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Saab targets UK as world’s No 2

The UK could become Saab’s second-biggest market after the USA by the end of this year, pushing its home market of Sweden into third place, according to Saab GB managing director, Jonathan Nash.

The Swedish carmaker, which recorded its highest-ever UK sales last year with 20,294 cars, has already seen sales in January rise year-on-year by 48%. Now it is set to introduce the new 9-3 SportsWagon at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The car, which arrives in UK showrooms by the autumn, is expected to sell around 1,500 units this year. It will join a fiercely competitive ‘sport wagon’ sector, but Nash says Saab dealers (of which 60% are solus or part of small groups) and the brand’s test-drive conversion rates should push the UK into second place in the firm’s international sales tables.

“Television advertising certainly makes people think about Saab and there’s a professional image attached to having a Saab. However, you cannot keep pushing volumes higher as that can be financially catastrophic – you can fail by trying to take on the big players who will always sell more,” Nash says.

Saab sales traditionally grow as a model’s lifecycle continues. The 9000 executive model enjoyed its highest-ever UK sales one year before it was discontinued in 1998. “Sales tend to start slowly, as potential buyers become accustomed to a new model,” Nash adds.

Last year the company filled eight retail open areas, and so far 34 out of the 94-strong dealer network has adopted the Saab Unlimited redevelopment programme. Nash believes the Unlimited concept will encourage more professional women ‘user-choosers’ to opt for a Saab.

“We could also benefit from used cars less than three years old. If we could get more of them with full service history our dealers would snap them up,” he says.

The UK is the second largest market for 9-3 convertible sales, being as large as France, Italy and Spain sales combined.

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