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http://seekingalpha.com/article/69206-how-gm-can-and-should-save-saab?source=yahoo

I recently penned a post discussing General Motors' (GM) failed strategy of trying to sell eight versions of the same car, instead of focusing on building ONE great car and producing maybe two variants at most. I attributed the problem to one of brand mismanagement, and promised to discuss the marketing and branding issue in more detail at a later date. Here is the first in a series of articles on the subject, a discussion around what is arguably GM’s greatest crime of “brand murder”: the destruction of Saab.

When I was a kid there was a great Saab commercial showing a Saab owner driving at illegal speeds along twisty back roads, while a Rolls Royce owner is being driven serenely along the same roads whilst reading the paper and drinking tea. The images cut back and forth and eventually the Saab owner (stuck behind and annoyed with the slow moving Rolls Royce) passes the Rolls Royce and leaves him in the dust. The commercial ends with the tagline: “People who buy a Rolls Royce pay other people to drive for them; people who drive Saabs let no one do the driving but themselves!”

If I remember correctly (I was barely ten at the time) this commercial came out around 1985/1986, back when the Saab brand was stronger and the company was considered a producer of premium, safe, quirky and sporty cars. They were never in the same league as Mercedes or BMW, but they were still premium automobiles that were well respected and had a strong following.

Fast forward to 2008 and Saab only holds a glimmer of its former glory. You could even argue that the use of Opel platforms and the GM parts bin makes them some sort of *******ized version of a true Saab. Perhaps the most glaring example is the Saab SUV: a rebadged GM Envoy with a Saab nameplate and the trademark ignition on the floor console.

Aside from the automotive-Frankenstein quasi Saabs GM is pushing on the marketplace, the real problem with Saab is that the cars simply don’t stand up to the competition. Why would you pay $36k for a Saab 9-3 when you can get a car with similar appointments and performance capabilities (if not greater) from Honda (HMC) or Nissan (NSANY) for much less, or get higher performing, more luxurious cars from Audi, BMW or Lexus for about the same price? Unless you’re in love with Saab’s styling, the floor ignition or the nighttime driving lights, it makes little sense to choose Saab over the competition.

So what’s the solution for Saab?

Put the cars from other Luxury Sport Sedan manufacturers firmly in their sights, and actually build a car that a potential BMW, Audi or Infiniti buyer practically has to try before making a final decision. Some potential ideas:

Actually build a bloody Saab. Stop rebadging subpar cars from other GM divisions. American car buyers don’t want to pay $35k for a rebadged Opel/Generic GM Sedan with a few Saab touches.
If you want to be a legitimate competitor in the luxury sports sedan arena, your cars have to be either all wheel drive or rear wheel drive. Until rear wheel drive and/or all wheel drive variants of the Saab 9-3 are produced, it’s not going to be a viable competitor against the heavyweights in that market segment.
More power: Lexus and Infiniti were able to shake-up the Sports Sedan world by starting a horsepower race, Saab should join the club and push the power output of the Aero version of the 9-3 to at least 300 HP. They should also create a “motorsport/tuner” version of the 9-3 (i.e. bring back the Viggen) with a power output in excess of 400 HP, as a ultra-high performance 9-3 could be a cachet model that could help breathe life back into the Saab brand. Furthermore if a super-powered Viggen is brought back in rear wheel or all wheel drive form, it won’t have the torque steer that plagued the last version and dampened its high-performance credentials.
Can Saab be saved? Sure, if Audi can come back from being nearly dead to being a viable competitor for BMW and Mercedes. With the A4 outselling the Mercedes C-Series, Saab can be revived too. However the key to reviving Saab (as it was with Audi) is a great product. A company that claims their cars are “descended from Jets” should build performance automobiles that keep that promise, as opposed to seeming more like they’re descended from rebadged pedestrian Opels.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

I have always been a Saab fan, and feel that they can save it. But I agree, they need to make it more of it's own brand again. I saw a 9-7x the other day....it was so sad.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

What's wrong with Saab?

