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Saab targets fleet return with ‘full range of premium cars’

Saab’s 71 UK dealers – down from 93 prior to the start of the recession and the carmaker’s flirtation with bankruptcy – 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, 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 2010, fewer 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.

Now the company is back on its feet, with its future apparently assured under its new owner.

And the manufacturer’s promise of 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, Saab’s second largest market in Europe 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 the company promised an announcement “within weeks” con-firming 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 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 said 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 south-east 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.

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