IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Struggling dealers look to Saab for hope

Apparently Ford and GM have left some of their previous dealers struggling, and now these dealers look to Volvo and Saab for hope. Automotive News has talked to several dealers who once sold Ford or GM brands, and whose contract with the Detroit companies was terminated, and these dealers are now hoping that applying for a Volvo or Saab franchise can be their solution to keep selling cars.

The big question is if more dealers is the answer for Saab to increase the sales in the US, or if the answer is less dealers and dealers who are Saab exclusive. 

According to Saab's sales director, Matthias Seidl, Saab needs to reduce the number of dealers in the US. Below is an interview with Seidl published by Swedish

Saab director of sales wants to repeat success

Saab Automobile's new sales manager Matthias Seidl, do not fear the heavy burden. 20 years ago, he was involved in building up the Audi sales organization that made the brand a success story.

Now he hopes to repeat that journey with Saab, but on a smaller scale.

The strategy includes, in the important U.S. market, to create a tighter network of dealers that focus more on Saab. Seidl expects that the number of dealers in the United States may be halved in 3-5 years time.

- We believe in more exclusivity at the dealers. It’s better to have dealers who are truly motivated to sell and that they are located in the right places than having many dealers, Matthias Seidl says.

In Saab's first year as an independent company, around 20 U.S. dealers, who didn’t believed in the brand's future, have stopped selling Saab. Some others have put most of their efforts into other brands. But now Saab will demand more from the approximately 200 remaining dealers.

- We really only demand basic things, like that the cars get exhibition space, sales personnel, and that there are service personnel who know Saab, says Matthias Seidl.

- But now that we have more confidence we have another basis to start the discussion, he notes.

He believes that the optimal number in the United States is 90-120 dealers.

The U.S. is the market where sales haven’t picked up for Saab. On the other two major markets, Sweden and the UK, Seidl, who started his new job on January 1st, thinks that it’s moving in the right direction.

- We see a light in the tunnel and I am confident that Saab will be a success story. I hope sooner rather than later, he says.

He believes in 120000-150000 cars in two to three years.

- It sounds like a lot now, but in the premium world it’s not that much, he says.

But Saab will not challenge the Germans on sales volumes.

- We must find our niche, and be clear. Saab is the car for independent thinkers, for people who dare to stand up for their views, says Matthias Seidl.

Matthias Seidl is 47 years and had a hard consideration before he took the sales manager job at Saab. It was not easy to leave his own automobile consultancy company in Detroit, which he starting in 2009.

- But I felt that I'm too young not to dare take the chance. Saab has a huge potential with the new products. There is the possibility of building something new, not dissimilar to what we did with Audi, he says.

Throughout his career, he has devoted himself to the automotive industry. Immediately after university he joined the Volkswagen Group to make an international career. And he succeeded. The job at Audi took him all over the world. He has lived in Australia and the USA. His ex-wife and the two children, twelve and ten years, still lives in Australia.

In the U.S., he was the second in command of Volkswagen North America, with only the new Volvo CEO, Stefan Jacoby, above him.

This weekend he and his girlfriend are moving into a house in Torslanda.

- Funnily enough, I end up just fifteen minutes from Jacoby, the tall German says.

He is 1.96 metres – just as tall as Saab's chairman Victor Muller.

- Here, no one under 1.90 metres gets in. I do not understand what Castriota is doing here, says Matthias Seidl, laughing and pointing at Saab's chief designer Jason Castriota.

He likes Saab's new sporty concept car. On the wish list is a sports car among the Saab models.

- See what Audi TT did for the Audi brand, he says.