1) Fire the idiot American designer who is designing for Saab now.
2) Use of Opel-ized platforms? Fine. But Saab should ALWAYS be a notch above.
3) I've noticed the degradation of Saab interiors since 2002. WTF??
4) Americanization of the interior. Quit using the Chevy parts bin. Saab is better than those pieces of trash.
5) Launching 9-7X on a Chevy platform... without necessary performance enhancements... and an Aero that came 3 years too late.
6) Saab's smart details are gone. WTF GM!!?? You didn't think we Saab-philes wouldn't notice??
7) Engines that are no longer competitive in the market.
8) Insistence on V6's when more powerful I4's are more Saab's style.
9) Where is BioPower in the US?
10) Lack of smart Saab innovations.
11) The 9-5 is 11 years old for ****s sake!!!

What happened to vehicles like the Viggen? Why are the Aeros no longer performance oriented or specialized performance cars? Gone. NOn existent. Nothing planned.
Saab has become a complete embarrassment for GM. And it provides further proof that GM CANNOT BUILD NICHE VEHICLES!!!

GM has a predisposition to building bland, soulless, cookie cutter cars. And the brands that absolutely need style and panache and an image to survive (Cadillac and Saab) are in the worst shape at GM because GM has no idea how to manage that part of the auto business.

The best way for GM to save Saab... is to sell or spin off Saab. And I will argue that GM needs to sell or spinoff Cadillac as well, in order for the brand to truly spread its wings. Until then, these 2 brands will forever be anchored. That's the truth of the matter.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

Really, why do read a GM oriented forum, when you obviously find fault in everything that they do? I also don't get this "pre-GM Saab was the best car ever" attitude. Certainly GM has been neglectful, at times, to any of it's brands, but I am so sure that Saab would not have survived as an independant automaker. I remember the Saabs of old, like the 900, which rode on a 15 year old platform, with the only styling upgrades consisting of aero headlights, and ground effects. As for sharing platforms, or interior bits with Opel or Chevy, pre-GM Saab was sharing the 9000's platform with Fiat/Alfa Romeo, which are brands not known for quality and durability. Platform sharing is a way of life, these days, for every company except for Benz and BMW. To simplify things a bit, Audi and Porsche both have models which are heavily dependant on VW platforms and engineering, so why is Saab (which ain't Audi by a long stretch) having to use common GM platforms such a bad thing. While I was not a fan of the 9-2X and the 9-7X, these models did add to Saab's growth (at least temporarily) in the U.S. Speaking of the 9-7X, was the platform sharing with the Trailblazer any more transparent than that of the Touareg/Q7/Cayenne triplets? And for suggestions that Cadillac is struggling, you obviously have not been keeping up with the sales figures, and reviews of the CTS.

What's wrong with Saab?

1) Fire the idiot American designer who is designing for Saab now.
2) Use of Opel-ized platforms? Fine. But Saab should ALWAYS be a notch above.
3) I've noticed the degradation of Saab interiors since 2002. WTF??
4) Americanization of the interior. Quit using the Chevy parts bin. Saab is better than those pieces of trash.
5) Launching 9-7X on a Chevy platform... without necessary performance enhancements... and an Aero that came 3 years too late.
6) Saab's smart details are gone. WTF GM!!?? You didn't think we Saab-philes wouldn't notice??
7) Engines that are no longer competitive in the market.
8) Insistence on V6's when more powerful I4's are more Saab's style.
9) Where is BioPower in the US?
10) Lack of smart Saab innovations.
11) The 9-5 is 11 years old for ****s sake!!!

What happened to vehicles like the Viggen? Why are the Aeros no longer performance oriented or specialized performance cars? Gone. NOn existent. Nothing planned.
Saab has become a complete embarrassment for GM. And it provides further proof that GM CANNOT BUILD NICHE VEHICLES!!!

GM has a predisposition to building bland, soulless, cookie cutter cars. And the brands that absolutely need style and panache and an image to survive (Cadillac and Saab) are in the worst shape at GM because GM has no idea how to manage that part of the auto business.

