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    Thread: Why has SAAB never caught on like other niche automakers in the US?

    1. Member MRVW00's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 12:48 AM #1
      SAAB builds a great car. Even thought they were lumped into the GM fold for awhile, they still built very great cars. But they've never been a smash in the US or really hit like Subaru, or even their competitor Volvo. Have they been too niche for their on good? Do you think they never really were advertised correctly? Many people I've had this chat with really don't have a opinion since they don't know much about them..at all. With all the current incentives, you buy a new 9-3 for less than a decently equipped Jetta! I often wonder how the hell the dealers even stay in business....

      Discuss.



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    3. 03-03-2011 12:53 AM #2

      The other "niche" automakers have been able to give themselves very concrete identities that U.S. buyers can identify with

      Volvo - Safe cars
      Mazda - Sporty cars
      Subaru - AWD/durable cars
      Saab - ????

      Even from Saab fanatics, I've never heard any of them be able to explain what makes Saab "special" other than that they're "quirky," which doesn't exactly attract buyers. I'm all ears if someone can actually come up with a simple marketable distinction for Saab over other niche manufacturers.
      Bowties (not the Chevy kind), tattoos, and mostly being completely undecided

    4. Member BattleRabbit's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 12:58 AM #3
      Saab = best seats on market, best long distance highway cars
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    5. Member MRVW00's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 01:04 AM #4
      I agree with the both of you 100%!

      I can buy a 04-06 9-3 cheaper than I can a Corolla at the auction....total sleeper cars in the market. 5 star crash test ratings, and super reliable.

      Has SAAB just never marketed these cars worth a damn?
      I never see the print, online, or TV ads.
      The dealer network is something laughable....makes the VW network look like Lexus.

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      03-03-2011 01:06 AM #5
      They had a surge in popularity along with Volvo, BMW (which maintained the momentum) and a few other niche/European cars. Saab just never did anything with it. They never seemed to hit home run after home run. Cars were weird. They seemed to have reliability issues sometimes (tho long term durability seemed fine), most people don't like hatchbacks.

      I think they were too weird, yet not different/better then anyone at something enough to merit a look.

      Quote Originally Posted by BattleRabbit View Post
      Saab = best seats on market, best long distance highway cars
      Not enough to sell a car... Volvo has as good seats, Mercedes is up there too - nowadays there are plenty of cars with great, supportive seats. Most people wouldn't even know a good car seat (the general population thinks an old 'comfy' Cadillac had a good seat).

    7. Member Cubster's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 01:07 AM #6
      Born from jets. That's all I got. I like 'em style wise to a point...they just seem too conservative.

    8. Member GTaye's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 07:35 AM #7
      I could bore you with tales of the piss-poor (pre-GM) dealer network and lack of support from the US headquarters on owning up to warranty issues...

      but really, I'd be telling the same old Saab story.

    9. Member Mike!'s Avatar
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      03-03-2011 07:49 AM #8
      They did have their niche pre-2000. Northeast. College professors. Well educated or quirky people. Most appreciated the safety, hatchback utility, gas mileage/performance with the turbo motors. It sounds like stereotyping, but anyone who has ever been to Massachusetts knows there's a lot of Saabs around, especially in college towns.

      A lot of that was thrown away with the 2003 9-3 redesign and the dropping of the hatchback. They eventually brought back a wagon, but it was too late after they abandoned their niche and target demographic trying to go mainstream.

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      03-03-2011 07:57 AM #9
      1.Poor marketing.
      2.Poor network.
      3.Poor management.
      4.People consider them to be overpriced for what you get, even when they aren't. The reason? See 1 and 2 and 3.

      I'll also add that GM treated SAAB more as an engineering resource and debt shelter than they did an actual brand. That did the SAAB brand no favors, since GM never made a true effort to flesh out their product lineup. If VW owned them instead the result would have been MUCH better, given how they've managed and turned around their marques that needed it.

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      03-03-2011 08:24 AM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by DJMRDARK View Post
      1.Poor marketing.
      2.Poor network.
      3.Poor management.
      4.People consider them to be overpriced for what you get, even when they aren't. The reason? See 1 and 2 and 3.

      I'll also add that GM treated SAAB more as an engineering resource and debt shelter than they did an actual brand. That did the SAAB brand no favors, since GM never made a true effort to flesh out their product lineup. If VW owned them instead the result would have been MUCH better, given how they've managed and turned around their marques that needed it.
      Just what we need, another automaker owned by VW. No thank you
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      03-03-2011 08:34 AM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by Lepsis3942 View Post
      Just what we need, another automaker owned by VW. No thank you
      I'm not suggesting it. Just pointing out one company that knows how to handle multiple brands (and succeed wildly), and one the doesn't.

