"Our business is under quite a bit of pressure," says Saab spokesman Jan-Willem Vester. "A big part of that is the euro against the U.S. dollar, and the 9-3 is built in Europe. ...This was something to protect the profitability on the vehicles."
One dealer source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said GM also may scrap employee discounts on other imported vehicles, such as the Korean-built Chevrolet Aveo, the Australian-built Pontiac G8 and the Belgian-built Saturn Astra. GM declined to comment.
The base-model 2008 Saab 9-3 sedan has a sticker price of $29,190, which means the 7 percent discount amounts to about $2,000.
Saab builds the 9-3 and 9-5 sedans in Sweden. The employee discount still is offered on the 2009 9-5 because GM sells fewer 9-5s, Vester says. GM sold 22,979 9-3s in the United States last year — about 1,000 to 1,500 to buyers using the employee discount, he says.
One Saab dealer, Lynn Thompson, says GM's move makes sense because of the cost to import the 9-3. At Thompson Sales Co. in Springfield, Mo., he sells few cars to buyers using the employee discount.
But a Detroit area dealer who asked not to be identified says employee discounts account for nearly 40 percent of his annual sales.