The best way for GM to save Saab... is to sell or spin off Saab. And I will argue that GM needs to sell or spinoff Cadillac as well, in order for the brand to truly spread its wings. Until then, these 2 brands will forever be anchored. That's the truth of the matter.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

I believe GM can save Saab if they bring it back to its roots. First, put Buick to sleep and make Saab the near luxury brand. Saturn can be under Saab, then Pontiac, then Chevrolet. I soo wish they would bring back the Saab hatch! Hatches are hot right now, but GM doesn't understand that totally. They have the Astra, but a Saab hatch would be nice. The concepts they have been showing of Saabs have been nice. If they keep going in that direction, they Saab should be a great brand again.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

The 9-1 has potential, and the Turbo X seems to be a step above what they used to call performance.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

SAAB would have been long gone from the US market if it weren't for GM--they may have been gone alltogether. I am not saying that the GM supplied SAAB's are great but they do have one thing over the old SAABs--reliability. Those pre-GM SAAB's were'nt really reliable cars--in fact some were truly POS in terms of service. When's the last time you saw a true SAAB on the road that is still a daily driver??

I understand that SAAB needs to be more of a one of a kind vehicle--but really what can you expect a cash strapped GM to do right now? I think GM is doing what it can with SAAB under current conditions and they really havent done such a bad job except for the 9-5. The 9-3 is IMO a really cool vehilcle and the sport wagon is truly unique. Even the 9-7 deserves more credit then it gets as it is easily the best looking of the siblings and if it handles anything like the the TB SS then its solid. I am sure SAAB will get more of a cash injection when and if GM truly turns around and starts being profitble again.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

Save Saab?

They have a new 9-3 out, the new 9-5 will be out soon, and their new crossover utility and 9-1. I don't know what happed to the 9-3 convertible, but it didn't sell that well to begin with.
As old school as the 9-7x is, it does sell pretty well, which leads me to believe that the new crossover will be a huge hit by Saab standards.

What exactly needs saving? Saab was never a volume seller to begin with.

Buick needs to be put to sleep while Saturn takes the entry level lux brand. Saab and Hummer should be allowed to do their own thing. The corporate relationship within those to brands needs to loosen. Hummer should be free to build what it wants, and utilize GM truck parts (if it wants). Saab should be their own seperate company within a company (but with the GM parts bin should it choose to use it).
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

What's wrong with Saab?

1) Fire the idiot American designer who is designing for Saab now.
2) Use of Opel-ized platforms? Fine. But Saab should ALWAYS be a notch above.
3) I've noticed the degradation of Saab interiors since 2002. WTF??
4) Americanization of the interior. Quit using the Chevy parts bin. Saab is better than those pieces of trash.
5) Launching 9-7X on a Chevy platform... without necessary performance enhancements... and an Aero that came 3 years too late.
6) Saab's smart details are gone. WTF GM!!?? You didn't think we Saab-philes wouldn't notice??
7) Engines that are no longer competitive in the market.
8) Insistence on V6's when more powerful I4's are more Saab's style.
9) Where is BioPower in the US?
10) Lack of smart Saab innovations.
11) The 9-5 is 11 years old for ****s sake!!!

What happened to vehicles like the Viggen? Why are the Aeros no longer performance oriented or specialized performance cars? Gone. NOn existent. Nothing planned.
Saab has become a complete embarrassment for GM. And it provides further proof that GM CANNOT BUILD NICHE VEHICLES!!!

GM has a predisposition to building bland, soulless, cookie cutter cars. And the brands that absolutely need style and panache and an image to survive (Cadillac and Saab) are in the worst shape at GM because GM has no idea how to manage that part of the auto business.

The best way for GM to save Saab... is to sell or spin off Saab. And I will argue that GM needs to sell or spinoff Cadillac as well, in order for the brand to truly spread its wings. Until then, these 2 brands will forever be anchored. That's the truth of the matter.

GM can build niche cars! What about the Corvette/XLR, SSR, Solstice/Sky, H2, etc. There's a lot of creativity at GM and it's been showing through with recent product.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

Really, why do read a GM oriented forum, when you obviously find fault in everything that they do? I
They have done so very little that is "right" with Saab the past 8 years.

also don't get this "pre-GM Saab was the best car ever" attitude.
pre-GM Saabs -- or even early in their partnership, were better Saabs. They were more individual. Their details were smarter. Heck, they were more European, not some *******ized-pseudo-Euro-American car that they have now.

