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Saab’s UK dealers offer price cuts

Saab’s UK franchised network has won a better deal from GM UK after resisting pressure to take more new cars under normal payment deals.

It is now receiving units under a sale-or-return arrangement, and a motor industry consultant said: “Some dealers are having quite a good time.”

Dealers have told Saab GB of their difficulties while the manufacturer’s uncertain future was being widely publicised.

Saab successfully filed for “reorganisation” in Sweden, comparable to the US Chapter 11 – protection from bankruptcy while a survival strategy is worked out.

General Motors has indicated it plans to part company with Saab by the end of the year, though it is willing to provide some money to support it.

AM understands some dealers feel they have been badly treated by Saab’s head office and the UK management. Some say dealers are being forgotten as the manufacturer tries to overcome its problems, others that there is apparent disagreement between head office and UK managers.

New cars are being heavily discounted by Saab City Group – owned by the manufacturer – under a pre-registered section on its website. The group has London sites close to Tower Bridge and in Fulham.

A 9-3 Linear SE 1.9 TiD convertible registered last March with a list price of £28,580 is being offered at £15,995 – a saving of £12,585. Between March 5 and 8, Saab City Group was promoting cars for sale at “an extra £1,000” off.

Professor Garel Rhys, president of the Institute of the Motor Industry, said: “Saabs are quirky cars for quirky
people who don’t know what else to buy.

“It has a fantastically loyal customer base and dealer network, and the UK is Saab’s best overseas market after the USA. 

“The company sells something like 100,000 cars a year, about the same as Porsche, but as brands there is no comparison. At best, Saab covers its costs and another manufacturer might buy the brand.”

Rhys, emeritus automotive professor at Cardiff University business school, said the Swedish government had so far shown little willingness to save Saab, which he viewed as similar to MG Rover shortly before its collapse.

“Neither brand has ever had much international presence,” he said. “Saab is not a viable manufacturer on its own and, if it did not exist, people who bought its cars would soon find something else to buy.”

Saab GB MD Jonathan Nash said: “Concern among our dealers is understandable, but we have done everything possible to keep them fully informed. 

“The only way out of a recession is to sell cars with aggressive discounts and we will not be knocked off our path.”

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