Saab parts sales thrive without showrooms

Colbeck: Looks to add service centers

Published in Automotive News Dec. 1, 2014

Saab may have shipped its last car to North America three years ago, but the business of supplying parts for the estimated 450,000 Saabs on American roads goes on. Indeed, it's growing.

Saab Automobile Parts North America, which emerged from the Swedish automaker's bankrupt U.S. operations, has 200 authorized service centers in the United States, up from 180 three years ago.

New lines of parts are being added and revenue for the business is growing, said Tim Colbeck, CEO of Saab Automobile Parts North America, without providing figures.

The company ships about 300 parts orders daily, he said, and more than 95 percent of the parts ordered are filled immediately.

These developments might have seemed improbable when the Saab bankruptcy mess in the United States was sorted out two years ago. The parts division of Saab Cars North America had not replenished its supplies of spare parts while bankruptcy proceedings were under way, Colbeck said.

"The fill rates when we started in June of 2012 had gotten as low as 40 percent. By September 2012 we were back to about 90 percent. And now we are at a 96 percent fill rate, which puts us pretty much at the industry standard," Colbeck said.

Saab Automobile Parts North America is a division of Orio AB, which was a part of the Saab group of companies in Sweden. Colbeck said that Orio AB is owned by the Swedish government's finance ministry. Orio had provided funds to Saab Automobile AB to help the company try to stave off bankruptcy. Saab Automobile AB filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2011.

Unlike other import brands that have failed in the United States, such as Peugeot, Sterling, Daihatsu and Daewoo, Saab had a long tenure in the U.S., 1955-2011, and sold millions of cars over the years.

Colbeck said Saab is unusual because many older models, such as the company's popular mid-1990s convertibles, are still on the road and have owners who want to keep them in good repair.

The bulk of Saab's warehoused parts, Colbeck said, are for vehicles built between 2005 and 2011. But, he added, the company is adding new lines of parts for older vehicles where there is demand.

The company sells powertrain parts, wheels, accessories, trim parts, upholstery, safety parts, body panels and other items.

Colbeck is looking to add authorized service centers in areas of the country where many Saabs are in use. But he knows the business will shrink as accidents, use and time reduce the number of Saabs on the road to a point where it is no longer profitable for dealers to carry parts and offer service.

"The one thing we don't want to see happen is that someone who wants a Saab part can't buy it. There are a few areas of the country now where the dealers are not wholesaling or there isn't a dealer," Colbeck said.

He joined Saab Cars North America as COO in mid-2011. Colbeck drives a 2011 Saab 9-5 Aero.

Florida, Colbeck said, is a state where he is looking to appoint authorized Saab parts dealers.

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