Certainly GM has been neglectful, at times, to any of it's brands, but I am so sure that Saab would not have survived as an independant automaker.
If you admit GM's been neglectful, why do you seem willing to give them a free pass?
Saab would not have survived? Possibly. but they could easily have been picked up by Fiat or VW or BMW or Ford or Daimler... and chances they would have had a better product than GM has been able to give because of GM's inherent faulty business practices.
Just look at what Ford has been able to do with Volvo!!! THey've been able to create a new, more solid identity for Volvo. And Volvo manages to use Ford's global platforms. but you're not going to mistake a Volvo for anything in the Ford family!! Why GM has been unable to do this is a head-scratcher!!
What GM has done is stick a Chevy head unit into a Saab and called it a day. Never mind that the thing is totally off center. Never mind that it isn't even European in design. Never mind the color contrast and style is something the Swedish wouldn't do because it clashes with Swedish design aesthetic.
What GM has done is turn Saab into a junk yard for GM parts bin.

And I still look at envy at Volvo and think, "Why could GM do THAT for Saab!!!???"

GM has completely mismanaged Saab. And frankly, I don't believe Lutz when he says his wife and daughter drive Saabs. Otherwise, we wouldn't be getting such crappy products from them.
If a product requires intangibles that can't be accounted for effectively on a spreadsheet, then GM's going to fumble the ball. They don't have a clue on how to build cars than require something more than the standard parts. THey don't know how to sell luxury. And they don't know how to sell niche vehicles not named Corvette.

Remember, the 9-5 and S80 were head-to-head competitors back in 2000. Which one has taken a step forward?? Certainly not the 9-5.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

How about making Saab more like Mini is to BMW? Personally, leave the BMW and Mercedes competition to Cadillac. Saab should be into new cool, emerging product categories - green vehicles, city vehicles etc, and also emphasize Saab as a lifestyle brand with trendy stores and ownership experience much like what Apple Stores offer, while leaving the rest of GM to compete on prestige, luxury, performance, and utility - the traditional car segments. This is actually a good time to go into this, thanks to the quickened pace of technological and lifestyle changes that give rise the new trends - internet, green, globalization, urban renewal and so forth.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

So what’s the solution for Saab?

Put the cars from other Luxury Sport Sedan manufacturers firmly in their sights, and actually build a car that a potential BMW, Audi or Infiniti buyer practically has to try before making a final decision.
Devils Advocate:
Cadillac is (presumably) doing this. Does GM need to throw 2 brands at the issue?
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

How about if gm sells saab and hummer and close pontiac and just focus on main brands. Chevy, opel (change saturn name to opel it will sell better) caddy. focus on those brands and gm will be alot more profitable and they would make much better cars. It just makes no sence to have all of these devision when you keep losing market share and you are almost down 20%. Just make two very good cars instead of making 8 not so good cars.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

What's wrong with Saab?

1) Fire the idiot American designer who is designing for Saab now.
2) Use of Opel-ized platforms? Fine. But Saab should ALWAYS be a notch above.
3) I've noticed the degradation of Saab interiors since 2002. WTF??
4) Americanization of the interior. Quit using the Chevy parts bin. Saab is better than those pieces of trash.
5) Launching 9-7X on a Chevy platform... without necessary performance enhancements... and an Aero that came 3 years too late.
6) Saab's smart details are gone. WTF GM!!?? You didn't think we Saab-philes wouldn't notice??
7) Engines that are no longer competitive in the market.
8) Insistence on V6's when more powerful I4's are more Saab's style.
9) Where is BioPower in the US?
10) Lack of smart Saab innovations.
11) The 9-5 is 11 years old for ****s sake!!!

What happened to vehicles like the Viggen? Why are the Aeros no longer performance oriented or specialized performance cars? Gone. NOn existent. Nothing planned.
Saab has become a complete embarrassment for GM. And it provides further proof that GM CANNOT BUILD NICHE VEHICLES!!!

GM has a predisposition to building bland, soulless, cookie cutter cars. And the brands that absolutely need style and panache and an image to survive (Cadillac and Saab) are in the worst shape at GM because GM has no idea how to manage that part of the auto business.