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      03-03-2011 08:38 AM #12
      I gotta tell you I didn't even know saab was a brand till I was 16. Even then there's nothing super appealing about them. They don't seem super aero dynamic, and compared to other cars out they just appear boring. I'm sure this isn't the case, but I mean come on imo it's like they never change with new gens and as the years go by.
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      03-03-2011 08:43 AM #13
      Quote Originally Posted by DJMRDARK View Post
      I'll also add that GM treated SAAB more as an engineering resource and debt shelter than they did an actual brand. That did the SAAB brand no favors, since GM never made a true effort to flesh out their product lineup. .
      This is how it looks from the outside, but that's now how big organizations work. GM, like any big corporation or organization, is intensely political, and brand managers compete with each other for resources, plants, funding, R&D, and everything else. If Saab didn't get adequate investment of money, technology, and resources, the overwhelming likelihood is that the blame lies mostly with Saab - for failing to justify itself in comparison to other brands. GM doesn't just dole out platforms and cool tech to its brands like hungry baby birds. Saab was used as an engineering resource and debt shelter because it failed to sell itself, justify itself, as anything better. It needed better plans, better management, and better sales to be worth taking money away from Chevy.

      Quote Originally Posted by DJMRDARK View Post
      I'm not suggesting it. Just pointing out one company that knows how to handle multiple brands (and succeed wildly), and one the doesn't.
      I think it's very debatable that VW can handle multiple brands well. There's a ton of overlap and cannibalization between VW, Skoda and Seat, and Seat is a money-loser. They do better at the top end than at the bottom.
      Last edited by Turbio!; 03-03-2011 at 08:47 AM.
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    15. Geriatric Member Turbio!'s Avatar
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      03-03-2011 08:55 AM #14
      Anyway, I think Saab just punches way outside their weight and fails at it miserably. Their high production costs made it necessary for them to play in the Audi/BMW pricing arena, when their brand image and cachet didn't support that. Saab should have been a prettier Subaru, not a Swedish BMW.
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      Quote Originally Posted by caj1 View Post
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      03-03-2011 09:04 AM #15
      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel! View Post
      This is how it looks from the outside, but that's now how big organizations work. GM, like any big corporation or organization, is intensely political, and brand managers compete with each other for resources, plants, funding, R&D, and everything else. If Saab didn't get adequate investment of money, technology, and resources, the overwhelming likelihood is that the blame lies mostly with Saab - for failing to justify itself in comparison to other brands. GM doesn't just dole out platforms and cool tech to its brands like hungry baby birds. Saab was used as an engineering resource and debt shelter because it failed to sell itself, justify itself, as anything better. It needed better plans, better management, and better sales to be worth taking money away from Chevy.
      This is a stupid way to conduct a business. It's the business leadership's responsibility to determine a brand's personality and to then follow suit with product. It is also their responsibility to build the marketing for that brand. GM was the decision maker for SAAB, not SAAB. As such success or failure is wholly owned by GM.

      Do you think all of VW's brands justify why they exist, or do you think VW dictates that they exist and how they exist? One method is leadership, the other is passive failure.

      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel! View Post
      I think it's very debatable that VW can handle multiple brands well. There's a ton of overlap and cannibalization between VW, Skoda and Seat, and Seat is a money-loser. They do better at the top end than at the bottom.
      Perhaps, but I don't see VW shedding brands...

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      03-03-2011 09:07 AM #16
      Quote Originally Posted by MikeNoGo View Post
      They did have their niche pre-2000. Northeast. College professors. Well educated or quirky people. Most appreciated the safety, hatchback utility, gas mileage/performance with the turbo motors. It sounds like stereotyping, but anyone who has ever been to Massachusetts knows there's a lot of Saabs around, especially in college towns.

      A lot of that was thrown away with the 2003 9-3 redesign and the dropping of the hatchback. They eventually brought back a wagon, but it was too late after they abandoned their niche and target demographic trying to go mainstream.
      I think Saab still has a strong niche market in New England.

    18. Senior Member VarianceVQ's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 09:14 AM #17
      Quote Originally Posted by MatchStick View Post
      I think Saab still has a strong niche market in New England.
      Saabs aren't uncommon here. There are a couple of dealers in Westport and Milford that have managed to stay open. They must be selling something (though the Milford dealer always looks quite packed with inventory).
      He's really showing us what a man with a cannon in his chest can do!

