (a BRILLIANT move), the most notable one being the Gran Turismo series from Sony Computer Entertainment. that was perhaps the most crucial move, as the people that were playing those games were people who would soon be in the market, or already were in the market for cars of that type. nobody here, except for true WRC fans, knew what a WRX was. now, everyone knows just how great a machine it is, and most of it because of the excellent marketing strategy put forth by Subaru. Subarus are good cars like they always were (i owned a 1985 GL wagon, and it was wonderful), but now that they are well known they can actually sell some cars.

saying all of that leads to my thought on this... SAAB needs more than new product. they need a tremendous marketing effort. the whole "State of Independence" thing is nice, but i don't think it makes SAAB top of mind for everyone. i've seen a new S40 ad on TV for Volvo, and that's the type they need. the car is racing around (it actually looks like a racing game) a track, and the driver comes from the car completely impressed.. SAAB needs to appeal to the younger crowd that they want to buy their cars, and the current one doesn't do it. i'm pretty sure i'm in the age group they try to appeal to, and i look at their ads on TV or in magazines, and think, "so what?". i'm sure i'm not the only one. they need ads to create excitement, ones that make people say, " i WANT that car!!!". something to drag people in that have never heard of SAAB, or people that still think of SAAB as that wierd little Swedish company that makes hatchbacks for wierd people. SAAB is building better product now, and some of the stuff coming out is quite exciting, but when someone doesn't know about it, or it doesn't fire them up, they're not going to buy it. i want to see SAAB get aggressive, go out and attack the market, and show us some of the coolest ads out there. they need a strong campaign, and they need to show SAAB as what they want people to see it as. a true alternative to BMW and Audi. something fun to drive, with a lot to offer. take it to people's emotional side.
 

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At the rate GM is treating Saab, it will turn into a higher volume nameplate like Olds in the 1990's and then lose its identity. It's on its way there as we speak. In time it will be competing with other GM brands and will be killed when it becomes apparent it is overlapping with other parts of GM and it lost its connection with its traditional buyer.

Oddly enough, the same could be said of Buick.

Mark
 

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In time it will be competing with other GM brands and will be killed when it becomes apparent it is overlapping with other parts of GM and it lost its connection with its traditional buyer.
it's obvious that SAAB's "traditional buyer" isn't enough to make them succeed. they need new customers, they need to become more mainstream. as long as GM markets them as an entirely different thing, the BMW competitor they want to be, then there is no reason why they should compete with other GM brands. but they MUST MARKET, and they also must make the 9-2X and 9-7X their own vehicles in the future. the rebadging of a Subaru and an Envoy is okay for now, but in the future all of SAAB's models must be unique, even if they share platforms. i don't think they will die if they are treated right. maybe GM has learned a lesson after killing the oldest American car brand.
 

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Saab is fine the way it is! The problem is the marketing: it's horrible.

I think GM has a problem getting their head around how a low volume, high priced make can be profitable. How hard is to make money facelifting Opels, throwing on a turbocharger, and selling them for MORE than the equivalent BMW/MB/Audi?!?!?
 

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The problem with the 9-7x, besides being a POS rebadged Chevy', is that the Saab brand just doesn't translate to SUVs, and they will never get enough volume to make their own platform profitable. I wonder if even the 9-5 can ever be profitable on its own platform.

What Saab needs is a smaller S40-sized 9-1 and an expanded 9-3 line (wagon? hatch coupe?). That way they could keep costs down by leverageing as much Opel hardware as possible, while playing to their strength with is fun to drive, quirky small cars (quirky works on small cars for young buyers, not big cars sold to old conservative people).

Also I don't know what they're trying to do with their advertizing. Instead of wasteing huge amounts of money running lots of mainstream TV ads (to people who have probably never heard of Saab) they need to target their marketing effort more closely at potential customers, and be more creative about it.
 