The best way for GM to save Saab... is to sell or spin off Saab. And I will argue that GM needs to sell or spinoff Cadillac as well, in order for the brand to truly spread its wings. Until then, these 2 brands will forever be anchored. That's the truth of the matter.
I really don't know why you bother with posting on a GM board. I can recommend plenty of Toyota or BMW boards that you would be welcomed at. GM can build niche vehicles, take the Solstice and the Sky for example. The CTS-V is another example, as well as the Corvette. The Cobalt SS is yet another example, as well as the Sierra Denali. GM produces tons of niche vehicles for each division, so stating that GM can't build them makes no sense at all.

To state that Cadillac should be spun off is borderline insane. GM has turned Cadillac from a has been Lincoln to a truly competitive luxury brand. While the transition is not complete (the DTS lingering on), anyone who has two eyes and a little bit of knowledge of where Cadillac was 10 years ago can say that GM is really putting forth a tremendous effort. Sales seem to indicate that they are doing a good job. The public has definitely noticed the new CTS.

As for Saab, would it have been better for GM to not have purchased it? I have to admit that Saab would probably either not exist anymore or would have been purchased by another company which may have either killed it off or have done little different than what GM has.
 

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I am sure SAAB will get more of a cash injection when and if GM truly turns around and starts being profitble again.
No they won't.
Because GM's all but stated that Saab will just pull from Opel.
Also, GM's not going to inject significant amounts of cash into a brand that doesn't pull its own weight.
It's the beancounter answer that GM always gives.

GM can build niche cars! What about the Corvette/XLR, SSR, Solstice/Sky, H2, etc. There's a lot of creativity at GM and it's been showing through with recent product.
XLR = Failure
SSR = Failure
Solstice/Sky = Declining
H2 = Great image. Sales failure.

And as I said in a previous post... GM can't build a niche car not named Corvette.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

Furthermore if a super-powered Viggen is brought back in rear wheel or all wheel drive form, it won’t have the torque steer that plagued the last version and dampened its high-performance credentials.
Can Saab be saved? Sure, if Audi can come back from being nearly dead to being a viable competitor for BMW and Mercedes. With the A4 outselling the Mercedes C-Series, Saab can be revived too.
Audi shows, RWD is not categorical necessary. Audis are AWD or FWD!
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

Devils Advocate:
Cadillac is (presumably) doing this. Does GM need to throw 2 brands at the issue?
yes, as the Caddy and Saab are marketed to different demographics. There are always going to be the people who wont buy a Caddy because it is "american" but they will consider something european. Most people dont understand the relationship between SAAB and GM, so if you eliminate Saab with the intent that those folks go to Caddy to get their next car you lose the game because they all went to Audi or BMW.

Neither brand can be eliminated if GM wants to ever dominate the near and full luxury market.

Also, on the discussion of platform sharing, that is all fine, just make damn sure that the cars are all distinct and in alignment with thier brand image. The Cheyenne / Q7 / Toureg work well because the general public doesnt associate them with each other. They retain certain characteristics of their marque that set them apart. Good job on VWs part.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

No they won't.

XLR = Failure
SSR = Failure
Solstice/Sky = Declining
H2 = Great image. Sales failure.

And as I said in a previous post... GM can't build a niche car not named Corvette.

That's such a ludicrous statement--GM has probably built more niche vehilcles in its history then any other auto manufactuer. Whether or not they were sales successes doesn't distract from them being niche.


Really if you look at the entire automotive history, who else has taken more gambles and produced such vehicles that are destined to be collectibles---some right out of the gate--GM that's who! They arent always the best, but they were all produced to go agianst the cookie cutter, need to sell X units or its a no go mentality of some others.
 

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GM can build niche vehicles, take the Solstice and the Sky for example. The CTS-V is another example, as well as the Corvette. The Cobalt SS is yet another example, as well as the Sierra Denali. GM produces tons of niche vehicles for each division, so stating that GM can't build them makes no sense at all.
Search for the article that states Cadillac is questioning the viability of the V-Series, as none have made their sales goals.
Cobalt SS? LOL... That'll sell like hotcakes. :rolleyes:
Denali isn't a niche. I have my own problems with the entire Denali line to begin with. But that's for another thread.

