Saab CEO sees long road ahead to win back U.S. buyers
Photo credit: Bloomberg
PARIS -- Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson says it will take longer than anticipated to gain the hearts, minds and eventually the wallets of U.S. car buyers.
The automaker has reduced its U.S. sales target this year by at least 33 percent to below 10,000 units.
“The U.S. is a huge country,” Jonsson said. “There are many areas where they still believe we are gone. It will take time.”
The redesigned 9-5 sedan arrived in the United States in late August, a month later than originally planned, hurting sales, and 2011 Saab 9-3 models will not reach dealers until mid-October.
In June, Saab predicted 15,000 cars would be sold this year in the United States.
“We are estimating sales at slightly under 10,000,” Jonsson said Wednesday in an interview aboard a plane en route from Sweden to the Paris auto show.
Global sales are expected at about 48,000 this year, down from a range of 50,000 to 55,000 forecast in June. Jonsson estimates Saab will sell 80,000 vehicles globally next year, of which 16,000 to 20,000 will be in the United States.
August U.S. sales were dismal, with only 290 vehicles sold nationally. For the eight-month period through August, Saab sold 2,106 vehicles. That includes 608 sold by previous owner General Motors Co. in January and February.
After months of delays and uncertainty over whether the brand would survive GM's restructuring, Spyker Cars N.V. completed the purchase of Saab from GM in February.
Jonsson said sales were considerably better in September. He did not reveal details.
Saab offered three separate incentive programs in September to woo buyers. They included a $2,000 loyality incentive, $3,500 to $5,000 in customer cash, and a conquest program offering $1,000 to customers new to Saab.
The conquest program targets Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo owners.
“Having all these tools in place is resulting in the great month we are having nationally,” said Fred Shaw, owner of Fred Shaw Saab in Norwell, Mass. “We are on a roll.”
Shaw did not provide any national sales numbers. He is a member of Saab's national marketing and advertising council.
Saab will expand its model lineup next year with the addition of the 2012 9-4X crossover in April and the 9-5 wagon later in the year. The 9-4X shares a platform and mechanicals with the Cadillac SRX.
“I hope that when we are at the point to deliver the 9-4X that awareness is significantly higher,” Jonsson said. “That people, really at that time, judge that Saab is here to stay and they can rely upon Saab being a player in the future.
“But I think it will take until the middle of 2011 in the U.S. until we really see that people are really comfortable” with Saab.