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The problem with the 9-7x, besides being a POS rebadged Chevy', is that the Saab brand just doesn't translate to SUVs, and they will never get enough volume to make their own platform profitable. I wonder if even the 9-5 can ever be profitable on its own platform.
this is where i disagree with you. SAAB could translate perfectly well to an SUV, the only problem is that it won't be with an Envoy, as i said here.

must make the 9-2X and 9-7X their own vehicles in the future. the rebadging of a Subaru and an Envoy is okay for now, but in the future all of SAAB's models must be unique, even if they share platforms.
the Envoy (or whatever you want to call it.) is okay for now, until they come up with a better replacement simply because they need an SUV now. SAAB is losing in the marketplace for many reasons, but one of them is that the lineup isn't diverse enough. basically, SAAB has 2 models, the 9-3 and 9-5, and it's not enough for them to be competitive. SAAB lost somewhere around 28% of its customers to SUVs last year, and there is still another year left before the 9-7 gets here. they have to do something as soon as possible to stop the bleeding, and trying to develop a clean sheet SUV won't do it. therefore, the GMT360 platform will have to suffice for now.

as far as the 9-5 being profitable on its own platform, that's doubtful. there will be some sharing going on in the 9-5 platform for the future, i'm sure.


How hard is to make money facelifting Opels, throwing on a turbocharger, and selling them for MORE than the equivalent BMW/MB/Audi?!?!?
i work at a SAAB dealer, and i'll tell you this. it's hard to make money that way if you can't sell the cars. we have a hard time down here telling people why they should buy our cars over Audi, BMW, and MB when we have very few advantages over them. our cars cost too much, the interiors are typical GM plastic fare, and they are taking away more standard features, and raising the price on seemingly a quarterly basis. SAAB needs to be a bit more competitive, and also needs to get its name out there. it can't keep going if it continues on the same path. something has to be done. hopefully the new product will spark sales enough.
 

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Saabs target is what it always was, VOLVO. Now Ford has completely screwed up it's domestic line of cars. However, they have made a success of their PAG. Jag, Volvo, Land Rover, AM. Why that is I don't know but Volvo is what GM should aim at for Saab. There should be a 9-5 sedan - wagon. 9-3 sedan - AWD coupe(viggin) - conv - sport wagon hatch. A Sonnet based on the Kappa Platform. The SUV is OK. I do not like the Saabaru 9-2. Total rebadge, something GM should avoid like the plague. Entry level Sabb should be Delta based. All Saab's should be FWD with an AWD option except the Sonnet Kappa. Saab should be the upscale version of Subaru. ENGINES ENGINES ENGINES. You simply cannot have an upscale car in this price range with only 210hp except in the Delta based car. 240hp is the absolute minimum in this class for the 9-3 and above. Volvo is a success for Ford no reason Saab can't be for GM.
 

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Originally posted by SUPERBADD75@Apr 15 2004, 04:48 PM
i work at a SAAB dealer, and i'll tell you this. it's hard to make money that way if you can't sell the cars. we have a hard time down here telling people why they should buy our cars over Audi, BMW, and MB when we have very few advantages over them. our cars cost too much, the interiors are typical GM plastic fare, and they are taking away more standard features, and raising the price on seemingly a quarterly basis. SAAB needs to be a bit more competitive, and also needs to get its name out there. it can't keep going if it continues on the same path. something has to be done. hopefully the new product will spark sales enough.
Well... that's very dissapointing to hear that you believe Saabs use "typical GM plastic fare." And you actually sell the cars? Maybe that's why you can't sell them. You're not convinved of the fact that Saabs can actually compete with Audi... and BMW... and Merc.

That's definitely not the experience I have going to my Saab dealership. Their friendliness is on par with Saturn!! And they are always willing to point out new features that come out on the new cars.

Try selling these people who come and see a Saab on the fact that it has a lower TCO than a comparable German. Sell them on the superior gas mileage of Saabs. Saab has a lot of advantages!

Personally, I think the 9-3 has comparable tactile feel to an A4. It's got a great ****pit feel and handles extremely well. And it sells about $8k less than an A4 depending on options. For example, I'm trying to get my friend into a 9-3 convertible. She doesn't like Saabs because of the quirk past its had. Then I took her for a drive in my 9-5... and believe me, she was surprised by it. Much better than she expected. She's test driving a 9-3 convertible next week. She has her heart set on an A4 convertible, but she just can't justify the price. And she's well awaare of the Audi's quality issues and cost of ownership.

Saab needs time to regain its footing. That's for sure. 9-2X and 9-7X, I believe are more placeholders than anything... just to get product in the door as well as customers. Are they the best products? Probably not. But seeing as Saab has lost 30% of customers to SUVs? They can't afford to lose anymore. 9-7X has better specs than any other GMT360... and has more HP... and more safety equipment... and has a better dash. i don't know if the materials have a better tactile feel though. But they certainly look much better than an Envoy.