There is no place at GM for a "niche" brand. Niche brands cannot rely on simplistic parts bin answers and upgrade. THey can't rely on bigger engines. They require an unerring eye for detail, smart touches, and image.

What good is a Saab when it is simply an Opel with a .5" lower ride height, Saab badging, and a Saab face?
Why was the 9-3 sold in the US without auto-dim side mirrors, when the Euro spec one had it?
Why is the 9-3 now sold with BLS door handles? Saab door handles are specifically designed for a car that exists in tough winter climates, making it easy to pull on the door handle with gloves/mittens on. And who knows if these BLS door handles will be able to hold the weight of the car like they used to be able to!!!! That was a safety feature as a tow truck could tie off the door handles and pull a car out of a ditch -- a smart adaptation for rough winter climates.

Not to mention the tough safety cages and safety systems in the Saabs that put them head and shoulders over everything out there? What was GM's response? "Safety is an issue across the board and shouldn't be isolated to one brand." :zippy: That says to me, Saab's no longer going to be the leader in safety. So much for Active heard restaints, intelligent pretensioners, anti-submarining seats, high mounted displays, improved headlight dispersion, etc.

So everything GM has done to date, is showing me that Saab is being folded into the GM Collective. And what made Saab so much more special as a car and as an innovator, is completely GONE.
So I do stand by my argument, "GM cannot sell a niche vehicle, because they don't know how."

To state that Cadillac should be spun off is borderline insane. GM has turned Cadillac from a has been Lincoln to a truly competitive luxury brand. While the transition is not complete (the DTS lingering on), anyone who has two eyes and a little bit of knowledge of where Cadillac was 10 years ago can say that GM is really putting forth a tremendous effort. Sales seem to indicate that they are doing a good job. The public has definitely noticed the new CTS.
Cadillac cannot survive on CTS alone.
The transition should have been complete 3 years ago. We are now in the 8th year of the transition, and Cadillac has decided to brush the slate clean and start over ... again ...
Cadillac is a niche brand. It only sells 250,000 a year. However, GM has no idea how to treat Cadillac. From top to bottom, they haven't treated Cadillac with the necessary respect and paid enough attention to it.
Cadillac can't be judged just on sales alone -- even though their sales are down. What is it's presence in the market like? Dealership experience? Buzz? Image? Prestige?

As for Saab, would it have been better for GM to not have purchased it? I have to admit that Saab would probably either not exist anymore or would have been purchased by another company which may have either killed it off or have done little different than what GM has.
If GM didn't purchase Saab, then some other company would have bought it. Would they have done a better job? Probably. Mostly because most auto companies don't have the inept corporate culture and business practices GM has/had.

Now GM's trying to "fix" Saab? Well, if they just gave them product 5 years ago, they wouldn't be trying to right the ship now! And they have an American designing for Saab... which really hasn't done Saab any good, as I find their current designs and concepts to be bland and repetitive.

That's such a ludicrous statement--GM has probably built more niche vehilcles in its history then any other auto manufactuer. Whether or not they were sales successes doesn't distract from them being niche.


Really if you look at the entire automotive history, who else has taken more gambles and produced such vehicles that are destined to be collectibles---some right out of the gate--GM that's who! They arent always the best, but they were all produced to go agianst the cookie cutter, need to sell X units or its a no go mentality of some others.
Name me one collectible GM car since the 1970's. And don't say Corvette.

GM makes volume cars. Any car requiring intangibles or existing in a niche, don't work at GM or don't exist for long.
 

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Re: How GM Can, and Should, Save Saab

No they won't.
Because GM's all but stated that Saab will just pull from Opel.
Also, GM's not going to inject significant amounts of cash into a brand that doesn't pull its own weight.
It's the beancounter answer that GM always gives.



XLR = Failure
SSR = Failure
Solstice/Sky = Declining
H2 = Great image. Sales failure.

And as I said in a previous post... GM can't build a niche car not named Corvette.
It's obvious we disagree. All those cars you listed ARE niche vehicles so it's obvious they can and do build them. The Solstice and Sky have been very successful as well, the Solstice will probably get a boost as well from the new Targa Coupe model that's coming out right now.
 
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