Saab’s 71 UK dealers are being promised a full range of premium cars that remain true to Saab’s ‘responsible performance’ heritage.
Sales of the Swedish marque, which is now owned by Spyker after one-time parent GM offloaded it, have been devastated in Britain.
Although figures for the first two months of this year show that sales to private buyers of the 9-3, the mainstay of the range, still reached 1,300 units, while sales of the larger run-out 9-5 were below 300.
However, it is sales to fleets that show the scale that now faces Saab and its dealers as they look to get back to the 15,000+ total sales within two years.
In the first two months of the year, less than five 9-5 and under 200 9-3 models went to fleets, which were mainly legacy supply deals from the GM days.
This massive fall in corporate sales was primarily because residual value setters and lease companies lost faith in the company and so they either stopped writing any Saab business at all or pushed contract hire rates through the roof.
Now the company is back on its feet, with its future apparently assured under its new owner.
And the manufacturer’s promise to its dealers for a line-up to rival its German adversaries comes as the Trollhatten plant starts to supply the new right-hand drive Saab 9-5 models for the UK market, which is Saab’s second largest market in Europe’s behind Sweden and the world’s third largest behind the US.
Joining the new 9-5 will be a high-power low-CO2 9-3 before its replacement arrives in 2012.
Missing from the timeline however is the promised 9-1 entry-level Saab, although a company spokesman promised an announcement will be made “within weeks” confirming a partnership with an as yet unnamed premium carmaker.
This partner will supply the powertrain and chassis for the new entry level Saab, which will not arrive before 2013 and will rival BMW’s 1 Series.
All this will be welcome news to Saab dealers here who are now gearing up to sell 8,000 units for the remainder of 2010 on the back of the renewed interest generated by the 9-5’s launch.
While Saab told AM the number of dealers it currently has is ‘optimal’, it also said it is willing to talk to dealers interested in the franchise, especially those in the southeast where there are some open points.
ALD is in place to supply finance terms to customers through the Saab Contract Hire white label product, while the residual value guides and contract hire companies are beginning to set RVs that take Saabs back into affordable territory for fleets.
At least one-third – 2,000 units – of fleet sales will be directly made by dealers to local businesses mainly using the Saab Contract Hire.
However, dealers must focus on retail buyers, who are predicted to make up 60% of Saab sales, as well as fleet buyers.
While GM may have sold Saab, it still has an interest.
Not only is it still supplying the engines at the heart of the new 9-5 and current 9-3, but it is also proving dealer stocking finance through its GMAC finance arm.