    19. Member SebTheDJ's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 09:15 AM #18
      I know why.

      Because its different. American society is mostly sheep and follows what everybody does or buy. People are afraid to go against the popular opinion/vote.

      When I bought my aero, my ex gf asked me why i didn't get a toyota or a honda. My answer was simple. Because every body has it and i immediately feel in love with my car.

    20. Senior Member VarianceVQ's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 09:18 AM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by SebTheDJ View Post
      I know why.

      Because its different. American society is mostly sheep and follows what everybody does or buy.
      Why do Saab fans come across as the goths of car enthusiasts?
      He's really showing us what a man with a cannon in his chest can do!

    21. Geriatric Member AKADriver's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 09:25 AM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by VarianceVQ View Post
      Why do Saab fans come across as the goths of car enthusiasts?
      Think Swedish - death metal!

      Saab was huge in the northeast back in the '80s, back when Volvos were still RWD. Even going to college in the late '90s I think i saw more hand-me-down '80s Saabs than '80s Audis. Growing up I always thought 900s were cool and it seems like I knew a lot of people who owned them.
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      03-03-2011 09:30 AM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by VarianceVQ View Post
      Saabs aren't uncommon here. There are a couple of dealers in Westport and Milford that have managed to stay open. They must be selling something (though the Milford dealer always looks quite packed with inventory).
      Westport closed - "merged" with Greenwich. there's a classic car dealership at the old Saab of Westport location.

      I am sort of bummed they closed. I used to get parts there when I had my 900S in college. It is also right around the corner from my house and was always a potential option for a new car purchase. We leased an '07 2.0T SC from them. they had no good deals when we turned it back in so we went w/ an Outback instead. it's too bad - I loved driving that car, especially on long trips. I mean, I was glad I didn't own it - it had lots of little problems, nothing that would strand us, but out of warranty I shutter to think.

    23. Member turbo_nine's Avatar
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      03-03-2011 09:43 AM #22
      Saab's US sales peaked in 1986, guys. Everything after that, whatever you've suggested they needed to do with GM platforms or whatever... they were already on borrowed time by then.

      Plenty more "niche" automakers fell by the wayside and left the US market. We just don't talk much about them exactly because they did. Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Isuzu...
      call it potatography

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      03-03-2011 09:55 AM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by turbo_nine View Post
      Saab's US sales peaked in 1986, guys. Everything after that, whatever you've suggested they needed to do with GM platforms or whatever... they were already on borrowed time by then.

      Plenty more "niche" automakers fell by the wayside and left the US market. We just don't talk much about them exactly because they did. Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Isuzu...
      Yep. They had their day back in the early '80s when the market was much friendlier to smaller European marques, but it was those market forces, not GM platforms or GM mismanagement, that caused them to lose their footing here.

      But apparently you've missed all the "will Alfa Romeo ever come back!?" worship/speculation threads.
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      03-03-2011 09:56 AM #24
      They're actually quite popular around here (Minneapolis). I see newer 9-3's all the time, and to me, being a fan, that's great. When I go home to visit family in southern Ohio, my sister and I end up playing the "Spot the SAAB" game because they're more rare than a Ferrari there. So area has a LOT to do with it.

      As others have said, pre-GM they were really sort of a mess. A great mess, with some really amazing cars, but as a company with a dealership network they were abysmal. GM, for better or worse, did help them get their act together in that regard.

      They are far and away the most overlooked, under-appreciated cars ever. My 9000 Aero was a monster, bone stock, and had no difficulty handling twisty backroads and highway antics with E36 M3's, all while I sat in the greatest seats ever crafted by man. I've had many people, especially the ladies, ride in my car and remark they've never noticed or ridden in one but thought it was a classy, sexy car.

      It's funny, a co-worker of mine has been wanting a new 9-3 for awhile now, and his Jeep GC's fuel pump just bit it so that's been the last straw for him. Someone else was like "why would you get a SAAB instead of a Nissan or Honda?" Because then I'd be driving a Nissan or a Honda
      Voodoo.T

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      03-03-2011 10:01 AM #25
      Quote Originally Posted by SebTheDJ View Post
      I know why.

      Because its different. American society is mostly sheep and follows what everybody does or buy. People are afraid to go against the popular opinion/vote.
      IPRO Meat-Director and High Minister of Terror-Grilling and

      Quote Originally Posted by caj1 View Post
      the magniloquent messiah of the butthurt former VW owners.

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