I don't see a probvlem with "platform sharing," so long as each car is distinguishable from other platform-mates. For example.. the 9-3 looks nothing like a Malibu. Rebadges like the 9-2X/WRX are OK in the interim... so long as the next revision fixes the issues. The WRX is up for platform refresh in 2 years, so I understand why the 9-2X is more rebadge than anything. it makes sense to save the money for a full redesign in 2 years , instead of spending money now.. and then spending money later.

I don't understand how you can say "The Saab brand doesn't translate well into an SUV." Does Porsche translate? Does BMW translate? Does Lexus translate?

In 5-6 years... Saabs lineup should be:

9-2X -- Delta platform or Platform engineered WRX
9-3 -- Sedan, Convertible, Wagon, High-Performance sedan/coupe
9-5 -- Sedan, Wagon, High-Performance sedan/wagon
9-6 -- Luxury Sedan, High-Performance luxury sedan (Zeta?)
9-7X -- SUV (Lambda?)
9-X -- Kappa roadster

Finally... Saab should remain FWD, while offering AWD on all/most models. That above lineup should keep Saab competitive with Volvo and the Germans, while retaining the essence of Saab.
 

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Originally posted by yoblues@Apr 15 2004, 05:34 PM
Saabs target is what it always was, VOLVO. Now Ford has completely screwed up it's domestic line of cars. However, they have made a success of their PAG. Jag, Volvo, Land Rover, AM. Why that is I don't know but Volvo is what GM should aim at for Saab. There should be a 9-5 sedan - wagon. 9-3 sedan - AWD coupe(viggin) - conv - sport wagon hatch. A Sonnet based on the Kappa Platform. The SUV is OK. I do not like the Saabaru 9-2. Total rebadge, something GM should avoid like the plague. Entry level Sabb should be Delta based. All Saab's should be FWD with an AWD option except the Sonnet Kappa. Saab should be the upscale version of Subaru. ENGINES ENGINES ENGINES. You simply cannot have an upscale car in this price range with only 210hp except in the Delta based car. 240hp is the absolute minimum in this class for the 9-3 and above. Volvo is a success for Ford no reason Saab can't be for GM.
i agree with you on most things. The one thing I don't agree with you one is "Saab should be an upscale Subaru?" i'd die if that happened.

Ford has screwed up its entire lineup... domestic and PAG. That's why Ford is reorg-ing them again. Volvo is a good target for Saab. And yes, Volvo does have the upper hand at the moment. I'd just say, give Saab some time. Their sales have suffered for such a long time, it will take time to recover.

You're right... 9-3 needs more power.... a lot more power... especially since the 9-2X has more power. Though, I have a feeling th e9-3 will get a power boost for next year. 9-5 needs to up its power output as well. 250 is nice and all.. but S80 has 278HP.
 

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I don't mean Saab should be rebadged Subarus, I meant it in the sence that Subi has a great reputation for reliability and handeling prowess especially in the snowbelt. Saab should have it's own identity but be the car a Subi driver would move up to or a Volvo or Acura person would consider. Caddy has the GM RWD upscale end covered. Saab should be the premier FWD/AWD GM vehicle. Not every person is going to get into this RWD thing. My wife has driven Saab's for almost 20 years, she is not interested in RWD. I suspect a lot of women are not into RWD and they are 50% of the buyers.
 

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Well... that's very dissapointing to hear that you believe Saabs use "typical GM plastic fare." And you actually sell the cars? Maybe that's why you can't sell them. You're not convinved of the fact that Saabs can actually compete with Audi... and BMW... and Merc.

That's definitely not the experience I have going to my Saab dealership. Their friendliness is on par with Saturn!! And they are always willing to point out new features that come out on the new cars.

Try selling these people who come and see a Saab on the fact that it has a lower TCO than a comparable German. Sell them on the superior gas mileage of Saabs. Saab has a lot of advantages!

