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Saab retailers to go Unlimited for 9-3

Saab expects more than a third of its UK dealer network to gain Unlimited partner status in time for the launch of its crucial 9-3 saloon at the end of September. The new retail concept has been pioneered in Britain and is expected to provide a benchmark for Vauxhall and other General Motors' brands.

By the end of next year all 92 outlets will be upgraded to the enhanced showroom and service standards as Saab takes the lead in establishing new European GM benchmarks for customer relations.

However, the company is also planning to cut dealer partners in the UK from 70 to as few as 50, though the number of outlets will not change. Fewer companies will operate larger market territories.

Jonathan Nash, Saab GB managing director, says GM's premium European brand boasts a 70 per cent customer retention rating because “we're small, so we can be fast and nimble”. He adds: “The fact that every technician has to have internet access in the workshop gives an idea of where we're going.”

The Unlimited approach will create a “distinctive brand retail environment, reflecting uniform uniqueness whether in Los Angeles, London or Rio de Janeiro”. Nash pledges Saab will be “tearing and grabbing customers” from BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo to grow from its annual 136,000 unit global sales tally to 240,000 by 2005.

Saab chief executive Peter Augustsson says the 9-3's saloon format was vital in taking the fight to premium German marques.

Saloons account for more than 60 per cent of compact premium sales and Saab will be active in the rest of the sector with estates, convertibles and coupes within two years.

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