Personally, I think the 9-3 has comparable tactile feel to an A4. It's got a great ****pit feel and handles extremely well. And it sells about $8k less than an A4 depending on options.
i'm sorry that you sold out to GM, but seriously look at a 9-5 (designed before the GM buyout) and compare to a 9-3. better yet, go to an Audi dealer with a 9-3 and compare it to an A4. no comparison at all. GM is working on making SAAB another brand that it can strip as much as possible, cut as many corners as possible, and sell as is. it's not a Chevy!!! SAAB is in a competitive segment that has a lot of nice cars, and with some of the things they're doing right now... (removing a lot of the leather in the seats in favor of vinyl, removing rear a/c vents in 9-3 Linear models, having to buy the premium package to get fog lights on linear.... etc.) are cheapening the cars, and taking them DOWN. they need to look at what the others have, and compete. not strip all that they can out and hope people like it because of its looks or the Turbo.

our dealership IS friendly, thank you very much, and we always practice customer service to EVERYONE, but that doesn't mean that i think SAAB is all it can be. GM has really started to screw SAAB up, like it does everything else, and i hate to see it. i hope it turns around.

as far as Ford screwing up PAG... not quite. Volvo is STILL making great cars, and the new S40 and S50 are going to be good stuff for them. Jag is doing well, and Land Rover is coming out with a new Disco that is sure to be a success. GM should take notice.

don't get me wrong, i like SAAB. i don't want to see them fail. that's why i want GM to stop the penny pinching, and just start making better cars.
 

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I like SAABs, from as much as I can tell. I wish we had a dealer in my town. But, I totally agree with stewacide. I'm sure that SAABs market isn't teens and early 20s. But, maybe it is, isn't that what the BMW 3 is pretty much aimed for? I haven't seen any statictics, but when I think of SAAB, I think of 40+ year olds. But, SAAB has to get the word out. Then they can hit all the markets, they have a strong, bold look. It looks powerful.

I don't know how to do it, I saw a good amount of SAAB commercials. They were good, stating impressive facts. They had a lot of class, like SAAB, but not aggressive.


GM just needs to get the word out...atleast that's what I think.
 

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If Saab did a toughed-up 9-3 and 9-5 wagons and called them "SUVs" a-la Volvo's XC cars that would be fine, but rebadgeing a huge domestic 3-row SUV is just wrong! It has NOTHING to do with what Saab is!

I don't understand why they don't work on improveing and expanding the lines they have instead of bring out more and more badge jobs. Volvo on the other hand has only two platforms right now (the Focus platform under the S40/V50 and the Volvo large car platform under everything else) while Saab will soon have four (9-3, 9-5, 9-2, 9-7) and still only a fraction of the sales! (plus it looks like they're getting ANOTHER platform with the RWD 9-6!).

Hopefully GM sells Saab before they destroy them completely. Since Ford seems to be the ONLY company in the industry that seems able to say no to lineup expansion that'd be the best choice. The world doesn't need a Saab SUV any more than we need a Jaguar SUV!!!
 

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Hopefully GM sells Saab before they destroy them completely. Since Ford seems to be the ONLY company in the industry that seems able to say no to lineup expansion that'd be the best choice. The world doesn't need a Saab SUV any more than we need a Jaguar SUV!!!
stew, i really like the way you think. seems there aren't enogh here that think like that. platform sharing is good, but not if you give EVERY division one of each platform. it's even worse when many of the cars are barely even changed. good show!
 

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It started with GM ~20 years ago but now EVERY brand it seems these days is trying to become full line. VW is building v12 luxury sedans! Mercedes is building subcompact hatchbacks! Pontiac is building minivans! Honda is building a pickup! Saab is building SUVs!

These are prescious few companies anymore that have a clear vision for what it is that defines them, and coincidentally or not most are part of the Ford empire:

- It would have been too easy to build cheapened bloated cars and SUVs for North America only as the other Japanese have done but Mazda is sticking to its guns as a sporty, premium, world-car make: and reaping the rewards.

- It would have been too easy and profitable for Land/Range Rover to borrow Ford engines and platforms but they haven't, and/or to forget about their off-roadability, but they haven't, and again are increasingly successful because of it.

- It would have been so, SO easy and tempting for Jaguar to build some nasty, tacky SUV to pander to the idiot North American consumer, or to build some nasty, tacky little compacts to pander to the Europeans, but again they haven't and hopefully they will be rewarded once MB/BMW/Audis credibility starts to nosedive.

- Similarily Volvo is building its own cars on its own platforms with its own engines in its own style and is seeing huge sales gains. They're working on their weaknesses (style, handeling) while still agressively persueing their strengths (safety, packageing, durability, etc.)

- Porsche has built an SUV! Lambo' is building an SUV! Aston building an SUV? You've got to be kidding! They've stuck to their guns as an exclusive make as their competitors have in turn started to whore themselves off to the mainstream, and are growing sales because of it.

Subaru is another example of a company sticking to its roots and playing to its strengths: they've gone entirely AWD, they've kept the horizontals.. and their sales are growing! Instead of spinning of some cheap GM clone they're persueing their own unique platform and engines for their upcomming 3-row crossover, and hopefully will be rewarded because of it.
 

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Originally posted by SUPERBADD75@Apr 15 2004, 07:14 PM
i'm sorry that you sold out to GM, but seriously look at a 9-5 (designed before the GM buyout) and compare to a 9-3. better yet, go to an Audi dealer with a 9-3 and compare it to an A4. no comparison at all. GM is working on making SAAB another brand that it can strip as much as possible, cut as many corners as possible, and sell as is. it's not a Chevy!!! SAAB is in a competitive segment that has a lot of nice cars, and with some of the things they're doing right now... (removing a lot of the leather in the seats in favor of vinyl, removing rear a/c vents in 9-3 Linear models, having to buy the premium package to get fog lights on linear.... etc.) are cheapening the cars, and taking them DOWN. they need to look at what the others have, and compete. not strip all that they can out and hope people like it because of its looks or the Turbo.

our dealership IS friendly, thank you very much, and we always practice customer service to EVERYONE, but that doesn't mean that i think SAAB is all it can be. GM has really started to screw SAAB up, like it does everything else, and i hate to see it. i hope it turns around.

as far as Ford screwing up PAG... not quite. Volvo is STILL making great cars, and the new S40 and S50 are going to be good stuff for them. Jag is doing well, and Land Rover is coming out with a new Disco that is sure to be a success. GM should take notice.

don't get me wrong, i like SAAB. i don't want to see them fail. that's why i want GM to stop the penny pinching, and just start making better cars.
I don't think that Saab has descended at all. I think that a comparable 9-3 Aero is a match for a midrange A4. I think that Saab should move the 9-3 up a little higher up the totem pole... but for a car at $26K... it's not bad.

First of all, I don't think GM is screwing everything up. I think they are doing what they can with 8 different car divisions with an extremely limited amount of fund in a very bad global economic environment. GM does not have the cash Toyota does. In terms of its long term strategy, I think GM is more solid than wither Ford or DCX. The fact that Saab doesn't have the cars now doesn't mean they will have the cars 2-3-4 years down the road.

Sorry, I don't think GM is screwing up Saab at all. There are too many positions on this right now. People don't think a Subaru is qualified to be a Saab. People don't think an SUV is good for the Saab brand. People think that Saab should be fully independent. People think that Saab should be RWD. Penny-pinching? $4 Billion to Cadillac. $4 Billion to Buick. And you've still to Pontiac, Chevy, Saturn, Hummer, Opel, Holden to worry about. I don't call that penny pinching. GM doesn't have a $30 billion cash hoarde like Toyota. Give them time.

Seriously.... What is wrong with a rebadged Subaru being sold as a Saab? The fact that it is rebadged. That's it. Subarus have great performance and have a great tradition for it. They follow in the Path of Saab. Should it have been a rebadge? No. But the economics of redoing the entire platform... which is going away in 2 years is just not economically sound for GM.

SUV not good for Saab? People complain about the Porsche Cayenne. I say... "Get used to it." SUV's make money. Saab has lost 30% of their customers because they didn't have an SUV. Is the GMT360 the best choice? For now, it is. It's not a total rebadge either, which is some consolation. With the platform being modified in a few years... I'm jsut glad Saab took the time to change some things around.. but then again, it's been under development for quite a long time.
Saab can't survive as a fully independent company. It wasn't surviving. It would have been dead years ago.
Saab should be RWD? No. Volvos aren't RWD... and no one bitches about that. Saabs should be FWD or AWD.

As for PAG? Jaguar sales are down.. and have been down for a while. Volvo has done better, but their sales are flat. New product is in the pipeline and should help. Land Rover? To new to tell. It just joined PAG not too long ago. Lincoln? Give it a couple years for Ford to figure out what to do with it. But Ford has issues with their platform sharing. Not on the order of VW's platform sharing problems... but using cheapo car platforms for their PAG cars weren't the way to do it. Cadillac has that down already... and it took them 3-4 years to get to that point. And it will take Ford at least that long just to get up to speed. Believe it or not... Fords got a LOT of problems.
 
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